Pebble Time Steel One Month On

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I don’t think you can write a review of a device like a smart watch or smart phone until you’ve had a little time to use it. So although I got my Pebble Time over a month I’ve not wanted to write a review of it until I’ve had a chance to put it through it’s paces.

Design

I personally don’t like the look of the regular pebble, it looks too plasticky, so I was disappointed when the Pebble Time was announced that there wasn’t a Pebble Steel analogue, of course it didn’t take long for Pebble to announce the Pebble Time Steel.

The watch may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally I like it, it looks like a watch, and for the most part it doesn’t have the “Oooh is that a smartwatch” aesthetic that the Apple Watch and the regular Pebble have.

Straps

As a Kickstarter backer I got the leather and the stainless steel strap, I’ve tried both and although the leather strap is really comfortable, I didn’t find the steel strap to be very comfortable, it’s possible that I removed one too many links when I was resizing the strap, but it just didn’t feel as nice.

That brings me to my first qualm about the stainless steel strap, although it’s easy enough to get the leather strap off I found it quite difficult to get the stainless steel strap onto and off the watch. Also although the number of links on the steel strap was rather generous, you needed a tiny screwdriver to remove the links to shorten the strap, and it would have been nice to have a small screwdriver in the packaging.

Buttons

The buttons on the watch have a nice feel to them, although I get the feeling that the watch was designed with only right handed people in mind. Although I am right handed I’ve always worn my watch on my right hand rather than my left hand, and the buttons didn’t feel like they were in the right place to use on one’s right hand.

I’ve taken to wearing the watch on my left hand, which is going against 35 years of habit, and for the most part it’s been okay.

There are a total of four buttons on the Time Steel, one on the left which functions as a back button in most cases and three on the right which normally function as up, down, and select buttons. It’s a paradigm that works quite well and it’s relatively intuitive.

Screen

The big new feature of the Time series is the colour e-ink screen, this is the first consumer device I’ve seen with a colour e-ink screen and to be honest I’m quite impressed. The refresh rate is good enough for animation, and the display is probably on par with a GameBoy Advance. You can play games on this, and the refresh is not noticeable, I don’t know how many colours the screen supports, or what the refresh rate is but for a wee screen on my wrist it’s more that good enough.

UI

This is is my first smart watch, so I had not idea what to expect from the UI, I new that pebble had added something called Timeline to the OS but I had no idea how to access it. I found navigating the UI to be relatively straightforward though, it helps that the afore mentioned buttons almost always do the same thing, the once caveat to this being one app where going back required a long press on the back button rather than just a press, so I didn’t think to use the button for anything other than back.

The menu is just a list of options and apps, which you install from the phone app, and selecting an app and using it is fairly straightforward.

It took me two days to discover that clicking up or down opened my “Timeline” though, I probably could have read a manual, or watched a video on using the pebble, but I didn’t so I didn’t know this.

Functionality

The core functionality of the Pebble Time is as a watch, and as a notification system for your phone, it does both of these tasks quite well. This is not a fitness watch, although there are some apps that have some fitness functionality, it’s not what the watch is designed to do.

That said, how useful that watch is depends on your phone, basic functionality like showing you notifications and your timeline works fine regardless of whether you have and iPhone or an Android phone, however, I found that the ways to respond to a notification on Android were much richer than on iPhone, where you could just dismiss the notification.

I was actually quite impressed with the fact that I could dictate a text message to my phone in response to one I had just received, and confirm the message on my watch before sending it. You can’t do this on an iOS device, I dont’ blame Pebble, I blame Apple for not opening up the API for this though…

One thing that the Pebble Time does, that I doubt either Android Wear or Apple Watch can do though is the ability to pair the watch with two devices, with two different operating systems at the same time. The use case for this is probably quite narrow, but if you have an Android phone for work and an iPhone as your personal device then it can be a godsend.

When I tried it I managed to pair an LG Leon and an iPhone 5S to my Pebble Time, and the Leon used regular Bluetooth while the iPhone used low energy Bluetooth. I did have to manage the watch from the Leon, as for some reason I couldn’t manage it from the iPhone, but that wasn’t the end of the world.

Battery

The battery life on the Pebble time is nothing short of amazing, although I never got the reported 10 days, I usually got at least 5 days use out of the watch, and I lived safe in the knowledge that ever if I woke up to a 10% battery warning that I could probably get most of a day, if not a whole days, usage out of the watch. Compare this to my other half who have to charge her Apple Watch every night and for some people that is enough to justify the Pebble.

There was one day where I left an app (Pixel Miner if you must know) open and it drained the battery in a day and a half. That being said, when the battery died I discovered that the Pebble Time goes into a super low power setting that just tells you the time, this lasted for a day and half so if your smart watch runs out of juice you can still use it as a watch for quite some time before you have to find a charge cable.

Apps and Watch Faces

The Pebble Time has the advantage that it’s backwards compatible with all the old Pebble watch faces and apps, so it already has a vast library thats waiting to be used, a lot of which is in black and white though so you don’t get to make as much use of the lovely screen, although there is a growing number of really nice apps, some of them have more polish than others.

There also doesn’t seem to be as much of a drive for corporations to publish apps for the Pebble, it’s mainly Silicon Valley companies where an engineer has blatantly thrown together the app in his spare time. For exaple I have apps for Swam and Yelp but not for British Airways which would be useful.

The selection of watch faces is vast, many of them actually require explanation on how to read them though…

I currently have Nyan Can on my wrist, and it animates when the light comes on, although I can’t change the date format from US format which is annoying.

nyan

There are also a number of games available if playing games on your wrist is a thing you want to do, including a version of Flappy Bird which is actually not terrible, and a fake Pokemon game.

It’s also really easy to write your own watch faces, within 20 to 30 minutes of loading up the developer kit I had written my own watch face that told the time and a little message which is quite cool:

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Overall Opinion

Overall I’m quite happy with the Pebble Time Steel, it lacks in some of the features that the Apple watch has, so I can’t send my heart beat or drawings of penises to my friends who also happen to have the same watch (Apparently this is what people with Apple watches do…) but it tells me the time, and allows me to keep my phone in my pocket and just check my wrist for notifications. Also the battery lasts for ages, so I don’t need to worry about it running out of juice at the end of the day.

While a smart watch is never a must have device, it is a nice to have, and I’ve found that for the most part the watch has helped to curb my bad habit of receiving a notification on my phone and accidentally opening Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or any of the other millions of distractions on my phone. I can glance at my watch, decide whether or not I need to do anything and just go on with whatever I was doing which is really liberating.

I think I’d like the watch more if I had and used an Android phone more often, because the options for interaction with your phone on iOS seem hamstrung, which is a real shame.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comment, I’m willing to try messing about with the watch to answer most questions.

Final Fantasy ATB: Possibly the Worst Game Ever Created

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If I pitched this game to you right I could see you thinking this was a game with tons of potential.
Play through a streamlined Final Fantasy game on you iPhone!
Fast paced combat featuring up to 40 characters at a time!
Unlock your favourite characters from the Final Fantasy universe!
It sounds good doesn’t it? Well it’s not… This game is a steaming pile of horse manure dressed up as a game, and the costume department is t even that good.
Final Fantasy ATB consists of battle after battle with enemies from various FF games, and you do, technically, get to control up to 40 characters… Only by control I mean furiously rub the screen with no semblance of thought or strategy.
You control an increasing number and variety of FF archetypes and presumably when you unlock them named characters from the FF universe. Tap a character to attack, and the. The character has to wait a little while to attack again. Any character who gets hit is immediately eliminated.
You might start by tapping, you’ll soon discover that you can just as easily just run your finger over the screen to achieve the same if not a more effective result. Your characters will one by one die and you’ll have wait for them to to revive which happens at a rate of one every 3 minutes.
That’s it. That is the gameplay. You essentially masturbate your phone to kill enemies.
Oh and you can spend money to get more characters. It’s like Squeenix didn’t even bother trying, they aren’t phoning in this performance, they are are making a collect call to their canvass and asking them to phone it in for them.
Do you want a particular character? Too bad the character you get when you spend money is RANDOMIZED! It’s like those gumball capsule toy vending machines.
This is extortion plain and simple, there is no game here just some animated pixel art and a means for FF fans to give Squeenjx money for nothing.
The worrying thing is that this game has over 100 five star reviews on the iTunes App Store.

Petty 8 Machine: Chiptune Cover of NIN Album

I’ve been listening to a lot of chip-tunes lately mainly because I find that they oddly increase my concentration. Maybe it’s something innate in me that associates the stream of bleeps and bloops with playing really difficult video games?

Anyway the above album by Inverse Phase is a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Petty hate machine and it’s pretty good.

If you are interested in more chip tunes it’s worth noting that 8 Bit Weapon have recently released a collection of all their music that isn’t licensed to other people for the low price of $20.

Also if you have played the amazing iOS game Super Hexagon, then you can’t have missed the awesome sountrack by Chipzel, which is available to buy for just £2.

Mass Effect Infiltrator Available on iOS


Don’t @Avarinne I’m not sure her PhD can survive a version of Mass Effect that she can carry around with her…

The game is available now on the App Store for £4.99:

“Players take on the role of our protagonist, Randall Ezno, a Cerberus agent who becomes disillusioned with the organization he works for, eventually turning into one of their fiercest enemies as he uncovers the depths that Cerberus will plumb to achieve their despicable goals,” said EA of the game’s plot. “Along the way the player gathers important Intel that will be shared with the Alliance to help sway the final confrontation in Mass Effect 3 through the Galaxy @ War system.”

It looks very pretty, I’ve not had a chance to watch the video fully, I’m sure that avarinne will buy it and I’ll get a chance to look at it over her shoulder, and if I’m lucky maybe play it.

I’m Not Sure How I Missed This Review of Color

I vaugely remember Color being launched a year ago I think I may have downloaded the Android version to my phone, thought it was shit and promptly deleted it. Today I saw this review of it from a year ago that made me chuckle. I know it’s out of date, but I liked it so much that I thought I’d share it just in case anyone else hadn’t seen it.

As far as I can tell Color is still shit, and it still has a lot of bad reviews, I popped over to their home page and the interface looks an aweful lot like Pinterest’s interface… Anyway Read this and laugh:

Via Minyanvile