Not Just for Email: Some Cool Uses for Your Pebble
From the moment the Pebble Kickstarter began, nearly one year ago, it has stolen the spotlight in the smartwatch sector. Although quite simplistic in nature, it is the best implementation of wearable technology to reach consumer hands to date.
Pebble will not turn you into a super spy. It won't drastically change your life. And it's not going to knock your socks off with an abundance of functionality, out of the box. It aims to solve a few, simple problems, like allowing you to keep your phone in your pocket more – glance at your wrist and determine whether a notification is worth responding to immediately or not.
Applications for Pebble, however, can stretch far and wide. This morning, for example, I used Pebble to change the song streaming through Spotify on my Note II from the shower. And I've been playing Snake off and on since the Pebble arrived in my mail box yesterday afternoon.
But watching my colleagues enjoy their Pebbles while I waited for mine to ship from China was agonizing. I spent my time thinking of different things I could do with my Pebble once it arrived. And as soon as I opened my mail box and saw the Pebble box, I ran back to my apartment, tore into the box and started hacking away. (Okay, “hacking”.)
Here are some of the cool, non-traditional uses for Pebble that I have found.
Get weather updates
I keep a weather notification in my notification shade on my Android device at all times (thank you, Beautiful Widgets). I don't actually check the weather often. But every morning, I pull the shade down to see what the high for the day will be. It's quick and effortless.
Seeing as Pebble is built to deliver notifications to my wrist, though, I figured I could take every ounce of effort out of looking up weather. And since looking it up, I have found a couple different ways to deliver weather updates to Pebble.
When sitting in the Pebble press conference at CES, I kept thinking to myself, “I could totally set this up to use IFTTT (If This Then That) to send stuff to Pushover.” Pushover is simply a real time notification solution for Android and iOS, and IFTTT is a free, online trigger and action service that integrates dozens of services.
Basically, I logged into IFTTT and created a new recipe. I chose Weather as the trigger, selected Today's weather report for the condition and set Pushover as the action. Every morning at 8:30 AM, Pebble will light up and tell me the weather for the day. I also setup a condition for Tomorrow's forecast to ping me in the late afternoon and triggers for the weather changing to rain or snow.
This, obviously, requires the Pushover application to be installed on your Android device, which is available in the Play Store or App Store for $4.99. To save yourself some money, you could simply setup an IFTTT action to email, SMS or Google Talk you. Or you could use a basic weather application on Android or iOS to push less controlled weather updates.
Turn-by-turn navigation on your wrist
A neat feature of Pebble on iOS is the ability to receive turn-by-turn navigation from Google Maps on your wrist. Simply enable Notification Center notifications for Google Maps in Settings and the upcoming navigation directions will shoot to Pebble.
By default, this doesn't work on Android. But setting it up is quite simple. The free application Pebble Notifier enables virtually any and all notifications to be pushed to Pebble. Install Pebble Notifier and enable Google Maps. When you start navigating, Google Maps pushes the upcoming turn in the notification shade, and it gets pushed to Pebble.
I haven't had the chance to test navigating via watch, so I can't speak to how helpful it is. But it certainly works, and I could see this being helpful for someone on a motorcycle or bicycle trying to navigate, where using a smartphone might be cumbersome and … well, dangerous.
Sports scores and other updates
I'm not a huge sports fan, but a lot of you likely are. And I do enjoy some hockey every once in a while. I like to loosely keep up with the local pro team, Carolina Hurricanes. Like with the weather updates, there are several ways to make this happen. Using Pebble Notifier, you could simply use your favorite sports application (SportsCenter, LiveScore, etc.) to shoot notifications to Pebble.
Since I don't follow any sports closely, though, I set this up through IFTTT. I selected ESPN and game start for Carolina Hurricanes as the trigger and push the notification to Pushover. (Again, you don't technically need Pushover, you could send these to SMS or email.) I also create a recipe to push an update to Pushover with the final score of any Hurricanes game.
Silence your phone
This is where things get a little tricky, expensive and somewhat complicated.
Using an application called Augmented SmartWatch Pro (ASP), you can override the built-in Music functionality to push information from Pebble to your phone. The way it works is through creating profiles and tasks in Tasker.
The first toggle I setup was to silence the phone. This is done by downloading the Tasker task from the Augmented SmartWatch Pro site, moving it to my phone and importing the task to Tasker. You must also adjust some settings within both Tasker and ASP. Within Tasker, under the Misc tab in Preferences, check “Allow External Access”. And in ASP, under the Pebble settings, enable “Override Music App” and “Expanded Menu”. Under Tasker Menu Option 1, enter “Silence-Phone” (it is case-sensitive).
From the Pebble app, set ASP as the preferred music app.
On the Pebble watch, navigate to the Music app, press the middle button to open the second menu and press the top right button. Your phone's media and ringer will silence.
From within Tasker, you can go back to the Task and edit, say, if you want the phone to vibrate or media volume to maximize.
There are some rather obvious downsides to this, though. Between ASP and Tasker, you will have to spend nearly $11. And the setup may differ between devices. I had to tweak a few things to get it to work perfectly on my Note II. Still, it's pretty cool to be able to silence my phone without ever pulling my phone out of my pocket.
Remote camera trigger
Note: This one is easily the coolest thing I've done with my Pebble yet. But it's more of a proof of concept than anything. It works, but auto-focus doesn't fire unless flash also fires. It also doesn't work with the stock Camera app, it simply takes a picture. It may work well with remote scenery shots, though.
Using ASP and Tasker again, you can download the Take-Picture Tasker task from ASP's website. Move the file to your phone and import to Tasker. If you have already setup Silence-Phone, you will only have to edit the Tasker Menu Option 2 under ASP Pebble settings to “Take-Picture”. (Remember, this is case-sensitive.)
The task is coded to fire the front camera. You may want to switch it to the rear camera by editing the task in Tasker. If you do this, you will also need to adjust the output resolution to the rear camera's native resolution (16:9 aspect worked better than 4:3 for me, but you may have to play around with the different supported resolutions).
Unlock your phone and point it towards something you want to take a picture of, on your Pebble navigate to the Music app, press the middle right button to enter the sub-menu and press the bottom right button to trigger the shutter. In the Gallery app, you should see pictures taken via Pebble under the Tasker gallery.
If you have any unique use cases or functions for your Pebble, feel free to share them in the comments below!