Jeremy Johnson — Dallas Area UX & CX Leader
customer experience leader


A couple weeks with the pebble

pebble watch

pebble watch I got my pebble a day before SXSW Interactive. Good timing. It was a snap to setup, and with a single charge I was on my way.

There has been a lot about the "iWatch" recently - from Samsung confirming they're launching a watch to recent posts around what we'd want out of a "iWatch" to current "smart" watch providers like Sony adding features as fast as they can. Also, although not totally related, talk about Google Glasses, and how we can interact with our social network, take photos, and read the news without anyone noticing a small flick of the eye.

I think the pebble sits in the middle, between augmented wear and accepted technology - and it's very useful for a set number of scenarios. It's also is a precursor to what future wearable tech will bring, and how we'll accept and interact with it.

I was able to attend a design session on how to design for Google glass during SXSW, and I also heard from Astro - the lead of Google[x] the creators of the glass. He talks about what they call "Moonshot Thinking" - and how they shoot for the stars. Glasses is a good product of that thinking. It's not as practical or as expected as a watch and not really ready for prime time, yet (I'm not alone) . As much as I'm a fan of all new tech, I don't see glasses taking off in the near term, but I could be wrong. But looking further into the future, it's yet another view of how we'd work and play in the future - from everything being gesture based (Leap, Kinect), to everything being a screen (Surface, 3M) and built-in tech, like personal screens, augmented projections, or personal gestures (for more on this check out my presentation from last year on Designing for Sensors and the Future of Experiences).

Now back to the pebble.

I like how Kyle Baxter puts it:

Rather than spend long periods of time using it, we will probably use it more as a utility, where we interact with it for some specific task and then go back to whatever we were doing. Instead of finding yourself checking Instagram when you pulled out your phone to look at a notification, you’ll just glance at your wrist, respond to it if it’s important, and go back to whatever you were doing. Instead of holding your phone while following directions to walk somewhere in the city, you’ll just glance at a street name, distance and arrow on your wrist.

I agree wholeheartedly and here's what I like about the pebble today:

+ Long battery life It lasted a week of SXSW, with lots of usage and late nights.

+ The right amount of "noise" Currently with iOS there is a bug that makes it so really you're only getting texts, iMessages, and calls sent to the watch. I actually like that. I might add twitter DMs, but that's about it.

+ Simple You want to backlight to see the time? Shake your wrist. Want to add a watch face? Go to the app on your phone.

+ Low-Power Bluetooth This works great. It connects right away, and it's super reliable. I don't notice a drain on my iPhone battery (which I've never really used bluetooth before). How seamless this was sold me on the as well.

+ Stylish I like the way it looks, less geeky than other attempts. I'm actually a watch geek, I have a number of watches, which I switch out - which makes it hard to stick with the pebble. But it's usefulness overcomes my urges for now.

+ Control your phone This is a bit of a switch, where your phone controls many things, now you have a controller for your phone (music, etc…)

+ Water Resistance Had one night of heavy rain in Austin, watch took it like a champ.

What don't I like?

- Features I know I have simple listed above, but currently there is little else it does. They've just released a SDK for developers, so I'm sure that will change soon.

- What about my other watches? Again, I like my watches, and if I get hooked on the usefulness of the pebble, what happens to my collection :-/

As you can tell I'm enjoying the pebble, and think it's a good prototype for what I'm sure Apple will get into at some point.

Now in practice.

If you're like me you take your phone everywhere. It's in your pocket, and you feel a buzz. Well that could mean one of 20 different things, new Angry Birds cartoons, Twitter mention, text message, etc… Now if my watch does not buzz as well, I know it's a "secondary" alert, and if I'm busy it will wait. If I do get a buzz on my wrist, then I can glance and again make the decision if I currently care or not. You don't have to pull out your phone to check.

If you're the type that gets into the office and throws your phone on your desk, this works great. I'm impressed with the distance of the bluetooth connection, and I'm pretty sure you'll stay connected all over the office.

If you have a non-tech set of friends or family, it's a less-rude way to check what's going on, and if something important is coming through. I'd be surprised if they notice that glance at your watch.

Some features I'd like ASAP?

  • Ability to reply with short, canned messages. How about "Ok, Yes, No, Let me get back to you".
  • Proximity alarms, to remind you not to forget your phone, or that someone has grabbed it.
  • The ability to set app level notification alerts (ex: I want to get Twitter DMs, but not retweets).
  • Also if it had a headphone jack… But I guess I could also pair a bluetooth headset to it.

Not super imaginative, but that's what I'd like to see in the near term.

Should you buy? Do you like early, useful tech? Then yes. And oh yeah, it tells time.