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My Pebble Time has arrived

I've always thought a smartwatch would be fun, but I've never really been keen on any of the models available. This stood true until I found out about the Pebble. The previous models were butt-ugly, but the kickstarter project for the Pebble Time took my fancy.

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I backed the project and received my Pebble Time last Thursday. The contents of the package were very simple: A manual/quickstart, a charging cable and the watch itself. The watch came pre-charged and I was ready to plug it in.

open-box

Initiating Connection

first-bootI enabled bluetooth on my phone and loaded up the Pebble App. It found the watch and then tried to update it's firmware. This managed to fail 3 times in a row... I held down a number of buttons on the watch but could not get it to reboot as per their recommendation. On the fourth attempt, the firmware updated.

I could now view the installed watchfaces and apps on my watch. Watchfaces are apps, but they get maximum screentime as they're the default app shown, displaying the time. Extra Apps can then be installed to do any number of tasks. The watch is effectively always connected to the world, as long as your phone is... and as long as you have battery... everywhere.

First Impressions

The battery life is intense. It lasts around 5 days without charging. It's warned me today that it's at 20%, but I thought I'd keep going to see how long it lasts. Last charge was Thursday evening. Better to deep-cycle the batteries, I suppose.

Off the shelf there is a remote to control music, an app to configure alarms (not tied in to any Android app), watchface selection and settings. The Music remote works great, although it tied in to 'Apollo' instead of Google Music... I have no music in Apollo.. will need to sort that out.

There's a whole plethora of watchfaces to install. Anything you can think of. I tried WeatherLand and IsoTime, two great designs. The former takes into account your location and the local weather and renders the background mountain scene accordingly! There's also the shadow clock, which is installed by default.

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I haven't installed any third-party Apps on the watch yet... I'll do that and report back here... but I have gone ahead and created my own custom Watchface!

Cloudpebble and Developing

Development for the watch couldn't be easier. Browse to Cloudpebble, create an account and you're already set to go. You can program in C++ or Javascript via their online IDE, which works extremely well. It can even allow you to emulate a watch via the web or directly upload your project to your own watch via your phone! The upload works via your phone's internet connection and then bluetooth... just enable Developer Mode in settings and you're off.

You can choose to develop an App or a Watchface. These are really the same thing, but a watchface will be categorised correctly and perform the correct actions on button-press events.

Mimicking My Old Arnette Watch

old-arnetteHere it is... it was a clunker and it contributed to a broken wrist. (Don't wear watches whilst playing sport!) This is the last remaining photo I have of this model and it is near-on impossible to find any reference to it on the internets.

As you can see, my watch bit the dust after a decade of punishment. I had loved the 'text mode' so much that I decided to emulate it on the Pebble Time. I used FontStruct to create a 30px high font that resembled the Arnette font. This then worked perfectly as a resource in cloudpebble and rendered pixel-for-pixel on the watch itself.

I then just had to write the logic to write out the text of the time. This was a little tricky, but nothing that couldn't be solved by a few arbitrary values and if clauses. The result speaks for itself! There was the odd bug or two to start with... but I've been testing the watchface out in the field and it's working great. I think I might add a battery meter on there and a few other doo-dads if possible. I'll then release it to the greater community.

Note that the old Arnette actually had a 'magic-a-ball' if you held down the top-right button. I hadn't known about this feature... 4 years in to owning the watch I accidently held down the button whilst trying to set the time and the friggen a-ball came up. It read back to me "YEAH SURE". Nice fortune! After that it became a great decision-maker whilst intoxicated. I might also program this into the watchface... will need to work out if I can commandeer the buttons whilst in 'watchface-mode'.

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In the last shot you can see that I realised I'd had the colours the wrong way around... flipping them gave me goose-bumps... although the screen is 4x the DPI of the original watch, the result is so similar it's not funny. I love it!

Got any other ideas/development requests?

Feel free to leave a comment here and request something custom for this watch? Am happy to work with anyone who wants to design/develop something for this watch. It's a great platform and the only limit would be one's imagination!

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About stevenh

Trains... trains... trains... + Electronics + Japan.
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