Essays on Technology and Culture

Why I Put My Smartwatch In a Drawer

Last night, I put my Pebble in a drawer for good, or at least until the 3.0 firmware comes out. Yes, I said that I’d stopped using my Pebble back in March, but I came back to use the Pebble as a fitness tracker along with its smartwatch functionality. With the Jawbone UP watch face and Morpheuz for sleep tracking, I replicated the functionality of my clip-on fitness tracker, and had one less thing to worry about losing. While it wasn’t perfect, it was functional enough, and I got all the benefits of notification triage on my wrist to boot.

Then it stopped working. The Jawbone UP Pebble app isn’t known for being the most reliable piece of software, but having a day where it erronously reported 12,000 steps from a little after midnight when I was sound asleep was a bad sign. Another day, I forgot to reactivate the Pebble’s tracker after waking up and quitting Morpheus, losing step counts. As the numbers on my wrist became increasingly divergent from to the numbers in the App, I decided to go back to the clip-on tracker. This was the first nail in the Pebble’s coffin.

I kept using Morpheuz to track sleep, especially since I like having the Pebble vibrate to wake me. Then, the iOS 8.3 update broke the already fairly janky method by which Morpheuz syncs sleep data with HealthKit, by way of the Smartwatch Pro iOS app. Since my Jawbone UP Move tracks sleep too, I went back to using it for that too. I could have clipped it on to my Pebble’s watch band—I had before—but I hated the whole idea of clipping a fitness tracker to a fitness tracker to make up for the other’s software failings. The Pebble had to go.

Before I made the final decision, I spent some time trying to find a new role for my Pebble beyond just notifications. I tore through the Pebble App store and searched for guides to the best Pebble apps for iOS… only to give up, rip the device from my wrist, run a factory reset, shut it off, and shove it into a drawer. I might pull it back out once the new Timeline interface is available, but it would be more for curiosity’s sake than any interest in using the Pebble full-time again.

Back in March, I finished up my original Pebble experiment with the following conclusion:

The goal of my experiment was to see if my skepticism on smartwatches was justified. That such a limited device was enough to prove me wrong is success enough. Itís a shame the Pebble doesnít succeed for me as an iOS user, but thatís the risk I took.

I’m still glad that I tried the Pebble. There’s a ton of potential in the smartwatch form factor that I didn’t even think about before trying one. That alone was worth $99, plus a couple bucks for a replacement strap. When I can afford an Apple Watch, I’ll pick one up with no hesitation, and I’m eyeing the possibility of Android Wear coming to iOS, I might try a LG G Watch for a while in a similar experiment. So much of the doubt about smartwatches from otherwise really smart people comes from the difficulty of understanding it without using it first. If you’re not dead set on being a skeptic, the orignal Pebble is a good way to find out if you’re right.