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Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

When I started to write this, I had this idea that I’d write an article that looked at the features and the usability of the Pebble and those of the Apple Watch. Both have the ability to load custom apps, both have app stores, both do many of the same other tasks, etc.

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The problem with that premise for this article is that they simply aren’t even remotely comparable. Let’s look at why:

  • Apps: The Apple Watch can support apps and glances from apps. You can load as many as the thing can take, you can get different types of apps and there are already hundreds (if not thousands – I don’t have the patience to count) of apps that have support for the Apple Watch. The Pebble on the other hand is limited to 8 concurrent apps and I have never actually found more than 5 that I wanted to use that didn’t involve a watch face.
  • Watch faces: I don’t change watch faces really. Most of the apps on a Pebble are all about custom watch faces. Pick your favorite school, your favorite Disney character, etc. The watch faces available for the Apple Watch are great and all, but the default face, with instant access to the calendar, your exercise stats, the weather, and of course the time, are is really what the device is about and the best usability option, something Apple has always excelled at. It would be great if the other time zone option on the Apple Watch had some really cool stuff you could swap it out with. If you force tap on the screen, you can certainly select other things, but all the cool stuff is placed in other areas of the default watch face.
  • The screen: The screen on the Apple Watch is just a beautiful screen, with full color, lots of pixels, etc. The screen on the Pebble more closely resembles options from an Atari 2600. So, think Wii vs 2600 (aka e-paper)…
  • The app that manages the wearable: The Apple Watch app has in app controls for what’s available on phones, can configure which apps/glances are shown, unpair/re-pair, configure notifications, manage Do Not Disturb, put the device into Do Not Disturb mode, configure passcodes, manage sounds and vibrations, configure brightness and size. It’s pretty robust. The app for the Pebble does much less, but is on par given the features available on the device in general.
  • Light: The type of light emitted by the Pebble actually makes it a little easier to see in sunlight to me. But if you have sunglasses on then forget about it. Which I usually do when there’s a lot of sunlight. But this is a showstopper for some. Like those who (legitimately) still look for raised keyboards on phones…
  • Battery life: The Pebble kicks the crap out the Apple Watch when it comes to battery life. I’ve not charged my Pebble once in a week and it was happily camping straight into the next week. My Apple Watch must be charged daily.
  • Older iPhones: The Pebble can work on any iOS 6 compatible device (and up). The Apple Watch needs an iOS 8 device. So if you have an older phone, you’ll likely want a Pebble. Or take this as the opportunity to stop listening to 90s era Brittany Spears and upgrade your phone when you buy a watch.
  • App security: There are apps that can muck up a Pebble. This ranges from screen distortion to apps crashing. I tend to think that if an app can cause a device to crash then it could be intentionally designed to do more worser (yes, that was on purpose) things to the device as well. I could be wrong and haven’t spent any real time doing security research on the device, but it seems like a bad thing. Meanwhile, apps that go to an Apple Watch go through the App Store and so have at least some semblance of review.
  • Music Control: I like the Pebble more in this respect. It instantly sends commands to music on your phone. The Apple Watch always seems to be just a little bit delayed (not bad, but I can notice the delay). Having said that, the Apple Watch also has a Remote app, so you can also control music streaming out of computers onto Apple TVs.
  • Instant Messaging: The Pebble can show you messages. The Apple Watch can as well, but goes a step or 10 further and actually allows you to send voice messages, text messages, animated Emoji and even your heartbeat (which people keep creepily sending me – except that one guy who has none – but we all knew he was a lich so whatever on that).
  • Fitness: The fitness options on the Pebble are mostly from apps. The apps are a bit limited, but you can do a few pretty cool things. There are more built-in options on the Apple Watch; however, the 3rd party apps for Fitness tracking are pretty considerable and growing daily.
  • Pay for all the stuffs: Apple Pay isn’t the most widely accepted form of payment around, but it is gaining in popularity and pretty cool. Not sure if NFC is really going to be changing the world, but it might, and a wearable that isn’t specifically a fitness tracker is likely going to need it over the coming year.
  • Price: The Pebble can be $89. The Apple Watch starts at $350 and goes up to thousands (10 of ’em actually).

Overall, the Pebble is inexpensive. At 4 times the cost is the Apple Watch, which has less battery power but way more features. So it’s not Apples to Apples (no pun intended) to compare these. If you’re interested in a really inexpensive wearable and not worried about all the crazy features that come on them, check out the Pebble. But, the Apple Watch, as with many an Apple product, is very much worth the price tag. Unless you’re getting a gold one…

May 11th, 2015

Posted In: Apple Watch

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At first I didn’t think that I was going to write a review of my Pebble. Then, I realized that my perspective is probably different than most, so I changed my mind and decided to jot down 10 things to know about the Pebble. Before I get into that though, I’m one of those weird people that still wears a watch. Yes, I know, how very dated I must look. But hey, I really don’t care so I keep wearing it. Therefore, a different device on that wrist really doesn’t move the needle, it’s just a device that isn’t the other one that I wore for 20 years… I have stopped wearing my Tag completely, but that’s OK, it’s getting a little long in the tooth anyway.

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The Pebble has a lot of promise. A lot is fulfilled and more yet has yet to be fulfilled. Let me explain, starting with the things I love (the promise that is fulfilled):

  • The Pebble has an SDK. Using the SDK, developers can design apps and sell them or post them online.
  • The battery of a Pebble lasts me about 5 or 6 days, depending on how many push alerts the device gets over the low power bluetooth connection back to my phone.
  • The screen is monotone and epaper, which is to say that it is not designed to emit light (unless shaken) and so you can see the screen very well in sunlight, much like the pump at a gas station.
  • The Pebble receives low power bluetooth push alerts from your phone. This means that when someone says something on Instagram, likes a photo on Facebook or sends you a text, you see it on the phone and on the watch. Since many alerts you just look at, this keeps you from taking the phone out of your pocket. You can’t really do anything with most alerts, but you can see them and just file the piece of information for later. The alert will still be on your phone when you take it out of your pocket.
  • When someone calls, you see caller ID and contact info on the watch.  You can then answer a call right from the watch. If you’re wearing headphones and a mic then you never have to take the phone out of your pocket to answer calls.
  • You can control music on your iPhone through the watch. This means you can go forward and backward without taking the phone out of your pocket. When I’m on my morning runs this is especially helpful when I’m on a treadmill as taking my phone out of my pocket on the treadmill often makes me just unstable enough to possibly wipe out on the treadmill. I’ve only had it in the winter here in Minnesota so I’m not sure if that will matter to me when I get to run outside again.

The promise to be fulfilled:

  • I think this starts with a true app store, like Apple has. There are accelerometers and other doohickeys in these things that mean they can really do a lot more than what they can today. The app store isn’t out yet, although you can buy or download apps at the Pebble site (it’s just not a simple process all the time and better apps typically tend to get written when people make money from them).
  • There are fitness apps but the device doesn’t yet replace a FuelBand or a FitBit. It doesn’t track steps (which with an accelerometer should be simple to do), calculate burned calories, etc. I’d like to see an app that allows you to choose foods you tell an app on your phone you like so you can calorie count at the dinner table without busting out your phone. I’d also like to see a step tracking app that can sync to FitBit so I can stop wearing my Force.
  • Watchfaces are currently the big thing most apps allow you to control. I don’t give two craps about changing the watch to look different.  However, if you want to make your own “Haz Cheezburgur” watch face, feel free (this isn’t really a bad thing, just a lot of time wasted designing pixelated and monotone watch faces that could have been spent writing cool apps).
  • The device is currently half way between SDK 1 and SDK 2. This means there are cool features that you can only get if you go through a lengthy upgrade process that includes sending them a UDID for your iOS device. It’s not a terrible thing, like the other promises to be fulfilled with the Pebble, it’s just a thing.

Overall, I love the Pebble. The nerd factor around not having to take your phone out of your pocket, the ability to skip songs, the ability to look and see which push alerts you actually care about are all awesome. I hope that the app store brings with it a bunch of new apps that give you access to lots of things and that I can get rid of my Nike FuelBand or FitBit soon, but that could be 2 weeks from now or 2 years for all I know. It’s a quality device that’s well worth the money if the things I mention are things that you’d like to have. However, for now it’s not a replacement for that Garmin, FuelBand, etc type of device you may be using for fitness purposes. Anyway, if it’s the type of thing you’re into then good luck and I hope you enjoy it!

January 5th, 2014

Posted In: Wearable Technology

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SIKE!

January 26th, 2010

Posted In: iPhone, Mac OS X, personal

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