A few days ago Pebble’s wonderful smartwatches got updated with the power of Android Wear notifications when the feature rolled out to all users. I’ve been using it for a few days now, and while it’s definitely not a perfect implementation, it does make one of the best smartwatches out there even better.
The Pebble Steel is — and always has been — a fantastic device, but the more time I’ve spent with Android Wear, the more I’ve started to miss some of the things it can do when I inevitably revert back to the Steel. One of the big ones has been taking action on notifications, specifically archiving emails right from my wrist.
Because I am a notification junkie, I route all my emails to my watch. But even if I look at them there, they still clog up my phone’s inbox. With an Android Wear watch it’s easy to tap, swipe, and tap again to archive garbage and get it out of the way for good, but on the Pebble it was never possible until now.
The update is great and I love it, but there’s a catch. Navigating through all the options of a Android Wear-enabled notification (there are often a lot since they were designed with touch in mind) is a pain in the arse with buttons. Some options are easy. To dismiss an email notification on your watch and phone simultaneously, for instance, you just have to tap the middle button twice because the “Dismiss” option just happens to line up with the middle button. If you want to archive an email as I like to do, it requires four presses and a trip through a sub-menu.
I memorised it — middle, bottom, bottom, middle — but it’s still a wee bit of a drag. It’d be nice if I could change the “quick” option through Pebble’s app or something, but I understand that I’m getting into serious nerd territory here. This is a price I will gladly pay for the Pebble’s multi-day battery life.
Likewise, the Android Wear notifications mean you can now respond to texts and emails (though not initiate them) from the watch by navigating through and even more labyrinthine set of menus to pick out pre-baked replies.
It’s useful in a pinch and better than nothing, but it does make me realise the one thing I’m really aching for: A Pebble with voice control. It doesn’t have to be always listening, or anything battery draining like that. Just a way to do some simple input without being limited to menus or doing a dance of buttons. Oh, and also maybe a heart rate monitor.
But fantasies aside and minor gripes, the new Android Wear notifications add some really great if not totally seamless functionality to the Pebble, unobtrusive functionality you can totally ignore if you want to. And that being the case, I am more vehement than ever when I say the Pebble is the best smartwatch out there. For me, anyhow.