Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tech Column: The Pebble Smartwatch

by Bill Adler

The rumors are flying fast and furious: Apple is working on a smartwatch. Whatever it is, it will do amazing things. Whatever we think about it when the watch is first announced, it will be snatched up by millions almost immediately.

I hope it's not like the Pebble Smartwatch. I hope it's something entirely different. Because if it is a smartwatch like the Pebble, then we are all doomed, doomed, doomed. I say that even though I adore my Pebble Smartwatch.

The Pebble Smartwatch, www.getpebble.com, connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. It displays who's calling, so rather than having to pull your phone out of your pocket or bag to see if the person calling you is more important than the person you're with, you can kind of discreetly look at your watch and then decide whether or not to answer the phone. The Pebble Smartwatch also displays text messages so that with the flick of your wrist, you can see the text from your bookie, broker, mom, or lawyer, and get anxious because you're not able to respond until after the meeting is over.

The Pebble Smartwatch originated on Kickstarter, a service that enables entrepreneurs to get funding from regular people. It is the most successful Kickstarter campaign ever. The watch's inventors needed to raise $90,000; they raised over $10 million!

The watch itself is sleek and doesn't look geeky at all. Well, not much anyway, depending on which watch face you choose. The watch comes in five colors: black, Arctic white, cherry red, and gray, and costs $150 at www.getpebble.com, which isn't a lot for a lot of technology that you can wear on your wrist. Apps are here and more are coming to the Pebble, including things like a bike computer that gets GPS data from your smartphone, a music controller, a golf rangefinder, customizable alerts (via ifttt.com), and more.

With the the Pebble Smartwatch you can swap e-ink watch faces on the fly. There are already some cool ones, with more in the pipeline. It's a dozen different watches all in one.

The Pebble is waterproof and scratch resistant. The watch's battery life is over a week, so you can take a short vacation or enjoy a marathon work week between charges. Which leads me to my main complaint with the Pebble watch: It saps the life out of my iPhone's battery. The people at Pebble estimate that the watch hastens the iPhone's battery consumption by 10 - 15 percent, but I estimate that it's more than that. That makes the Pebble smartwatch an acceptable timepiece if you're going to be out for a few hours, but if you plan to be unplugged all day, wearing the Pebble may not be a smart idea.

So, should you get one? Sure. It's lots of fun. It tells time. It displays caller ID. It does a variety of tricks that at present no other watch can perform. Get one and enjoy it, because time is short.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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