Pebble: Moving Beyond the Basics

I’m into month two with my Pebble Classic and in that time I’ve gone through almost every app and watch face in the Pebble App store. That has enabled me to gain a lot of insight into how I use my Pebble and the surprise ending is that although notifications are a big part of its usefulness, I use it for much more than that.

I decided to write this post after reading David Breger’s post on LinkedIn about why he does not wear his Pebble any more. I tried to comment on the post but the Submit button would not enable for me, so I ended up thinking about his post and about how my experience with the Pebble so deeply differed from his. I finally came to realize that David’s post solely focuses around notifications and he has completely missed, or at least did not talk about, the rest of the Pebble ecosystem. So I aim to fix that.

I have found my Pebble to be a very useful tool for reasons that have nothing to do with notifications. My first concept of the Pebble was totally centered around notifications because that is how it is marketed. I didn’t really know how the Pebble worked until I had one in my hands, but I quickly came to realize that it basically forwards notifications from my phone to my watch. If an app does not create notifications on my phone to begin with (ie – I’ve turned notifications off for some app) then it would also not be able to notify my watch. That led me into the realization that the Pebble is more of a remote screen than anything else.

Then I started rummaging through the app store and I found apps that let me go the other way. I found apps such as Music Boss and Dashboard that let me send commands back to the phone. That created a whole new frame of mind for me because I now realized that this Pebble on my wrist was actually not only a remote screen, it was also a remote control for my phone. That opened up a world of ideas and here are some of the things that are now just part of my every day life with my Pebble.

Controlling my music

I use the Music Boss app to control the music on my phone. I can do rudimentary things like stop/pause/skip and control the volume. That in itself is nice – when I am running or working out at the gym I don’t need to pull my phone out to mess with my music. If someone wants to talk to me, I simply press the middle button on my watch and my music pauses.

The next step in this evolution is the Bluetooth connection in my car. Since I own a Pebble, the Bluetooth on my phone is always on. Therefore, when I step into my car, my phone hooks up to my car stereo immediately. What can I do at this point? Press that middle button on my Pebble and presto – my music is playing in my car! I have not touched my phone or my stereo. In fact my phone is still buried in my pocket somewhere. All I had to do was press a button on my watch.

Securing my phone

Both the Pebble and the Android Pebble App exhibit separation anxiety when they cannot find each other. My phone knows when the connection to my watch dies so it seems like a no-brainer to turn that into something more useful than a battery draining whine fest. Enter the Dislock app.

Dislock is an app that locks my phone when the connection to my Pebble is lost. Under normal circumstances I just have a very unsecure swipe lock set on my phone, no PIN or password required. However, once I forget my phone on the table and start to walk home, my phone locks and now it requires a PIN to log in. As an added bonus, I used the Canvas application to create a watch face that vibrates when my Pebble disconnects from my phone so I become aware that my phone is no longer near me.

Keeping up on appointments

I don’t want to become the Canvas app spokesperson here, but it really is an amazing app. With zero technical skill, anyone can create very intricate watch faces for their Pebble. I have a custom watch face that, among other things, shows me my next calendar appointment. Given more room I could put more than one, but I choose to put other useful things like battery status and day of the week on my watch face instead, so one is all I can fit in. However, that one is very useful to me as it is a constant reminder of the next timed appointment I need to work around.

Any review of a Pebble that focuses solely around notifications is incomplete. There is much more depth to the device than simply vibrating when you get an email and these abilities only become clear after living with the watch for a while and plundering the app store to get a sense of what it can do. I am not saying that a smart watch is for everyone, but I am saying that you need to get past the novelty of notifications before you can really understand how the Pebble can become a useful part of your life instead of just The Next Big Thing ™ strapped on your wrist.