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Times a-changin’: Pebble reinvents the wristwatch

By Leigh D. Stark | 4:56 pm 17/05/2013

Technology is changing everything around us, from the phone to the camera to the refrigerator, and yes even the humble pair of eye glasses. Before everyone’s eyes get cameras, though, wristwatches will get the tech treatment with the creation of the smartwatch, and Pebble is among the first to make that happen.

Features

Launched initially as a Kickstarter project and build from funds sourced from online backers, Pebble is an electronic wrist watch that features a small monochrome 1.26 inch LCD with a resolution of 144×168, backlight, vibration motor, and sensors to determine angle and light.

Four buttons sit on the Pebble, with one on the left side to activate the backlight an go back to the main screen, while the three on the right act as up (top), select (middle), and down (bottom) buttons, as well as being able to remap these to perform different functions based on what Pebble app you happen to be using.

Essentially, Pebble is seen as the next generation of wrist watches as it not only can be updated with multiple watch-face designs, but can also control applications on phones and tablets thanks to its inclusion of Bluetooth.

Charging the Pebble is handled through a magnetic connection that takes its power through USB, while the battery in the Pebble is rated for lasting up to roughly five days and cannot be removed.

Performance

Wearable technology has been a long time coming, and while we first got a taste of a modern electronic watch back when the square iPod Nano could be attached to the wrist, we’ve been wanting something purpose designed since then.

Enter the Pebble, a wristwatch featuring designed to work with your phone and tablet to send messages, call notifications, and send other information back and forth, all the while telling you the time.

Aesthetically, the Pebble is a pretty minimalist affair.

A black back with not much to it.

We didn’t bother to wait for the grey one we had ordered (based on updates to the delays, we suspected it wouldn’t arrive until August, and switched back to black), but overall, this is a pretty basic looking watch.

In order for the Pebble to work, you will need a smartphone or tablet running on either iOS (Apple) or Android.

Once you have this, simply connect the two devices using Bluetooth and run the Pebble app, synchronising the two devices and allowing files to be uploaded to the watch, as well as data sent to and from the device.

With a connected smart device, watch faces can be downloaded from the web and transferred to the Pebble, notifications can be sent to the watch, and applications can be controlled.

For instance, using the native app on Android (which was our primary test bed), Gmail notifications were sent directly to the watch about a second or two after our phone received them.

Even with a small 144×168 LCD, you can read a few lines of the email before you’re forced to read the rest on the phone, which is more than enough to give you a hint of just who sent you the email and about what.

Phone calls and text messages are also sent directly to the Pebble, with the watch vibrating when one of these notifications happens.

A great example of how this is useful is if you leave your smartphone on silent or in a different location (say a handbag), your watch will buzz on your arm and tell you who’s calling you, with one of the buttons able to be pressed to accept or reject the call.

Text messages likewise read back in the same manner as an email.

Music applications are the other effective use for the Pebble, and some of this is built natively in Pebble’s app.

With this functionality, you can use the Pebble to control the music playback on your smartphone or tablet, with pause, play, next track, and previous track all working, as well as track information being transferred.

Some track information doesn’t work natively, such as in Pandora’s official app, but from what we understand, that’s something Pandora’s developers need to fix.

Interestingly, we found that the perfect scenario for using the Pebble to control your music was with Bluetooth headphones, which when used with the smartphone, provide you with a completely wireless environment for you to check on and play music without ever having to pull out your mobile.

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Price (RRP)

$150 (when released)

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Neat concept; A watch you can change the look of whenever it suits; Easily controlled by both iOS and Android; Works really well as a wireless music controller; Flight mode (by switching Bluetooth off) means you can use your computerised watch during flights;

Product Cons

Glue marks for the screen show up under different light sources and look like oil marks; Buggy; Buttons can be less responsive than you'd otherwise like;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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