As of July 2013, Pebble reports to have shipped more than 93,000 Pebble Smartwatches to customers in more than 150 countries. Meanwhile, the company continues to update the Pebble’s operating system, making new capabilities available to third-party app developers and watch wearers alike.
In early August, a free update to the Pebble iOS provided compatibility with the iPhone/iPad’s Notification feature. Thus, anytime a notification is generated by the Mail app of an iOS mobile device, that notification can be displayed on the Pebble’s screen. Similar functionality is also available to Android Smartphone users.
At the Pebble headquarters in Palo Alto, California, the company recently hosted its first-ever Pebble Developer Retreat, which was attended by third-party developers interested in creating apps for the Pebble Smartwatch. The app development community has rallied behind the $150.00 Pebble Smartwatch, and in the weeks and months to come, many innovative apps will be released to the public, some of which will be free, while others will need to be purchased.
Even though rumors are circulating that Apple will soon be announcing its own smartwatch to be released in 2014, and a Galaxy Gear smartwatch from Samsung was announced on September 4th, the Pebble Smartwatch continues to capture the attention of iPhone and iPad users.
Currently, the Pebble watch is capable of wireless communication with an iPhone via Bluetooth. Once the connection is established, information about emails, text messages, incoming phone calls, and other app-specific data from the iPhone can be automatically transmitted to the watch’s screen. This is functionality that’s built into the watch, and no additional apps are required.
However, like the iPhone, the Pebble watch is capable of running apps that can greatly expand its built-in features and functions, and allow it to handle a wider range of tasks independently from or in conjunction with an iOS mobile device. Plus, depending on how a Pebble watch app is designed, in addition to displaying information generated by an iOS mobile device, it can be used to collect data and then transmit that information to an iOS mobile device, where it can ultimately be utilized by a separate app running on an iPhone, for example.
To learn more about the Pebble Smartwatch, visit www.GetPebble.com, where you can follow links to third-party app developers and independently-operated online app stores that sell downloadable Pebble apps.
Five Pebble Apps Worth Checking Out Right Now
Third-party app developers are only first getting started developing cutting-edge Pebble apps. However, available right now is a collection of useful apps that are worth installing onto the Smartwatch, some of which are covered in the following sections.
Watchface Generator (Free)
The Watchface Generator is really an online-based app that allows anyone to custom create a watchface for their Pebble, and then transmit that watchface to their watch with absolutely no programming required.
To create a custom watchface from your computer’s web browser, visit www.watchface-generator.de and follow the step-by-step process. The first step is to select a background color for your custom watchface. Choose black or white. However, the cool part about this online app is that instead of a solid background, you can upload a background image, which can be any digital photo. You will, however, want to make sure that the image translates well when it’s converted into black and white, and then shrunk down to fit on the Pebble’s display.
Next, it’s possible to choose whether or not you want to display analog watch hands within your watchface, and if so, what they’ll look like. Then, determine if you want a digital clock displayed as part of the watchface. This too can be customized in a variety of ways. For example, you can choose the font, font color (black or white), font size, and position of the digital click within the watchface.
As you work your way through this online app, you’re prompted to select whether or not the current date should be displayed, and if so, how the date will be formatted. Then, it’s possible to add up to four lines of static text to the watchface (also in the font, font size and font color of your choice). For example, you can include your name or a meaningful (albeit short) quotation.
When the watchface design process is completed, give the file a unique name, and then click on the Create Watchface button so that the online app can compile your watchface design. Once this process is done, a unique QR-code will be displayed on the computer screen. Using your iPhone’s camera and a specialized app, such as ScanLife, scan this code, or manually enter the website URL that’s also displayed into Safari on your iPhone.
A preview of your newly designed watchface will be displayed on your iPhone’s screen. Tap on the Download button (on your iPhone) to continue. An icon representing the downloaded file will be displayed. In the top-right corner of the iPhone’s screen, you’ll see the message Open In Pebble. Tap on this. Your new watchface will be loaded into the official Pebble app that’s already installed on your iPhone.
Assuming a Bluetooth connection between your iPhone and the Pebble is automatically established, the new watchface will transfer automatically from your Smartphone to the watch. Scroll through the installed watchfaces on the watch to select and display the newly created one.
Using this free online-based Watchface Generator, it’s possible to create as many custom watchfaces for your Pebble as you desire. The process takes between three to five minutes each, and what’s possible is limited mainly by your own creativity.
FreeCaddie/FreeCaddie Pro ($5.99)
FreeCaddie is an iPhone app (available from the App Store) that includes a Pebble watch app component built in by default. This free app works on more than 25,000 golf courses around the world, so if you’re an avid golfer, chances are it will be useful to you. To access a database of compatible golf courses, visit http://www.freecaddie.com/CourseEditor/View.aspx.
Instead of having to use your iPhone in order to view your current distance to the green, for example, this information can be displayed on your wrist. While a free version of the app is available, the FreeCaddie Pro version is priced at $5.99. The Pro version offers additional distances between points, such as hazards and bunkers, on the compatible courses, plus helps you measure the distance of your shots, for example.
When you’re on a golf course, this app will automatically calculate and display the distance to the front, center and back of every green. It’s also possible to preview every hole on the Pebble’s screen, plus pan the map to view the distance to any point on the hole.
Another function built into the app is the ability to track your score and statistics, and then upload the information after the game to Freecaddie.com, so that you can analyze your game.
If golf isn’t your sport, perhaps you prefer walking, running or jogging to stay in shape. For this, the RunKeeper app is at your disposal. The app has built in GPS tracking (via your iPhone), so you can track the progress of your run, but display details on the Pebble’s screen. Thus, while the iPhone is actually working during your run, it can be kept in a pocket, out of sight.
As the RunKeeper app works, it continuously displays important information, such as your speed, average pace, distance, and elapsed time. This free app is available from the App Store. Once it’s downloaded and running on your iPhone, it links to your Pebble and displays relevant information on the watch as you’re walking, jogging, running, or cycling.
This iPhone app is currently in use by more than 20 million people. It’s only recently, however, that Pebble compatibility has been incorporated into the app. When used with optional sensors (which link to the iPhone), the RunKeeper app can monitor your heart rate. A handful of app upgrades (in the form of paid in-app purchases) are available that dramatically expand the capabilities of this app, transforming it into more of a long-term personal training tool that allows you to set workout goals and track your progress.
7-Minute Workout (Free)
This is a native Pebble app that uses animated graphics and text to guide you through a series of seven minute workouts that incorporate a dozen different exercises that require no special workout equipment except for a wall and a chair. The animated graphics featured within this watch app depict a person demonstrating each exercise and guiding you through it to help you maintain a pre-determined pace.
Each workout takes you through a dozen exercises (for 30 seconds each), with a ten second break between each. However, using the buttons built into the watch, you can advance through exercises or return to others, restart your workout, or pause it. The watch’s vibration feature is used to indicate when to switch exercises or change sides, for example.
Because this is a Pebble app, it must first be downloaded to an iPhone, and then transferred to the watch using the official Pebble app. The easiest way to locate this app is to launch the official Pebble app, tap on the gear-shaped icon, tap on the Discover Pebble button, and then scroll down to the 7-Minute Workout app listing.
PebbleBarn.com Offers Pebblets ($1.99) and More
This handy little Pebble app is available from PebbleBarn.com (an independent, online-based app store). Pebblets is one app with six different functions (all controllable from the Pebble watch), including: Calendar, Calculator, Stopwatch, Timezones, Gametime (Score Keeper), and Countdown Timer.
Also available from PebbleBarn.com is the free Pebble Snap app, which serves as a wireless remote control for the iPhone’s built in camera (when used with the Camera app). The free myBucketz app allows you to view the most recent 10 posts from your Twitter and/or Facebook feed on your Pebble’s screen.
While productivity apps remain scarce on independent websites, like PebbleBarn.com, what are readily available are pre-created watchfaces, some of which display the time, date, and temperature, or other time-sensitive data, like stock prices.
A growing assortment of simple games, which are reminiscent of original Nintendo handheld Game Boy games with a small black and white screen, are available. For example, there’s the $0.99 Hangman game. It offers an entertaining diversion for short amounts of time, but not the game play value of an iPhone game, like Words with Friends.