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  • Ombeline Choupin

Have smartwaches changed our lives yet ?

A Pebble Smartwatch review

Written for Entrepreneur Handbook in October 2013

A few months after the raging enthusiasm that appeared in the tech press about wearables and how they would revolutionize our lives, I’d like to write a review of the Pebble Steel smartwatch. At the time, it was –and it still is- the most elaborate smartwatch on the market. How about it now?


What is Pebble Steel?


Pebble Steel is a smartwatch; maybe the best that exists so far. It pairs with your phone via a very simple smartphone app. That app is very reduced: it allows you to download Pebble apps and to choose which you want on your watch from your so-called “app locker”. Also, it lets you check the FAQ and links to the Pebble community’s different platforms.

The Pebble smartwatch’s open platform makes it one of the best potentials of wearables nowadays: anyone can develop an app for it, which is why there are already so many and will be so many more in the months to come.

As for the watch’s looks: its rectangular, slightly wavy screen comes in black or silver. You can get a metal (black or silver) or a leather (black) wristband. It has one button on the left and three on the right, and it’s not a touch screen.

The battery will last for 2 to 3 days if you don’t overuse it, and can be recharged with a special USB cable. The memory allows you to keep just 7 apps on it at the same time, which you can very quickly change with the phone app.


Using Pebble watch: some use cases


The most basic uses


The most basic functions of the watch are also the coolest: you get all your smartphone’s notifications on your wrist and can control its music. You also have an alarm and different watchfaces to choose, because –oh, right!- Pebble is actually a watch! Typical apps can also be added, such as your agenda, the weather and many more. In that case, Pebble is like a smaller smartphone, which is very practical.


Games


Due to the very limited number of control buttons (4) on the smartwatch, most games are very hard to play. That can be a real challenge for those who are bored with touchscreen games! Be warned: if you lose at Snake (one of my favorites), it will tell you how bad you are and ask if you were trained on a touchscreen.


Running/Fitness


Fitness apps were actually my greatest disappointment on Pebble Steel. I may have been naïve, but I was expecting to be able to go running with only my smartwatch telling me my performance, and maybe an iPod mini for music. Technically, if there were a GPS system included in the watch, it would be possible to set it with the phone nearby, then leave and keep tracking the movements. But it is not so, and I had to keep my phone on me: not vey interesting, then, to have both a phone and watch… What’s more, I usually use Nike + to go running, and there is only Runkeeper available so far.

As for other fitness apps, Pebble Steel is not very useful because it contains no movement sensor (which completely differentiates it from Fitbit). That pretty much makes all Pebble Fitness apps a bit useless.


My overall impression


The three main criteria I have upon judging this watch are these: is it cool? Is it practical? And, most of all, at a time when wearables appear to be the next huge thing in History: is it life-changing?


Coolness


As to being cool, it sure is. Even in Paris where most people aren’t aware of this wearables trend, most people find it very amusing. It became a main subject for a lot of dinner reunions, and everyone wanted to try it. Plus, its cool look makes it wearable almost all of the time (which wasn’t the case of the last Pebble watch).


Practicality


Is it practical? For most uses, it’s all right. But it’s visible that most of the Pebble apps haven’t quite yet figured out how to be handy. Nonetheless, I’m sure it will just take some adapting from app developers, as well as from users, who have gotten very used to touchscreens.


Has Pebble changed my life?


The only big change my Pebble smartwatch brought me was that it allowed me to check my phone less often than usual. For instance, when I see the call or notifications I’m getting aren’t so important, I can wait a little before I stick my nose into my cell phone. That’s a nice improvement. But as much as it is, Pebble hasn’t radically changed the way I use technology in my everyday life. It’s far too dependent on my phone, though Pebble definitely has the potential to change that!

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