There’s life in Pebble still

Pebbles growing in work
Me, Jimmy and Alex – Photo credit to Jimmy Lee

Its ironic that since Fitbit bought Pebble and even Vector. There has been a bunch of interesting projects to keep Pebble going. Even Fitbit have been friendly to the idea of keep it going once they switch off their servers later this year.

At least two projects are hot on my task list.

What I find really interesting is the amount of Apple watch users who have switched to Pebble. First it started with my line manager (phil) who bought a pebble 1 a while ago, scratched it then sold it to me. He then bought a Apple Watch to go with his new apple phone; but it wasn’t long till he was frustrated with the charging and not being able to see the screen without the shake. I made clear my reasons for kickstarting the Pebble 2 and left it at that.

One day he totally surprised me one day with a pebble 2 watch in white and green. Good choice I said, even with the fear of what Fitbit would do with Pebble still looming.

I also sold my old pebble 1 watch to Andy at work with the warning of what Fitbit might or rather not do, but he was happy with the price.

Third was Jimmy, who had a old classic Casio watch he use to wear. He one day rocked up with a black pebble 2 watch and suddenly I felt the waters was turning.

Pebble 2.0

But the final surprise recently was with a Apple die-hard, Alex. Alex has apple stamped on his heart; me and Jimmy once had a conversation about the turning tide of pebble watches in work and thought who could be next? Jimmy did suggest Alex and I said nahh never, too tied to Apple. I even remember having a conversation with Alex about the Apple watch vs Pebble. I somehow forgot Alex use to own a Samsung Galaxy S4 plus a long time ago, mainly for VR.

He agreed on the advantages, and as designer to designer we critiqued the design decisions of the LCD screen and wondered if jobs would be happy with the one day battery? (to be fair me and Jimmy had a similar discussion before he turned up with one) Any way, that was a while ago and I almost fell out my chair when recently Jimmy announced Alex had ditched his Apple watch for a Pebble 2. I honestly thought he was kidding then I saw it on him.

Jimmy & Alex also have found services doing interesting custom watch faces, but I’m on the look out for more diverse apps (makers would be a plus). As I’d really like to see more things like ifttt on pebble. For example why not Monzo, Paypal balance status?

Pebble 2

Right now you can buy a Pebble on Amazon for between £40 – £90 depending on which one you get. I’d also say if you were considering a smartwatch, the pebble is still the only one I would consider even now.

My weekly smartphone use…

At the Quantified Self conference a few weeks ago there was a very interesting conversation & social experiment about smartphone use. Ever since I’ve been getting more interested in the good and bad uses of smartphones, even gave a summary of ideas collected over the different sessions.

But I’ve been thinking about my low usage at the conference and decided to seek out an app which just counts the usage and nothing more (most have other types of permissions to do all types of other things). Found Timefactory’s Time used did pretty much this (although I’d like a proper data export option), seems low on resources and very simple.

So above is my regular usage of my Nexus 5X over the last week, and this week was a regular go to work everyday and social event most evenings kind of a week.

Its low, agreed but I didn’t go out to not check it or anything. I carry my Nexus with me pretty much everywhere. But having my pebble smartwatch and other devices around me certainly has a massive effect on how many times I actually have to turn on the phone screen.

Look forward to sharing the month summary too.

Pebble update opens the door

ef433d2391d654aa37817295ce10f4a0_original

Been very happy to hear FitBit are contuning to make the pebble operational after they sunset the pebble servers.

One of the biggest questions for Pebble owners following the company’s acquisition by Fitbit last year has been how long their watches would keep working going forward. And while Pebble had announced at the time that Fitbit would be “going out of its way” to keep the smartwatch platform’s software and services running through 2017, there hasn’t been much news of what would happen past that point, especially given that a fair portion of Pebble’s software is cloud based.

To help address those issues, Pebble released an update this week that decouples the smartwatches from their dependency on cloud services, meaning that whenever Pebble’s servers do shut down, users will still be able to side load apps and new firmware to their smartwatches.

It’s not a perfect fix, and there are still plenty of answered questions. Features like dictation, messaging, and weather, for example, are all based on cloud services, and Pebble still hasn’t commented on whether or not it’s found a way to keep those working for users going forward. Still, at least Pebble fans will be able to continue to use the basic features of their watches, even as the rest of Pebble is absorbed into Fitbit.

I have been looking at alternatives to the pebble and not finding much especially when Fitbit bought Vector too.

GadgetBridge logo

But I’ve been looking at alternative ways to get the same fuctionality as whats currently available. The big one seems to be GadgetBridge, which seems to be growing in fuctionality quickly.  The other great thing about gadgetbridge is it supports the MiBand too, which may be a saver to the crappy MiBand application, which I can’t seem to get syncing with anything.

Not happy with Pebble being bought by fitbit

Pebble 2.0

I recently bought a Xiaomi Mi band because I got fed up of the Fitbit ecosystem not interoperating with anything else I used. You can see evidence of this on the Quantified Self website, with one of the number one querys being how to get data out of the Fitbit ecosystem. Fitbit although useful to see my daily steps wasn’t much more use than that. I didn’t really pay attention to the leaderboards with friends or use the sleep tracking feature (I used the Pebble and Sleep as Android for this). I did like the fact it wasn’t a watch/on a wrist, This was a major selling point for when I’m playing volleyball. When I saw the Mi Band could be attached in a non wrist way, I was sold.

The Mi Band isn’t perfect but I like the magnet system, which is better than the clip Fitbit used.

Anyway, although I moved away from Fitbit step tracking. I also relied on my Pebble smart watch to do sleep tracking (maybe I should enable the step count now I upgraded to pebble 2).

Then I heard the news Pebble is being bought by Fitbit.

Digital health and fitness-tracking company Fitbit has just officially announced that it is buying key assets from smartwatch startup Pebble, after reports emerged last week that a deal between the two was close to being completed.

Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park said in a release that the company “sees an opportunity to build on our strengths and extend our leadership position in the wearables category.”

Not great news for myself and others… Then the kicker (pun intended) was worst still, knowing Pebble was under some major financial strain. My Pebble 2 was delayed 2-3 months for example but I did get at least. Happy I didn’t get the Pebble time 2!

But Pebble has been struggling to stay afloat financially for the past year, according to three sources, and the new Pebble Time 2 had been delayed. In a statement released on its website this morning, Pebble said that it is “no longer able to operate as an independent entity” and that it had made the difficult decision to shut down the company. It will no longer make hardware. Its newest products, the Pebble Time 2 and Core, are canceled, with refunds expected to go out to Kickstarter backers in the next four to eight weeks.

Existing Pebble smartwatches will continue to work, the company said, but functionality will be reduced in the future due to a lack of support.

Reduced functionality deeply worries me, as the pebble OS is very centralised, although I have seen other operating systems loaded on to the generic enough hardware. Of course others are already thinking the same thankfully.

Do I think Fitbit will ruin Pebble?
Yes I do and this interview certainly confirms some of my fears.

Fitbit hasn’t explicitly said it is making a “real” smartwatch, one with more advanced capabilities than the is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-smartwatch Blaze. But all signs point in that direction. First, the Pebble acquisition earlier this week: Fitbit has said more than once that it bought the company for its smartwatch software platform, not its hardware.

And on Fitbit’s most recent earnings call, Park himself said the company was planning to expand into “new form factors” next year.

Pebble’s timeline and OS was smart and made perfect sense for a smartwatch. I get smartwatches haven’t really kicked off but I did feel Pebble were the only ones which really got a sense of what could be possible. The Pebble core was just the start and I almost bought one myself, I don’t think Fitbit or Apple will really get what’s really possible with this new technology if its open rather than locked into their own ecosystems.

Shame…

I have a blog saved about mainstream’ing, venture capital, startup culture, the long tail and the nature of niches. Still needs some work but this is certainly one of the examples.

Updated

Fitbit confirmed the buying Pebble and they came out and said we got at least a year of functionality.

Pebble 2 first thoughts

Pebble 2.0
I kickstarted the Pebble smartwatch 2.0, it was my first kickstarter backing.

Previously I’ve not been keen on the kickstarter EULA but this time I decided the balance was worth the flip. I had hoped to have it sooner but while I was in Berlin, it came.

Opening the package it was clear they had really thought about the unboxing experience and it was simple and quick. So quick I actually switched watches in less than 30mins.
Pebble 2.0
I opted for the Pebble 2.0 not the Pebble time 2.0 because I didn’t really see the benefit of colour epaper in a smartwatch. The first thing which struck me was the sheer thinness of the watch. Its like twice the thinness and about the same lighter. Its about the size of those calculator watches you use to get/are retro cool now. Its also fast, everything feels snappy compared to the Pebble 1.0. No idea how many apps will run side by side but I suspect its many more.

The feature I looked forward to using was the voice reply, and it works pretty well. Its not exactly what you can do while on a scooter at lights but its good enough. The Pebble health stuff is good too but I haven’t really explored it much since I just ditched my Fitbit for a Xiaomi mi band with magnet waist clip, actually works better than the fitbit clip when playing volleyball. If I could use the Pebble while playing Volleyball, I would of course.

Pebble 2.0

Right now, I decided to see how I felt about the rubber strap, instead of the strap I bought from Tokyo. I quite like the fact its the same size as the previous pebble making them easily interchangeable.

So far the only downside I have found is the battery seems to take longer to charge but it also lasts longer unless you have the heart rate thing on. Also I noticed the timeline doesn’t seem to go into the past anymore, which is a shame. But generally most of these things are tiny issues.

So far I’m still very glad I stuck with Pebble. A lot of friends who bought Android Wear and Apple Watches have given up on them. The Pebble is a ideal smartwatch and the 2nd edition really puts it closer to the standard watches.

The biggest question is what to do with my old one?

I backed the Pebble 2 on kickstarter

I completely missed the Pebble update, till Matt talked about it at breakfast today. Unlike previous times, I decided I’m bought in (even if that means signing up to Kickstarters painful privacy policy). I went with the Pebble 2, rather than the Pebble time 2. The only reason I was considering the Pebble time previously is because of the timeline OS and the microphone. But even my old pebble has the timeline now and both have microphones. They even have the heart rate tracker, which should be interesting under water.

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My pebble is getting a little long in the tooth, I don’t want a Android wear watch and I was thinking about replacing it with a Pebble time 3rd gen in the year. I was also considering my options around alternatives such as the vector (which I saw in Bucharest Techweek only days previously)

The timeline concept recently won a D&AD award and rightly so… Its pretty great and the icons certainly do bring a little joy to a clever interface paradigm.

Look forward to seeing my new watch in late quarter 3 2016.

Classic Pebble meets OS 3.0

Late last night my pebble watch got a firmware upgrade to version 3.0 of the Pebble software. It required a reboot and the new pebble app on my phone. I have been wanting this upgrade for a long while since I first saw the timeline feature.

I’m very happy to say its a incredible interface for a smartwatch.

The smartwatch trap

The Pebble iOS Smartwatch

Ade tweeted this blog and I had a quick read.

I found this interesting and so true in the respects of what I think about smartwatches…

Once watch makers accept that we don’t want/need a tiny smartphone on our wrists, they’ll start making much more compelling watches. The only smartwatch maker that gets this right now is Pebble.

Just as phones serve a fundamentally different use case than tablets, watches serve a fundamentally different use case than phones. Watches are primarily for knowing things, not doing things.

Many of my friends who have the apple watch have given them up as the battery and consistent charging makes it a burden.

Funny enough theres also another older blog which I always think/talk about when people asking me about my pebble watch.

  1. The more you have to charge a watch, the more you have to take it off.

  2. The more you take a watch off, the less useful it is.

  3. The less useful the watch is, the less likely you are to put it back on.

Sleep tracking is a big deal for me and that means the only time my watch gets any charge is every once in a while, as I’m in the shower. Of course this isn’t every day because most of the time I’m in the shower wearing it.

Pebble, time to dump Apple?

Pebble time

Iphone users who bought a pebble have been complaining that the pebble smartwatch’s connection with the phone is getting more and more flaky.

While on the other side the connection with Android phones is getting tighter (especially with some support for Android wear). I’m Apple are also going to/has restricted access to more apis since they want exclusive access for the apple watch.

This makes me wonder how long pebble will support the iphone?

Its great they support both operating systems but when one of them wants you off their closed platform? How long do you stay and keep struggling to support it while the walls close in, crushing your development efforts and driving your customers against you?

Food for thought, pebble?

Alternative user interfaces

I studied interaction design in university and always had an imprecation for good interaction and interface design. Recently I seen a few examples which have got me a little excited.

Ubuntu’s scopes
I like ubuntu’s unity paradigms of scopes and lens, even though I prefer to use Gnome Shell as my default on the desktop. The scopes and lens really make a lot of sense. It was fascinating to see Ubuntu apply it across their phone and tablet. Be interesting to see how it works on Ubuntu TV if thats still ongoing?

Pebble timeline
When I first saw the pebble time interface, I instantly thought, when are they going to roll that across there existing line of smartwatches? If not, maybe I might invest in one of the new ones. Division of a interface by future, present and the past on a watch makes a lot more sense than anything else I have seen to date including the Apple Watch.

Android Material Design
Ice cream sandwich or Android 4.0 was a massive step up in style for Android but Android 5.0 Lollipop really was the first Android when the interaction design was thought about at a deeper level.

I don’t necessarily  like the style of flat plates of colour for example the Google hangout app is just the wrong kind of green for my pallet but the interaction model is nice. Although I have spotted a few places where the rules are broken by certain apps.

Its Pebble time…?

I do enjoy my pebble smartwatch. Just recently it starting supporting Android wear notifications and replies, making it much closer to the other smart watches you can buy on the market but still with 7 day battery life and a readable screen in bright sunlight.

But even with that, I was thinking it would be great if they just included a microphone, so you could reply instead of using prewritten messages or emoticons. Well its almost like they heard me and not only added a microphone but also a 64 colour epaper display in their new kickstarter project, Pebble time…

I’ll be interested to see the timeline interface in daily life too.

Wearables are now, oh? OK now?

Google Glass in CEX

The one thing Apples Watch announcement did this week is legitimise the sector of wearables, people are saying.
This might be true but frankly just because Apple joined the many other companies building products which are made to be warn.

I personally think the Apple watch is a little ugly and the route Apple’s taken of bundling more power into the watch than others isn’t ideal. In my mind what will define wearable is power and interface.

Although Apple may make a big deal about its interface, I have deeper concerns about the power usage. Same as I have for all the ideas to put a computer in a wearable product to be honest.

Laugh at Google Glass all you like but its limitations were actually interesting and the crappy applications all seems to be about using Glass for things it was never meant to do, like augmented reality. Wearables have strong limitations and should do one or two things really well. This is why I still like my pebble watch. It does notifications really well.

Creativity in the limitations and less is more, is something I feel Apple may have missed? Regardless, its good hear all the years/decades of other wearable tech are now legit thanks to Apple (snark)

Best for purpose apps on wearables

Android Wear and Moto 360 Smartwatch

Found via Adewale on Google+ of all places..

Watered-down smartphone apps are spreading like weeds on Google’s new wearable platform.  If you want an example of everything wrong with smartwatch apps right now, just look at all the Android Wear calculators.

Since I got the pebble smart watch, I have been asked again and again why not get a Android Wear?  For me besides the questionable battery life and overkill on screen size, I also haven’t seen much which makes me want one. Yes Google Now is compelling but not enough to fork out serious money.

However the questionable app question does apply across the board. There are some very questionable apps on the pebble too. They can do with looking at the recommend developer list.

  • Does the app provide a useful service in specific situations where taking out a phone is impractical?

  • Does the watch show users something important that they’d miss if they didn’t take out their phones in time?

  • Does the watch app save significant time without sacrificing significant functionality?

These are pretty good points… And some of the examples make sense.

Delta’sAndroid appis another example of a wearable app done right. If you check into a flight on your phone, the watch automatically provides up to date gate information right on your wrist (question two) and presents your boarding pass to use at the gate (question three).

Similarly,Allthecooks’ Android Wear functionscan save time by showing recipe instructions on your wrist. Having those instructions follow you around the kitchen makes a lot more sense than having to constantly look back to your phone or tablet for reference.

The pebble has little to no input but I have already seen apps which try and input data via a bluetooth back channel from a bluetooth headset via the phone. For goodness sake, leave it alone!

The pebble is great for notifications and to be honest I wouldn’t want to see it used for much more. Getting developers to accept its limits should be easier than Android wear but you know what people are like, push and push.

As Adewale says…

The future isn’t about trying to do everything with one device – it is about finding therightdevices to do thingsyouwant to do, and to do them in thebest possible way. Forcing an app onto a form factor it is ill suited for does injustice to both you, the concept of the app, the platform, and worst of all – your users.

Couldn’t agree more…

Why I bought a pebble watch

Pebble on my arm

Bobby asked me why I didn’t get Androidware.

I bought the pebble watch from Amazon mainly because I’m a fan of eink (although I read via steve its not actually eink but rather the generic epaper) and I’m not a fan of worrying about charging items, especially things we take for granted like watches. I tried to get one from ebay a while ago but it was at that point when they started to get popular and the price jumped up. Maybe I should have backed the kickstarter at the time.

Androidware looks really good and I love the idea of Google Now on most things but to be honest, it needs to be reliable. And reliable for me includes not having to worry about charging it everyday.

I’m sure I’ll do an update of how I’m finding the pebble in months to come. But right now I’m quite happy with the notifications coming through on the phone screen. i did play with a couple of apps and I like the idea of evernote on my arm and I need to check if I can get google tasks and calendar on there too. Also wonder if theres ifttt.com support yet?