Thursday marks my 7th day with my Apple Watch. There are enough great and detailed reviews, people poking fun, and downright haters out there that I don’t need to write a full review. What I want to share is the difference with my Apple Watch vs. my Pebble.
Admittedly I am a gadget geek. I like to buy things, understand what they have to offer and typically have more forgiveness for cutting edge things than the average person. This is partially why I don’t “review” things. I would just gush over them. When others find the worst, I am trying to find the best while forgiving the worst as an early adopter. I tend to like to see what things offer today and dream about the “What If” for tomorrow. This is just who I am. (and many of you are)
I was a proud owner of the original Pebble Watch (Kickstarter Edition). When I first saw the videos coming out about the Pebble, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I love the Pebble watch. It has been on my wrist mostly without fail since the day I got it.
The first thing I noticed about getting notifications on your wrist wasn’t how much better it was, but how it made me feel as if I was signaling people I had to leave, or they were boring me. If I pulled out my phone while we are talking, at least they knew I was being pro-actively rude. By looking at my wrist, I felt I was being passively rude. I didn’t like it. Plus, I couldn’t do anything, just look.
One of the key things I liked about the Pebble was the customization aspect. I was forever tinkering and trying out new watch faces. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the Pebble Watchface Generator
. I could easily upload my own images, those I found online, etc and make myself a new watch face. I made watch faces for special occasions, teams, etc. I made Seahawks watch faces, Napster Watch face when I was working there, and fun seasonal watch faces.
The battery life was amazing. I could go on a short business trip and not have to worry about charging. I could easily get 5-6 days on one charge. This was really helpful.
The New Pebble – Pebble Time
Once the new Pebble Time was announced, I started drooling. I knew about the Apple Watch, but was not 100% dug in to figure out all I could do there yet. I knew I loved my Pebble, maybe a Pebble Time was the right choice. I knew Apple wasn’t going to let us all do our own Watch Faces, and that was one thing I loved doing. I knew the battery was going to be better for an e-Ink display.
The microphone was also a big draw. Not being able to respond to messages was tough. It made the first Pebble more of a notifications remote viewer instead of something I could do much with. The idea of being able to respond to messages with a microphone, or dictate reminders; these things got me excited. So, I pulled the trigger and pre-ordered one.
Then… The Apple Watch
Once I pre-ordered, I really spent some time thinking about the two watches. What would I get with the Apple Watch if I chose to go that way instead? I already know I am an iOS Fanboy. Trust me, working in mobile for more than 15 years as both a developer and product manager, I’ve had my share of Phones. I have always tried to have at least the latest iPhone and Best Android phone on the market every year. Many times I have had 2-3 Android phones as part of my job. I still currently have a Moto-X and iPhone 6 Plus.
Seriously, have you seen the Apple Watch screen? It is amazing. Once I really started comparing The Pebble Time and Apple Watch, I knew I was feeling a bit jealous of the bright screen. Even at the expense of the battery, I was jealous. I figured, hey.. I charge my phone every night, why not just charge my watch too. (I can justify about anything in my mind when it comes to gadgets)
The next thing I started reading about was the challenges for Pebble when it came to the Microphone, iOS integration and what apps would work with the Mic. It started to feel like on iOS, Pebble Time was going to have more challenges ahead of them. For all the things I love about Apple, the closed ecosystem comes at a price. If they were going to build a watch, it would have the best iOS integration of any watch. I was sure of it. Did I want to bite off a sub-par experience for daily interaction for custom watch faces and battery? Was this my tradeoff?
What I have learned I like so far
Turns out that the integration with iOS is amazing for Apple Watch. The new Siri is far better than before. I have always liked Google’s Voice speech to text much better than Apple’s. I think with this new version, they are appearing to be closer to On Par with each other. I have also loved having the interactive notifications. Quick replies need some work, but have come in handy. (far too often I sound like a terse jerk responding, I need to tweak these) I also think Siri responses are a bit awkward at first, but I will use them often I think.
Glances have been a big surprise. I am liking the way a lot of these work. My goal is to keep these small in numbers and useful. I don’t want to over-do it. This would likely take the usefulness away if I had too many.
I have also liked having apps that do things. My most-used app on my Pebble was my fake Starbucks app. On my Apple Watch, my favorites apps so far include:
- Maps – walking turn by turn is actually fantastic
- Omnifocus – makes it easier to tick things off quickly once reminded
- Overcast – quick easy access to pick up where I left off
- Calendar – a much better micro-view into my day
- Drafts – still the fastest way to capture some quick idea
What I don’t like so far
One of the biggest annoyances so far is the fact my watch has to be laid down on a table to be charged on some goofy puck. I am already in line for a Night Stand by ElevationLab. I love this. Why couldn’t Apple have taken some of the money the spent on that useless, plastic box this came in and given me a nice stand? That would go along much better with the $600 price I paid.
The Layout engine for apps is annoying. David Sparks intentionally does not call it the “Home Screen”, and I agree. The Watchface is home. The Apps are on a different screen that looks quite pretty, but functionally sucks. How do you organize this? Well simple, you drag your icons around to be near each other by category. In practical life, the auto layout component perpetually screws up what you are trying to do and it takes FAR too much fiddling to get what you want.
How to fix the App Screen? Turn off that damn auto-layout engine and let me place icons where I want. Let me cluster icons together into my own world-map of categorization. Let me separate icon clusters into their own continents. Let me pinch and zoom in and out to the items I need by cluster. If you want to get clever Apple, if I touch a cluster while zoomed out, snap to that cluster and zoom in… but don’t make me fiddle so much.
My Current Layout
Another thing I don’t care for is only having 12 friends. Seriously, is there no other way to send someone a digital touch unless they are in that group? No, I don’t have 12 friends with Apple Watches, but the ones who do are not necessarily the ones I want to communicate with all the time. Can we just make that work from the normal contacts on your watch? It’s as if 2 different groups built those out and didn’t talk to each other.
Yes, I am still a fan-boy. Yes, I love my watch. Yes, there are issues.. but overall, I am happy with my purchase. I like seeing where this is going. I know this is only V1 and it will change over time, but I like to be one of the people who try this out and collectively we help shape what will be an amazing market. No we don’t have direct influence at Apple, but we do have a voice, and hopefully people do listen.
I am happy with my choice and have since cancelled my pre-order for Pebble Time. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. For all the challenges a restricted ecosystem imposes on others, and the compromises that get made to accommodate Apple in these cases, Apple has a distinct advantage.. With their ability to go around those restrictions, and build to order, they end up with the most functional Smartwatch I’ve seen or used. It’s one of my favorite gadgets I’ve ever had. And yes, I will get V2.
Some good reading