Pebble on the Wrist


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Kickstarter Edition!

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It would be nice if this view could be customized; perhaps a future update will enable that.

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.

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“Gallifrey Time” – I had a fun time with this one for a while; only took a short time to learn to read it.

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.

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“Bigger Watch” by Gorges

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).

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Getting vibration reminders on my wrist makes me more likely to take action.

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.

 

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by kapgar on September 6, 2013 - 6:40 pm

    Okay, I’ll bite. How do you read Gallifrey Time?

    • #2 by Ren on September 6, 2013 - 8:45 pm

      The top-left big circle area is the hour and the bottom-right is the minute. In both cases, a line out from the circle is 0 while a line in is 1. A smaller circle overlapping the main circle is 2, with additional concentric circles progressively representing 3 & 4. A semi-circle inside the main circle is 5, with additional contained semi-circles for 6 & 7. A semi-circle outside the main circle is 8, with an additional contained semi-circle for 9.

      Clear? :-)

  2. #3 by Dave2 on September 6, 2013 - 11:19 pm

    Dude! What took you so long? :-)

    My biggest problems with the device were always cosmetic. It’s just SO huge, which precluded my ever wearing it on my tiny wrists. Nothing else past that really mattered to me. I remain hopeful that eventually Pebble or Apple or somebody will release a smart-watch that is of a size I can manage and want to wear. It looks like a handy thing to have.
    Dave2´s last post ..Vacay

    • #4 by Ren on September 6, 2013 - 11:37 pm

      I don’t think you realize how much effort it takes to write a blog post. It hasn’t even been 1/2 of 1% of a century!

      My wrists are large enough that the size doesn’t bother me at all. The band, on the other hand, is either a bit too tight or a bit too loose. I should shop for a replacement band.

  3. #5 by martymankins on September 9, 2013 - 10:57 pm

    Great review of the Pebble. I like the idea of how you are using it. I’m sure with a few more updates, the Pebble will be a great smartwatch. I’m holding out for the Apple iWatch (or whatever it ends up getting called).

    I wore the iPod nano 6th gen on watch band for a while, but I found that I couldn’t type too well on the laptop while wearing it. Do you have this same issue with the Pebble on the laptop?
    martymankins´s last post ..Music Monday: NINs Day

    • #6 by Ren on September 10, 2013 - 7:37 am

      Thanks, Marty. No, I haven’t noticed any issues with typing.

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