Thursday, 28 April 2016

One Year with Pebble (Time): a user and a developer perspective

The smartwatch "revolution" didn't happened as expected by the industry.

The sales numbers tells that Samsung, Google or Apple have conviced enough people.
Smartwatchesare perceived like new toys, instead of useful things and, often the disadavantages of having one are more than the advantages:
- ridiculous battery life
- no killer apps
- ridiculous apps (sending hearths or drawing to someone...)

and they are also expensive.

(Another interesting review from engadget about apple watch one year on)

With a lot of skepticism, last year I decided to buy one, just to understand the potential of these devices in everyday life.

Since, I found frustrating to charge my watch every night, I decided to become a bacher of the new pebble time, because it guarantees (in some conditions) 7 days of battery life, display always on, waterproof, and imho it is designed as a watch first, instead of a wrist-phone.

I'm not a typical smartwatch user.. not the one for who a smartwatch is designed for.
A smartwatch is useful if it can cover some microtasks related to "TIME" like:
- calendar notification
- alarms
and it is important that if it can work most of the time without the dependency from the smartphone.

I don't care about app notifications, neither of app integration.
I like the possibility to develop my own apps and expand watch functionality with apps.

BTW, an honorable mention is for the stock Health app, it tracks my daily sleep and daily steps: it is an addictive functionality and useful.

I use the smartwatch also in the sea, during surf sessions and this is a plus, because I can leave my phone inside the bag on the beach and receive call notifications.

Watchfaces are a nice idea, to change the look to the device but, you have to choose wise if you want to preserve battery life, because some "cool" watch faces can drain your battery faster.

Developing a WatchApp: "Work Time"
One thing I do when I arrive at work, it is to keep track of the arrival time: in order to calculate when I can leave the office.
This is a repetitive task and it can easily covered by my pebble!

I developed an app "Work Time" that vibrates when it is time to go home.
Create an app for a limited device it is an interesting challenge: inputs, cpu, memory, screen are limited.

Work Time is composed by these screens:
- Estimated Exit: It show you at what time you can leave

The app is configured using these 3 screens in sequence:
- Check In: the time of the arrival. Default is the current time.
- Work Time: how much time you work
- Break : how much time is your break

When your settings are done, you can close worktime, it will notify you with a vibration when you can go home and a screen like this one:

The pebble documentation is better than other platform I developed for... but creates a watchapp for pebble is not that easy due to:

- small community around the subject
- hard debugging: logs based
- online based editor and sdk.. sometimes it is a limit
- C language: good for optimization, bad for complexity

Btw, if you are interested, the code for WorkTime is here: