Back in April, I jumped on the opportunity to acquire Dave2‘s Pebble watch, Kickstarter Edition, at a bargain price. Shortly thereafter, the firmware was updated with several significant fixes and the expected addition of support for displaying running data from various iOS apps.
For me, displaying the run data completes the replacement of my GPS watch with my iPhone. I had already made the switch and adjusted to no longer being able to glance at my wrist for current data; it’s very nice to have that back.
Over the months I’ve had the Pebble, I’ve experimented with a number of watch faces, including a couple that pulled HTTP data via an extra iOS app. While those were nice, they drained the Pebble’s battery much too fast for my liking. I also suspect the app caused significant additional drain of my iPhone’s battery. One of the more entertaining watch faces I tried was Gallifrey Time by SzDom. I’m currently using Bigger Time by Gorges, which is by far my favorite.
The best feature of the Pebble, naturally, is its raison d’être: notifications. The fully supported notifications (on iOS) are Phone, Messages and, mostly, Mail. The caveat for Mail is that use of Mail’s VIP feature disables Pebble notifications (unless that’s been fixed since I last checked on it). The Phone notifications aren’t particularly useful for me, as I almost certainly want to pull out my phone to deal with the call in one way or another. Rarely, I just want to ignore the call, which I can do from the Pebble. In theory, that is. For some reason, call notifications aren’t going to my Pebble at this moment for me to verify, though the “Missed Call” notification does come through.
Despite this limitation on supported apps for notifications, it turns out that getting other apps to work reliably is possible, if inconvenient. After the Pebble and iPhone are paired, you can go into the iPhone’s Settings->Notifications and, for each app that you want to have Pebble notifications, select it and toggle the “View in Lock Screen” setting off and then back on (it must be on). From that point forward, as long as the Pebble connection persists, notifications from those apps while show up on the Pebble. For some apps, I like to disable the iOS Sounds notification and rely on the Pebble.
This is all well and good, and worth the minor inconvenience, except for one thing: the BlueTooth connection between the Pebble and the iPhone is fragile. I don’t know all of the triggers, but large spatial separation between the devices is certainly one of them. Once this happens, it is highly likely that the notification work-arounds will need to be re-done. Worse, I’ve had the connection drop without recovering on its own, necessitating a launch of the the Pebble app on the iPhone to see that they are not connected and to reconnect them semi-manually (starting the manual process seems to trigger the automatic one).
For the most part, I’m quite happy with my Pebble. I admit, however, that some of this is with forward-looking optimism that leaves me expecting better reliability in the future. There’s some reason to think that iOS 7 will improve the connectivity, and future firmware updates from Pebble could possibly help as well.
Oh, one more thing, I think I get 5-7 days on a charge of the Pebble. I wish it gave a better warning that the battery is low. The indicator isn’t visible on the watch face, only in other views. If I see the indicator in the morning, the watch will usually last until that night, though I have had it die in the early evening. I could just charge it every night — I wish I weren’t paranoid about charging patterns affecting rechargeable battery life.