The smartphone has diminished the need for a traditional wristwatch, but a different breed of timepiece is edging its way back into the mobile ecosystem. Enter the smartwatch — a gadget that can forward notifications, alerts, messages and phone calls from the handset in your pocket to your wrist. The $150 Pebble isn’t just one of the first smartwatches to populate the genre, receiving record-breaking crowdfunding on Kickstarter and selling out of Best Buy stores upon launch, it’s the best device in its category thus far. But what makes the Pebble so special?
The Pebble is different from other smartwatches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear or Sony Smartwatch 2. It doesn’t run full apps; you can’t make or receive phone calls with it; and it features an e-paper display that only shows black and white. But what makes the Pebble innovative is its simplicity — it’s not trying to simulate the smartphone experience, but rather, it serves to enhance it.
“We developed the Pebble as a smartwatch that people could easily imagine using in their everyday life,” said Eric Migicovsky, founder and CEO of Pebble. “The wrist is a great place for wearable technology, since we’re already used to getting information from that part of our body. We’re just taking a classic behavior — wearing a watch — and making it smarter and more enjoyable with technology.”
Unlike most smartwatches, the Pebble’s robust community of third-party developers allows for more personal customization. For instance, you’re likely to find watch faces catered to your favorite band or video game characters, rather than just your typical Android-esque backdrop. More importantly, the Pebble is built on an open platform, meaning that literally anyone can build their own apps or watch faces if they desire to do so.
“A lot of people aren’t necessarily building these apps for other people to use," Migicovsky said. “They’re building a product that solves a problem for them in their everyday life, and it’s really awesome to see what people are creating.”
Simply put, the Pebble is a game changer because it’s the first smartwatch that made wearable tech appealing to the masses. Earlier models, such as the i’m Watch and Martian Watch, failed to gain as much traction with everyday consumers. And while the Galaxy Gear has a lot more features, such as voice calling and a camera, its high price and short battery life are turnoffs. The Pebble watch balances the right amount of features with a simplistic, sleek style.
“What we’ve shown with the Pebble is that when you have the right combination of cool features, that’s when people are going to care about smartwatches,” Migicovsky said.
That’s not to say the e-paper waterproof watch won’t face stiff competition. With major tech industry players like Apple, Google and Microsoft all rumored to be working on smartwatches of their own, the Pebble will surely have more formidable rivals than it did in 2013.
“Competition isn’t really new in the smartwatch space, but it seems like more people are entering every day,” Migicovsky said. “Now is the right time to be thinking about a smartwatch because the technology is there and the people are ready for it.”
Game Changer Award Winners 2013
SMARTPHONE: Motorola Moto X
The Moto X is the first smartphone that lets you perform voice commands without touching your device.
CAMERA: Nokia Lumia 1020
The Lumia 1020 packs a 41-megapixel sensor and lets you zoom in on photos after you take them.
TABLET: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
Amazon has reinvented tech support with the Mayday button on its new tablet.
GAMING: Oculus Rift
This jaw-dropping virtual reality gaming headset literally puts you inside the action.
WEARABLE TECH: Google Glass
A wearable breakthrough, Glass lets you snap pictures, get directions, speak to text and a whole lot more.
PC PERIPHERAL: Leap Motion
Leap Motion can read your hand gestures for doing everything from gaming to exploring the universe.
T-Mobile has shaken up the wireless world by nixing contracts and making phone upgrading easy.
Vine is a whole new way to communicate and tell stories via 6-second videos that are a cinch to share.
ENABLING TECHNOLOGY: Intel Bay Trail
Intel's powerful but efficient new CPU gives 2-in-1 tablets and laptops more speed and battery life.