Pebble Smartwatch – update

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Marrakech - very sunny!
Marrakech – very sunny!

Back in January I ordered a Pebble Steel smart watch (or more accurately my wife did for my Birthday). It took a while to arrive, but when it did I loved it, the question is after 6 months do I still love it (and is there anything yet I would swap it for)?

Firstly as a wearable watch it has at least a 5 day battery life, and because it has a black and white screen it is very easy to see it bright sunlight (it also has a back light which can be switched on with a ‘flick of the wrist’). I can also change watch faces to suite my mood – it can be traditional or more ‘random’ – and can include weather information, my next appointment – almost anything!

A more 'trad' face - with weather
A more ‘trad’ face – with weather

I do find the ability to see who is calling me or who an email or text is from without having to pull out my iPhone incredibly useful. Yes, I still have to grab my phone to speak to a caller (although I can drop a call from the watch) and I can’t speak to people via the watch – but it allows me to screen calls. Emails and texts can be screened in a similar way. It is great if I am in a meeting, I can look briefly at my watch and see what has hit my phone without picking it up. Much less intrusive on the meeting and not as rude! Plus the look on people’s faces when they realise ‘the watch’ is showing emails or callers details is priceless!

When I am on site and have my hands full of a clipboard, tape measure and camera it fulfils a similar role, if I am in a large empty factory it is often a pain to have to put everything on the floor to get my phone out – when I may not actually need to!

Next bus near me...
Next bus near me…

And then there are the ‘apps’ that can be installed on the watch. The most used one I have is Smartwatch+, this can do a variety of things, but I use it to put my appointments on the watch, my task list, the weather and the stock market (specific share prices).

I also have an app called PebbGPS, it uses the iPhone to provide turn by turn directions to my wrist – surprisingly useful when walking across London or a similar sized city. It can also link to RunKeeper and provides times, distances etc to the watch.

Using UK Transport I can find out when the next bus or tube is due (it finds where you are and provides the closest stops). I also have been using a World Cup app that gave me up to the minute scores in the big games, and an App for the cricket (similar to the World Cup one). So the main points are…

The good things;

  • I can ‘screen’ emails, calls, texts when otherwise engaged
  • It is clear to see in the brightest sun
  • I can swap to different watch faces
  • Using apps it can provide various information without pulling out my iPhone
  • It’s waterproof – handy for an electrical item!
  • 5 day battery life
  • It can control my iPod music

The less good things;

  • B&W display (not actually a big issue)
  • It works best with iOS rather than Android (not a problem for me..)
  • not much else

In a nutshell I am still as taken with it as when I goy it, it is still a source of interest / amusement from colleagues and clients, but it does I think add something to my life. It will be interesting to see how Apples iWatch compares when it appears but at the moment I wouldn’t replace it with anything else….


Microsoft and touch….

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One of the things I managed to do while in America last week was to visit a Microsoft shop (it was next door to Apple so I didn’t have to go far out of my way) – I was interested to have a look at the Surface – Microsofts take on a tablet. It runs Windows 8 (in two forms) but with touch rather than using the non touch version of Win8 that does not appear to have been received with much enthusiasm anywhere!

20130727-220239.jpgIn the UK I had failed to find a working surface in any store, so I was interested to see what it was like – and to be fair it’s not a bad piece of kit, although even with the recent price drop it is still rather expensive (and quite chunky). Also the keyboard cover (which is clever) is an extra and adds to the cost). What was more interesting however was the fact that in the Microsoft store – which was quite large – there wasn’t a single non touch screen PC or laptop on display (and there were a lot)!

Now if you take it that probably 90% of PC’s are traditional non touch units you have to wonder quite what Microsoft are up to? Do they expect all their users to replace their machines as well as their software when they update to Windows 8.

I actually think windows 8 looks and works OK (much as Windows Phone does), but do they really think they can ignore the non touch market?

Microsoft and the need for tablets

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the keyboard/cover comes in a variety of colours

It could be argued that Microsoft have been in the ‘tablet world’ for a long time – all users need tablets for the headache they get from using their software – OK a bit unfair, but it highlights the fact that Microsoft do software and not hardware. Previous attempts at hardware have included their take on an iPod – the Zune, which many of you have probably never heard of…..

So the announcement that Microsoft are to produce a tablet is a worrying one, not for us, but them. On first impressions the Surface tablet (interesting name) looks quite good, the keypad cover is very clever and it appears to be very well-built. But it has one potential huge issue – its operating system (or its two operating systems to be precise). As I understand it one version will run Windows 8 RT (for tablet) and another (called professional)  will run full-blown Windows 8. I get the impression that as usual Microsoft just don’t get it! It also appears to be aimed more at the ultra book market – certainly the MacBook Air appears to be a direct competitor to the pro version – and we all know how good the MacBook Air is!

Also the Surface has been announced to the World, but no one has had proper access to a machine, no costs have been given (although the non pro version will apparently be similar in price to an iPad) and no date of availability is given. So in effect we have nothing. But the press etc will now have time to discuss and come up with their ‘wish list’ – and if it fails to come up with this it will crash and burn straight away on launch.

Apple are much cleverer in marketing terms, they announce and ship almost on the same day, unfortunately I think Microsoft have a lot to learn about being a hardware company. Why not leave this sector to Apple and Samsung with iOS and Android the market leaders in this sector by miles.

Microsoft have almost certainly just (almost) launched another pup!

Don’t panic!

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I have always been a huge fan of Douglas Adams and his hitchhikers guides books. Initially from the BBC radio serious (totally brilliant and worth a listen) and subsequently the books (but not the film – that was rubbish!). It was a sad day when Douglas died and we were robbed of anymore of his genius.

However, Hitchhikers has a cult following and refuses to die quietly! This is now further guaranteed by the news that an app is being written for the iPhone and iPad. It has been approved by the Adams estate so it should be good. How great will it be to have the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe on your phone – just like ‘the real guide’! Users will be able to read up on the importance of towels, Vogons and their poetry, the Babel Fish, a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, and Milliways: the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Ok, so that may be a bit scary, but if the app is done well (and that is a big if) it may be fun.

Time will tell, but I will be checking it out when it is launched! More information can be found on the official launch page at;

Windows Phone 7 launches 11th Oct – does anyone care?

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So it is finally here! The big question is – does anyone care, and will it have any effect upon the Apple iOS stranglehold on the market?

Microsoft has high hopes for Windows Phone 7, the successor to the company’s popular but much-maligned Windows Mobile platform. It represents a radical departure from previous Microsoft mobile platforms, with an emphasis on social networking and device integration.

The new-look operating system interface draws heavily on the Zune, Microsoft’s US-only music player (not a huge success!), and features “live tiles” that provide instant, one-touch access to important contacts and data. It also uses “hubs” to organise content, with an aggregated contact book forming the centre of the People hub, and multimedia content stored in the Music + Video hub.

Microsoft has faced increased competition in the mobile space from rivals such as Apple and Google, and hopes the launch of Windows Phone 7 (WP7) will enable it to match up against those products in terms of form and functionality.

But, if Windows Phone 7 is to have any chance of clawing its way back in to contention, it just won’t suffice to be simply be as good as its rivals, it needs to be something better and different. First impressions are that it isn’t, but you cannot write off a big company like Microsoft.

Windows 7 for PC finally feels like a good OS for PC, so perhaps they can make an impact with the mobile market. It will be interesting to see what happens.

My personal view is that there is a market for WP7, the die hard Windows mobile fans will give it a go (although I think they will be disapointed). The big question is will Microsoft develop it as actively as Apple have, historically they have been very slow at any mobile development.

It’s in your hands Microsoft……