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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

My Pebble Smartwatch


One of the newest fads that very few people actually own, smartwatches can actually be more than just a convenience at best. My usage pattern of it will prove that. In this article, I will describe how that is the case and why you may consider getting a wearable tech yourself.

First of all, let's review built-in features. The Pebble can control music directly using any app of your choice. Mine is Google Play Music. You can play/pause, skip forwards/backwards, or even change the volume of your phone. It conveniently displays the title/author/album of the music. Other built-in features include an alarm you can set separately from your phone (the watch will vibrate), 3 different watchfaces (words/digital/analog), and various settings: Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, activity tracking, quick launch shortcuts, and the usual likes of factory reset.

But that of course isn't the main selling point. That would be the ability to read messages from your phone. You can even view the history, and with Android Wear, select from a set of actions to perform on the message itself. Those include dismissing it, opening the app on the phone, and replying with built-in smilies and messages. You can create 5 of those yourself. But not only text is supported by those actions, even apps like GMail, Calendar, and Google Now work.

The Android app allows you to manage apps, of which 8 can be stored on the watch at a time with the others easily re-loadable. Notifications can be selected, and those include phone calls and SMS of course. You can only hang up with the default Pebble phone notification, but that isn't an issue with Pebble Dialer or just headphones that can pick up calls. It includes an app store for watchfaces, apps, and games. Settings include the usual usage logs, updates over WiFi-only, and such.

Now let's get onto third-party apps, this is where things get real interesting. Did you know that you can create your own watchface with Canvas for Pebble? You can even display info such as other timezones, battery of both devices, data connection, WiFi SSID, countdown to specific date, the next calendar event, the weather, and any image of your choice. Another app called Dashoard for Pebble controls everything from Bluetooth to WiFi AP, and can even alert where your phone is by sound and lock it. The next app is called Keep for Pebble. This allows me to read Google Keep notes. Of course there is an Evernote app as well, if you prefer that instead. Mr. Runner is my 4th app. It's a simple timing game where you stop the running stickman from being squished by the ceiling.

More apps include Nav Me, which integrates with Google Maps Navigation. That means it will show how many meters are left until you turn until you reach your destination. Ever heard of two-factor authentication? Well that means another passcode must be entered after your password on a new or unknown device. PebbleAuth is the app for the job. It generates the authentication numbers for you, without having to switch from apps when logging in using your phone. Next is Pebblets, the multi-functional app that shows calendar, calculator, timer/stopwatch, weather, stocks, and RSS feeds. Ans lastly, there is ShakeDice, a dice emulator for up to 100 sides that can also flip coins.

There are literally thousands of apps for Pebble, ranging from a steps/sleep tracker to Pokedex Kanto. How useful they are depends on the user, but your amount of choices will not be lacking. Unfortunately, not all is rosy. One glaring issue is the lack of non-Roman character support. Being a Chinese-Canadian, that means I cannot discern which music its displaying when listening to J-Pop or C-Pop for example. The characters are replaced with upright hollow rectangles...

Overall, the Pebble Smartwatch is definitely worth my money, being far more than just a fancy watch that shows you texts. It truly integrates with your smartphone, and can even stand on its own two feet whether that's gaming, timekeeping, or other basic functions. This is a pioneer of the field with humble origins as a Kickstarter project back in 2013, and now is featured in Best Buy and Future Shop in its rightful place with other smart devices. While I look forward to the capabilities of the new models being released this year, hopefully us legacy products won't be left too far behind.

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