SmartWatch+ improves the Pebble smartwatch experience

Summary:A new iOS app adds functionality to the wildly successful but less-than-useful Pebble.

I'll start by saying I love the wearable computer trend and it's definitely going to take off. It's just a matter of time. I loved the iPod-as-a-watch phenomenon from 2011 and was one of the first backers of the Lunatik watchband for the iPod nano in late 2010. I've worn just about every iPod I've owned (dating back to the original from 2007) either on an armband or on some kind of clip. 

iPod armband - Jason O'Grady

While its obvious that the smartphone is new "wearable" computer, I want something smaller. I want to be able to glance at something small and get little snippets of data that I choose. I also want to be alerted with a small vibration when something important happens. Which is why I love (in theory anyway) the Pebble smartwatch. 

Again, I was one of the first people to back the original Kickstarter project, because I want a data device that's smaller than my iPhone. The problem is that the first manifestation of the Pebble smartwatch is less than stellar. In my Pebble review from March of 2013 I summed it up like this:

Overall, Pebble feels like a pre-alpha project at best on iOS. It works with some notifications, some of the time, but never with others... But definitely steer clear if you're expecting anything more than a novelty that you can experiment with once in a while.

Pebble took a big leap forward in November when it introduced iOS 7 notifications and Pebble SDK 2.0 and again this month with the Pebble appstore, which is slated to debut by the "end of January." Both huge announcements, but the current Pebble iteration still feels a little, well, novel.

My Kickstarter Edition Pebble won't charge (unless I bind the charging cable to my Pebble with an extremely tight rubber band), notifications are somewhat intermittent (at best), and battery life isn't great (a couple of days if I'm lucky) but my Pebble has notified me of important phone calls when my iPhone was on mute (but my wrist starting vibrating) and I love glancing down at my wrist to scan text messages instead of whipping out my iPhone every 10 seconds.

The main SmartWatch+ UI - Jason O'Grady

While you're waiting for the Pebble appstore to go live, I've got an app that will make the Pebble you have today at least twice as useful. Robert Hesse's SmartWatch+ for Pebble ($2.99, App Store) is a great companion app that puts more information on the Pebble's small screen.

After installing it on your iPhone just touch the buttons for Install SmartWatch+ and Install SmartStatus and select "Pebble" from the Open in... screen. After both apps are installed on your Pebble, select SmartStatus from the main Pebble watch UI and your watch face morphs into a useful splitscreen that displays the time, weather and appointments. Why couldn't Pebble do that?!

It's not perfect, but when it's working, it's brilliant. It's extremely convenient to be able to glance at your wrist and see the weather, battery status, your next appointment and the time. The third row is set to display appointments by default and you can click Pebble's right bottom button to scroll between them.

Currently, there are 11 screens available in Smartwatch+ including Status, Weather, Calendar, Reminders, Find My Phone, HTTP Request, Music, Camera, Bitcoin, Stocks and GPS. Like I said, it's not the easiest thing to set up (nor very intuitive, but when SmartWatch+ running I actually want to wear my Pebble again. 

SmartWatch+ improves the Pebble smartwatch experience - Jason O'Grady
SmartWatch+ weather screen - Jason O'Grady
SmartWatch+ stock screen - Jason O'Grady

The film in the above photos is a Carbon Series skin from SlickWraps ($9 plus $4 S&H). 

Further Reading

Topics: Apple

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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