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Input Devices Hardware Technology

Ars Technica Goes Close Up With the Pebble Smartwatch 140

Posted by timothy
from the watch-out-for-these-things dept.
Ars Technica takes a close look at the crowd-funded Pebble smartwatch. The reviewer had to put up with repeated delays in production as a Kickstarter backer, but seems happy with the watch and optimistic about the future of third-party apps; an SDK is due later this month. "It currently ships with three default watch faces, as well as 12 others that you can load onto the watch with the companion app (free on iOS and Android). By far my favorite custom watch face is 'Fuzzy Time,' which rounds the current time to the nearest 5-minute interval and translates that number to what you might say if your friend asked you the time. While seemingly trivial, I love this rough approximation of time. Rarely do I need to know that it's 5:13:23pm, but seeing that it's 'quarter after five' is awesome."
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Ars Technica Goes Close Up With the Pebble Smartwatch

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  • fuzzy time eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @04:51PM (#43386289)

    those of us who have "analog" clocks and watches are amused; also we'd probably have that smart watch just display analog clock face

    • Re:fuzzy time eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cow Jones (615566) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:25PM (#43386891)

      You know what?
      Fuck fuzzy time.

      This is one of my pet annoyances in most "web 2.0" products. All those forums giving the time of a message as "a year ago" are driving me mad. Some of them at least have the actual date and time in the title attribute, but that doesn't help much on a mobile device. Let the software be exact, and leave the fuzziness to me, please.

      CJ

      • Re:fuzzy time eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by flimflammer (956759) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:46PM (#43388247)

        All of my rage when I see a timestamp on something that says "5 months ago" or "1 year ago". All. Of. My. Rage.

        • by Speare (84249)

          The timestamp here on Slashdot says "Mon 08 Apr 12:46AM". Hm, what year? What timezone? From what I've seen, when it archives, it still misses what year it's in.

          It's already fuzzy, but it gives the impression of being very specific. Which is worse?

          And I'm glad that all your rage goes to something so trivial, rather than something meaningful like fighting oppression at the local, national or global levels.

          • I agree; I've been frustrated by slashdot submissions a number of times in the past, needing to look to the sourced articles to figure out what year it was written in. Omitting the year of a date is pointless and only serves to frustrate those who actually need or want to know just as other instances of fuzzy time.

            Sorry if you feel my rage misplaced. If you wish, I'll toss oppression a bone here and there.

            • ...needing to look to the sourced articles to figure out what year it was written in.

              For future reference, the year is in the URL:

              hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/04/07/2147246/ars-technica-goes-close-up-with-the-pebble-smartwatch

      • by isorox (205688)

        You know what?

        Fuck fuzzy time.

        This is one of my pet annoyances in most "web 2.0" products. All those forums giving the time of a message as "a year ago" are driving me mad. Some of them at least have the actual date and time in the title attribute, but that doesn't help much on a mobile device. Let the software be exact, and leave the fuzziness to me, please.

        CJ

        At that level, yes.

        When it comes to recent posts though, it's handy to avoid time zone confusion.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        What's that got to do with telling the time on a watch?

        I agree about the web 2.0 thing.

  • Kickstarter pledges: 99 bucks.
    Pebble watch in retail 150 bucks.

    Having a watch that will not tell you exact time an instead tell you 'fuzzy' time in 5 minute increments (in words, not numbers) and doing it at 5atm pressure under water?

    You see where I am going with this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 07, 2013 @05:01PM (#43386351)

    ..watches ran on a battery lasting several years without recharging. That was awesome.

    • And phones that lasted for weeks, too.

    • by folderol (1965326) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @05:25PM (#43386525) Homepage
      I've got a solar powered watch :) The only annoying thing is it doesn't do daylight saving, so I have to set it twice a year.
      • by Richy_T (111409)

        If it's like mine, you also have to manually set it for each of the timezones. So most of them are wrong for 1/2 of the year.

        • by isorox (205688)

          If it's like mine, you also have to manually set it for each of the timezones. So most of them are wrong for 1/2 of the year.

          As soon as I step on a plane I set my watch for the destination time zone. Really helps with jet lag (not that I've needed it recently - not been more than 4 hours off home since January)

    • by antdude (79039)

      Yep, my Casio Databank calculator watches did that. I still wear one (150 model). :)

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      Yup, I do. The battery was replaced, not recharged. Somewhere I've got a fine $20 Timex that was usually good for about two and a half years between batteries.

      I remember watches that had to be wound every day. I also remember when self-winding watches came into the consumer market. So long as you moved around a bit every day they worked fine. The arm you wore them on got a little bit stronger as well.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      ..watches ran on a battery lasting several years without recharging. That was awesome.

      They still do.

      In the last ten years I have replaced watch batteries 4 times over 3 watches

  • "[n] seconds until your appointment/train departure/etc."

    While approximate time of day is a useful gimmick, you don't really need a watch to keep track of that.

    • (The nice thing about this watch, of course, is that you absolutely could make it do that while looking up your calendar or time table.)

  • by xombo (628858) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @05:23PM (#43386515)

    They still haven't released an SDK and they won't do so for a while after it ships?

    What are people going to do with it while they wait for developers to receive their device and build apps?

    I owned a much more feature rich device in a similar watch form-factor, the WiMM One. While the device was nice, there was never a good enough set of apps with addictive utility to me that justified the constant battle with battery life. It launched with a complete app SDK and was built on Android so it was trivial to develop apps for. This device doesn't have an SDK available and isn't as conventional. I suspect it will meet much the same fate once these initial orders are fulfilled.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @05:24PM (#43386523) Homepage

    Rarely do I need to know that it's 5:13:23pm, but seeing that it's 'quarter after five' is awesome."

    Perhaps not in seconds, but I rather like to know how many minutes I've left to catch the bus since three and eight are quite different. I guess I really only look at the seconds if I'm trying to time something, which is rare but unless it's spoken I'd rather have it with numbers... how often do people really write "quarter past three" instead of 3:15 pm (or actually 15:15 around here)?

    • Rarely do I need to know that it's 5:13:23pm, but seeing that it's 'quarter after five' is awesome

      Let's say I want to seep my tea for five minutes. That means I want to know when five minutes is from the last time I looked at my watch. Even a few minutes window there is no good. Even just 5:15 showing as something non-numeric is not great as I have to mentally parse it. If I have any kind of clock, I'm in it for the time. If I can't have that why even bother?

      Where I don't mind wording like that is on t

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Let's say I want to seep my tea for five minutes.

        Then you use the stopwatch function on your watch, if it has one, or else just switch to exact instead of fuzzy time for that one particular act.

        • Then you use the stopwatch function on your watch

          Which is way more involved than simply looking at my watch once, and then a few times more before five minutes has expired. There's no reason why the use should have to go to so much bother for something as simple as telling when it's been about five minutes.

          Having a watch proclaim it is "quarter past five" is the ultimate case of form over function. It gives you nothing that is more useful in any way than the simple time - it's just there to look cool. Eve

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Rarely do I need to know that it's 5:13:23pm, but seeing that it's 'quarter after five' is awesome."

      Perhaps not in seconds, but I rather like to know how many minutes I've left to catch the bus since three and eight are quite different. I guess I really only look at the seconds if I'm trying to time something, which is rare but unless it's spoken I'd rather have it with numbers... how often do people really write "quarter past three" instead of 3:15 pm (or actually 15:15 around here)?

      I've never lived anywhere where you could time buses down to the nearest minute, do you live in Switzerland or somewhere?

  • I thought it would look like a pebble. That would have been cool. Instead it just looks like a standard issue watch.

  • If I had been proactive and ordered in the first few days of the Kickstarter, I might be on the Pebble bandwagon. As it was I really did not get over to Kickstarter until it was over and at that point my impression, which has been played out, it that there was no date for shipping.

    In a way I am glad I did not go in. Apple, as we can all agree, is not very open on the interfaces to iOS, which is why there are so many cool gadgets for Android and so few for iPhone. From what I can tell from the site, the

  • by gerardv (2884419) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:25PM (#43386887)
    I have one, and while it is a bit rough and clunky in some ways, there are three things about it that really work well for me: 1. Caller ID and SMS messages displayed. My phone is now always on silent and often left in my bag, because the watch alerts me better than a ring tone does. 2. Music play functions, so I can change tunes easily while driving (I have a borrowed car so not worth installing a kit). 3. The big watchface with big numbers because without my specs my eyesight sucks. So all in all I am a happy customer.
    • by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @07:13PM (#43387155) Homepage

      I liked mine for the three days it worked. Seeing who was calling, seeing text messages and FB messages without having to pull my phone out was great.

      The fact that it would not charge, or that I've been waiting a week since I emailed tech support (from in-app, which I have to admit was nice) and got the robo-response below is something I like less.

      "Pebble | Apr 01, 2013 07:33AM UTC

      Hello,

      Thank you for supporting Pebble!

      We are currently experiencing a higher-than-average amount of emails as we start shipping more Pebbles to our Backers.

      Please do not send multiple messages about the same issue, as it will only delay responses further. We’ve prepared a list of answers to common questions, so please take a few minutes to check if your question has already been answered. . ."

      • Kickstarter is not a store. As part of your backing/pledge, you got a gift. That gift is a first run of the product, and warranty is not the same as a product you buy in a store. Or so the party line goes, I'm not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing.

    • by epine (68316) on Monday April 08, 2013 @12:36AM (#43388463)

      I've had mine for about 5 days now. So far it's worked pretty much flawlessly. It was a bit thicker than I anticipated, fairly large in the frame, and maybe not suitable for a woman's wrist, although the screen itself is small enough if the frame were a bit more compact. I've got a second one on order, in one of the colours they are not yet making.

      I was surprised to get a notification this morning with my phone in one corner of the house, and my watch in the opposite corner (on the sill in the bathroom while taking a shower). I really didn't expect the BT to work at that range with a 90 degree bend from a large room into the hallway and then through a closed door at the far end. Perhaps it was a bit of fluke. Not enough data yet.

      The vibration is surprisingly audible on the wrist, and even more so when the watch is left lying on a flat surface. This partly makes up for not having a beep.

      Features are pretty limited as it stands, but the interface is dead easy to use with the four buttons provided. On the plus side, one can program a large number of distinct alarms. On the down side, there's no way to disable an alarm without deleting it completely.

      I have two LCD screens on my desk. One is polarized horizontally, and the other vertically. With my polarized shades one display goes so dark I wonder if it's turned on--until I tip my head to either side. This causes the watch display to look a little funky when there are not other lights on in the room: different regions go darkish as I tilt my hand. For two puzzled seconds earlier today I thought the e-paper display had leaked.

      It's super visible in bright light and a little hard to read in early dusk before you reach for the light switch. I turned my backlight off to better monitor battery life without accidental backlight activations. The wrist flick works, but it works too often if you have busy hands. No, I don't mean typing. No, I don't mean stereotypical activities, either.

      I would never have bought one without the promise of an SDK to allow me to make customizations. There are aspects of my life not tied to a 24 hour clock, and I want my watch to display these other relationships as well as standard time. I'm happy enough with it, but it's just a silly toy for me until Pebble releases their SDK.

  • Could you have a watch face like this one [youtube.com]
  • I've always wanted a watch which could tell me the approximate time and requires charging once a week.
  • Hello,

    Any chance of a British English option so "quarter after five" becomes "quarter past five"?

    Thanks, Bob.

  • At first I read this as "Pebble Sandwich", which sounds almost as distasteful.

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