The Pebble Watch – The Follow Up / Aftermath

Tags

, , , , , , ,

After the review of the Pebble watch went live and I decided to share it around I thought it might be an idea to drop a link on to the official Pebble forums ( http://forums.getpebble.com/discussion/7403/our-pebble-review-not-ready-for-the-general-public ) which I suppose is a bit like telling people on their front doorstep to stop worshipping false gods. There were constructive and informative comments and there were those of a more sinister bent who did not take kindly to having their lords name taken in vain.

With that being the case I looked a little further into some of the areas the Pebble forum users said were incorrectly stated or exaggerated in the original review.

Here is a blow by blow account of using Pebble today which started off with both the Pebble itself and the iPhone 5 being cleared down and rebooted. The iPhone had all its apps closed down, the Pebble removed from Bluetooth devices and BT itself turned off before the device was powered down itself. The Pebble was unpaired, the iPhone was removed and it was shutdown.

Next up the iPhone was restarted then the Pebble. Both devices were paired, notifications set, Pebble app loaded and using another phone a test call and text were placed which went through fine – caller ID was in place and all was well in the world. I’m keen to point out at NO point from now on does the Pebble leave 3 feet of the iPhone and no apps were loaded on the iPhone, no mucking around, no settings getting played with.

I wanted to see how much mileage I’d get and after not receiving any text or calls for just around 2 hours a call came in – without Caller ID on the Pebble (but showing on the iPhone screen) …

pebble5

Glitch? People were stating on the Pebble forum that this background app disconnect after lack of use was fantasy – looks to be spot on here. Another call comes in later on …

pebble6

Not that I need to but one of the other points I made in our original review was that the screen looks oily in daylight – here’s an example of it, and today was pretty cloudy and overcast – here is Pebble pretty much straight on, at any kind of angle off axis shows TONS more colour spectrum splashing over the screen…

pebble7

As I settled down to watch a film just before 8 I left my iPhone charging away and Pebble sitting on the table beside each other. The phone was on silent and the Pebble was on vibrate so I knew I’d get any notifications of calls or text messages coming in … or so I thought …

pebble8

Looks like Pebble decided to stop talking to my phone, even though they were sitting beside each other on the same table. And having disconnected itself I missed a ton of calls and text messages plus got a few voice mails. Magic.

pebble9
As mentioned I stirred up a hornets nest on the official forums, here are a few of the comments posted on the thread linking to my first review …

Marco10 said …

Have you ever heard iOS 7? ūüėČ

Why yes I have, it’s mentioned 3 times in the original review.

AntiLeokum said …

It’s wrong on the first 2 main points.
1. If I walk away from my phone then I lose the Bluetooth connection, of course. But when I come back in range it reconnects and I get ALL phone call, text/iMessage and email alerts ( email via the pebble app). It’s all the other alerts apart from phone, text/iMessage and email that require a finger dance to reinstate.
2. Pebble app becomes inactive after 1 hour? Where does that information come from? Pebble app stays active in the back ground indefinitely unless you overload the phone by starting a lot of other apps in the background. My pebble app and email notifications have stayed active for days without intervention.
Source of my information: my real world use of Pebble with iOS 6.1.4.
Yes, it is beta and rough round some edges, but that review does it a terrible injustice with its terrible inaccuracy and poor research.

1. It doesn’t on mine. It works half the time, the other half as mentioned I have to look at my phone to see if I’ve missed anything.

2. That information comes from this very forum. Caller ID functions for around an hour, then it stops completely.

Even you say its a beta – but nowhere on the website does it say this.

I can’t even think about the number of returns Pebble will be dealing with after selling the device to non tech geeks via Best Buy who encounter all this.

Source: my real world use of the device since it arrived last Wednesday

AntiLeokum follows up with …

Well Rikki I’m delighted that you’ve used such substantive evidence and thorough research when writing your review. You might want to check out the iOS programming docs to back up your claim for a 1 hour limit on long running background tasks. Or I could save you the trouble by telling you now that there is no such limit. seriously though, take another look at it.

it doesn’t say beta on the website of course, but it is a kickstarter funded project by startup company so anybody with even half a brain should know what to expect. Despite that, it has exceeded my expectations and works a lot better than your review describes.

I doubt Apple would list BUGS in its programming reference but the information in this follow up should satisfy even the most dedicated Pebble stalwarts as to the issues and their realities. As for anyone with half a brain knowing what to expect, when the product is sold at retail in Best Buy (thats the American version of PC World) it will get picked up by everyone and the majority of buyers there won’t even know what Kickstarter is, they will just expect it to work – half a brain or otherwise.

There are other minor replies thereafter but the main pitchforks are those mentioned above. In other areas of the Pebble site replies have come in saying that once iOS 7 hits the download servers along with a firmware and app update (that is alleged to be waiting in the wings) then all will be well in the world. I truly hope so, I like my little Pebble – I just can’t have it throwing a tantrum and causing me to miss calls, nullifying the reason I bought the product in the first place.

Some reviews from Best Buy customers too from the first couple of pages …

pebbleshit

…and Pebble’s Twitter team giving the heads up for what’s to be expected around the corner.

XqiERDb[1]

Addendum: If you have a Pebble be sure to check out http://www.watchface-generator.de where you can create your own watch faces, upload your own images and insert your own text Рall completely free of charge.

Advertisements

Apple’s September 10th Predictions

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

IOS7

It’s that time of year again, when all the tech bloggers and journalists stir their cauldrons of rumours, whispers and gossip on what’s likely to be announced in Apple’s late year conference. Here are our predictions, let’s see how wrong we can be!

The Yes List

1. iPhone 5S
Bit of a no brainer this one. Similar to Intel’s tick-toc release schedule each year with new tech then refinement following, we fully believe the 5S will offer speed improvements over last year’s iPhone 5. The screen resolution will remain the same as will the form factor but the ARM SoC will no doubt get a speed tweak, possibly a die shrink and a memory increase too. There had been some talk of issues with the 5’s touch screen tech being a bit wonky but we never found this ourselves so the screen will probably remain the same. Camera wise we expect a megapixel increase plus better low light capture, especially in video mode. There has been the usual talk of wireless charging, fingerprint scanning and NFC but as no other Apple products really feature these, if any are to be included we think it will be NFC. With their new Lightning connector only a year old I think Apple will like to continue selling you over priced cables for a while yet.

2. iPad 5
After being bent over buying the iPad 3 only for Apple to then roll out the 4 a few months later, we see an annual release announced in September and released to retail in October making perfect sense to fill stockings across the world come Christmas. We reckon that the screen will remain, as let’s be honest – it’s amazing and beats hands down any PC monitor around. Perhaps the touch screen tech will be improved and as with the 5S the camera systems might be better. Speaker placement could do with a tweak and maybe battery too. CPU wise the latest incarnation of the Cortex will make its way in along with 2GB of RAM bringing things on a level playing field as the Nexus line.

3. iPad Mini 2
Everyone is crying out for a Mini with retina and we reckon having a year under its belt the new version will meet those cries. It would be idiotic not to, especially with the Nexus 7 Mk2 having a very high PPI screen and a lower price point. If it follows the way the Mini 1 was a shrunk iPad 2 then if we can get the Mini 2 following the iPad 3 we are onto a winner.

The No List

1. iWatch
2. iGlass
3. iTV

These three have been banded about for a while. The iWatch hasn’t really been mentioned much and with Samsung parading their Galaxy remote control we think Apple will hang fire until it has a killer product. The iGlass is an Apple take on Google Glass, mentioned briefly a long time ago and not heard about again. Too much of a leap from their current product line at present and lastly the iTV – Apple’s plasma/LCD/OLED flat screen telly has been mentioned year after year but with the current cost of TV sets at rock bottom theres no monetary incentive for Apple to go down this route – especially with the Apple TV not shifting great numbers.

How right or wrong will we be? Who knows? The only thing we do know is that Apple post Steve Jobs is not the great innovator it once was. The 4 was the last epic wow product with its Retina screen and having Siri didn’t make the 4S anything special, and adding another centimetre of screen height didn’t make the 5 astounding either.

With Windows and Android really kicking ass with their products, Apple do need to get the finger out and start bringing decent tech to the masses that at least meets what the other guys are doing. Maybe not laughable phablet size screens and plastic calculator feeling phones (I’m looking at your Samsung Galaxy S series) but some of the features listed for the S4, HTC One and even the older S3 blow the iPhone 5 out of the water. Be sure to run a Google search late on in the day come the 10th to see what goes down or check out http://live.twit.tv for live blogging from the event itself (and remember time zone differences).

The Pebble Watch Review – Geek Curiosity – Not For Public Consumption

Tags

, , , , , , ,

* Update : After some, let’s say debate, on the official Pebble forum a little more testing was conducted – after reading here check out the follow up piece – https://uxxv.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/the-pebble-watch-the-follow-up-aftermath/ *

The Pebble Watch
Pebble is the darling of Kickstarter, the crowd funding website that pulled in over 10 million dollars to begin the project to build the Pebble smart watch.

In case you don’t know what Pebble is, it’s not a pocket sized electronic pet rock (though it seems to function like one sometimes). Instead it’s a low power smart watch designed to act as a second screen to your second screen. Why would you want such a thing? Well, how many important calls or texts have you missed when your phone’s been in your pocket? Vibrate alerts on a mobile inside a rubber bumper case, inside a pocket when you are walking or moving around doesn’t always register with your brain so in steps Pebble. It connects via Bluetooth and for the most part acts like a normal watch. When a call or text comes in, it lights up and displays an abbreviated summary of what’s going on – similar to the alert text you would get on your phone screen itself. That’s how I would advertise the product as it stands just now, and if it worked this way out of the box I’d be happy but unfortunately for a device announced in January 2012 and shipping for the best part of this year, it fails to meet even these 2 simple tasks from a laundry list of additional promises it makes on its website.

The problem with Pebble is that it’s really a beta product that’s been dreamed up without the necessary structure in place to bring the promise to reality. The team behind the product wanted to release a device that links to your phone and offers these features but they never checked if it was actually possible and allowed by mobile vendors, mainly Apple. So we run into all kinds of bother without any fixes available.

The two most infuriating issues are as follows (we’re on iOS so this follows for iPhones though may also affect Android)…

Choose or make your own watch faces

1. When you successfully connect your watch to your phone you MUST keep them paired via Bluetooth at all times. If for some reason there is a break in communication neither your watch nor your phone will alert you, but you will no longer receive ANY notifications on the Pebble about incoming texts or calls. This is unacceptable, is not mentioned on the website (apart from the support areas of the forum) and is a deal breaker. If I’d known about it, I’d not have bought the product. “But you’re not going to walk away from your phone so it’s not a problem really is it?” – Yes it is. Bluetooth unlike wifi has a very short operating range of around 25 feet indoors so if you have your phone on your desk and leave the room there’s a good chance you will break that link and on returning will have to go through, what the Pebble community call the finger dance. This is where you have to go into the menu on your phone, go into settings, go into notifications, go down to Calls, change the banner type from Banner to Alert and back to Banner. Come out a level of the menu and go into Messages and do the same Banner to Alert to Banner then exit settings. You have to do this dance EVERY time you get more than 25 feet away from your phone. An utter ballache when you have your phone on charge at home, leave it on your desk, give your phone to someone else to make a call etc etc. Why the Pebble team don’t add a function to their app that pings the watch every 30 seconds or minute and if it finds the device not available waits for it coming back into range and then either reconnects automatically, reinstating the notifications OR pops up an alert to tell the phone user that they need to do it manually. It’s not having any inclination at all that there is a problem and things are disconnected that’s the killer here as I’ve then sat working away and occasionally glancing at my watch, seeing nothing on it and then an hour later checking my phone and seeing a ton of messages and missed calls. If we have to check our phone as often as the device that’s meant to act as a go between then it’s a complete fail.

2. Slightly less annoying but still a huge pain is that after an hour of not having the Pebble app loaded and on your phone in the foreground, your phone will disable the app thinking it’s not needed and putting it to sleep. This means for 60 minutes from when you connect your Pebble to your phone you will receive Caller ID notifications of incoming calls, but after that you will only receive the actual number on your watch when someone calls. Can you remember the numbers of your friends in this day and age or do you rely solely on your phone screen telling you who it is trying to get through? This is a huge mess and is really annoying. Sure it still alerts you that someone’s trying to call but you still have to hunt the phone out of your pocket just to check the screen to see who it is and means the Pebble is as much use as one of those flashing key fobs you get in pound shops that give you mini epileptic seizures with their array of coloured LEDs that flash when a call comes in.

Those are the two core functions of the device that fail badly. Staying connected and delivering the Caller ID data to let you know who is trying to call. Pretty big issues and as mentioned there is nothing to tell you of these short comings on their website or when you order. I suppose it’s like buying a new phone and reading what it can do but only when you get it home do you find out that after an hour it won’t tell you who is calling and if you get it more than 25 feet away from the charger and come back into range it will stop working but won’t tell you.

The team at Pebble keep saying things on their forum along the lines of “… when iOS 7 comes out the notification system will hopefully work a lot better …” – sounds good doesn’t it. Problem is, they have been playing with iOS 7 beta for over half a year and should be able to tell us all right now if it works or it’s just as crap. It’s a bit donkey and carrot to phrase it in the way they do as the release of 7 will be here in the next few weeks so Pebble surely must know if their stuff works better with the beta as Apple aren’t likely to drastically change the Bluetooth and notification stack in the remaining days.

Phew! That’s me only discussed the two core features of the Pebble that are the must haves, lets now very quickly delve into what Pebble advertise on their website as the other features for the watch … that also don’t work.

Fables from the Pebble website

  • Incoming Caller ID – (works for 60 minutes)
  • Email (Gmail or any IMAP email account) – Needs an app on the phone to function
  • SMS – this works, unless you break the 25 feet rule
  • iMessage (iOS only) – same as SMS
  • Calendar Alerts – never seen a calendar alert pop up
  • Facebook Messages – doesn’t work
  • Twitter – doesn’t work
  • Weather Alerts – only works if you JAILBREAK your phone, unbelievable
  • Silent vibrating alarm and timer – no timer built in

This is all from the front page of the Pebble website. False advertising much?

There are also other issues with the website. It mentions flicking your wrist to dismiss notifications. This was removed a while back as people were accidentally removing them. It also says you can tap the watch to do things, activating the inbuilt accelerometer. This doesn’t work either. The site needs updated ASAP.

Here are some suggestions for the Pebble team to ignore, based on just a few days with the device. See if you think they are good ideas…

No battery indicator – the Pebble doesn’t tell you its current state of charge and since it has a unique USB cable to charge, it would be a good idea to know where we’re at when it comes to power remaining. A simple bar graph or percentage mentioned in the settings menu would suffice and save any problems where a user might think they have 4 days of juice remaining and head away for the weekend to find out they only have a day left before the watch dies.

No speaker – even a tiny piezo electric speaker for a simple beep would be a welcome addition, controllable from the settings menu along with the vibrating option.

No individual vibrate patterns – it would be good to set up different patterns for text, calls, twitter, Facebook and mails.

Looks oily in sunlight – ahh, I didn’t even mention this earlier but if you look at a Pebble in sunlight you will see coloured streaks all over the screen. Think oil spilled on the road and the rainbow effect it gives. Again no mention on the site about this, apart from the hundreds of complaints in the support forums. Pebbles response? This is what all LCD watches look like. O RLY? None of my watches since the 1980’s have done this. Maybe I’m holding it wrong.

IOS pops up random messages saying it wants to connect – possibly not a Pebble issue but I’ve never had my car kit, Bluetooth headset or keyboard randomly pop up system messages now and then asking to connect to the device.

Enable and disable vibrate function – the Pebble has 4 buttons on it, not bad. Guess how many button presses it takes to turn on or off the vibrate function – useful when you want to go to sleep and wear the watch in bed? 13. Yes, 13 different key presses are needed to navigate the menus to enable or disable this most basic function and when you go to find it, its hiding in the Display Menu. My suggestion is to also add this function to the Back button. Hold it down for 3 seconds and the Pebble could alternate between modes, while giving a small vibration to signify if its change. A bit like the iPhone does going from ringing to silent.

Notification History – when you receive a notification you can read it and then when you close it, it’s gone. It would be good to have a small history function where you could scroll the past 5 or 10 that have come in and this wouldn’t make much more use of the memory built into the phone.

Change watch face – it would be good to be able to set the watch so the two right hand side buttons didn’t always change the watch face, it’s a pain doing it by accident.

The watch strap Рis horrid. They must have got them for free. Worse than a corner shop £1 digital watch.

Pebble notifications via SMS

So the conclusion on Pebble as we sit a week into September 2013 is that it’s a geek curiosity. It works, kind of, but it will also drive you mad with the way you have to coax it to function. Think of it as a modern day Tamagotchi where you need to give it TLC every hour or it will go in a huff and take your Caller ID away; separate it from your phone and it refuses to work anymore … If the team can sort the problems out quickly and iOS 7 does bring satisfaction it could be great, let’s just hope they still have some of that $10million sitting around for proper R&D when Apple release it.

* Update Рas mentioned at the top of this article, after some discussion on the Pebble forums some more testing was carried out Рa day in the life of Pebble so to speak. Check it out here and see what some of the folks online have been saying too Рhttps://uxxv.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/the-pebble-watch-the-follow-up-aftermath/  *

Nexus 7 Review: The new Nexus 7 launches in the UK … but is it any good?

Tags

, , , , , , ,

NEXUS7-5

The highly anticipated UK release of the new Google (and ASUS) Nexus 7 Android tablet has finally arrived. We pre-ordered and the shiny new slab arrived this afternoon in the office. We let Rikki have a play around with it first since he’s the one that uses tablets the most around here so he can fill in the rest of this blog posting…

“My first tablet was the iPad 3. I didn’t think I needed one but once I got it I found it was far easier than using my phone to check websites or mail and quicker than using a PC for Facebook and Twitter. Since last April the iPad has been a very useful gadget and a big time saver – the only problem is it’s just a little too bulky and that’s why I had my eye on the Nexus 7.

NEXUS7-1

Ok, maybe saying the iPad was my first is a bit of a white lie. I actually bought an ASUS Transformer a good few years ago but after trying in vain to get it to play some of our clients video at even 720p it was returned to Amazon post-haste. Then again at the start of last year I opted for a Lenovo A1 which unfortunately proved to be equally uninspiring, again failing to live up the claims of HD video playback even trying a multitude of third-party codec packs and media players from the App Store.

NEXUS7-3

So I ended up walking into the Apple store last year and just bought an iPad, mainly due to the retina screen and just how well it shows photos and video with almost zero pixellation. The problem was always the size of the unit and the improved tech specs of the new Nexus looked like it was a winner on paper. Getting my mits on the launch day delivery from our friends at eBuyer I was keen to see how Android has matured over the past couple of years and since this new Nexus is preloaded with Jelly Bean 4.3 I was expecting great things.

NEXUS7-4

What I wasnt expecting was to have to enter the wi-fi password 3 times, have the new device randomly reboot itself twice while I was playing with it and then requiring an immediate OS upgrade. Minor annoyances dealt with I was looking forward to seeing the new display in action (with better pixel density than my iPad 3) plus the benefit of twice the RAM, twice the CPU core density and all the general improvements you would expect in a tech gadget a year and a half newer than the one I was used to using. Unfortunately having played around with the 7 Mk2 for the best part of the night (I write this at 2am) it looks like the good old 7 day distance selling regulation will be getting invoked and the Nexus will be going back to eBuyer. Why? Well its just not as good an experience. Here’s a breakdown …

NEXUS7-2

Scrolling up and down apps and web pages is nowhere near as responsive as the iPad or my iPhone 5. Grab the screen on the iPad and slide your finger and the motion on screen is instant. With the Nexus 7 you drag¬†your finger up and down and there is noticeable delay as the device plays catch up. It’s not horrible but its like going from a funky flat screen plasma back to the CRT telly you had as a kid – it works¬†but it’s just not as good.

Loading up some apps and again the Nexus falls down. Facebook on IOS is fairly snappy, when it’s not crashing, but on the 7 its slow, scrolling chugs along and just doesn’t¬†feel as refined. Even Chrome is a bit of a slouch.

Moving on to media and loading up the same image on both devices and putting them side by side shows the Nexus 7 to be slightly desaturated and with less red and¬†a touch more green on show. It’s not horrible at all and is very good but just seems a touch too bright and washed out. It’s a million miles better than the Samsung OLED mess as seen on the S3 and S4 but I’m comparing it against what I was hoping it would replace the Ipad 3.

iPhone 5 - Nexus 7 Mk2 - iPad 3

iPhone 5 – Nexus 7 Mk2 – iPad 3

What I’m really saying is that the new 7 is the tablet I wanted to own. Its got the spec down, its got the screen size and weight Id like to carry around but even with its doubling of RAM and core count it just doesn’t match the year and a half old iPad I’m writing this quick review on. Sorry droid fanboys, I’m staying IOS for a while yet!”

Just as an aside, Rikki is in no way an Apple lover. Everything he uses is PC based on either Windows or Linux and has been meddling with computers since his 386 on MS-DOS 5.0