Pebble update opens the door

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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?

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?

Early adopters still have a place

Ericsson mp3 player

Early this morning after Silicon Drinkabout Manchester, two friends had a long argument about the need/lesser need for early adopters in developing new products.

I won’t go into details but I’m certainly side on the side of the need for early adopters.
During the argument, Apple, ipod and the iphone came up (interestingly the iMac never comes up anymore). I made the point that Apple generally copy things and improve on them. This reminded me of my first proper owned and bought mpeg3 player. I bought a Samsung Yepp32 from my friend, but about the same time I saw the Ericsson HPM-10  and a few months later I bought one on Tottenham court road.

Ericsson T28 and HPM-10

For me it made perfect sense, why have a separate device when my phone has most of the capability? I swore by the Ericsson HPM-10 and ended up buying only ericsson phones, so I could keep using it. I remember squeezing 2 whole cds of music on to the 32meg MMC card for my ride down to Bristol from London on the scooter. I must have encoded it at 16kps!My friends didn’t get it, why a music player on the phone? It took about 5-6years before the idea of using the mobile for music playback really started to happen.

Without early adopters, I feel the almost relentless push forward into the currently unacceptable and questionable unknown. Just wouldn’t happen.

To be clear I’m not saying early adopters are the reason for why a product or service crosses into the mainstream. But I am saying they/we have an effect which can be quantified and should not be written off.

One of the reasons why I always wanted to go to Tokyo is to explore the vast electronic markets of failed products. Everything from robot dogs to things which never made it out of Japan. I would contest that kickstarter is the new electronic market now? There will be popular products like the pebble smartwatch but theres products only early adopters would consider. Once considered and used, they share.

That sharing is where the norm starts to shift.

Remember having a discussion with a colleague at my then work place, the Odeon Leicester square about what is mpeg3 and what was that funny thing sticking out my Ericsson t28 phone? She had just bought a Sony minidisc and I was explaining why mpeg3 was the future? Years later at a reunion she remained me as she bought a 1st generation iPod a few years later based slightly on that afternoon sitting in the box office listening to badly encoded music.

Her perception of music had been shifted enough to early adopt the iPod before it really hit the mainstream.

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.

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…