My preorder of the original Pebble came after a lot of pause and skepticism.
I explained in the prelude to my Pebble Steel review that I was a backer of the immensely successful Pebble Kickstarter campaign, but I had my doubts about the company after learning it was essentially round two from the Allerta team, which didn’t have the best time releasing its first smartwatch, the inPulse. While promising, inPulse suffered a handful of timely delays and only arrived in the hands of buyers upwards of a year after it was supposed to arrive.
Alas, I gave Pebble the benefit of a doubt. I figured maybe it has learned from its mistakes and was back a second time to prove its worth. After all, the inPulse wasn’t a terrible start. Failing is part of life and a crucial learning experience for some of the most successful people and companies on the planet. For the right people with the proper mindset, failure is a challenge to do bigger, better, more awesome.
That’s exactly what Eric Migicovsky and his team did. Pebble is now one of my favorite companies in the tech space, not only because Pebble quickly turned into my favorite gadget of 2013 or because wearing Pebble Steel for a month was a pleasure, but because a company that fell flat on its face a few years back is practically leading the journey into the wearables market, fighting toe to toe with companies exponentially larger than itself.
I’m not quite like Michael, though. I don’t have a thing for underdogs. I didn’t order Pebble Steel last week because Pebble needs me (and all of you who have also ordered a Pebble or Pebble Steel) to support it. I ordered Steel because it’s a truly compelling and beautiful product from a company that matured from a small startup seeking crowdfunding into a self-standing, respectable company in under two year’s time.
Towards the last months of 2013, I had passersby pointing at my wrist, asking me, “Is that a Pebble?” That alone should be indicative of what sort of impact Pebble has had on the market, not just the tech-enthused crowd.
No less, Pebble Steel is a beautiful watch with a lot of promise and capabilities. And it didn’t take long after putting it on my wrist to determine I would soon be placing an order for my very own Pebble Steel shortly after my review period ended. And, of course, I did just that last week, just one week after publishing my review and sending the loaner back to Pebble.
As it stood, I had no regrets, except for not buying one sooner, since the company is having trouble keeping up with demand. My Pebble Steel will arrive sometime towards the last week in April or the first week in May. For someone with an attention span as short as mine (SQUIRREL!!), that’s an eternity. I start pulling my hair out over three to five day shipping, or the inevitable lag that occurs when you order something just before the weekend with no Saturday delivery option.
Samsung’s new Gear lineup doesn’t affect me or move me in any way. Aside from Galaxy Note handsets, I don’t typically gravitate towards Samsung’s smartphones. None of the other wrist-mounted devices we’ve seen since the turn of the year entice me either – Huawei’s TalkBand B1, Archos’ budget-friendly options, or LG’s Lifeband Touch. They simply don’t bring anything compelling to the table.
Pebble Steel does almost everything I need and want it to do. It delivers notifications to my wrist in an easily digestible, glanceable manner. I can control the music on my smartphone (which I often use to stream music in the car) from my wrist. And there are a few, select apps that should exist on my wrist: weather, Foursquare, Yelp, and Evernote for snippets of information. Not to mention, it’s gorgeous. Outside that, I don’t expect or seek much else out of my watch.
There is, however, one thing on the horizon which could turn me. One thing. This thing has been sparsely rumored for months, without a whole lot of useful information. This thing would, theoretically, bring the one functionality I’m missing in any smartwatch, that nothing currently on the market is properly capable of: Google Now.
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about Google’s alleged smartwatch. We don’t know a lot about it. In fact, we know next to nothing about it, and I like it that way. Shock and awe, as they say.
This afternoon, that shock and awe was delivered to me via RSS on a silver platter. My day took a crazy, unexpected twist. As I was writing this very editorial, Google made it’s new wearable software official. Android Wear. Essentially, it’s a new Android interface, specifically designed for smaller, wearable displays, with a new notification API. Android Wear brings all the power and awesome features of Google Now directly to your wrist.
And which manufacturers are on board? According to the official Google blog, Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung are working with Google, and chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek, and Qualcomm are on the card, as well.
Shortly thereafter, Motorola officially confirmed what will seemingly be the first Android Wear device: Moto 360. It appears to be a smartwatch with a more traditional, round face, yet it’s digital with Google Now integration. Speaking the now-standard “Ok, Google” will queue up a voice search, and the watch, seemingly, will deliver the usual juicy goodness from Google directly to your wrist: what time to leave to make your next appointment, package shipment details, sports scores, weather, travel times to the places you frequent, stocks, nearby events, and much more. Gestures and voice seem to be the navigation methods of Moto 360.
As much as I loved Pebble Steel and enjoy my original Pebble, I can’t deny that I’d love to have a dedicated Google Now notifier on my wrist. And Android Wear has completely changed my day and my outlook on the Pebble Steel I won’t receive for another month and a half, at the earliest.
I use Google Now each and every day. It has become a routine to check Google Now, just to see if anything has come up, what the current status of things are, or if I’ve forgotten anything. Having that service and those automated bits of information tethered to my wrist seems like the natural progression of wearables as a whole, and I can’t think of a more organic or perfect location for Google Now. (Yes, the wrist is an infinitely more casual and intriguing tether location than your face, just above your right eye.)
Now my mouse is hovering over the compose button in my Gmail inbox to cancel my Pebble Steel order. I’m having buyer’s remorse and I haven’t even received my Pebble Steel yet, and the Moto 360, for all I know, won’t launch until the end of the year. I can wait.
Last February, I said, “The smartwatch I want doesn’t exist today, but it could.” That statement no longer holds water. Now that watch does exist, and I can’t wait to strap it to my wrist. Moto 360 and Android Wear just turned the wearable space on its head.