With the arrival of the Apple Watch, it is clear that the smartwatch landscape has changed. Widely touted as Apple’s most personal computer, its integration and ability to sync completely with iOS looks to be the most appealing feature. Ways to interact with your phone and vice versa are becoming popular, practical uses like fitness tracking, call handling, controlling your TV and other devices remotely, even store payments.
Swapping watch-bands and watch-faces are features of course, especially with Apple’s emphasis that their product is “Jewellery”. For the upcoming 18 Carat Gold Apple Watch Edition, Apple is apparently introducing new actions to create an approach closer to that of traditional jewellery stores.One could see how Apple is really working above-and-beyond to push the Apple Watch to ‘Apple-Style’ success.
The reviews have also been coming up fast. Critical opinions from the tech sites like CNET and The Verge have been mostly favourable for the Apple Watch. However, a few complaints have surfaced: poor battery life, a confusing interface, and most notably lag and slowdown within third-party watch apps. Some sites like Fortune are putting these issues in better light, but, at the end of the day, the Apple Watch is largely a modern-day archetype of the one-day-one-charge smartwatch product pioneered by Android Wear offerings like the Moto 360, the closest thing to a smartwatch regarded as “Jewellery”, but with an overwhelming list of new functions.
Things should look bleak for Pebble
But whether you cared for the Pebble Smartwatch, it was the one product that brought the very concept of a Smartwatch to the mainstream. It sold over 1 million units, and became the top selling watch on Amazon. It was the device that popularized actionable notifications, third-party applications and the ability to control aspects of your smartphone.
Pebble CEO, Eric Migicovsky, when explaining about the company’s vision as a Smartwatch player, put it best when he said: “Apple is saying we are going to build a high-fashion super-luxury smartwatch. And then Pebble which is saying it’s a watch but it’s a really useful watch that runs apps, it lets you hack on it, it lets you customize it, but in reality it’s just a damned good watch.”
The point is that many “pundits” have pegged the Apple Watch to be the real Smartwatch conversation topic these days, but how can everyone be ignoring Pebble this quickly?
Of course, technology improves substantially faster than most other industries, but one could infer that the general public may have been taking too quickly into Apple Watch hype, its seemingly unstoppable package of features and the full-colour display that looks like a mini-smartphone display. Pebble has an e-ink display that never goes beyond black-and-white. And that makes Pebble watch-faces too much like Game-Boy display motifs to some.
But few remember that Pebble actually paved the way for apps on watches, and it never lost a step in terms of app functionality, despite a stubbornness to do a product with seemingly less aesthetic sophistication.
But look closer, Pebble still leads the race
If you factor in the over-6500 third-party Pebble app ecosystem that is still leading the industry and the over-26,000 developer base, Pebble has never been more robust. And let’s not forget the ability to use a Pebble on both iOS and Android with exclusive apps for both, and the highly-practical one-week long battery life (forget about an Apple Watch ever lasting over two days in battery life).
If Migicovsky, himself, expresses little concern about the competition, there is no doubt that the future’s still bright for the Smartwatch pioneer. Moreover, there is no sign that they are steering away from their original design philosophies at the cusp of releasing Pebble Time, the impending release from the company with the much-awaited colour display.
Pandering to the competition seems tempting in the face of mobile giants like Apple but Pebble isn’t going to do it. The Pebble Time isn’t going to become an independent computer-on-your-wrist like Apple Watch, but Pebble Time will blend seamlessly into your life as good technology often does.
And Pebble Time will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015
To go a completely radical direction from the supposed ‘leaders’ while staying true to a company’s identity means that Pebble must have been doing things right from the start. And no one can ignore that they haven’t, if you look at its established user-base still giving their Pebble watches daily use. It puts emphasis that Pebble is, in truth, still a formidable Smartwatch in this industry. With Pebble Time, what Pebble is saying to this industry is perhaps this: “Despite your more polished apps and sophistication, we still know how to make a solid smartwatch better than you.”
Pebble Time will feature the same seven-day battery life and water resistance of the original Pebble and Pebble Steel (and there will definitely be a ‘Steel’ version of Pebble Time in the coming months as well), despite a 64 colour e-ink display with no touch capability, which in all respects should fall shy of the interactive AMOLED screens of Apple watches. But people are still going to love the selling points of longevity, economy, simplicity and breadth.
PC World even came out saying “The colour e-paper display was also much more appealing than (I) expected, with easy-to-read black text on saturated yellow, red, and blue backgrounds. It certainly isn’t retina, but it does the job.”
People citing how Pebble Time isn’t innovating are also proven wrong. Pebble Time’s new “Smart straps” will be modular additions of location trackers, heart rate monitors and whatever future innovators can conceive, and an ingenious Timeline feature will put your notifications in a chronological order that maximizes intuitiveness. It’s going to introduce its version of voice control into the mix as well, with an in-built microphone, to do simple and yet essential tasks like quick replies. On top of all that, it’s still going to feel tremendously ‘Pebble’.
There is more innovation in the Smartwatch market yet
Pebble is essentially saying that there’s still room for simplicity in the Smartwatch industry, and whether anyone agrees or not with that notion is probably besides the question. The fact that Pebble is still differentiating as a player in the Smartwatch market means that there’s room for more than just Apple. This is concrete proof that there’s still yet more ground to break, and only time can tell who comes out on top in the actual sales numbers. Regardless of the outcome, however, the competition is going to be fun to watch.
The article is guest-contributed by Jeremy, tech Writer at ShopBack.sg. He is an avid tech fan, and regularly optimizes his precious Oneplus One. Follow him on Twitter at @Speedygi81 for other interesting stories and projects!