Gear Review: Can the Pebble smart watch do fitness?

Pebbles

I was never much of a watch guy so even though I have owned some nice watches, I could never get into the habit of wearing one on a regular basis. But I am a gadget guy, so the promise of a smart watch is very appealing to me. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a Pebble, one of the most popular smart watches out there.

DickTracyWhen people asked me about it, I had a tough time explaining exactly what it does. It really didn’t do much more than tell time and alert me when I had a text message or phone call. You can’t reply to the message nor can you talk to your wrist “Dick Tracy style.” It was only somewhat useful because it would give you enough information to avoid taking your phone out of your pocket to check the time or see who just emailed you. I’m speaking in the past tense because that is all starting to change for the better. Pebble just launched an app store that promises to make the watch more useful than ever before. Much like your smartphone, you load apps on the Pebble to expand its capabilities.

The Pebble can surely tell time but can the Pebble do fitness? The introduction of an app store promises many possibilities, and integrations with some popular apps like RunKeeper make the Pebble much more useful. In fact, there is an entire category dedicated to Health & Fitness in the Pebble app store.PebbleApps

When used with RunKeeper, the Pebble will display your time and pace right on your wrist during a run. Essentially combining the Pebble and your phone into a GPS running watch. It’s not perfect and I’ve had the app crash on me, but it’s quite promising if they can quickly make the integration as reliable as a dedicated running watch.

Another useful feature of the Pebble is its ability to control your music. If you listen to music while running or working out, it’s much easier than fumbling with your phone or the controls on your headphones.

There are a number of other fitness related apps available including stop watches and a 7 minute workout app (not sure how useful that really is on a 1-inch screen). Other apps are starting to pop up such as pedometers that can leverage your phone’s internal hardware to track your steps and display the output on the Pebble. Other fitness related plusses: it’s waterproof and easily readable in direct sunlight. (Except if you are wearing polarized sunglasses.)

PebbleRKSo is the Pebble worth it’s $149 price tag? (You need an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy too). It’s cheaper than many GPS watches and has the potential to offer many unique features, but it’s probably not ready for primetime as a full-time fitness companion. Apps still need some fine tuning and stability issues hold it back a bit. However, if you’re into fitness tech I would give it a try. It’s the best smart watch out there, it’s getting better with each software release, and if you own the prerequisite smart phone, it costs less than a premium GPS running watch and it’s arguably more useful.

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