Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kickstarting a Pebble

Yes, I'm a bandwagon jumper on Kickstarter who ordered a Pebble e-paper smartwatch and made it the best funded project to date, contributing to the over US$10m raised via this crowdfunding portal.

The packaging Pebble ships in opens up into a well-padded interior, securely cradling the watch and its magnetic USB charging cable. Apparently, a single charge keeps the watch going for 5-7 days. We'll see.

The Pebble looks a bit big on my dainty wrist, but I like the idea of being able to change watch faces on the fly. Currently, there are digital, textual and whimsical watch faces to choose from, and when the SDK finally gets released in April, lots more users will be able to design more watch faces to add to the growing list of options available.

Apart from the cosmetic face changing ability, the cool idea behind the Pebble is that it pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth and alerts you to incoming calls by displaying caller ID; SMS messages with sender info and a preview of the message; and with further firmware updates, other smartphone notifications from Facebook, Twitter and their ilk if you so desire. The practical effect is that you don't always have to fish your phone out of your pocket every time it buzzes in silent mode to see if a response is urgently needed. Just casually glance at your watch and nobody will be the wiser.

Other apps involving the in-built accelerometer are in the pipeline as well. For the moment, it activates the backlight through a flick of the wrist. Not much, but it's a cool one-handed operation which no other watch currently in the market can duplicate.

On the backplate you can see "Kickstarter Edition" showing that this unit is the very first commercially available production model of its kind. A lot of people who ordered the Pebble through Kickstarter are quite upset over how long it has taken the company to deliver. We've been waiting for very nearly a year and many initial backers' patience has worn thin. The company has only manufactured the jet black colour option to date. Good luck to those who ordered their Pebble in other colours.

The debate among Pebble backers is over what it is we have plonked our money down on. The most impatient think they have bought a product like they would have on Amazon or E-Bay. The many production delays have made these people feel that their money's been spirited away with nothing tangible to show for it.

Although I have been impatiently checking the delivery schedule on a near-daily basis and hyperventilating whenever a company update goes online, my take is that I haven't bought so much a product than I have a process. The product is only the reward for putting faith (and some money) in the process. What I felt I was funding was a learning process for the young entrepreneurs at Pebble, helping them with a little seed-money to develop a cool concept into a fully operational commercially available device I would be proud to wear on my wrist.

Despite the wait, I will say the company has been responsible with its startup capital. The production delays were mostly due to a steep learning curve; upscaling of production processes; R&D on further improvements such as waterproofing to a depth of 50m and upgrading Bluetooth to 4.0 from 2.0; acquiring proper FCC licencing; testing shipping procedures and schedules... but my Pebble is finally here. It works like it should, and though it still looks somewhat like a prototype I'm happy with it's geek-cool cred.

Just because I received my first Kickstarter delivery... I funded something else. Heh.

In other news: look what campus admin surprised me with today! Has it really been that long?


Anonymous said... now have TWO pebbles-es? :P --elim

Min Seah said...

Soon to be 3. The other one has yet to arrive.