I owned the Pebble Smart Watch – the great Kickstarter sensation of 2012 – for about 6 months before I sold it on eBay. I always like to try out new technologies, and this was no exception. I was thrilled when it was released and was excited to get my hands on it. I didn’t in fact back the original Kickstarter campaign, but I did pre-order one when they opened pre-orders in January 2012. However, my pre-order would not ship until about June/July, so I ended up buying one off Kijiji in March for about $200 – I know I overpaid, but I got the itch, and I had to play around with one.
It was exciting for the first 3-4 weeks, but after that the novelty wore off, and my interest in it began to steeply decline. In a world of retina screens, I just couldn’t get past the pixelated black and white display. It was like stepping back into the 1980’s – in my opinion the display was the number one deal breaker.
As for functionality, it was decent. My two most common uses of the device were to check my push notifications, and to control my music while at the gym. However, even though I used the device for these reasons, it by no means excelled in either of these areas. The problem with the push notifications was that, although it was very handy having them available at a glance, they weren’t enough – here’s why. When an important push notification comes in (SMS, iMessage, an important email, or a phone call), you MUST interact with your phone immediately, so the watch was just another cog in the wheel in this scenario – the only scenario in which it was good, was to know that a text wasn’t important (ttyl, thanks, etc.). Next, when a not-so-important push notification came in (sports scores, Instagram likes, etc.), you would look at your watch and see that – however, these types of notifications can certainly wait until the next time you pick up your phone for a few minutes – they definitely do not need to be on your wrist. I know you can control which ones show up – but if you only leave it to the important ones (SMS, iMessage, etc.), you will quickly realize that having only them on your watch is more of a pain than anything.
When it came to controlling my music, yes it was handy to be able to skip tracks back and forth, but my earbuds already have the same functionality. And when you want more control – again, you turn on your phone and start browsing through your playlists. The Pebble in this scenario is certainly not needed – more of a parlour trick than anything in my experience.
I’m not saying that all wrist borne technology will be failures in the future, but someone will have to come along and REALLY rethink the user experience, interaction methods, and usefulness of the device. It will also need a much nicer display to appeal to the mass market. Samsung is closer in this regard with their Samsung Galaxy Gear device, but still extremely far away from a useful wrist-borne device that truly enhances peoples lives.
If you are in the market for a smart watch, you might want to wait a year or two, as I feel anything produced in this category in 2014 and early 2015 will just lead to the same honeymoon phase, followed by a subsequent crash in interest.