I had a notion that 2012 would be a year heavily laden with accessories for smartphones. In late 2011, we heard a report that Google and Apple had fueled quite a bit of money into R&D, researching wearable computing devices, such as smartwatches, clothing that tracks movement and health status and possible smart glasses.
We're now well into 2012 and we have seen a handful of different, wearable devices. Among the thousands of other devices at CES in January, we caught a glimpse of the Sony SmartWatch, the Golden-i by Motorola and Kopin Co. and the Sony Smart Headset Pro. After CES, the Nike FuelBand launched (I'm still trying to get my hands on one!), Google revealed their vision for Project Glass, and there have been traces of smart, wearable devices by a handful of other companies.
It's a trend that's slowly starting to pick up, but one that's not particularly new. People want a way to use their smartphone without ever having to pull it out of their pocket – check emails and text messages from your wrist, have walking directions displayed through your glasses, etc.
One of the first smartwatches that I can remember – and I fell in love with the idea back then – was Allerta's inPulse smartwatch for BlackBerry handsets. I remember writing and reading about the inPulse watch way back in 2009, possibly even earlier. As ugly as the prototypes were back then, the idea was awesome and I very nearly pre-ordered one. I'm glad I didn't, though, as the pre-orders that were placed in late 2009 were not fulfilled until February of last year.
Allerta is at it again with Pebble.
Pebble is the name of Allerta's smartwatch that is compatible with iOS and Android. Much like its BlackBerry-compatible sibling, it can display emails and text messages on its always-on E Ink display. There are multiple clock faces to choose from and, though the Pebble watchapp store, users can download apps and new clock faces for their Pebble. From the Pebble Kickstarter page:
"Want your watch to tell you when your next bus is leaving? Maybe you're jonesing to see your compile status or recent github commits.. Think push notifications, directly to your watch using the data connection on your phone. Want to check-in on your watch, or create an app that can monitor your sleep? Pebble can send data from the accelerometer and buttons back up to the internet.
Pebble can receive simple alerts and notifications from if this then that (ifttt.com) or our web-facing RESTful endpoint. More adventurous developers can use the Pebble SDK, with its Arduino-like abstractions and simple C structure, to gain full control of the watch. Multiple apps can run on Pebble, along side watchfaces and regular notifications."
Pebble features a 144 by 168 pixel resolution e-paper display, Bluetooth 2.1, four buttons, a vibrating motor and a three-axis accelerometer. One initial production is completed, the Pebble smartwatch will retail for over $150. If you pledge, however, you can get one (in black) for as little as $115 ($125 for a choice in color).
What I really like about Pebble is that it isn't overproduced or excessively overdone. The Sony SmartWatch, while a nice device, was simply Sony cramming too much technology into too little space. Not to mention, it was essentially an Android rip-off of an iPod Nano. The Pebble, however, is primarily a watch (i.e.: always-on, low-power display with great battery life versus unnecessary functionality) instead of an Android device being crammed into a watch. It's simple and elegant.
As a testament to this device's luster, the Kickstarter project started yesterday with a goal of $100,000. In just 28 hours, Pebble received a cool million $1 million in funding. And since the 28-hour mark, they've pulled an additional $314,594 and climbing with every page refresh. They have 36 days left until funding is complete.
Will I pledge? You bet! I plan on pledging later this evening. (Oh, how Kickstarter projects kill my bank account!)
But I do have some reservations. The inPulse smartwatch pre-orders started in October of 2009 and didn't ship until February of 2011, a full 12 months after they were supposed to ship. There is no estimated release date on the Kickstarter page – I imagine they learned their lesson the after the first go around. However, for those who pledged the Hacker Special ($235), they have been promised early access to the SDK and a prototype in August. With such a large amount of funding for the Pebble, though, Allerta will be under a lot of scrutiny if they take nearly as long as they did with inPulse.
Tell me, folks. Are you interested in the smartwatch trend at all? Does the Pebble interest you? Or are you more interested in the smartphone-esque smartwatches, like the Sony SmartWatch?