Pebble, the Kickstarter record-breaker project that has received over $7m in micro-funding, is a ‘smart watch’ that talks to iOS and Android devices, and RunKeeper just became their first app partner.
RunKeeper have announced that they will be supporting the new smart watch with full integration, something we know will be well received by Pebble fans who have been asking for this in the forums.
What impact could the Pebble watch have on the competitive sports watch marketplace, and why might this be a watershed moment for wearable technology?
Pebble has already set records. The most-funded Kickstarter project ever, the team behind the ‘smart watch’ originally wanted to raise $100,000 to bring their device to the masses. They couldn’t have imagined the incredible response to their project, probably fueled by both a great product history (they are the team behind the InPulse watch for Blackberry devices) and the excellent promotional video [below].
With a single unit ‘selling’ for around $115, the current investment level tells us that sometime in September 2012, over 61,000 Pebble watches will make their way to ‘backers’ of the project and no doubt the team has plans to get the unit into retail sales soon after. In anyone’s language, that’s a pretty impressive starting point for a very niche product.
The ‘smart watch’ marketplace has had a boost recently. Nike worked with TomTom to produce a GPS watch that works with the Nike+ tracker system to provide real-time updates on pace, distance and other key facts for runners. Motorola entered the market recently too with the MotoActv, a tracking device that includes an MP3 player and that sports a set of optional headphones that also measure heart-rate.
But Pebble could upset them all. By having its own set of downloadable apps available, and by providing the programming interface free of charge to developers, it is conceivable that anyone could interface with the Pebble to provide useful sports and fitness details. Now that we know RunKeeper are on board, the scene is set for dozens of other popular apps to work with the Pebble team too.
The high level of funding has allowed the makers to waterproof the unit to ‘at least’ 1ATM, which typically means that the it will be resistant to water pressure at a depth of 33 feet (10 meters). That opens up the possibility that swimming apps could be made available. The MotoActv is not able to match that, being ‘shower proof’ as opposed to properly resistant. Nike’s SportWatch is fine for use while swimming, being resistant to 50 meters.
Battery life will also be an interesting point of comparison. Many smart watch owners complain that their devices run out of juice far too quickly, and that constant recharging holds them back from getting the best out of their wearable tech. Because Pebble uses an e-paper display, similar to the technology used in the Amazon Kindle but much more advanced (it is able to handle animations, for example), the rechargeable battery will last seven days before it needs to be plugged in again.
One word of warning though. While Pebble does include a gyroscope/accelerometer and can provide some tracking data itself, it relies on a connection with your smartphone for GPS data. That does slightly limit the device, since your phone will need to be in range and connected to get all the data required for some sporting activities.
However, as you can see in the video, Pebble is able to be connected to a bike to act as a computer for your favourite peddle-powered mode of transport. They are also working with a golf course information company to allow you to use Pebble as a rangefinder on over 25,000 courses worldwide.
We’ll be reviewing Pebble in full later in the year, soon after launch.