The Pebble may have been a first smartwatch for many, but it was far from the first smartwatch made available to the public. And in fact, the Pebble wasn't even the first smartwatch from Eric Migicovsky. Stepping back for a moment — for those not familiar with the name — Eric Migicovsky is the founder of Pebble. Along with that little tidbit, we've got so much more information about the Pebble in that's worth knowing.
What follows will be a deep dive on everything from the history of Pebble, to the different models, the mobile apps and the Pebble Appstore, as well as a bit for those looking to develop for the Pebble — and for the users looking to customize and get the most out of their smartwatch. So, from the original inPulse smartwatch from Allerta, to what we now know as the Pebble, we should get started on the history lesson, which as many will remember, revolves greatly around Kickstarter.
In this Guide
- Using Pebble
- Mobile Apps
- Pebble Appstore
- Customizing your Pebble
- Tips & Tricks
Wrist-First: This is Pebble
If you're looking to go all-in and see what really makes Pebble tick, we took a trip to Pebble HQ in January 2014 to sit down with CEO Eric Migicovsky and get the scoop on all that is Pebble. If you missed our piece, Wirst-First: This is Pebble (back when Connectedly was Smartwatch Fans), you really should check it out before of after reading through this guide.
As we've already mentioned, Eric Migicovsky and company actually got their start with a watch called the inPulse. The inPulse was made for BlackBerry users and marketed under the company name of Allerta. Naturally, some may see this as an interesting beginning for the Pebble — a watch that launched without any support for the BlackBerry — but still managed to offer support for a pair of mobile operating systems — Android and iOS.
While there is the obvious difference dealing with device support, the inPulse smartwatch actually shared the same overall concept as the Pebble. That is to say that the smartwatch was serving as a secondary display worn on your wrist. Or in other words, just like the Pebble we know now, the inPulse was a wrist-worn notification center. To that point, an early promo video for the inPulse smartwatch was pushing this as a device that will allow you to "free up your hands." Similar to the Pebble, the inPulse was touted as being a method of seeing incoming messages and calls, without having to take your phone out of your pocket.
The inPulse was announced and made available for pre-order in October 2009, then later shown during a CES demo in January 2010. Allerta actually began shipping the inPulse more than a year later, in February 2011. And that was followed up with a version 2 in December 2011.
We suspect many may have missed the inPulse, and had Migicovsky not hit a wall while trying to raise funds for the Pebble, things may have gone the same way for the watch that is now worn by many. The fundraising for the Pebble actually began in 2011 as Migicovsky participated in Y Combinator. He was able to raise nearly $400,000, however more was needed. Migicovsky believed in the Pebble, but was once noted as saying how he was having a difficult time explaining it to potential investors — which is where Kickstarter came into the picture.
This is the point where the history will begin getting a bit more familiar — enter the Pebble Kickstarter. The Pebble Kickstarter launched on April 11, 2012 with an initial funding goal of $100,000. Early bird backers (the first 200) were able to get by with a pledge of $99, and afterward, that increased to $115. At either level, backers were getting a decent discount as compared to the initial $150 retail price point of the Pebble smartwatch. Whether those initial backers were excited by the possibilities, lured in with the pricing, or a combination of the two — the Kickstarter campaign went viral almost immediately and reached the $100,000 funding goal within the first two hours. Pebble then went on to break the $1 million mark over the next 28 hours.
The campaign came to a close on May 18, 2012 with a total of $10,266,845 from 68,929 backers. That was enough to cement the Pebble as the most successful Kickstarter campaign to date. For reference, the number two position on Kickstarter is the OUYA game console which closed at a little more than $8.5 million.
The Kickstarter Pebble shipments were expected to begin in September of 2012, but there were delays. The Pebble team announced they were not going to make the September shipping dates in late July 2012. There were frequent updates from Pebble throughout 2012, however it wasn't until the beginning of 2013 when the backers began getting the news (and shipments) they were waiting for.
Migicovsky returned to CES in January 2013 to show off the Pebble and make a few announcements. The press conference brought news of some new features that were not announced during the initial Kickstarter launch, the unveiling of the magnetic charging cable — and perhaps key for many — word of a firm shipping date. Those shipments ended up starting on January 23, 2013, though depending on when you backed Pebble and which color you choose, you may have waited quite a bit longer before you actually had a watch on your wrist. Some users actually purchased units when they became available and received them before Kickstarter backers. As we've seen from other Kickstarter projects, delays are a common occurrence. The folks at Pebble ended up handling those delays with frequent updates letting backers know the status.
The Kickstarter models began shipping on January 23, 2013, and as we mentioned, it took several months before all those models were shipped to backers. Those slow backer shipments also caused a bit of a slow retail launch. We first saw the Pebble come available with Best Buy on July 7, 2013. Best Buy initially had the Pebble in Jet Black with Cherry Red models arriving a month later, in August. Another big box retailer, Target, saw a similar launch style. The Target availability marked the first time the Arctic White variant of the watch came available in retail stores. We also saw the Pebble line launch with other retailers such as AT&T and Amazon. Of course, the Pebble and Pebble Steel can still be purchased direct from Pebble (at a now discounted $99) on the GetPebble.com website.
Nicely, the folks at Pebble didn't stop with the Kickstarter success and retail availability. The Android and iOS apps were released and both have been updated on a fairly regular basis since. The Pebble team talked apps and watchfaces from the beginning, and even launched a few early on. RunKeeper and FreeCaddie both launched in May 2013. But as we ended up seeing, the full Pebble Appstore details weren't announced until January 2014.
The Pebble Appstore announcement was part of the January 2014 CES press conference. The appstore went on to launch for iOS in February, and for Android in March. The initial launch was touted as including more than 1,000 apps and watchfaces. And while the appstore seemed to be exciting news for Pebble users — the CES press conference also included word of a new model — the Pebble Steel — a newer, fancier, more stylish Pebble. For a while those considering a Pebble had to choose from the original model (in five color options) or the Steel (in Brushed Stainless or Black Matte), and that was that.
But Pebble also followed up with some additional, limited edition models of the watch. The company went on to get involved with the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign from LeVar Burton in July 2014. For this Pebble introduced a 500 unit limited edition Reading Rainbow model in Jet Black. And more recently, in August 2014, Pebble introduced the limited edition #FreshHotFly series which was the original style Pebble watch in three new colors — Fresh Green, Hot Pink, and Fly Blue.
- 1.3-inch full-color organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display
- 150 mAh battery (with estimated life of 4 days)
- 22mm interchangeable band
- microUSB for charging
- Glass lens and metal body
- Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
- 51 (L) x 38 (W) x 12 (D) mm
- Original Price: $149
- 1.26-inch (144 x 168) e-paper display with LED backlight
- 130 mAh battery (with estimated life of 5-7 days)
- 22mm interchangeable band
- USB charging cable with magnetic connector (to keep the watch water resistant)
- Water resistance to 5ATM
- Polycarbonate case with silicone band
- ARM Cortex-M3 processor at up to 80MHz
- Bluetooth 4.0, Ambient light sensor, 3D accelerometer
- 1.34 ounces (with standard band attached)
- 52 (L) x 36 (W) x 11.5 (D) mm
- Colors: Orange, Cherry Red, Jet Black, Arctic White, Grey
- Originally priced at $150, currently priced to $99
The Pebble Steel shares many of the same specs as the original Pebble. To that point, the display and battery life are the same. The Pebble Steel also has a USB charging cable with magnetic connector and is water resistant to 5ATM. Some of the spec highlights for the Pebble Steel include the following;
- Corning Gorilla Glass and Stainless Steel construction
- Colors: Stainless Steel and Black Matte
- Pebble Steel ships with a leather and metal watch band
- 1.97 ounces (with standard leather band attached) or 3.49 ounces with the metal band
- 46 (L) x 34 (W) x 10.5 (D) mm
- Originally priced at $249, currently priced to $199
Reading Rainbow Limited Edition
The Reading Rainbow model was a limited edition run of the original Pebble. This one was offered as a special perk for the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign with LeVar Burton. There was 500 units available and the watch shipped in Jet Black. The Reading Rainbow edition Pebble also included a special 8-bit drawing of LeVar (as a watchface) and a laser etched LeVar Burton autograph on the back. Aside from the special watchface and autograph on back, the specs for this model were identical to the original Pebble.
Pebble #FreshHotFly Limited Edition
The #FreshHotFly collection was announced in August 2014. Similar to the Reading Rainbow model, the #FreshHotFly collection was announced as a limited edition run, and also sharing the same specs and features as the original model Pebble. The big draw with the #FreshHotFly collection was the new colors, which comes as Fresh, Hot and Fly. Or more specifically, the #FreshHotFly collection will be available in Fresh Green, Hot Pink, and Fly Blue. This collection is priced the same as the original Pebble — at $150. Similar to the original model Pebble, the #FreshHotFly limited edition collection is now priced at $99.
Regardless of whether you are using the original model, the Pebble Steel, or one of the limited edition models — the overall experience will be the same. The look of the display is the same, as perhaps equally important is the user experience, which is the same across all models. The Pebble smartwatches have four buttons in total. There is one button on the left side, with the remaining three buttons on the right side.
The left side button will take you back, bring you home, and also turn on the backlight (depending on where you are in the menu). Of course, you can also turn on the backlight with a shake of the wrist if you have that option turned on and active. First things first though — when viewing any watchface you can use either the top and/or bottom right side buttons to scroll through the various faces.
The menu is accessed from the center button on the right side, and a single tap will bring you to see options for Music, Notifications, Alarms, Watchfaces, and Settings. You may also have see some additional items sitting below the Settings option, those are for apps you may have installed from the Pebble Appstore.
Looking at the standard menu items, we can begin with music. These controls are fairly basic, but still manage to offer the key pieces. With the Music option highlighted in the menu, another tap of the right side center button will bring you to the actual music controls. You will have see some basic track information as well as the ability to skip forward (using the bottom right button), skip back (using the top right button), and play/pause (using the center right button).
This feature has been improved on several times with updates, and as the name would suggest, this is where you'll go to see any previously received notifications. This notification section is helpful in case you accidentally dismiss a notification, or in case you receive multiple at or around the same time and feel you missed something important. There is also the obvious in how it simply allows you to go back and view a notification when and/or if the need arises. Once in the Notifications menu item, the bottom right button will scroll down, the top right button will scroll up, and the center right button will open the actual notification.
The functionality within the Alarms section will change a bit depending on whether you have any alarm created. Assuming no alarms are created, you are first presented with the "New Alarm" screen. From this screen, the top and bottom buttons on the right side allow you to adjust the time, and the center button on the right side will allow you to move from hour, to minute, and then to save the alarm.
Once an alarm has been saved you will be presented with a screen that lists all alarms at the top (you can have multiple), a menu item to create new alarms, and also some options for those alarms. The options section gives you the ability to adjust the time (in minutes) for the snooze. Furthermore, hitting the center button on the right side (while highlighting an existing alarm) will let you disable, edit, or delete that specific alarm.
This menu item will allow you to set a different watchface. Of course, as previously mentioned, you can use the top and/or bottom buttons on the right side to scroll through your various faces. This may come down to personal preference, however the main difference between the two ways to change the watchface is the ability to easily see the face. If you scroll through (while out of the settings menu) using the right buttons you see the full face and can simply stop where you want. If you scroll through using the Watchfaces menu item in the settings you only see a small preview until you choose and then back out of the menu.
This is the place where you go a bit deeper. Using the Settings menu item you'll have access to control the Bluetooth, Notifications, Date & Time and Display. The Settings menu item is also where you'll find information about the watch (the appropriately named About section), and where you would go to turn the watch off (using the Shut Down option) and perform a factory reset. For reference, the About section offers specifics about the firmware, bootloader, hardware version numbers, the serial number, and the current uptime of the watch.
The Bluetooth settings lists the name of the phone the watch is currently paired with, and allows you to turn Bluetooth on or off. Naturally, turning Bluetooth on or off would connect or disconnect (respectively) the paired smartphone.
The Notifications section allows you to turn those on and/or off. Perhaps equally important though, the Notifications section within the Settings menu is also where you will go to control the Do Not Disturb option. This option can be turned on (enabled), or off (disabled), and also allows you to set a time window. This can be especially helpful for those who want to wear, or keep their watch bedside without feeling it buzz for notifications. And to clarify, any alarms will still buzz with the Do Not Disturb option enabled. The final options in the Notifications section allow you to turn the vibration on or off, adjust the font size, and clear the history.
Next up is the Activity section. This Settings -> Activity entry was added with the v2.6 update in late September and takes advantage of the new focus on health and fitness. Those checking out the Activity section for the first time may be greeted with a "No Activity Trackers are Installed" message, which basically just means you'll need to visit the Pebble Appstore to really get started. The initial app support is somewhat limited, however that is likely to grow with time. At launch users will be able to turn their Pebble into an activity tracker using an app from either Jawbone or Misfit. Perhaps key here though, the new activity support means users can replace their current activity tracker/band as these new Pebble activity tracking apps are able to work seamlessly in the background.
From Activity, the next section is Quick Launch. This is also a new entry that arrived with the v2.6 update. Quick Launch, as the name suggests — allows you to create quick launch items using the physical buttons on the Pebble. Quick Launch is enabled by default, however you will need to navigate to Settings -> Quick Launch to customize which apps (or watchfaces) you want set for the buttons. Users have the option to create a quick launch item for the top and bottom buttons on the right side of the watch. And to clarify, the quick launch option requires the user to long press the button, which also means you'll still be able to scroll through your available watchfaces with single short taps of either button.
Moving down another and you will find the place to adjust the Date & Time. This include options to, well, set the date and time. This is also where you'll go to adjust the watch to display 12 or 24-hour time. Moving down from Date & Time and you will find a menu item listed as Display. This section allows you to turn the backlight on or off, and also adjust whether you want to be able to shake to light. Assuming the "Motion" option is set to On, you will be able to shake your wrist to turn on the backlight.
Pebble has an app available for Android and iOS users. Those apps can be found using the following links;
These mobile apps are what you will need to get started, and ultimately, what you'll need to keep using your Pebble. The apps, for both platforms, feature a left side navigation menu which is where you'll go to manage your Pebble as well as find new watchfaces and new apps. The menu items include My Pebble, Get Watchfaces, and Get Apps. The Android and iOS Pebble apps are also where you will go to manage settings and find support.
This section shows the current selection of watchfaces and apps you have installed on your Pebble. Users are able to have up to eight (8) total between faces and apps at any given time. The currently installed section is the top half of the My Pebble, and the bottom half contains your Locker. The locker section will come in handy for those running into the previously mentioned limit of eight faces and apps. Basically, the Locker is a way to sort of favorite faces and apps. It serves as a place to store watchfaces and apps for later use. You know, for when you drop below that hard limit of eight and free up a slot.
The other aspect of the My Pebble section comes in with settings. Here we are talking about settings that are specific to a watchface or app. Using the top half of the My Pebble section, you can tap a watchface or app and you'll be given options that include load and/or unload (to and/or from your watch) and settings. Again, these settings are specific to the faces and apps. They will also vary from face to face and app to app.
Just as the name would suggest — this is the place you will want to visit when looking for new watchfaces. The setup is simple and offers options to browse All Watchfaces, the Most Loved Watchfaces, and the Pebble Picks. There is also a search option just in case you are trying to narrow in on a specific subject. Regardless of which option you choose to browse, when you find a watchface you like — you just tap.
From this point you will see an image of what the face looks like, as well as a description, device compatibility, details on how many times it has been favorited by other users, and perhaps the most important — an "Add" button. Clicking the Add button will send the face to your device, or if you already have eight set, to your Locker. If you browse to a face you already have installed or in your locker you will see "Added" in place of the "Add" button.
Each individual watchface section also has options to quickly see other faces/apps from that same developer, and information about the current version, as well as a link to email the developer for support, and to report/flag the face.
The functionality of the Get Apps section is very similar to the Get Watchfaces section. That is to say the individual app pages offer the same level of detail, including the same "Add" button functionality. The main difference between the Watchfaces and Apps sections is the navigation. The Watchfaces had a few categories, and the Apps section gets a bit more specific. Within the My Apps section you can search, and also browse by All Apps, Most Loved Apps, Pebble Essentials and Weekly Top Picks, as well as within categories to include Daily, Tools & Utilities, Notifications, Remotes, Health & Fitness, and Games.
Continuing down the left hand navigation menu you will also find options for Settings and Support.
This is broken down by Bluetooth, Notifications, and Music. The Settings section is also where you can choose to allow the watch (and app) to collect usage logs, and set any Developer Options. There is also an about section with open source related details, and the current version number of the app.
The Notifications section is likely where you will initially spend most of the time in Settings, and once you get things set to your liking — return visits will not be as necessary. Users will be able to set whether the Pebble app will send notifications (to your watch) if the phone's screen is on, and to set whether you want to enable notifications from third-party apps. Otherwise, the Notifications section includes options for incoming calls, SMS messages, email messages, calendar reminders, and "other" notifications, which include Google Talk and Hangouts, Google Voice, Facebook, and WhatsApp messages.
Within the Support section you can find a Getting Started guide, a question and answer style FAQ, links to the Pebble community including the official Pebble blog and news feed. This section also has a link to contact support, and to leave suggestions. The Support section also allows you to send test notifications to your Pebble (in case you are having connectivity issues), and check for any app updates.
Pebble had some focus on fitness right from the beginning. Users had the RunKeeper app available long before the official launch of the Pebble Appstore, and that allowed RunKeeper users to view workout details on their wrist. The Pebble is also water resistant to 50 meters, which makes it safe to wear while in the shower — and even while swimming.
But as we've seen the Pebble improve with updates since launch, this latest firmware update greatly improved the fitness support. Users now have a new Activity section within the Settings menu (on the watch). This section lists all of the supported fitness apps that you have installed. The initial support is somewhat limited, however it does include some key players. Not to mention, as the general Pebble updates have improved functionality over time, we expect the fitness support will grow.
The initial support includes apps from Jawbone and Misfit, as well as Swim.com. The first two, Jawbone and Misfit mean you'll be able to use your Pebble as an activity tracker. The firmware v2.6 update not only added the Activity section (in Settings) and meant the release of a few apps — but it also meant the Pebble would be able to use these apps in the background. Bottom line here, you can now use your Pebble to replace your current activity tracker by using either the Jawbone or Misfit app.
Similarly, the Swim.com partnership means Pebble users now have a rather powerful swim watch. Using this setup will allow you to track your swim workouts with data that includes your workout time, length time, pace, stroke count, stroke rate, lap count, and more.
One key point to keep in mind before you take off your current activity tracker, or before you ditch your current swim watch — make sure you have the full support available. Looking at the Jawbone, Misfit and Swim.com apps in the Pebble Appstore and there are some initial limitations for select users. Jawbone notes how iOS users will be able to use this setup to replace their UP wristband, but that Android app support is coming soon. On the flip side, the Swim.com support is currently limited to Android users. And to further that, to Android users that also have the Swim.com companion app installed on their smartphone.
Bottom line here, firmware v2.6 has taken steps to consolidate your activity and workout tracking devices. It is support we expect to see expand even further, however we cannot ignore what some will consider a potential drawback. Some of the Pebble fitness support still requires you to carry your phone. For example, using RunKeeper has the Pebble acting as a secondary display, and not serving as a complete standalone option. Of course, a silver lining to carrying a phone could come if you ever have an emergency as it will be much easier to get in touch with someone that can help.
Pebble users did have some watchfaces and apps available from the time the smartwatch launched, though, things were a bit different in those earlier days. Apps were limited to a select few, and watchfaces were most often found using third party setups. It wasn't difficult to load watchfaces at the time, but it wasn't as convenient as it is today. And keeping that in mind — how about we take a look back at how the Pebble Appstore grew to what we know it as today.
Some of those early apps were for runners and golfers. The RunKeeper and Freecaddie apps were made available in May 2013. In addition to these few apps coming available, there was also plenty of teasing — simply put, the Appstore was always more a case of when as opposed to if. To that point, Pebble began some serious teasing in November 2013 when they let everyone know it was "(almost) software time".
Pebble officially announced their Appstore during a press conference at CES in January 2014. This announcement followed the release of the SDK 2.0 and Developer Portal which opened in December 2013. The Pebble Appstore originally launched with "more than" 1,000 apps and watchfaces and arrived for iOS users on February 3, 2014, and for Android users on March 7, 2014.
As mentioned, the launch of the official Pebble Appstore made things easier for the end user. And in turn, this likely helped encourage developers to release more watchfaces and more apps. We've seen regular growth in the Appstore, both in terms of apps and watchfaces, and Pebble has been releasing (and highlighting) both items at key times since the Appstore officially rolled out for users. For example, we saw a handful of games released during the Game Developers Conference which took place in March 2014. Some of those titles included Tiny Bird and MiniDungeon.
We've also seen plenty of specially timed watchfaces highlighted by Pebble. Special watchfaces have been released for the World Cup, for Fathers's Day, and even for Star Wars day. Naturally though, these apps and watchface releases aren't limited to special events. To that point, Pebble recently announced a new watchface powered by The Weather Channel. The one, appropriately named Weather, was announced along with the #FreshHotFly Pebble collection and can be found right here; Weather, by The Weather Channel
The Pebble Appstore can be found within the Pebble app on your smartphone (or tablet). You'll need to access the left hand navigation menu and then choose either the option to "Get Watchfaces" or to "Get Apps." The watchfaces are divided by Pebble Picks and Most Loved Watchfaces. Or alternatively, you can choose to browse the entire collection by hitting the "All Watchfaces" link. Regardless of the path you take, you will only need to click the "Add" button when you find the face you want on your Pebble.
Browsing for apps can be done by using the "All Apps" category, or by getting a bit more specific with the different categories. The Pebble appstore has app categories for Daily, Tools & Utilities, Notifications, Remotes, Games, and Health & Fitness. The app collection includes everything from a coin flip app, to paying for your Starbucks, weather reports, music controls, access to your Evernote notebooks, and many more.
While some of the apps are on the basic side, there is also a bit more for the advanced user. There are Pebble apps such as Canvas For Pebble which allows you to create dynamic custom watchfaces, and also ones that integrate with Tasker for automation. Those two can be used by those who have their Pebble paired with an Android smartphone. Perhaps key here though, there is likely at least a few apps that will be of interest for each and every Pebble user — regardless of whether you are paired with Android or iOS. In fact, we tend to hear more complaints in regards to the limited number of watchfaces and apps that can be loaded at any given time, as opposed to complaints dealing with not being able to find any good apps. Remember, you are limited to 8 slots (for watchfaces and apps) on your Pebble at any given time, so if you have all those 8 filled — any new 'adds' will be sent to your locker.
The "more than" 1000 available apps and watchfaces allow for some customization in terms of your Pebble — there are some other options available that will make your Pebble better match your personal style. Those sporting an original style Pebble have a bit more flexibility here, however the folks at Pebble have also taken care of Pebble Steel users. Having said that, two quick, easy and relatively inexpensive customization options include changing the band and using a custom decal skin.
The original Pebble, as well as the more recently introduced #FreshHotFly collection use a standard 22mm band. This essentially means you should be able to find a band in the color, material and style you desire without much trouble. Bands will vary in price, but we've been able to find numerous bands (that hold up well with daily wear) for as little as $10 on Amazon. Of course, as a 22mm band is fairly standard, you should be able to find them with a variety of retailers, both online and offline.
In regards to the original Pebble — the easiest way to change the band is using a spring bar tool. Similar to 22mm bands, you shouldn't have much trouble finding this. And better yet, you shouldn't have much trouble finding one for somewhere around $10. Of course, if you happen to spend all your available cash on the band, you can always use a household item to change the band. You do have to be a bit more cautious when using something other than a spring bar tool to avoid scratches. We successfully used (and wouldn't necessarily suggest others using) a small knife blade and a small screwdriver.
Regardless of the tool you choose to use (remember, at your own risk here), the process is simple. You just need to pry the spring bar (the piece that holds the band on your watch) inward. Moving this in will allow you to slip that out of the holes on the Pebble, and remove the band. Once the band (and bar) are away from the Pebble you just need to remove the bar from the band, then place the bar in your new band and repeat the process in reverse.
Swapping the band on an original Pebble isn't a difficult process, but it does take a steady hand as there isn't much room to work. Alternatively, those with a Pebble Steel will need a screwdriver that is 1.5mm or smaller. The removal process is as simple as loosening the screw and removing the band. But unlike the original Pebble — those with a Steel are limited in terms of band replacements. Pebble choose to use a custom 22mm band, which really means you'll be limited to switching between the leather and metal bands that are included with purchase.
The second customization option is skins, and again, we are looking more towards those with an original model Pebble. Skins can also be found with a variety of retailers, and are generally priced at around $5. Two retailers we can suggest include GPOP and Decal Girl. Both are reliable and reputable and each sell skins for $4.99. GPOP has a handful of skin styles available, however if you are looking for a wide variety you may want to check Decal Girl. The latter, Decal Girl, also offers an option to create a custom skin based on a personal image or some artwork.
Bottom line here, Pebble Steel users aren't quite as lucky when it comes to adding flare with a skin, or swapping for a standard watch band. The silver lining is how the Pebble Steel ships with two bands — one metal and one leather. Of course, we suspect some could argue the Pebble Steel offers more a professional look, and therefor users may not need or want the customization options quite as much as those with an original model Pebble.
Updates are now a new concept for Pebble. We've seen updates rolling out since the watch originally launched, and will likely continue seeing them as we move forward. The updates tend to vary, and sometimes favor one mobile operating system over another. For example, Pebble released firmware v2.5 in mid September and that was more for iOS users. Specifically, Pebble firmware v2.5 added support for iOS 8.
Some more general items that arrived with v2.5 included support for 'popular' emojis, and magnetometer support which means compass and wayfinding apps were enabled. Pebble firmware v2.5 also brought some bug fixes and stability improvements. Last up for v2.5 was the return of the DOMO watchface, which not only returned to the Pebble Appstore, but came back with some tweaks. For example, the DOMO watchface will get drowsy and fall asleep at night, and you can shake the Pebble on your wrist to show DOMO's angry face.
More recently though — Pebble released firmware v2.6. This update arrived on September 30, 2014 and added a few new features. Pebble added support for real-time activity tracking with apps such as Jawbone, Misfit and Swim.com. Other items that arrived with firmware v2.6 included Quick Launch, a persistent battery icon (within the Pebble menus), and the ability to dismiss notifications using the select button. This varies a little depending on which platform you are using, and the Pebble team breaks it down as follows;
"Select button once again dismisses notifications when paired with an Android device or iOS device on iOS 7 or lower. iOS 8 users get notification dismissal for both Pebble and the paired device when pressing Select."
Last up with firmware v2.6 were some bug fixes and general improvements.
We've since plenty of updates from Pebble since the smartwatch originally launched, and as of mid-December 2014, another update has been announced. This latest is arriving as version 2.3 and it will be of particular interest for Android users. Pebble is adding Android Wear notifications, which means you'll be able to act upon messages. Perhaps more important here is that you can get going immediately if you are willing to play in the beta space.
Before we get any further into what Android Wear notifications will mean for Pebble users — let us first mention how you can get signed up for the beta release. The process is through the Play Store, and the specific steps are as follows;
Once those have both been taken care of the Pebble Android app (on your device) will update similar to a regular Android app update. Also worth noting, Google Play mentions how it may "take a few hours before the test version is available." So while you are waiting for the v2.3 beta update to arrive — here is what you can expect in terms of Android Wear notifications.
Simply put, this update will allow you to take actions on any incoming notifications. Perhaps one the the simpler, and more welcomed is the ability to dismiss. Meaning you can use your Pebble to dismiss the notification from the tray on your smartphone. Pebble v2.3 will also allow users to do things such as reply with emoji to a Hangouts message (though, this requires you to install the Android Wear app), and also send money to a friend using Square Cash.
The other perk of Pebble using the Android Wear setup means developers do not have any additional work to make their apps work with Pebble. The folks at Pebble mention how this update "uses actions baked into Wear-integrated apps already." They go on to further clarify how "if you can do it with Android Wear, you can do it with Pebble." Of course, one limitation to that would be replying with voice. So, obviously your Pebble isn't going to be quite the same as an Android Wear smartwatch, however version 2.3 does make your Pebble quite a bit smarter.
Again, Pebble version 2.3 is currently available in beta. So far there hasn't been anything mentioned in terms of when we can expect a graduation out of the beta channel, however we can say we've been using the beta update for several days now without any issues.
Users can check for updates with the Pebble app on their Android or iOS smartphone. Once the app has been launched you will need to open the left-side navigation menu and look for the Support option (towards the bottom). From there you just need to tap the "Check for Updates" and then "Check Now."
We generally try to keep from getting into the mobile platform debate at Connectedly, however those who have paired their Pebble with an Android smartphone do have some extra perks available. We'll file this one under the Tips & Tricks category, but it really comes down to one key app that can be found in the Google Play Store. The app is called Pebble Notifier, and it can be run alongside the official Pebble app.
Download Pebble Notifier (for free) from the Google Play Store
Before we get into the specifics for the Pebble Notifier app we will offer this warning. Or more specifically, we'll reiterate a new warning left by the developer.
"Please note that this application is no longer maintained by the developer due to problems with the company who makes Pebble. As of this writing things still work with android versions before L but please don't contact me for any support as your e-mails will go without a response as I no longer have a functioning Pebble and thus can't properly test any bugfixes."
Keeping that in mind about future Android updates, we can say we have been happily using the Pebble Notifier app (currently on an Android 4.4.4 device) with no issues. We hope to say the same when Android L starts making the rounds, and will continue using and recommending the app to others in the meantime.
That said, Pebble Notifier sends notifications to your Pebble. This is similar to how the official Pebble app works, but instead of being limited to a handful of select apps, Pebble Notifier allows to configure notifications for any and all of the apps installed on your smartphone, and perhaps the real perk is the ease of use.
Launching the Pebble Notifier app you'll be greeted with a list of the apps you have installed. Once the list is loaded you simply check (or uncheck) the box on the right side. A check in the box means the app will send notifications to your Pebble. This setup comes in really handy for those who regularly get important messages from other apps. For example, Trello and Slack, which by default will not be sending notifications to your wrist. Not to mention, the Pebble Notifier app will be helpful for those who use something other than the official Gmail app (such as Mailbox) on Android.
Stepping back from the Pebble Notifier app — we have to mention some official options for Android and iOS. On the Android side there is an option in the official Pebble app called "Send 3rd Party Notifications." This can be found in Settings -> Notifications. This, as the name suggests, allows you to send notification from third party apps. However, officially Pebble notes how they "cannot guarantee the functionality of unofficial notifiers or how Pebble will behave under their influence." For that we still suggest using the Pebble Notifier app.
Not Forgetting iOS Users
Shifting over to the iOS side and there is some deeper notification support available. This will be for those who have an iPhone running iOS 7 or later and can be found by navigating to the Bluetooth Setting page and looking for your Pebble, which will be listed under Devices. You'll need to make sure the notifications are set to "On."
After that is done you can navigate to Settings -> Notifications to make any adjustments. This will need to be done on an app by app basis. Using any app that you want to send a notification you will need to make sure the following settings are in place;
- Notification Center set to "On"
- Alerts Style set to "Banners"
- View in Lock Screen set to "On"
You will also want to double check the settings on your Pebble watch. Here you can navigate to Menu -> Settings and make sure you see "Notifications On" at the top.
As we mentioned at the start of this guide, the Pebble may have been a first smartwatch for many. But just like we've since seen follow-up models from the Pebble team, we are also seeing plenty of other companies release smartwatches. Our Smartwatch Buyers Guide highlights many of these watches, but despite the different varieties, and the (in some cases) fancy color screens — the Pebble still has a few solid perks we cannot ignore. For one, Pebble seems to still have a solid following in terms of developers looking to release new apps and watchfaces. But more important, and the reason a Pebble is still on the wrist of a few on the Connectedly team, is the battery life. Bottom line here, Android Wear seems to have attracted quite a bit of attention thanks to the various models from various companies, but it is hard to get away from the (roughly) weeks long battery life offered by the Pebble.
That said, while this guide has focused specifically on the Pebble, it certainly seems like smartwatches in general are catching more and more attention. Regardless of the model you choose to wear on your wrist, it should be interesting to see how they fit in, and in some cases, cause people to adjust how they interact with the smartphone in their pocket. As a result we hope to hear less loud ringing and beeping coming from phones (now that your wrist can buzz), and less eyes staring at a screen because the watch should help to better prioritize when your phone needs to come out of your pocket.