Yesterday Pebble put up a mysterious countdown timer on their home page, a countdown to…what, exactly? We can’t be certain till the timer hits 0, but my bet’s on a new smartwatch. Here’s why.
Why it’s going to be a watch
- It’s been more than a year since Pebble’s announced a new watch, which was the Pebble Steel at CES 2014. It’s still brilliant, but the competition’s catching up fast.
- They fired an Evangelist for giving the most vague hints ever about what’s coming.
- October 23rd, 2014: TechRadar interviews Myriam Joire, Pebble’s Evangelist, on the company’s future, specifically about new products in Q1 ’15. She says it will be/have: “More everything… more beautiful, more thin… Just say ‘more’ then insert adjectives.”
- October 26th, 2014: Pebble fired Myriam Joire
- Why do I think these point towards new hardware? The Osborne Effect. This means that by prematurely discussing the future sales of current products will be hurt. When you’re a start up going against Apple, Google, Samsung, and Motorola you need all the sales you can get.
- Pebble has a booth at MWC 2015 in Barcelona (source). Announcing something now then having it on hand for journalists to for everybody to play with the next week makes so much sense my head hurts.
What that watch is going to be like
While the Pebble Steel is a fantastic smartwatch it’s nowhere near as technically able as the competition. The screen, while incredibly legible in sunlight, is monochrome and low resolution. The battery lasts all week, but apps are limited, the chipset lacks any real power, and you can only have 8 apps or watch faces installed at a time.
Rumour has it…
- the next Pebble watch will have the same fantastic battery life
- the screen will still be some sort of e-ink, but colour
- the watch will have a built in microphone
- the watch won’t have a touchscreen
- the watch’s screen will be wider, and the watch itself thinner
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but my first prediction is that Pebble’s either using Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology or found something very similar. Mirasol, for those unaware, is still basically e-ink but has full colour. This way we can still measure battery life in days instead of hours. Here’s what The Verge had to say about Mirasol: “But boy, is Mirasol great for a smartwatch. Technologically, it’s sort of a hybrid between DLP and LCD, and offers many of the benefits of E Ink without any of its disadvantages.”
Secondly, I do believe Pebble’s going to move to a more powerful chipset with my money on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 – the same chip used in basically every other modern smartwatch bar the Moto 360. Battery life will take a bit of a hit because the chip is far more powerful than the ARM-based, 80MHz STM32F2x5 used in the Pebble and Pebble Steel.
Thirdly, customization seems to be a big deal for Pebble. At the most basic level that could mean that straps can easily be changed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if: A) it’s a proprietary system, since that’s what they went with in the Pebble Steel and B) it’s a quick-release mechanism that’s growing in popularity with traditional watchmakers like Fossil and is used by Apple in the Apple Watch.
Sticking to the notion of customization I’ve seen rumours floating around of some kind of modular design. This both excites and worries me. I’m excited because possibilities can be endless – the next Pebble can become the Seiko 5 or SKX007 of the smartwatch world. Then again a modular design probably means it’s not as sleek and streamlined as it could be. I think I’d rather have the latter than the former.
I’m also willing to bet the next watch is going to be available with a whole range of straps in all sorts of colours and the watch itself will come in a number of finishes and colours itself. In terms of straps both leather and metal options are obvious, with a number of browns, reds, and blacks for leather and a metal band finish matching the watch it comes with. The watch will probably come in the now-traditional black, silver, and gold – but I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of both a plastic and metal variants to have even more colour and price options available.
Finally, a prediction about that microphone. I’m not expecting the microphone to be ‘always on’, but an ability to trigger it to respond to notifications or to start an action would be fantastic. If it were ‘always on’ though I really wouldn’t be surprised if it can be used to start Google Now or Siri actions. Android Wear, eat your heart out.
Pebble definitely has something new in the works, but it’s just as likely to be some new special editions of the Pebble and Pebble Steel as it is a new smartwatch. The evidence points towards a new watch though.
With competition heating up Pebble won’t make it another year with its current offerings. Hence my bet’s on a colour e-ink display, easily exchangeable straps and maybe some kind of modular design – but I could be way off the mark. What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments!