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Monday, March 18, 2013

The Ripples of Pebble Across My Life's Pond

Hello all:

On Saturday, March 16th 2013,  I unboxed my Pebble, which represents a "new" era of wearable computing.  For those that don't know, the Pebble was an insanely successful kickstarter project to build an e-paper watch as an extension to your smart phone (iPhone or Adroid).  They acheived 10,000% of their funding plan with $10,000,000 of $100,000 raised. 
I thought I would keep a running total of ways that this "wearable computing" has affected my life.  Note, as I have my phone with me so much, I already feel as though I have wearable computing integrated in my life--perhaps too much.

But first, why did I back the Pebble?  Well, all the cool kids were doing it.  OK, they weren't.  I was pretty early on, but I really liked the idea of this scrappy company using Kickstarter to get their product funded.  It allowed me to play VC (venture capitalist) at a very low entry point.  Note:  playing VC meant that I could have lost all money and gotten nothing in return or gotten a potato in a dozen years.  I don't know how many backers really understood that concept given the online groaning about the missed delivery dates.

From a pure feature and benefit perspective (i.e. logical), I thought it would be a kick ass way to remotely control my iPhone, which is usually in my pocket or on my arm band when I'm running or riding.  There is promised RunKeeper integration which could have additional benefits, unknown to me at the time of writing.  I have made certain allowances to spend any monies necessary to keep my exercise plan on track--this fell (after some heated internal debate) under those auspices.  Additionally, I thought it would be a good way to get status messages that may or may not be important when in meetings with others and I don't want to be so rude as to check my phone, but checking one's watch is perfectly socially acceptable (mostly).

The Pebble replaces the Timex Ironman watch that I've been wearing since 2008, and whose features I use just about every day when it comes to seeing day/date and time and timing my well-defined runs and moutain bike rides.  I use to use my Garmin for the latter, but given the propensity for my running partner and I to run the same routes, I found I didn't need the distance piece as it was essentially the same every time (note, this might be an issue and we should consider changing it up).

So here it is, my ongoing observation log of the ripples in my life from Pebble in reverse chronological order.  The ones in bold are a bit more meaninful:
  • [March 18] No one at work has noticed my Pebble at work.  What is wrong with people? :)
  • [March 18] I keep looking down at the watch (currently in "TextWatch" face (right now it reads "one six" with the six below the one in modern font) looking for the day and date.  I find it irritating that it's not there, but I'm not willing to switch to any other watch face that includes it as it isn't as cool.
  • [March 17] I've figured out a great new feature--I can use the music control to find my iPhone!  I know that there is an app for that, and I do have it, but it takes about two seconds to start playing tunes on my watch--no need to find a computer or iPad, log in, wait for it to find it, and then tell it to play the tune.  I'm amazed that the bluetooth actually reaches across my first floor.  This is a very usable feature!
  • [March 17] I keep getting notified on my phone that the Pebble app wants to communicate with the Pebble.  I don't know why--I'm all up-to-date.
  • [March 17] Realization--while there aren't too many features available today, I feel like the folks at Pebble have created a great minimum viable product (MVP) with time, date, music control, alarm.  I believe that this can be extended through software in the future akin to the original iPhone.  I'm really glad I backed this project.
  • [March 17] Notifications are going to be a bit more of an issue than I had first thought.  You have to go through a manual series of steps to get them to come across correctly. 
  • [March 16] Downloading the first update was unsuccessful the first few times, then it wasn't.  It seems to help for the watch to be close to the iPhone.
  • [March 16] Getting intimate with Pebble in our first shower together--I CAN CHANGE MUSIC IN THE SHOWER-WOOT! Yes, it's water resistant to 5 ATM.  I wasn't expecting that when I backed it, but it's really nice for it to be there, especially given the exercise implications.
  • [March 16] Argh!  There is no stopwatch (chronograph).  Wow, at least for the short term, I'm going to need to use my other watch for runs.


  1. Continuing the running blog in the comments section as the silly blogger software messes with the layout each time I edit it...Sigh.

    - [March 18] Wow, v1.9 of the software is available. Enhanced ease-of-use and scrolling watch faces. New defect fixes. Awesome.

  2. Great feedback, thanks Matt!

    1. Absolutely Eric--you guys have done a phenomenal job and I'm loving my Pebble. I've been enamored with e-Ink/ePaper ever since I got my first Sony reader and it's amazing how far it's come in the past few years. A watch is such an awesome form factor.

      By the way, if you're ever in Austin, we'd love to have you present at the IEEE Computer Society or Agile Austin monthly meeting. There is a strong maker culture in town and I know that folks could really benefit from what you've learned.

      Rock on!

  3. I'm wanting a basic Time and Temperature app for my Pebble. Seems like I'm pulling my humongous Galaxy Note II out of my pocket just to see what the outside temp is. Pebble rocks!

    1. As I tend to check the time and temperature at about the same time every day (6:00 am, right before I go running), I've set up a daily message to be sent at that time. Works like a charm until someone builds an "app for that" :)


  4. Which Timex Ironman did you have? I have an Ironman Data Link that I love. I use the multiple timers daily so I was curious if you've found anything like that for the Pebble? I pre-ordered a Pebble since I wasn't able to get in on the kickstarter before it closed. I really like the options that are already available, but the core function I use my watch for now is the timer.

    1. Hi--I think I have a really basic model, one that retails for around $40. It definitely wasn't the Data Link model--that one is pretty sweet. The short answer is that there's not a timer today, which was the first thing I reacted to as it is so important for me. I don't know if it's a display limitation or something else.

      I tend to use my stopwatch A LOT, and not just for running/mountain biking. Many times when I'm hiking, I'll want to know how much time has elapsed on a trail so I can compute how much time to get back. When I'm driving long distances, I like to have a backup on distances for various reasons (one time my gas gauge broke in Alaska). The list goes on.

      Runkeeper will solve my most immediate need, but I'm guessing that a proper chronograph will be one of the first new apps delivered once the SDK is made available if it's technically feasible.

      Thanks for stopping by!