Mini-Review: Pebble Steel

I’m planning a much longer article (or possibly series of articles) on the tools I use for both my work and personal lives, and why it’s so important to be willing to invest in your tools. That may be obvious to a lot of people, but it hasn’t always been for me: I grew up being a “just make do” kind of person, and I was happy to invest an extra amount of time in something if it enabled me to save money out of pocket. My views on that have changed fairly substantially in recent years, and I’ve begun investing much more heavily in tools that enable me to be more efficient and to save myself time.

I’ve been looking at smart watches, and the Pebble in particular, for a couple of years now. I didn’t have a specific need, but I could see some interesting use cases for me personally and – well, I’m a geek and I like my toys.  But going back to paragraph #1 – I just kept evaluating the various options and didn’t buy one.

That changed recently after reading yet-another-smart-watch-article that rated the Pebble Steel as the best of the current crop of smart watches. It wasn’t an especially effusive article, which made it all the more persuasive to me: it came across as a realistic evaluation of the normal uses where the Pebble did well, uses that I was specifically interested in, while acknowledging some of its limitations.  Just a few days later, a coworker offered up his Pebble Steel on an internal distribution list for 50% off the normal price (and with both the leather & metal watchbands). The coincidence was too much for me to ignore, so I’m now the happy owner of a smart watch.

I had three main reasons to get the Pebble Steel:

  1. Notifications:
    • Number one by a mile, and this was the specific use mentioned in the article as one at which Pebble did well. I wear my phone in a belt case on my hip, and I’ve missed many IMs, text messages, or phone calls because I didn’t hear/feel the phone when it alerted me. Yes, I could turn up the ringtone higher, but I’ve never found the right middle ground between the I-almost-never-hear-it and oh-my-god-why-is-it-so-loud volume settings. Since getting the Pebble Steel, I don’t think I’ve missed a single important notification: job well done so far.
    • I’m constantly checking my phone for new information. If I see a new notification on my phone for one app (doesn’t matter which one), I’ll invariably check everything else.  This isn’t the fault of my phone or applications, of course, it’s mine. But I wanted to find a way to reduce the number of times I looked at my phone, which would then reduce the amount of time I spent looking at all of my other sources of distraction. By being able to see any important notifications (personal IM, text, phone, work email, and one personal email account) on my watch, I’ve reduced the number of times I’m opening my phone fairly significantly.
    • A side benefit also showed itself: in order to keep the amount of alerts being sent to my watch from being unbearable, I was forced to go through & re-organize my inbound email so that more of it is being categorized automatically, and I can only alert on things more likely to actually require my attention. In this case, the Pebble has improved my productivity both directly and indirectly – a very good thing indeed.
    • I actually seem to get the alerts faster on my watch than my computer (which is not surprising) or my watch (which is). It may not be every time, but there have been multiple occasions so far where my Pebble has alerted me before even the normal apps on my phone have displayed the new message.
  2. I haven’t worn a watch in years and I have come to find it annoying to constantly use my phone as a watch. I’d like a more convenient way to tell time instead – like I used to have when I had a ….watch. It’s also bad for me to use my phone as my watch because it’s another opportunity for me to start looking at all my sources of information and get distracted
  3. There are a few other bits of information that would be helpful to have readily available, like the weather, and the Pebble has quite a nice variety of applications to play with. I’ve only played with a few so far, but I think I’ll be able to find some good ones to further improve my productivity.

And the last, unnumbered reason: because it looks good, I’m a geek and I like my toys.

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