The Surly Admin

Father, husband, IT Pro, cancer survivor

Pebble and Vacation

You may or may not know that I recently purchased a Pebble, and while everything isn’t perfect with it I have really found myself enjoying it and wanted to write a bit about my experiences with it!  Read on, if you’re interested!

Getting The Pebble

Now, if you haven’t heard about Pebble it’s a smart-watch from a small company based in California.  They started a Kickstarter campaign awhile back and quickly became the most successful crowd-funded item in Kickstarter history, something they still own today (even beating Veronica Mars).  I believe their original goal was $25,000 to build about 1000 Pebble’s and they quickly blew past that.  So they put in a stretch goal of $100,000 and blew through that finally landing at $10m!  I had heard that they actually had to stop the campaign before it finished because it was just becoming too much.  Can’t verify that, but if anyone wants to post a link in comments that’d be swell.

I didn’t get in on any of this, I heard about Pebble after all this and really fell in love with the potential of it.  I had been jonesing for a watch for a while as I haven’t worn one in over a decade and was just finding having to reach into my pocket and pull out my phone to get the time was becoming a pain and I longed for the old days where I just glanced at my wrist.  Of course, it’s 2012 (at the time) and that’s not good enough anymore, the watch needs to do more.  And it looked like Pebble would fit the bill.  So I pre-ordered and hunkered down to wait the 6 months they were estimating.

Well, it took a bit longer.  Pebble was pretty good about putting updates out on their Kickstarter page, but to be honest the updates were pretty vague and I know a lot of people were getting upset.  I kept telling myself that this wasn’t an Amazon order, they’re building something from nothing and we have to give them time to do it right.  All the while secretly begging for them to hurry and release.  Then the black watches game out and started shipping to Kickstarters–I had ordered red, but according to the updates reds were next–and months went by.  And more months.  Finally the reds started shipping to Kickstarters, but nothing for us pre-order types.

Finally, I received an email asking for verification of my address!  Woot!  But weeks went by before my Pebble showed up at my door.  The funny thing was I received the email that it shipped on the same day but when I checked the tracking address it had actually shipped 3 days previous as was showing as delivered!  I called my wife and she confirmed it was there but my daughter didn’t want to tell me so it’d be a surprise.  Bless her dear heart!

Life with Pebble

From reading the forums I knew life with the Pebble was perfect for those of us with iOS devices.  There were some serious problems that Pebble was working directly with Apple to resolve and we’re all hoping the fixes in iOS 7 will resolve these issues, so I knew going in it wasn’t going to be perfect.  But turning the watch on and pairing it with my phone over Bluetooth was painless and there is was.  I downloaded a few watch faces for fun (LCARS being a particular favorite) and started playing with notifications.  I actually got all my notifications going, Twitter, email, Facebook, Pushover (more on that later) and a few others.

This is when the first minor problem cropped up.  If you activate all this your watch will start buzzing with notifications constantly.  It was way to distracting.  I’m not the best multi-tasker out there and I do much better if I can focus on a task, and then bounce out during a break.  The constant vibrations on my wrist drove me crazy!  So I started turning off most of the notifications.  This wasn’t a big deal because notifications only work when you do the notification dance anyway!  What that means is after a while, or when the phone and watch get out of range of each other, iOS notifications stop working.  You then have to go into notifications in the Settings app and turn the notifications for each app you want off and back on again to activate them.  I found I needed to do this a few times a day which was pretty annoying.  Now, Email, SMS and phone calls do not have this problem and that turned out to work pretty well for me.

Then my Pebble “broke”.  It started gooping up the display.  I would reboot 2 or 3 times and finally it would behave for about an hour, then start-up again.  I contacted support, we tried a few things and they said they would RMA it.  I was one of the first to try their new RMA process that should make things go much faster.  Well, about 2 weeks went by before the new Pebble just showed up at my door again.  No email notifications, nothing.  I bugged the poor support guy every 2 days, but I was really concerned my order had fallen through the cracks because I wasn’t getting any feedback from their system.  They’re a young company, I get that this is hard but more effort needs to be spent on Customer Service.

At any rate my new Pebble arrived and everything has been great.  And it arrived about 5 days before me and the family were heading down to Disney World on vacation, so I’d really get to see what this thing could do!

Vacation and the Pebble

One of the great things about Pebble is the ability to choose all these custom watch faces, which you can download from My Pebble Faces.  At work I tend to stick with the Timely watch face as it shows me a nice little calendar.  But for vacation I didn’t care about that, but I was going to care about the weather and turns out, with the help of the httpebble app there’s a watch face that works for that.  I like Futura Weather and installed that.

Pebble advertises about 7 to 9 days of battery, but I found I get about 4, I suspect that’s because Futura Weather is pinging the phone every few seconds for a weather update.  This kills the batter life on the phone too so I was only getting a day out of the iPhone where I used to get 2 to sometimes 3 days out of it.  But it worked.  Not perfectly, about 2 to 3 times out of 10 I’d glance at the watch and find that it wasn’t talking to httpebble and I wasn’t getting weather.  Most of the time I could change watch face and go back to FW and it’d be fine.  Sometimes I have to go into Bluetooth settings, reconnect and start-up httpebble and the Pebble app and then it’d connect.  But it was really great being able to just glance at my wrist and get the time and temperature.

Work and the Pebble

Another interesting change was with the Pebble you can control your music.  This work on the iPhone music app as well as Amazon’s Cloud Player.  But I was still tethered to the phone with the ear buds.  So I found a good Bluetooth headset that didn’t cost me a ton of money and this works really well.  Now I can play my music, wire free, and never take my phone out of my pocket.  Love!

So should you get it?

If you love watches, need a watch and are just a general gadget geek, I gotta say yes.  You may want to wait for a while and see what Apple (if the rumors are true) releases and certainly there will be other offerings on the table soon.  But if you can’t wait I’d say go for it.  With the release of iOS 7 I’m hoping the lower voltage Bluetooth that’s in the watch will finally be implemented and some of the notification problems will be resolved too.  The beauty of Pebble is with its open SDK what it can do will only improve over time.  Pebble is continually opening up the SDK to other functionality and developers are only touching the surface of what it can do so the future is bright.

So, what about Pushover?  Got some cool code I found on the Internet for that, I’ll post next week–sorry but this post is already long enough!

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August 2, 2013 - Posted by | General, Technical | ,

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