Chances are, you don’t think you need a smart watch. With your phone constantly either in your pocket or in your hand, a wrist-worn alerts machine isn’t really that indispensable a tool to have around. But what if your smart watch can do a lot more than act as a dummy device for receiving notifications? What if it packed a whole load of sensors that can be programmed to do dozens upon dozens of things? What if it had its own apps ecosystem with genuinely useful software? That’s exactly what the Pebble Watch brings to the table.
Originally a Kickstarter project, it’s become the most successful product to seek backers from the service, raising north of $10 million from over 85,000 orders. After some hitch with manufacturing and a few months delay, the watches are now ready, with the first batch slated to ship January 23rd.
The Pebble Watch looks like a run-of-the-mill digital timepiece, with a plastic case, a rectangular watch face, and a silicon band. It’s not particularly sleek, but the slim chassis and compact design makes it attractive enough for daily wear. Instead of a regular LCD screen, it uses a grayscale e-paper display with a resolution of 144 x 168 pixels, allowing it to use power in a very thrifty manner. Other hardware details include a vibrating motor, a three-axis accelerometer, Bluetooth, a backlight (for nighttime use), four control buttons, a scratch-resistant lens, and water resistance. It’s designed to fit most 22mm watch bands.
Billed as “the first watch built for the 21st century,” it’s infinitely customizable, with the ability to replace the functions of a whole load of gadgets. When used as a timepiece, for instance, you can download any of the multitude of watch faces on offer from the accompanying smartphone app. Want an analog watch display? Not a problem. How about a digital display with timer? Yep. Want it to show one of those weird Tokyowatch designs? We’re not sure if they have one in the library right now, but it should be possible to make them.
Since a smart watch is intended to be a smartphone companion, it comes with built-in notifications: incoming calls, emails, SMS, iMessage (for iOS), calendars, Facebook messages, Twitter and weather alerts. It doesn’t stop at notifications either — you can read messages right from the watch, so you can put off pulling out your phone. Want to close a notification? No need to touch a button, just shake your wrist and it goes away. You can also use the watch to control music on the phone, so you can keep the handset docked to your favorite speaker while you choose songs and flip through your playlists.
Even better, they offer a detailed SDK that allows you to write code to further update the kind of stuff the watch can do. You can program custom responses to notifications, for instance, either manually (by pushing buttons) or automatically. To the coding-averse, Pebble can also be set to receive alerts from custom notification websites like iffftt.com and RESTful, giving you some hand in personalizing its function without delving into actual programming.
When it drops January 23rd, the Pebble Watch won’t have the benefit of a roster filled with its much-awaited fitness apps. Don’t despair, though — the apps are on the way, including the RunKeeper (a running monitor), a bicycle monitor and Freecaddie (a lookup app for golf ranges). Given its initial funding success and the reaction it received from CES, we have a feeling there will be a lot of interest in developing apps for the platform.
As cool as the other smart watches in the market today are, it’s hard to argue that the Pebble Watch doesn’t, pretty much, trump everything in sight when it comes to potential. It’s just downright smart. The watch comes in 5 colors (jet black, arctic white, cherry red, orange and gray) with a price of $150.