I misplaced my charging cable. For a year. No really. I put the thing in a drawstring bag, stuffed it into the back of a drawer, and forgot where I’d put it… for a year.
Needless to say the Pebble ran out of charge a few days later, I set it on my nightstand, and well… not much changed, except that I didn’t wear my Pebble for a long time.
Last week I was looking for something else entirely, an adapter for my camera or something, digging though the back of a drawer, and suddenly there was my Pebble charging cable in my hand. Just there. I figured it might turn up, but then you can’t plan these things, can you? I charged the watch, connected it to my phone, and patiently waited as a small incremental update came through. Click. Connected.
Same old watch. Meh. That’s fine. And I went about my day with my same old watch on my wrist thinking that I’d give the watch another chance.
But then on Monday, what seemed to be out of the blue, at least for a guy who hadn’t been paying attention for well over a year, there was suddenly another update: New iPhone app and a BIG multi-download firmware update. “Please make sure your watch is charging.” it told me. Ok, fine. I’ll play along. I’d been back to wearing the thing for three days –if that– and suddenly here was yet another big update. What now?
Click. Load. Reboot.
Not the same old watch.
Pebble Version 3.0 had arrived.
I’d bought my Pebble on the original Kickstarter campaign. I’d waited patiently for it to arrive for what seemed like a year. It might have been a year. It probably was something close to a year. You don’t sign up to a Kickstarter campaign expecting overnight delivery of that ineffable product for which you just shelled out a couple hundred dollars.
I’ll be honest. It wasn’t all that I’d hoped and dreamed it would be when it first arrived in the mail. It was pretty good. Notifications from my phone. Buzz. You have a meeting. Buzz. Someone emailed you. Buzz. Incoming phone call. But ninety-percent of the time I have my phone in my pocket anyhow, so… the wrist buzz was just another buzz.
I played around with some of the other features, loaded some little apps that turned out to be pretty useless (unless I wanted to know the weather every five minutes) and wore it because, well, I paid enough and waited long enough and dammit I was going to wear it.
Apple Watch came along and it was the same deal. Three times the price and a nicer screen, sure, but I’d been down that whole smartwatch adventure. I don’t think I’d even considered one at this point, seriously. And in truth the best watch I own is smart enough… and it connects to a satellite and tells me how fast I’m running.
But I digress.
So I had been back to wearing my Pebble for three days when this new update came. Whatever, right? I was getting notifications. I was flipping between groovy watch faces. I was telling time and being all modern in bright orange bevel-faced style.
Then here’s the thing. You know when something that is almost good gets a few tweaks, and those tweaks seem minor and inconsequential, and you say to yourself “that’s not going to change things…” but then it does? Somehow. A tweak just… tweaks the experience. The purpose of it is a bit clearer. The usefulness crosses a line of actually being useful. You know when that happens? That’s kinda how I feel about the firmware update, so far at least.
Firmware 3.0 is mostly just tweaks. I mean, I’m sure it’s a complete and fundamental overhaul, but from my perspective, as a user (and a slightly disillusioned one at that) it’s all just tweaks. After all, you can only change a watch so much, right. Some prettier icons, a few different behaviors for buttons, this thing called a timeline. Tweaks.
But those tweaks, I think, add up to an important philosophical shift: less emphasis on funny watch faces, obsessively checking the weather, and playing pong on your wrist — and more emphasis on being a smart, y’know… watch. Telling me the time. Telling me my schedule. Telling me what’s going on right now. Pinging me with things I care about in a given instant not trying to replace features of my phone or my computer. Just being a watch, but better.
I’m not saying I’m completely sold on the smartwatch revolution… not quite yet. I’m not saying that if my charging cable happens to go missing (again) that I’ll pull out all the stops to find or replace it. I’m not saying go buy a smartwatch. But I have one, and less than a week after it found its way back to my arm I seem to have found another excuse to try and keep it there.