Rick Stawarz

First week with the Pebble watch

Rick Stawarz

The Pebble has been adorning my wrist for about a week now. It's a slick looking watch. Compliments come daily from folks who have no idea it's a "smart watch." The jet black body along with any of the black watch faces make it quite stealthy. Perhaps the neatest surprise is its magnetic charging cable, which is fairly similar to Apple's MagSafe power connector. It's clear that Pebble's makers have a trained taste for design.

Bugs

Unfortunately, everything the Verge says is true regarding Pebble's integration with the iPhone. Some serious Bluetooth bugs in iOS 6.1 cause the iPhone to drop connection with Pebble, which resets all notification settings. That's a big deal.

What does this mean? Well, if you walk more than fifteen or so feet away from your iPhone, all iOS notifications from App Store apps cease. To get them back, you must go to Settings, Notifications, any app, and then toggle the alert style from whatever you have to "none" and then back to what you had. Now, repeat that for every stinking app. I'm not technical enough to understand why, but notifications from phone calls, messages, and email do not need to be reconfigured. Those continue to work.

Upon entering my house every day, the iPhone goes to live on my office desk. He's cozy and quiet there. But this means I walk away from it quite a bit. No one wants to repeat those notification reset shenanigans twelve times a day, so I've simply decided this is part of my punishment for backing a gadget on Kickstarter.

The iPhone sometimes thinks the Pebble has Bluetooth headset functionality, which means if you like to chat it up with Siri, the iPhone will first attempt an audio connection with the Pebble, fail, and then provide the audio prompt back on the phone itself. This adds an extra couple seconds to the front end of your conversation with Siri. It doesn't happen every time, but often enough to get irritated and turn off Pebble's Bluetooth.

Yes, I own an Elevation Dock, too. I've certainly learned my lesson. Twice over. What exactly is that lesson? Well my friends, I will be holding off on gadget purchases until hands-on reviews are published by people I like. I'll be honest, if I knew this was going to be the normal Pebble experience, I would have held off on backing the company. For the time being, I'll just view this for what it is: I paid a lot of money for a product that no one besides its creators had used. I'm not mad at the Pebble people (it's how Kickstarter operates!) In fact, I am glad that I could help launch this promising product. Kickstarter is an amazing testimony of what's possible in this country. But I had to learn the hard way that Kickstarter is not a store. When you give people money on Kickstarter, you're backing a project because you believe in its potential. It's quite different than shopping on Apple's web store.

A buzzing watch?

Ten months is a lot of time since initial backing and the arrival of the product. Since then, my iPhone habits have changed. Specifically, I don't use my phone as a device for notifications and passing the time. In an attempt to promote boredom in my life, all social apps, games, and readers have been deleted.

When an app has the ability to send notifications, it has permission to interrupt both imaginative day-dreaming and work. A friend said it takes 15 minute after an interruption to regain the inertia needed to actually resume your stride. That sounds a bit right. If interruptions come every fifteen minutes, then you most likely don't have the amount of focus required to generate quality work that is worthy of publication and promotion.

I can set a phone face down on a desk, turn on Airplane Mode, or even power it off completely. A watch is different. It is literally strapped to your body, and having a watch that buzzes with the arrival of every text or email sounds like productivity's arch nemesis. Besides, what good does it do to be notified of a message on a device that doesn't also support replying to that message?

Pebble wish list

Navigating the Pebble's menus are simple enough, but one would think its settings could be configured with the accompanying iOS app. For example, I would like to be able to manage daily and weekly alarms through the iOS app rather than the Up, Down, Select, and Back buttons on the watch. Right now, the iOS app only allows you to test connectivity and add more clock faces. That's it.

One of the most attractive features of the Pebble is the developer SDK. The next few months will hopefully see several apps released. Granted, the black and white, low resolution screen might not allure too many developers, but hopefully the watch platform proves to be somewhat profitable.

As one who uses Brew Control on my iPhone each morning to time an Aeropress, I'd love to see a similar coffee timer for the Pebble. Obviously, similar apps which focus on timers, alerts, and counters will be a hit on the Pebble.

All in all, I will continue to wear the watch, but with Bluetooth turned off. Perhaps some clever developers will whip up some good apps for it, but I'm not getting my hopes up. For now, the Pebble will be a physical reminder to steer clear from emotional purchases, keep focused on the job at hand, and remain hip with a ridiculously good looking watch.

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.