For the last one week I’ve been coming to terms with the wonders of the human wrist. It is the most delicate of joints. But what delight it is capable of. Sachin Tendulkar uses it to whip balls around his pads. Roger Federer uses it to make tennis balls do mysterious things. Sidin Vadukut currently uses it to control his information technology universe.
A few months ago, I told you about the Pebble smart watch, and how I’d placed an order for it online. At least once a day, since then, I’ve refreshed my order page on the www.getpebble.com website to check if my watch has been shipped.
Four weeks ago it was. Three weeks ago, I popped over to my local post office to pick it up. My life, as they say, has never been the same since.
Let me explain.
Modern smartphones are versatile devices. Most good phones are now powerful enough to let you accomplish most of your daily computing tasks: email, photographs, Web browsing, word processing, document editing, throwing birds at pigs—can all be accomplished from the limited form factor of a smartphone.
But this is also the greatest problem with these devices. When was the last time your phone buzzed, you picked it up, read a text message, and then immediately put it away? Exactly. 1998. When you were the proud owner of a Nokia 3330. Unless you started playing Snake.
Today the phone is an endless source of distractions, deviations and ad hoc tasks. Open a message and suddenly you’re refreshing email and suddenly you’re checking a cricket score and suddenly you’re updating Twitter and suddenly it is 6pm and another working day has ended in futility.
The Pebble watch, then, is exactly the device you need. It liberates you from the evil hegemony of the mobile phone. By displaying all (or some) alerts on your wrist, it serves as a first-cut filter. Now you can leave your phone in a bag or a drawer, and only fish it out when the watch displays a critical text or email. This might seem like a small refinement. But it is beginning to save me chunks of time and help me focus better. I’ve simply stopped checking my phone every 15 minutes to see “if something has happened”.
But that was the first impact of the watch. The low-hanging fruit, if you will. Since then I’ve learnt to fine-tune the watch into an information tool. This is particularly easy to do if you own an Android phone and use that to send alerts to the watch (the iOS app is much less versatile).
Let me give you one example. I’ve now set up a new, private Twitter handle that is registered to my mobile number. Then I’ve used this handle to follow all kinds of breaking news, sports alerts and Indian Premier League (IPL)-score Twitter handles. Next I’ve asked Twitter to send me EVERY new tweet on my timeline via text message (this works in many, but not all countries). This might sound like a lot. And it can get a little overwhelming during IPL matches. But by and large, I am thrilled. Each time there is a crisis anywhere in the world, a tweet is pushed to my phone, which then relays it to my wristwatch via Bluetooth. And it doesn’t matter if the phone is in a bag, backpack or table drawer. My phone, therefore, is out of distracting sight.
This is just the beginning. The makers of the watch have now launched a new software update which allows it to not just receive but also send and ask for phone data. This means that I can summon a calendar, an appointment list, a weather forecast, send a canned SMS, or even pull a list of reminders, all from my wrist.
Most recently, I’ve been using the watch to give me turn by turn directions from a map app as I walk.
In some ways this is like having a Nokia 3330 strapped to your wrist and pulling only the most essential information from your turbocharged smartphone. Except that the Pebble is somewhat sexier.
Suddenly my wrist has become the noticeboard for my life. In time I expect to be able to fine-tune this noticeboard. Till finally, one day, I reach for my smartphone only when I want a serious computing task accomplished.
This might not sound intuitive. But the Pebble is an example of two devices being better than just one.
Also Read | Sidin’s previous Lounge columns