Can the Pebble replace both my Motoactv/MetaWatch + Sony SmartWatch?

Update Jan 2013 – See this Post for an update on the Pebble and Augmented SmartWatch Pro (including Whatsapp support)!

Updated June 3rd to reflect recent software updates for the Sony Smart Watch and my recent Motorola Motoactv use.

My current daily watches is now the Motoactv and the Sony SmartWatch. The MetaWatch is a backup and will be used when travelling.

As I hinted at before, I used to wear two smart watches at a time, the MetaWatch and the Sony SmartWatch since they each currently provide unique, useful use cases.

The dramatic Pebble introduction on kickstarter this past week has the promise of the future and the potential to replace most of the use cases of both of my current daily smartwatches.

I don’t ever see myself using just the Sony SmartWatch, since the screen is normally off and needs to be tapped twice to show something (presumably to conserve on battery life). This is inherently a show-stopper for discrete notification viewing which is a key benefit of smartwatches (i.e. the ability to be informed when it is socially awkward to be using a smartphone – of course one needs to be sensitive to not offend others by obvious and continuous glancing at one’s watch :))

  • Update June 3rd: I have written an app which turns the display off and “listens” for notifications. Upon receiving a notification it will automatically display it on the Sony for a few seconds, vibrate the watch, then resume to prior state (typically display off). This seems to work quite well – however battery use is still being analyzed. The inspiration for doing this were the two new watch faces that Sony recently provided in their recent update this past week. The only (but big) restriction is that this app would only work when “running”. So if one is using other apps on the Sony watch, then this app would not be “active”. For my use cases, this is an OK restriction to have.

However, the always-on nature of the Pebble could allow it to replace my MetaWatch (and possibly my Sony SmartWatch). From the video and comments, the only thing I would not get from my current MetaWatch/Sony combination could be:

  • Color display; and
  • Touch Screen.
Quick summary of Motoactv:
  • Frequent software updates (appears to be one per month in 2012)
  • They have the “at a glance” notification feature (in colour). The biggest problem is that there is no vibration in the hardware. The Motoactv does have a bright blinking white notification light on the front though and there is an audible alert upon notifications.
  • There is no ability to customize the notification as yet (SMS, Facebook, Calendar and Twitter are the ones supported now). It is theoretically possible to use SMS for other notifications.
  • The reason I got the Motoactv was that my Fitbit Ultra stopped charging and hence died. The Motoactv works with the Wahoo heart rate monitor that I was using on the iPhone 4S (it uses BLE/Bluetootch 4.0).
  • Battery life is a concern but it seems to last one day of heavy use.
  • The bluetooth headset functionality is rock solid and works quite well. 
  • For some reason I had difficulties maintaining a connection with my Galaxy Note. It does seem quite stable connect to my HTC One X though.
  • Features I will use daily on the Motoactv that I do not see the Sony/Pebble/MetaWatch as replacing:
  •  Fitness features – this is the main and key functionality of the Motoactv and I will only use < 10% of the features. I am still learning how the built in MP3 adaptive playlists works. It also syncs quite easily with itunes (on a desktop) for podcasts. I also use the steps/calorie counter which is always active. 
    • Weather alerts are nice (these now work with non-Motorola phones).
    • I don’t see myself rooting this watch just yet. While it will surely be cool for demos I don’t see it as being too practical for my use cases (moreover I don’t think the always on steps/calorie measurements would be active if I am using the “android” part of the watch – if I am wrong on this though I may take another look at it).
To recap, here is what I value with the MetaWatch:
Key Feature

MetaWatch

Sony SmartWatch

Pebble

WIMM

Always on Display

Yes

No – must double tap

(with my latest app this restriction can be worked-around for any notification via Tasker)

Yes – including some very cool animations (from the video)

Yes (non-colour), when tapped the colour display will show

Geo-Location Weather

Yes

Not yet – software limitation

Not known (but should be available with the right software)

No – but it allows for multiple preset cities (and some watchfaces will show Max/Min/City)

Battery Life Indicator of SmartPhone

Yes

Yes via a 3rd party app (but it requires some taps on the screen to find and display)

Not yet known (but should be a software limitation)

No (software)

Indicator of next scheduled Meeting

Yes

Only 15 minutes in advance

Software

Yes (with the right watch face selected and connect to Exchange in the cloud)

Integration With Augmented Traffic Views for Speed Limits & Red Light Cameras in upcoming direction of travel

Yes

Yes for nearest traffic camera image

TBD – most likely yes

No

Automatic “hands-free” Notifications in real-time (with vibration)

Yes (but they are are not persistent on the phone – i.e. they will automatically disappear after a time out)

No – only an icon, must tap screen to see details, but notifications are persistent on the SmartWatch (i.e. one can ‘scroll” thru  them)

(with my latest app this restriction can be worked-around for any notification via Tasker)

TBD – it appears so but details need to be confirmed with a real Pebble

No

and here is what I currently value with the Sony SmartWatch:

Key Feature

MetaWatch

Sony SmartWatch

Pebble

WIMM

Music Control on phone

Yes (but latency of response can be a bit long)

Yes with cover art and artist/song with stock Android music player

Yes it appears so from video

Not sure

Memory Retention of information on watch

No – only instant display (but it appears the developer is working on this for the next release – 15)

Yes – software limited

TBD

Yes

Colour Display

1-bit display

Yes

1-bit display

Yes

Routing of incoming voice call

Not quite working AFAIK

Yes

Did not appear so from video (only notification)

Yes

Ability to select action from watch

Yes – via buttons

Yes – up to three

Yes – via buttons

Yes via touch screen

So I am now using the MotoActv and Sony SmartWatch daily – here’s why:

  • While the MotoActv is technically a replacement for my Fitbit Ultra, it was being under-utilized (and awkward to use) when connected at the waist. 
  • Moving the MotoActv up to my wrist then meant I would have to either wear three watches or pick one to drop.
  • Hence I focused on getting the “at a glance hands-free” notifications working on the Sony
  • In the above picture, the sender and subject will automatically pop-up onto the Sony Watch (in the prior state the Sony watch display is “off” completely). The watch will also vibrate to alert on the new notification. The icon on the bottom right shows where my phone calls are routed (this is location based automatically using Genesys technology in the cloud). Here is how to do this:

                                  1) Use Tasker to send the notification info to my latest (unpublished version of Augmented Traffic Views) as shown below:

                                   2) Use this app on the Sony Watch. Note this app may not work for you out of the box as it needs a “special configuration file”. If you want to experiment, email me.
Video at the top of this post, shows it working:
  • With the “at a glance” notifications now working on my Sony then I would only miss the following from the Metawatch:
    • Battery life > 1 day
    • outdoor visibility in sunlight
    • Always on next calendar appointment, battery status of Android phone connected to and weather status (all three are possible on the Sony, but with key taps to get to).
  • Giving up the Sony SmartWatch is not an option as I have a couple of key apps on them that I use daily.
We will see how this combination works over the next few weeks and to see if I can really live without the MetaWatch on my wrist!

The one key and killer opportunity for Pebble would be the wider adoption by key developers to develop yet unimaginable applications for use with the Pebble watch. This alone could put the Pebble watch into a key and unique position within the current set of SmartPhone offerings. While the details are not quite known, it appears that there would be software developed by 3rd party developers that would run on the Pebble watch itself. This alone makes it potentially key to run with both iPhone AND Android phones (assuming the protocol back to the phones are indeed generic and not too phone OS dependent).

  • As a contrast the Sony SmartWatch SDK runs only on the Android – hence Sony is tightly coupled to Android.
  • MetaWatch has two components, one on the MetaWatch itself and the second on the phone. Most of the current development is on the Android platform. Modifying the software on the MetaWatch appears to be quite cumbersome.
  • One of Pebble’s potential area of differentiation is that they could be making it relatively easy for 3rd party developers to develop an app that runs on the Pebble watch directly. Hence the market for an app could be both Android and iOS! Note the fact that it may be in C may be a barrier for some though :)
  • I hope Pebble provides an easy framework to allow generic notifications to be passed to the watch from an Android phone – Sony has done this quite well which I was able to easily modify for my purposes (see other post).

With the slick animations on the ePaper display, potentially longer battery life and the promise of an explosion of apps compatible with both iOS and Android, I decided to increase my pre-order two Pebble watches. In any case, it is truly an exciting time as we are in the midst of witnessing yet another emerging tech explosion of SmartWatches to wider consumer adoption.

As a reminder, I have two applications that can work in tandem with the Sony SmartWatch:

These apps are not on the market as they require knowledge of Intents to use properly (it is meant to be triggered by Tasker) – see

http://augmentedtraffic.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/sony-smart-watch-observations/

Application Info for Sony SmartWatch (apk)

Android Intent

Parameters

Possible Value

Generic Notification App

Link to apk:

See this post for more information

com.sonyericsson.extras.

liveware.extension.

notificationsample.

action.add

sender

Generally whatever you want – typically it would be %NTITLE within Tasker if grabbing a generic notification or %ESUBJ if using K9 as supported within Tasker)If set to “genesys” then the subject parameter would be parsed to try to identify the sender (this works well with Nitrodesk Touchdown, for the first notification)Set to “flighttrack” for flight notifications (with the Flighttrack Android app)Set to “googlevoice” for the Goggle Voice Android appSet to “alktraffic” for the closest traffic camera (after using the method as described in the 2nd row of this table)

subject

whatever you want

(typically it would be %NTITLE within Tasker if grabbing a generic notification or %ESUBJ if using K9 as supported within Tasker)

Special Version of Augmented Traffic Views

See this post for more information

com.alk.augmentedRE.

SmartWatch

SmartWatch

Set to a 1

to request the closest traffic camera based on current location

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10 thoughts on “Can the Pebble replace both my Motoactv/MetaWatch + Sony SmartWatch?

  1. I think you’re missing the obvious here – I mean you’re clearly a trendsetter that’s setting the world of fashion ablaze by wearing two smart watches, but why stop there? You’ve got two arms, so using all four devices you mention here would just be perfect – after all, you probably don’t want to wind up like an elite athlete in certain sports with asymmetric muscle development on account of your technology all resting on one arm.

    Also, why use a Galaxy Note? It frankly seems too large for the ideal configuration that you must surely have though of – two smart watches on the top of your wrist, with a smartphone attached to the bottom of your wrist. Not only would you have optimal Bluetooth signal strength which could improve battery life, if one of your smart watches showed and interesting alert, you’d save at least a second or two by being able to just flip your wrist over instead of reaching for your phone. In fact, you could probably use the accelerometer in your phone to turn on the screen automatically as you flip your wrist over, saving yet another gesture!

  2. Pingback: Introducing Augmented Traffic Views for the new Sony Smart Watch « Augmented Traffic Views

  3. galaxy note is a great companion phone/tablet to this device. I own one and have an analog MW due tomorrow. Good to see the live forum happening. Exciting times!

  4. Pingback: Why I still need to carry the #MetaWatch, #Motoactv and Sony #SmartWatch and why I hope the Pebble is delayed :) « Augmented Traffic Views

  5. Pingback: Introducing Version 2.0 of Augmented SmartWatch for Sony – with support for the MetaWatch and the upcoming Pebble Watch! « Augmented Traffic Views

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