Pebble: 14mths later

Something happened recently. Something in my year-long self-experiment with wearables that I did not expect.

Discovering an invisible benefit form the long term usage of wearable tech.

Pebble choices

With all the Apple Watch news of late, it has never been easier to file all smartwatch content away under the umbrella term of ‘wearable tech’.

The man has a point.

Thing is: all Pebbles are wearables, not all wearables are Pebbles.

When I wrote up my ‘Pebble: two weeks later’ thoughts back in January of last year,  I said:

Almost like a mini personal assistant, it fields incoming alerts from my phone so I don’t have to. I choose when I pick my phone up, not the other way around; reminding me that the phone is there for MY convenience NOT everyone else’s.

And that has remained true.

‘Yes but’, my friends said in unison ‘all you’ve done is replace one addiction for another. Instead of looking at your phone every ten minutes, you’re forever checking your watch instead!’ – they had a point.

And I didn’t ignore them.

At the turn of the year, I started experimenting with switching the Pebble to ‘phone calls only’ mode – as in, please only buzz and alert me to incoming phone calls, those people that need to talk to me right now. In the six weeks I’ve been back from SXSW, I’d say that my Pebble has been on Phone Calls Only mode around 90% of the time.

The thin layer that Pebble has placed between my phone and I has thickened and now I no longer have the fear when I haven’t checked, seen, or even been near my phone for anything longer than seven minutes.

I thank Pebble for that.

That’s not to say that I no longer enjoy the benefits that Pebble brings. I can still browse and view the ongoing notifications, I just choose to opt-in to them instead. By that I mean, I scroll to the ‘notifications’ section in the watch and click through/dismiss/reply as and when I remember. It’s a good system.

It’s funny. I guess in the same way that nicotine patches help ween smokers from their addiction, Pebble has taken the form of a mild intervention; helping me simultaneously both remember and realise that my phone is there for my convenience, and not everyone else’s.

As I type this now, my phone is to my side, face down, and on silent. My Pebble is in on ‘Phone Calls Only’ and I haven’t looked at my phone for nearly 300 words. When was the last time you could say the same thing?

These days I find myself ignoring my email inbox for hours, sometimes days. It’s just not important enough. SMSs? I’ll reply when I can. It might be now, it might be in an hour. But it’ll be when I want to, not when my watch told me I should. That change is powerful.

Some of you might read this and think ‘Yeah, I was right all along – wearables are not for me!’ but I don’t think you can genuinely form an opinion on their benefits (short and long term) without trying them for yourself. This recent shift hasn’t changed my opinion of wearable tech – in fact it’s only served to make it more positive. I’ve backed Pebble’s next iteration of the watch (Pebble Time Steel – if you fancy Googling it) on Kickstarter and I’m really looking forward to the next layer of benefits that’ll bring to my life.

My smartwatch helped me crack my smartphone addiction and my life is better for it. Which I guess makes Pebble the equivalent of mobile phone nicotine patch – who knew?



Pebble: 48hrs in

I have a memory from when I was a child, of being in the supermarket with my mum and – it was when I was learning to tell the time – my mum asked me what the time was. I was wearing my brand new watch (probably He-Man-related in some way) and I was eating sweets. Smarties, to be precise.

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 16.44.37

‘What time is it, James?’, she asked.

I excitedly threw my wrist over and announced to all and sundry, ‘HALF PAST THREE!’, the sound that followed was like hailstones as, with near-perfect comedy timing, my Smarties tumbled out of their tube, all over the shop floor.

Now I have a Pebble watch and, instead of my mum asking me to look at my watch, the pebble itself asks me. Its little vibrations subtly nudging you that there’s something new to see. Over the past two days this has happened frequently whilst drinking coffee.

Every time I go to look, I stop.

Every time I stop, I remember the Smarties.

And every time I remember the Smarties, I think ‘One day, Whatley. One day it’ll get you’.


More to come, soon.


Related: Pebble: first thoughts

Pebble: first thoughts

Ooo, look!

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 19.51.54

Recently, in the last episode of The Voicemail of 2013 (Episode 079) Stefan and I were asked the following question:

‘Given that 2014 will be the year of the smartwatch, what would we be looking for in a next generation smartwatch when selecting one?’

At the time, Stefan had a Samsung Galaxy Gear and I… did not. I hadn’t tried a smartwatch before, and so couldn’t really comment (Stefan could though, and I’ve appended his words, with my own additions, to the end of this post). Those kind people at Pebble heard about this, and sent one out for me to try.

It arrived this morning, and I set it up over my lunch. Here it is –


Yes, I went for white.

Now look, I’m brand new to this whole wearable tech thing so I’m quite intrigued about what kind of affect it’ll have on my existing behaviours. In the same way the iPad changed [and actually increased] my reading habits, I wonder what the world of smartwatches, nay, Pebble watches will do to the way I interact with my tech.

Moreover, I know I’m not unique in the Pebble-owning world (I know several people that both own and love theirs), but I am intending on writing up how I get on with it over the coming days, weeks, and months.


Out of the box, the Pebble is fairly simple to set up. You download an app onto your device (I sport 2013’s phone of the year, the HTC One) and then connect to the Pebble over Bluetooth. A minor firmware update later (and of course a spot of charging) and you’re ready to go.

Initial impressions (in no real order)

  • Firmware update didn’t work first time, had to unpair and reboot. Second time it worked like a charm and I hope all future updates are as painless.
  • The Pebble app is fairly limited, and the immediate urge is to download a new one. I’m trying Pebble Notifier [FREE]  but others recommend apps such as Augmented Smartwatch Pro [NOT FREE]. Until I know what I need from my Pebble, I won’t be making the leap quite yet.
  • It works with RunKeeper – YES! No new app installs, it just works. My RunKeeper app on Android shows a teeny little watch icon when it’s working too. Super cool.


  • It works with Spotify – YES! Skipping a track is easy and, while track display is also available, I’ve found this to be a bit patchy and doesn’t always have anything to display. But when it does, it’s cool!


  • It doesn’t work with my work email account. I’m desperately trying to find a work around but no joy, yet. More experimentation required. To be fair to Pebble, my employer’s email is run on Google Apps and they have IMAP disabled as standard. Bit of a ball ache, but I’m sure I’ll find a way through it at some point. Weirdly, Hangout alerts (and messages) come through just fine, so maybe a tinker with the settings somewhere will help.
  • The Pebble community is HUGE. I joined the Google+ group today (don’t laugh) and I turned out to be their 4000th member. I’m very excited about this.
  • Everyone is talking about ‘Firmware v2’ and the Pebble ‘App Store’ being ‘just around the corner’. Apparently these are good things and I should be looking forward to them. Fingers crossed for that then.
  • In the seven hours that I’ve been using it, the Pebble has already reduced the amount of times I’ve had to pick up my phone. This can only be a good thing.

And that’s it. I’m fully aware that I am very much in calibration mode with this thing at the moment. Each person, each device, and each experience is different. Some people like a lot of alerts, some people don’t.

Slowly but surely I’m working out the hierarchy of what I need and what I don’t (SMS’s? Notify me. Instagram comments and likes? Don’t notify me). And when that process is complete, I think I’m going to enjoy owning this Pebble device very, very much.

More to come, soon.


Stefan said:

  1. It needs to look good.
    Check! I got the white one, it looks great!
  2. It needs to work with your current device.
    Check! No problems so far.
  3. It has to perform well in terms of battery life.
    Apparently one charge should last seven days, so let’s see.