Invaded by the Apple Watch

I have been thinking about this move for several months now. Although I have been a Pebble Watch user for a couple of years now I started wanting more out of my smartwatch and after researching various options I decided to put my hard earned cash down on an Apple Watch and bought the Black Sport Edition. After all I am a sporty kind of guy.

Picture 9

Me and my new Apple Watch.

One thing Apple does have going for it is – is that setting up their products are extremely easy, and this smart watch is no different. You actually do most of the programming on your phone. Pairing it with the iPhone is super easy as well. You are guided through the setup on deciding on the layout and how you want the apps to appear. There is even a way to make sure all your favorite apps are grouped together so that they are easy to get to.

Watch Faces

You can customize the face of your watch to be pretty much anything – an actual watch face that shows weather or if there is a full moon  or you can have a picture background and plenty of other things too.  Guess which one I chose from the below options which are out of the box!

Favorite Friends

You can set up favorites that are the same as on your phone, but you can also add people that have an Apple Watch so that you can send them your heartbeat sketches & little taps throughout the day.

With a button dedicated to accessing your best friends there is a strong emphasis on who you talking and sharing your experience with others on a regular basis. You can have several circles of 12 friends and categorize these circles into groups like, friends, family and work mates.

Press the Friends button at any point wherever you are and you’ll be whisked into a screen that looks like an old fashioned phone dallier. The center dial gives you a picture (where available) of your chosen friend, while the smaller surrounding circles give you each friend’s initials. Using the digital crown to highlight them and then your finger to select them specifically, you can then either opt to call them, text them, or if they’ve also got an Apple Watch send them a special emoji only reserved for Apple Watch owners.

The dedicated Apple Watch messages, called Digital Touches, come in two forms: emoji, or special screen interactions from you either tapping, drawing, or (if you are feeling overly special) your heartbeat.

friends

 

Glances

One of the key ways to interact with the Apple Watch is through Glances.

These are best seen as shortcuts to an app that allow you to quickly see what’s happening. Swiping up from the bottom of the watch face reveals your Glances, with left and right swipes then cycling through them accordingly.

You can manage which Glances you can see via the Apple Watch app for iPhone – and it’s only from here you can determine whether or not a Glance is active or not. The app is also the hub where you’ll find apps that work with theApple Watch from its own store to save you having to randomly hunt them down in the main Apple App store.

By default Apple offers a number of Glances, such as your next calendar appointment, how much battery you have left, your heart rate, or activating Airplane Mode for both Watch and iPhone.

Notifications

Of course the key to any smartwatch success is how well it handles notifications. As I noted I have used a Pebble watch for over two years and their approach was to bludgeon you into submission with everything more or less mirrored from your phone.

Apple’s take is very different and it took me a few hours to understand what they were doing – and once I got the hang of it – I appreciate their take. Notifications on the watch depends largely on what you are doing at the time with either your watch or your iPhone. What you are doing will affect on what happens with the notifications and how they are received. The idea is that if you are looking at your phone you will not get an unnecessary alerts on the Watch seconds later.

This is great because when using the Watch you do not want to be constantly interrupted with notifications blocking the screen.

A swipe down from the top of the watch face gets the full list of notifications with the ability to close them one by one or to clear them all via a long press on the screen.

If you’ve read a notification on your phone it will disappear from the watch, while those you do click on will either open the app they are from or let you delve a little deeper by, for example, viewing more text before then opening the app in full.

With this model for example if you have been staring at your phone, or using it as a personal hotspot, you are not bothered by the Watch at all. As I said this took a little getting used to for me. On my first day, I thought email notifications were not working, when in reality I just had just been on the phone a lot, and therefore it was not displaying those watch-based notifications.

For text messages the Apple Watch allows you to reply to them either with a series of suggested one word replies, or by dictating via Siri as either text or voice message.

All of this also – I am sure – helps to preserve previous battery life because the watch is not constantly displaying notifications when not needed.

Phone on A Wrist

Before I had a Pebble I used a Galaxy Gear for a bit. The feature I really missed when I moved to the Pebble was the ability to take or make calls from my smartwatch. The Apple Watch brings this feature back. Just like Dick Tracy you can talk to your Watch. There are even times when you are actively encouraged to do so.

At any time you can press the digital crown or raise your wrist and ask it via a question, with the answer spat back out. You can also use Siri to open apps, ask for the weather, load Glances or start a text: “Text Frances” or “Open the camera app”, for example.

For messages that means you can dictate your replies straight from the watch and this is one of the better features.

Taking a call is, as you might imagine, a little awkward. You’ll look like you are performing some sort of dance as you jostle the watch between your mouth and your ear. When in the car, however, one hand on the steering wheel, it is just about okay.

The other issue here is that speaker is lackluster but if you need to take a call and can’t find your phone because it’s in a bag or another room it does offer a solution.

Battery & Charging

My impression from what I have read was that the battery life here was terrible, but over the couple of days I have used it I have been pleasantly surprised.

During the few days I have used is there has always been some charge left at the end of the day, and if you are only using it for notifications you reportedly will get two days from a single charge. Also I have found that recharging takes minutes rather than hours which means I will want to get a second cable for my office.

The Apple Watch is charged via a dedicated magnetic clip that snaps onto the back of the watch unit. This magnetic charging cable uses Apple’s MagSafe technology with inductive charging, which is a completely sealed system free of exposed contacts. I have also found that it is very forgiving for alignment too. You simply hold the connector near the back of the watch and the magnets cause it to snap into place automatically. This is another huge improvement over how the Pebble Watch charges.

apps

Early Verdict

After only a couple of days of use I have grown quite used to wearing it and adopted to how notifications work. The battery like is better then expected and many of the apps that you already have on your iPhone port over to the watch just fine really making this a nice extension of your smartphone. Even my Denver Broncos 365 app is now available to me – even when I have lost sight of my smartphone and what more could I need!

Share This:

Pebble Time Review

The Pebble Time is a very important product. Why do I say such a thing about a little smartwatch?  Well the biggest reason I would suggest this is that it is the only serious contender for the space on your wrist besides Android Wear and Apple Watch. It is also one of the less expensive options out there and powers itself quite well with all of the basic functionality of a good smartwatch.

I have been using my Pebble Time for about three weeks now so here are my thought so far.

A Fun User Interface

Designing a fun to use, beautiful user interface is incredible difficult, but I think Pebble did a great job with this. Text and icons fly on and off the screen, watch faces smoothly animate, and while the colors are limited, they feel native to the device. In short, the user interface feels delightful to use.

The Timeline

IMG_2485The new timeline interface is awesome, particularly if you schedule a lot of your life. With a simply press of the bottom button I can see what’s coming up next in my schedule, when and where. I can press the middle button when an event is at the top to see even more detail and with a press or two of the left button I’m back at right now with my watch face. I think that mental model works really well. Even if you are not a big scheduler you can use timeline to see upcoming weather ans sporting events.

Not Scared Of Water

This may not be the most important feature to everyone, but I think it really cool to have a smartwatch that you don’t have to worry about taking off when washing your hands. Also being able to just jump in the pool or rinse off after a workout is pretty liberating.

A 7 Day Battery? Maybe Not But Its Pretty Darn Close

Pebble promises up to seven days of usage with the Time. My original Pebble never lasted for seven days and the Time still doesn’t either, but I do get 4 or 5 days out of it, which is better then any other smartwatch today. With normal usage I think it’s safe to expect three to four days of battery life. You are luck to get 24 hours out of the Apple Watch.

The Band

The band on the Pebble Time is great. Especially for me because I am one of those persons who can never get a watch band to fit just right. This band is always comfortable. The other great thing about the band is how easy it is to remove. Pebble added quick release pins, which means you can very easily slide the pins out and replace the band with something else. Normally you need a removal tool to swap these out and you will probably want one if you’re going to put a normal watch band on your Pebble Time, but at least the stock one removes easily.

The Display

One of my biggest problems with the earlier Pebble and Pebble Steel was that the display had very low resolution. To make up for this Pebble always uses a good font so everything is legible, but you never get the sense that this is something that is designed to look good, which brings me to the rest of the hardware.

Pebble – We Got Color!

IMG_2484

Pebble Time features a colored e-paper display (64 colors to be exact). This is a big improvement over the previous displays in the right lighting, but its also a detriment in the wrong lighting. Because lighting is such a huge factor with e-paper displays, there are times when colors work against legibility on the Time. With the backlight on in the right lighting it makes watch faces look much more appealing and adds to the experience by allowing users to more easily differentiate different parts of the watch faces when allowed by the face designer. There are hundreds of customizations available which is great, especially with colors.

Pebble Hardware

The Pebble hardware is well,,, ok. But that’s alright if you ask me.  This is all about functionality and long battery life. Which Pebble succeeds at here.

Pebble Time App

The Pebble Time app for iOS is useful for finding watch faces and app and it is very easy to use. Again really no bells and whistles here. If I wanted that I could buy and Apple Watch.

Pebble Apps

Pebble has a small but expanding ecosystem of apps that allow you to use your watch instead of your phone, but like most things on the Pebble the functionality is often basic. This is not really Pebble’s fault, but is a limitation of what you can really do on a device this size. The best apps, not surprisingly, are fitness related, although I really like their Disney Experience app!

Voice Replies

To use voice replies you must have an Android. Today this functionality is not available on iPhones. To use voice replies you just press the middle button on a notification, select Reply, and select Voice. Pebble will then say that it is listening and you can dictate your response. After dictating, the Pebble will transcribe the response and display it to you before sending. If you’re good with the response you can press send. I love the send animation (a paper airplane flying away). I have not been able to really use this because I have an iPhone. I hope iPhone compatibility with this arrives soon.

Brightness of the Display

While the display can struggle a bit in normal lighting it is very easy to look at outside, in the sun.

While the display can struggle a bit in normal lighting it is very easy to look at outside, in the sun.

The display brightness on the Pebble Time is my least favorite feature. It simply is not that good, in normal lighting. You can shake your wrist, to turn the back light on but this only lasts for about a second. Outside, in the sun this display is fine and if you are in a bright room its OK as well but in darker environments it can be a challenge to read the screen. I also hope that in firmware update we will get the ability the change the amount of time before the backlight goes dark.

Pebble Glass

Another challenge here is that glass is a smudge and fingerprint magnet. I’m constantly swiping the screen to improve its often poor legibility. Second, the glass is super reflective, which again, makes legibility difficult in certain environments. This is a common problem with all smartwatches.

Final Thoughts

Maybe its me but I just do not want that much from my smartwatch. Email and Text notifications, weather and sports alerts and a fun watch display. Throw in some simple apps like ESPN and My Disney Experience and a comfortable watch band and I am a happy camper. If these are the things you want out of a smartwatch the Pebble Time is for you. However if you want to be a fashion statement and you are looking for glitch bells and whistles check out the Apple Watch.

Also the Pebble Time is about half the cost of the lowest model Apple Watch. For most people the Pebble Time is enough smartwatch and it will not break the bank.

You can learn more about Pebble here.

Share This:

A Quick Look at the New Pebble Time

Today, as the Pebble Time arrives the smartwatch landscape is very different then it was back in 2013 when Pebble released their initial model. Now that Apple has released their Apple Watch, survival in this emerging smartwatch arena will be tougher then ever before. This all being understood I have used a Pebble Smartwatch since its debut in 2013. I have tried a couple along the way, such as the Galaxy Gear and quickly gave up and returned to the trusty little Pebble.

My Pebble Time finally arrived at the end of last week and I have only been using it for a few days so I wanted to give this quick review.

Pebble Time is a lower-end product when compared to the likes of the Apple Watch or LG Watch Urbane. It has huge plastic bezels, a non-touch screen and a default band is a stretchy and rubbery. However if do not want to go into the poorhouse to have a smartwatch this can be forgiven.

IMG_2252

Not to be outdone by the Apple Watch, there is a great Mickey Mouse watchface available here as well!

This smart watch is a happy reminder of what made Pebble a major player in the smartwatch arena in the first place. First, this new watch looks better than I thought it would. Do not misunderstand, this is not elegant, luxurious or jewelry-like in any way – but it has a simplistic view that many will appreciate. Not everyone wants to scream out, “Hey look  at me,I have a smartwatch!”

IMG_2251

For me I just dig this Star Trek LCARS watchface. Just look at all of that information displayed on the screen!

The thick lines of that bezel and the border surrounding the screen bleed into the software’s visual theme – making the design feel less like a cost-cutting necessity and more like a choice (which could be an illusion, but at least it’s an effective one).

IMG_2249

All of the basic functions of a good smartwatch are here. Notifications appear on the watch with a vibration and they are easy to read at a glance.

Its software is now organized as a timeline. From the main watch face, the down button (again, it relies on four physical buttons, as there’s no touchscreen) moves forward in time, while the up button moves back. It’s logical, but it might only make sense for people with busy schedules full of lots of calendar events. The process of getting back to missed notifications is actually a bit less straightforward than it was on older Pebbles.

Pebble Time also now apparently has voice control, something no previous Pebble could do. I have not had a chance to test this yet but will do do soon.

Another important advantage of the Pebble Time is that it is cross-platform which means that you can use it with any smartphone you have. If you have an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone this will work. The Apple Watch only work with an iPhone. I do not like feeling trapped in any particular eco-system which is one of the reasons I have stayed with the Pebble line and waiting so patiently for this new one.

The Pebble Time is not perfect, but it does handle all of the basic tasks we think of when it comes to a good smartwatch. There are very little bells and whistles and it will not be mistaken for a piece of jewelry but that is not what I am look for from this type of technology.

I will have much more on Pebble Time in my full review, but my early impressions are that it could continue to fill a niche as a less expensive smartwatch with a quiet profile that many will apreciate.

Share This: