In which I like things

You knew this already: I bought a Pebble smartwatch, intending to let it and the Fitbit Force battle it out for wrist supremacy and then to decide to keep one of them. The battle was swift and decisive; the Pebble won.

Here is what a Pebble does: 1) It is a watch, which displays the date. It has a variety of watch faces that you can choose from or switch on the fly by pushing a button. This last feature is pointless but kind of fun. 2) It has a backlight activated by an accelerometer; I flick my wrist and the backlight comes on. The time is displayed constantly, like a regular watch, unlike on the Fitbit, where you have to push a button to get the time to display. 3) It does silent vibrating alarms; in this it is more or less exactly like the Fitbit. Implementation for this is better (you can do it from the watch instead of having to use a separate app) but it’s still kinda gimped; unlike the Fitbit, however, the Pebble people are aware that their alarm is gimped and are vocally and repeatedly promising to fix it up soon. 4) When I get a notification on my phone, I get a vibration on my wrist and the notification displayed. In the case of text messages, it generally displays the whole thing; everything else is truncated a bit.

I cannot really express how much I enjoy these latter two features, folks. I don’t like alarms in general; I don’t like being woken up by loud noise and my phone beeping constantly gets on my nerves. Now, I’m fully aware that I could just keep my phone on silent and check it periodically (or, God forbid, ignore it) but I’m a bit too tied into my little digital world for that. Silent wrist alarms are perfect– my phone hasn’t made a sound since I put this thing on, because I put it on silent and am relying instead on all my alerts getting piped to my wrist. It’s subtle and me “checking my phone” is no longer as disruptive to things going on around me as pulling my phone out might be. I love it. The only way it could be better is if it had a microphone built in so that I could do voice texts as responses.

Two more things, actually: it also has 5) apps (supposedly; I haven’t actually checked this feature out) and 6) it can remote-control all the music apps on my phone– which sounded useless at first but comes in surprisingly handy when I’m driving; I can check my wrist to see what song is playing (much less disruptive than looking at the phone) and I can pause when I want to, which is actually easier than fiddling with the volume button on my dashboard.

Drawbacks: it’s clearly first-gen tech in a couple of ways; the display isn’t great (but the battery life is) and it’s dropped connection with my phone once in the couple of weeks I’ve had it, for no clear reason. They make a big deal about watch apps; they don’t seem terribly useful or I’d have downloaded it by now. And I had thought it was capable of duplicating the functionality of the Fitbit– counting steps and sleep tracking– and it doesn’t, at least not without one of those apps I haven’t downloaded yet.

That said? Once I figured out that I walk a good 8000-9000 steps a day during the week (about 3.5-4 miles, if I remember right) and substantially less than that on the weekends, the Force kinda stopped being useful. If I want to walk more, I need to… walk more. I’ve got a baseline, which is useful, but beyond that it’s not good for much. Sleep tracking, too, is neat at first until you realize that you already know how much sleep you get or don’t get and quantifying that isn’t terribly helpful.

Winner: Pebble. No damn contest.

Also: I hooked up the PS3 yesterday, and The Last of Us, or at least the first couple of hours of it, is fucking amazing; if it keeps up this level of excellence it will be easily worth the cost of the system. Since I also got a code for a free month of PlayStation Plus, and can therefore get Shadows of the Colossus for free (I’ve never played it; something I’ve been wanting to fix for years) I think I can safely feel good about this purchase even before getting to the Batman game, which I won’t like as much as many others have but will be well worth the initial cost of free.

See, I’m not negative all the time!

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

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