While Samsung and Sony make no noticeable impact on a nascent market with their smartwatch offerings, crowdsourced favorite Pebble continues to make headway. Boasting a new SDK and improved support for iOS 7, a major new update improves its utility as a filter for notifications arriving on your phone and adds features on the software side, including coming FourSquare support.
The Smartwatch that Keeps on Rolling
If you add the new features to the Pebble's original features — controlling music, handling caller ID and monitoring exercise on your iPhone or Android — you'll get a sense why the device is picking up steam.
It was only 18 months ago that Pebble launched a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign for its novel smartwatch concept. By the time the campaign hit $10 million in funding, the team must have been wondering what to do.
But even that much cash is a drop in the ocean to the likes of Samsung and Sony, which have competing products on the market. Apple and Microsoft, meanwhile, are still tinkering away in locked rooms to create a trend-setting device.
Pebble, in contrast, has its devices in the hands of more than 250,000 users. Now it wants to refine the experience with a major software update. The new version, Pebble 1.3.0 for iOS, is compatible with Apple's new iOS 7 and Apple's Notification Center support. That should allow any message a user would see on his phone screen to appear on the watch instead.
This seems to improve on the Pebble experience. Previously, users needed to feed in their account details to get email. Now they can simply use the Notification Center to intercept any message from any app, as long as it's set up (or, more likely that the app has set itself to broadcast from the service). The major benefit is that users can see the notification and choose to either ignore it or take out a phone to interact with it.
Becoming a Better Watch
Pebble smartwatches now start at about $150, a little more than the $115 to $125 price that Kickstarter backers benefited from. While some potential buyers are waiting for new hardware, the simplicity and utility of the Pebble means it doesn't need to be dragged into a hardware race.
With the rather more chunky Galaxy Gear at $299 (suffering from a 30 percent return rate at Best Buy, according to reports) and the Sony Smartwatch 2.0 at $199, Pebble finds itself very affordable. It's also open to all iOS and Android users, rather than the Gear's limited range of Samsung-branded devices, and has a thriving ecosystem with apps and watchfaces created by developers and enthusiasts.
Will this new lease of life make you think about investing in a Pebble or are your waiting to see what Apple or Microsoft can bring to the party?