“Technology has to be invented or adopted.” – Jared Diamond
I know this is not my normal kind of writing that most of you expect, but this is a special blog posting. I will share with you my experiences with a “new” piece of technology. Just about 1 month ago I purchased a Pebble. What is a Pebble? you ask? It is simply a watch that connects to your smartphone. On the watch, you will not only get the time, but you will get various notifications from your phone. Notifications like incoming texts, emails and incoming phone calls. In the case of an incoming text, you can even reply from the watch with a short response. They call this thing a “Smartwatch”.
By its very name -“smart”- it appears as though this watch should be able to solve a mystery or predict lottery numbers, but it doesn’t. In fact, if the watch is not connected to my “smartphone” it is nothing more than a fancy watch that I can play Dopewars on (an old classic game that I have played since the beginning of my computing life). In my day, when a computer required the brain power of a more central computer or server to be useful, we would call those computers, “dumb” (terminals). So, in reality, with no central phone to connect to, my watch is simply a “dumb watch”.
With all that being said, my first experience with this relatively new piece of electronics has been positive. I had bought my Pebble not to be a hipster or some kind of trendsetter. I bought it so I could better understand this technology and how it may impact my life. When I first heard of these smartwatches I was very skeptical of the concept. Like the failed Google glass, I felt that wearable technology just doesn’t have a place on our bodies. I had felt that this smartwatch technology was just another passing fad. Problem is, more and more companies were making them and when Apple announced they were getting into the game, I took notice. So, my curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see if there was an opportunity with a smartwatch. I set out to purchase the cheapest watch that could offer me the best experience. The Pebble was the best option for me.
For just over $100, I could experience pretty much all of the features that other smartwatches could offer, just with a little less “pizzaz”. It provided me with instant notifications and simple apps that give me instant access to information. It just didn’t have a colour screen, speakers or a mic. Since I haven’t worn a watch in a few years, I thought at first wearing one would feel odd. Fortunately, the Pebble is not heavy, so my comfort level with wearing a watch again was high from the get-go. Pairing the watch to my phone was not hard to do at all, and within 1/2 hour I was up and going. Another selling point was the fact that the Pebble is water resistant up to 50m. This gave me the piece of mind that I do not need to baby my watch as I would have had to with a more expensive watch.
Being an avid walker, I had a feeling that this technology could come in handy. As I am out for my evening stroll, the last thing I want to be doing is messing with my phone when I get a notification. I also want to be able to quickly view my distance walked and time spent in doing so. The first thing I did when I had my watch up and going, went for a walk. I immediately found value in this smartwatch. I was able to view all the stats of my walk by simply flicking my wrist up, no different than if I was checking the time. During one of my first walks, I had gotten a text. I found it extremely handy to be able to send a quick text from my watch. The same goes for emails that I receive. I was able to quickly reply without looking like one of those phone walking zombies we all see on the sidewalk. Another handy feature is being able to change the song that my phone is playing right from my watch. To me, these features alone have made the $100 investment worthwhile. Over the past month, I have come to rely on my watch whenever I go for my walks. I also enjoy being able to quickly glance at who is calling and/or texting me while I drive. I no longer have to pick up my phone to see if it is worthwhile to pull over. My watch is in my line of sight when I drive, so my eyes never leave the road for any length of time.
My first month with a smartwatch has proven to me that this wearable technology does have a place in my life. Could I live without it? Of course, I could. It will never replace my cell phone. Even if the evolution of this watch is to eventually become its own entity -it’s own phone- I cannot see me relying on a watch to write a serious text from. The evolution of the cell phone was to get bigger so that texting and browsing would be easy to do. Well, our wrists will certainly not get bigger, so smartwatches will always have screen size limitations. Sending texts on a tiny screen would certainly be a pain. Sure there is dictation functionality, but sending a text during a rock concert could prove to be a pain. So would answering a phone call without forgetting your Bluetooth headset.
After 1 month of wearing a smartwatch, I am not left wanting any more from it. I am quite content with what it delivers and contrary to what I believed in the past, a smartwatch does have value being strapped to my arm. But as far as the evolution of this technology. I still hold the belief that smartwatches will not replace cell phones. I believe the next evolution of communication will be done through implanted (inside our body) devices. That being said, I can see a place where the smartwatch could create a new communication medium, one where quick texts or quickly voiced recordings could be of good use. There is room for some communication improvement in our lives with this watch, but it is limited to our wrist size.
In conclusion, my life has been improved by a smartwatch. Will I be wearing my Pebble 6 months from now? Yes. The benefits given to me will give it real estate on my wrist for the foreseeable future. Would I spend any more than $100 for one? Probably not. What I have learned is that this is a nice accessory piece that helps but does not solve any “first world problems” that I have. Anything more than what I have now would simply be for show. Would I recommend one to a friend? It depends on the person. In its current form, it is only an extension of your cell phone, so unless you have a need of having your cell phone tucked away somewhere while your wrist is free to do other things, then for sure, a smartwatch is for you. But you will find, as I have, that you will still be reaching for that phone whenever things get serious.
Here is a list of point-form observations that I had collected throughout my first month as a smartwatch wearer:
- Purchased a black Pebble Classic at Future Shop. I Somehow managed to get a decent discount on it, saved $12 at the cash. It was only $107.
- Packaging was really well done, had a very nice feel to it.
- I was kind of disappointed that out of the box it did not come fully charged.
- Pairing was flawless.
- Installed a couple of apps (ESPN and Steps) right away.
- Bluetooth range was quite good, was able to stay connected from my basement and my phone was upstairs about 30 feet away. I even get great range at my work, no need to carry my phone everywhere.
- MapMyWalk app worked flawlessly from phone to my watch.
- Watch faces are neat.
- Very impressed with the number of apps that are already developed for the Pebble and it is very easy to load new apps to the watch.
- It is very handy to be able to reply to a text with a quick and short reply, no need to use the phone.
- Bought a nylon strap for it, wasn’t really impressed with the way it holds the watch, it raises it above my wrist. I’ll give it another try later on.
- Con #1: battery life of the phone is reduced due to Bluetooth being turned on all the time.
- The ESPN app is amazing if you are trying to follow a sports score on the down-low. Watch vibrates when a goal is scored during hockey games then you can instantly see the score.
- Although the “screen” is a monochrome LCD display, I find it very easy to read in all kinds of lighting situations. I am never in a situation where I cannot view the data, even in direct sunlight.
- Battery life is pretty as much as advertised with the Pebble. They state “Up to 7 days”, well at the time of this entry, I am up to 6 days. I was at 10% first thing this morning and here I am, mid-afternoon and it the watch is still going.