Pebble – Is it the Newton of Today?

Pebble WatchI recently purchased the plastic version of the Pebble Smart Watch, made by Pebble.  For those who may not know the history of Pebble, here is a two second intro: Eric Migicovsky couldn’t get funding for his smart watch idea, turned to Kickstarter, got $10.2mm, sold over 250,000 watches,  just introduced a second (kinda) version called the Pebble Steel that looks nicer, but is essentially the same watch.  Got the picture?  I just have to say I love my Pebble.  Instead of wearing some of my much-too-expensive designer watches, I often wear my Pebble.  However,  just because my geekiness has an affinity towards the Pebble doesn’t mean it is a consumer product yet.

The Pebble has a lot of things going for it:

  • Notifications and calls are never missed.  Your phone can be in the other room or your backpack and when a call/notification comes, the Pebble will start vibrating and glow.  You can then either read the message or accept/reject the call.
  • The charge lasts a long time for me – around 5 days (though others have said it only last 3 days) due to Pebble’s use of e-ink technology.  The same e-ink used in the Amazon Kindle that allows you to read the screen in direct sunlight, go for several days without a charge, and is easy on the eyes.
  • A plethora of watch face and a number of apps – Pebble distinguishes a watch face as your standard, albeit sometimes funky, clock that can be run continuously and an app as having more depth and functionality that isn’t run all the time.  Some of my favorite watch faces show funky numbers for the time and the latest weather.  One of my favorite apps is  PebbleBucks  that gives me my Starbucks Rewards barcode for quick scanning at the counter.
  • Light.  The Pebble is incredibly light weight and waterproof to boot!

While all the above points makes a great product, it still doesn’t mean the product is consumer ready.  Here is a test, would you recommend the product to your non-tech savvy relative?  Would this be the next Christmas gift under their tree?  Unless I wanted to spend a week as their help desk, no way.  iPad, no problem.  Pebble, nope, at least right now.

The Pebble has a few problems:

  • The interface is confusing on both the device and the newly introduced Pebble app store.  Simplicity is needed.
  • The current offering of apps and overall functionality are just not that interesting.  As my wife said after showing her the Pebble, “Is that all it does?”  With your attention drawn to so many outlets:  computer, TV, iPhone, iPad, etc, another device that essentially just vibrates when you get a text isn’t worth it to the mass-consumer audience.
  • It’s ugly.  Hands down the plastic version is U.G.L.Y., and the newly introduced Steel with the “Pebble” embossed logo is just campy.  Pebble needs a Jony Ives to bring the device to the next level.

The current version of the Pebble has incredible promise and shows what the future might be for wearable tech.  I’m excited to even own one and trying to develop an app or two.  However, for the wearable tech smart watch space to take off, a more engaging, higher value proposition device needs to be introduced that is fun, beautiful, and lasts a long time between charges.  In other words, while we sit here using the equivalent of an Apple Newton, the mythical Apple iWatch is what we are all waiting.


Agile: Approaching the Daily Scrum

I recently presented at the Rally Agile Executive Talk Radio program on how best to approach the Daily Scrum (or Daily Standup for those non-Scrum folks).  It was a quick talk – about ten minutes – and I thought it would be interesting to share the presentation.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Agile: Approaching the Daily Scrum

Top iOS Developers Twitter List

There doesn’t seem to be many Twitter Lists of the top iOS developers out there – you would think Googling would bring up dozens of results, but it doesn’t!  So here is a great start to a Twitter List of the top iOS mobile developers to follow.  Click here to follow the list.

Courtesy of @jeffhodnett at

Does the End Justify the Means?

On Monday April 2, 2012 the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in the case of Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders that the police can strip search anyone entering jail (not just prison, but also jail) after being arrested for any offense (murder to drug trafficking to speeding to walking your dog without a leash).  Often contraband, such as weapons and drugs, enter the prison system through newly introduced inmates, thus the Justices reasoned that the safety of the inmates and guards outweighs the privacy and rights of the individual.  Is this just?

Consider what this means, as observed by Sherry Colb on CNN Opinion (click here for the article):

In one facility, this means “a complete disrobing, followed by an examination of the nude inmate … by the supervising officer, which is then followed by a supervised shower with a delousing agent.” In the other facility, the booking process “required groups of 30 to 40 arrestees to enter a large shower room, simultaneously remove all of their clothing, place it in boxes and then shower.”

To personally answer the question of justice, self-reflect on do you consider it just (not necessarily like or be happy with, but know in your heart it is just) if a loved one, friend, acquaintance, or yourself were stripped searched for not paying a parking ticket.  It is the same exercise for for torture, i.e. water boarding, where being accused of a crime justifies the means to extract the sought after information.  Using this simple litmus test, some will find the court’s decision just and others will not.

I personally, and profoundly, believe that the decision of the Supreme Court is not just.  The court determined the best way to protect the inmates and guards is by removing the rights and dignitary of the accused.  They focused on a laudable end goal and worked backwards to justify the means – a slippery slope of reasoning that can make any injustice justifiable.

So what can we do given the highest court in the land has made their decision?  Luckily, times and attitudes change – hopefully for the better.  Slavery and discrimination were justified by the courts and later overturned, and so might this decision.  Citizens have several avenues to address this injustice: writing your representative, speaking our against the injustice both verbally and using the internet, and if the injustice happens to you, fight back through the courts by suing the police and state.  You most likely will lose, but all we need is one judge to recognize the injustice and open back up the debate.

Review of the New Apple TV

ImageLast Thursday I received my new 3rd generation Apple TV.  First off, I can tell you that I’ve spent too many hours researching, debating, and analyzing whether or not I should buy the $99 device.  Seriously, my wife and I going to a Saturday night dinner at a NYC restaurant easily tops $99, so I don’t know why I spent hours deciding. But I digress.  The new Apple TV is just fun!  The device is crazy small and the interface is clean and easy to use.  Apple and Netflix movies in HD (1080p) play flawlessly – 1080p streaming was just introduced in the updated version.  I also have access to all of my music via iTunes Music Match and any movies I purchased in iTunes.  I had a lot of fun just exploring the features and watching some TV series I purchased in iTunes but never completed because I hate watching shows on my computer.

Now, some might say, “well, I already have Netflix from my blu-ray player or PS3/XBox.”  True, but I found using the Apple TV is so much easier than those systems.  Also, as of right now Netflix only stream 1080p with the Apple TV.  One thing I don’t like is the remote that comes with the Apple TV – the skinny silver one.    Luckily, I don’t use the remote often because on my iPhone I have the Remote app.  The Remote app is great and makes controlling the Apple TV easy.

My recommendation: buy the Apple TV….for $99 you won’t be disappointed.  And if you really want to go crazy, jailbreak the Apple TV and install XBMC.

Why Should I Update My iOS (iPhone and iPad) Apps?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – the common reasoning for not upgrading software, hardware, cars, toaster ovens, etc.  Basically, new doesn’t always equal better.  I can’t agree more, but when my mother-in-law gave me the same reasoning for not updating her iPhone apps, it occurred to me…she actually might be breaking her beloved apps by not updating them.

I spend my days developing iPhone and iPad apps, so I know the challenge to test older versions against the growing number of devices and iOS versions.  If my app is at version 5 (having gone through version 1-4), I can honestly say I don’t really test versions 1-2 and maybe not even version 3 for backwards compatibility.  Why would an old version break just because a new version is released?  Well, it has to do with the back-end systems that are supporting the app.  For example, all your friend’s Facebook wall posts appearing in your Facebook iPhone app come from the Facebook servers.  This data is formated in a certain way and overtime as new features are added and others removed, the format of the data needs to change.  Eventually, the older app (unless a lot of time and energy is spent) won’t understand the new data format and will stop functioning. So, while my mother-in-law thinks by not updating she is removing the potential for her apps breaking and saving herself hassle, she in fact is increasing and, for certain apps, inevitability breaking them.  The moral of the story: Update your apps if you want them to keep working.

Learning Through Animation

I just discovered on YouTube a great series from the RSA that animates various TED like talks.  Instead of just listening to a talk by a writer, intellectual, or scientist, you watch this fantastic artist illustrate the topics as they are being discussed.  It truly brings a new dimension to the concepts presented.

And here is my favorite one by Dan Pink on what motivates us:

You can check out all the RSA Animations here.

Hopefully RSA will make one on Malcolm Gladwell.