So, what with Chanukah and all, I've racked up a few interesting gifts from clients and the like. Yesterday I was presented with a Pebble Smartwatch as a gift from our Corporate Affairs group. They like me...they really, really like me. They also clearly really, REALLY know me, being that I am a geek and love toys and all that.

So, I've had the thing for less than 24 hours, but definitely have some first impressions.

Da Setup

Setup is really pretty straightforward. In this case, I was pairing the watch with my iphone 5S running iOS 7.0.4. So you turn on the watch with one of the 4 physical buttons, and it immediately tells you to go download and install the pebble app from the app store (free of course). I did so, and it walked me through pairing the device via bluetooth - one of the cool things here: the pebble had a firmware update available, and as soon as it was paired with the phone it began downloading and installing. I know it's a simle thing, but being able to piggyback off the phone like that rather than having to connect to a PC was a very neat thing. Then, connect the included usb cable to my laptop and then to the watch itself (maglock style, love it). In essence, that's it for the basic setup. I now have a watch that is paired to my phone...but what does it actually DO?

Da Notifications

Obviously, this is the bread and butter of the pebble. It's a way to get a look, at a glance, of why your phone is vibrating in your pocket. In essence you can view notifications for just about anything that shows up in notification center: for me, I choose to just have email, text, calendar, and phone call notifications. You do need to set them to "banner" view and ensure that they're turned on to display in notification center. That's it - email messages start popping up on your watch as they come in. I actually thought that you would just get header info...it was a pleasant surprise to see that I could actually read the message from the device itself. It's also worth mention that the pebble vibrates - violently enough that you're not going to miss a notification.

While we're not quite talking "Dick Tracy" here (for example, you can't respond from the watch), it IS kinda cool to be able to see if I really need to go digging my phone out, or if it can wait until later (particularly handy when at dinner or something and trying not to be rude).

Da Screen

It's small but distinguished. It's e-ink with an auto-backlight feature. Unfortunately in the throws of early winter here I've not had opportunity to see how it looks in bright sunlight, but from what I've read it evidently has an "auto backlight" feature that will activate when you flick your wrist or get a notification, unless the ambient light sensor determines that it's unnecessary. Text looks sharp enough to read, if unexceptional...but let's be honest, you're looking for quick and dirty notifications - if I want to see my emails "prettier", I'll pull out my phone anyway.

Da Phone

So my iphone is currently paired to both my in-car bluetooth system, and my pebble. Something sort of neat about it is that I can use the watch to answer the phone, and it will go through the in-car bluetooth. While this isn't a huge plus for in the car (since I have steering wheel controls), thinking outside the box just a little bit I can see this being a HUGE benefit on my motorcycle - particularly when I use my phone as a GPS system (very annoying when you forget to turn on "do not disturb" and the "New Voicemail" screen pops up blocking the map view...and no way to dismiss since my GPS pouch has a plastic screen over top of it) - this way I can actually use an in-helmet bluetooth setup, my phone plugged into my charger and sitting in my GPS pouch, just by pressing one button on my wrist. Very not bad.

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The watch also has the ability to fire up playing music from my phone. Unlikely that I'd use this too terribly often to play directly from my phone (though I suppose being able to advance songs and the like is cool, my ear buds already do that nicely), it DOES make for a nice remote when I'm using airplay at home - fire up the phone, plug it in, turn on airplay, use the watch to forward to other tunes etc. The controls are a little limited, for example you can't start shuffle from the watch, you can just hit play/pause/skip on it...but still, it's one step closer to at least being able to walk away from an iphone that has been grafted to my ass for years already (in its various iterations).

Da Complaints

So far I have one minor complaint, and it's not going to be true universally. The watch itself fits my wrist quite well (its a bit larger than an ipod nano but by no means offensively large), but I find the default band to be INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. The positive here is that, according to the manual, you can replace that band with ANY watch band - going to shop around a bit to find something I like.

Da Apps

Not much here so far - a couple of fitness apps that I didn't have much interest in, and some apps to provide additional watch faces, and even a site to design your own watch. Kinda cool, but ultimately I've settled in on the text type watch. It gives that "geek chic" look, according to my girlfriend, and that's good enough for me. The folks who make the pebble talk often about how they're working on new apps for it: I'm definitely eager to see what they can come up with. There's some interesting things in the iOS app store (of particular interest is smartwatch+ which allows things like weather to display on the watch, as well as another app which enables the pebble to function as a remote shutter button for the iphone camera) - looking forward to tinkering as I figure out just how much, or how little, I'll use the device.

Da Bugs

Yes, I've definitely noticed some wonkiness with notifications. Part of it may be that they're just coming in faster than the watch can deal with (midday my emails fly fast and furiously), or maybe it's just a limitation of the device, but I tend to get repeat notifications of mail/calendar items that have already been dismissed. It's a little bit irritating, but not really a deal breaker. I think it definitely means I won't be wearing the thing all that much during the day, reserving it for "After hours" use...which is when I really see its functionality coming in handy anyway.

Da Conclusion

I'm only 24 hours into my time with the pebble, and while I'm not about to call it a "must have", I'll call it a nice augmentation of my current technology. If you're the type who can put your phone down and not have to check it every few minutes and/or every time it vibrates in your pocket, the pebble is probably not for you. If, like me, you're an "on call" sort and find yourself unable to put away your phone for any length of time, the pebble may well be EXACTLY what you want. Being able to see what's coming in at a quick glance is a blessing, honestly, and far less obtrusive than either whipping out my phone every few minutes, or leaving it sitting on a dining room table.