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21 Jan 2016 : Are smartwatches better than watches? #
The Pebble Time Round is a beautiful device in many ways. Aesthetically it's one of the few smartwatches that manages to hide its programmable heart inside the slim dimensions of a classic analogue shell. This sets it apart from its existing Pebble brethren, all of which have what can only charitably be described as an eighties charm. Given one of my most treasured possessions during my teenage years was a Casio AE-9W Alarm Chrono digital watch, and for the last three months I've been proudly wearing a Pebble Classic, I feel I speak with some authority on the matter.

Pebble Classic (above) and Pebble Time Round (below)

The Pebble Time Round can't entirely shed its geek chic ancestry. The round digital face suffers from a sub-optimally wide bezel. The colour e-ink display - although with many advantages - simply isn't as vivid and crisp as most other smartwatches on the market.

In spite of this, Pebble have managed to create a near perfect smartwatch for my purposes. I still get a kick out of receiving messages on my watch. My phone, which used to sit on my desk in constant need of attention now stays in my pocket muted and with vibration turned off. Whenever some communication arrives I can check it no matter what I'm doing in the space of three seconds. For important messages this isn't a great advantages; where the real benefit lies is in avoiding the disruption caused by all those unimportant messages that can be left until later.

Obviously the apps are great too. In practice I've found myself sticking to just a few really useful apps, but those few that do stick make me feel like I'm living in the future I was promised as a child. Most of all, the real excitement comes from being able to program the thing. There's nothing more thrilling than knowing there's a computer on my wrist that's just waiting to do anything asked of it, imagination and I/O permitting. I would say that though, wouldn't I?!

Of course, that's not just true for Pebble; you could say the same for just about any current generation smartwatch: Google Wear, iWatch, Tizen, whatever. Still, it's great that Pebble are forging a different path to these others, focussing on decent battery life, nonemissive displays and a minimalist interface design.

For the last decade I've been dismissive of watches in general and never felt the need to wear one. I arrived late to the smartwatch party, but aving taken the time to properly try some out, I'm now convinced they're a viable form factor. Even if only to fulfil the childhood fantasies of middle-aged geeks like me, they'll surely be here to stay (after all, there's a lot of us around!).


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