Pebble Watch: Wearable is (Not Yet) the New Mobile

Dutch HollisFirst things first… this is not a review of the Pebble smart watch. If that’s what you’re looking for, you may be disappointed. I will make a few comments on my Pebble experience at the end, but that’s not what I want to focus on. There are Pebble reviews out there aplenty.
What I want to talk about is the fact that wearable computers are here. They don’t yet share the ubiquity of smart phones, but they are here. Whether that means the Pebble, smart watches by Sony or Samsung or even Apple (rumor has it), or Google Glass – we are in the infancy of yet another advance in mobile computing and it’s not too soon to think about what that means.

For a “smart watch” the Pebble is a bit dumb. It’s more like a tiny second terminal for your phone. Since the data it’s displaying is basically sent to the watch from your smart phone via a Bluetooth connection, it’s not so much doing anything with the data so much as displaying it and letting you make some limited input.

I can choose which calls to take without looking at my phone. I can read texts, but not reply to them. Same with emails – I can read significant portions of emails (text only) with just my watch and that is nice. I can flip to the next or the last track on my playlist. These are all great features.

So why do we care as marketers? Well add one more screen for starters. Who even knows what the first screen is anymore. Is it the TV? The tablet? The phone? Will it be the watch or the glasses in another 5 years? Perhaps.

What is clear is that technology is changing faster than ever before. For a long time the PC was our primary mode of interfacing with the web. Then came the smart phones and changed the game. Now tablets are being adopted faster than any other tech device in history. Wearable devices have the potential to change the game again.

Also, wearable devices drive home the point that our messaging has to be flexible in presentation and increasingly relevant to get the attention of the target who has one more screen at his/her disposal. Expect that over the next few iterations, the features and functions of wearable devices will improve sufficiently to allow us to interact with email, SMS and other marketing messages in a meaningful way in this new environment.

Here is a shot of an email on my watch. Clearly it’s not yet time to start designing for wearable screens, but just as the iPhone changed the game for smartphones, something will come along that will change the game for wearables. We will need to think about ways to get to the heart of our message for wearable devices and how to add value to that specific experience, just like we did for mobile.New Picture

OK – I promised a few thoughts on the Pebble itself. Unless you simply like being an early adopter (and I do), just wait. The Pebble has no real app integration yet. I can’t wait to have it integrated with my Nike running app, but that is much farther off than I thought it was going to be when I signed up for my Pebble a year ago. The battery life I get is 30 hours max, though they have promised 2-7 days. The notifications integration with phone and SMS is solid. The email integration is flaky and I find myself resetting it every day or two to get it to work (I have an iPhone 4S – other iPhone users and Android users get varying results). Despite Pebble being the largest project ever on Kickstarter, it’s still a startup, so delays in manufacturing have hurt them and the customer support, though friendly, leaves much to be desired.
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