I’ve been wielding a Pebble for almost two years now (red Kickstarter edition). In my circle of friends (even within the area of IT I work in) smart watches are still very rare. In fact I think the only other I’ve seen in the wild was in a meeting with one of my external vendors (another Pebble). On my side, the Pebble has become my daily driver. Between notifications in the office and music control on the tube, I end up looking at the Pebble on a regular basis throughout the day. Oh, and of course I use it to tell the time.
When people do realise I’m wearing a smart watch I get one of two reactions. Some dismiss it as another pointless gadget. These people tend not to be heavy users of smart phones or other connected devices, and as most smart watches are an extension of these I can see why they find no utility in them. The other response is inquisitiveness tinged with scepticism. They want to know what I use my Pebble for, but are already somewhat prejudiced from what they’ve read of other smart watches, more often than not the poor battery lives.
My Pebble lasts me a week without a charge. Let me say that again. A week without charge. That’s not idle time either – I have notifications hammering me all day, I control and monitor my music through it for a few hours each day on my commute, and I’ve recently started to use a couple of other apps for fitness tracking. So the question is, in order to meet that battery performance, do I feel like I’m missing out on functionality? Is there more I could do with my watch? I really don’t think there is – I get just the level of information and control I need. This is where I feel the other smart watches have failed. By trying to do far more than is necessary, including touch control and colour screens, they munch through their batteries in around a day. This is not a workable situation, especially for those watches that need bespoke chargers so you can’t find a place to charge your watch where ever you may be. Until we have a power revolution, I hope that some of the other smart watch manufacturers consider the e-paper route with simpler devices to conserve battery life.
It’s worth noting that some who come the closest to being convinced are still put off by the look of smart watches. Even the more expensive Android Wear watches don’t quite do it for them, as they want a good looking professional / dress watch. It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple’s foray into the market will change the perception of smart watches in this regard. Whether this is achieved through actual change of thought or blind devotion, I care not.
I had originally planned to write this post a while back in response to the rise of Android Wear but my usual problem of not having any free time got in the way. Now, however, the Pebble guys are back with a new Kickstarter for the Pebble Time. With two years of positive experiences watching the Pebble team and using the product it was a no brainer for me to back this and upgrade my watch. It may not be exactly the smart watch I want (kinetic + mechanical + e-paper), but it’s the best of the bunch so far.