I wanted to talk about my new favorite phone/tablet mount for my car. As some of you may know I have been a big fan of Mountek’s nGroove Grip for the last year or so. It is great for nearly any size smartphone and was the best mount that I could find. I love that it is easily installed and removed with no tools required. I love how solid it mounts as well, I never worry that it will come unmounted or that it will allow my phone to fall out. The only drawbacks in my opinion were that it could not hold my iPad mini and that you could only angle it so far to either side. Some people don’t like Mountek’s mounts as they mount into the cd slot of your car and therefore render your cd player useless. I however love that it mounts where it does. I never listen to CDs and while you can easily find a suction cup mount for any device they all have their own set of drawbacks. Most of these mounts gradually lose suction after a while and will eventually fall if you don’t remember to reapply them. Also, I live in Texas where any device mounted to the windshield will get extremely hot, which I am not a fan of. So the mount being secured in the cd player slot is a big win for me. A few months ago I found out that Mountek was developing a new mount, the nGroove Snap, and had put it on the crowdfunding website indiegogo. I backed the project and received the new mount about a month and a half ago. I have been using it every day since. It is simply the best mount that I have ever seen. It installs the same way as the nGroove Grip but improves on it in every way. Gone are the adjustable arms on the side. Instead you now simply place your phone onto the flat surface and your phone just attaches to it. It’s really quite magical. Mountek includes a couple of very thin magnetic badges which you stick to the inside of your devices case. These magnets are incredibly strong for their size, it’s really impressive. It’s kind of hard to explain how nice it is to get into your car, simply set your phone against the mount, and be able to easily glance at your screen but it makes me smile to this day. The new mount also fixed my other complaint about the older one, it tilts side to side a lot further. I have the two magnetic badges stuck to my iPhone 5S case and my iPad mini case and both devices mount great to the Snap mount. The iPhone is very secure and the iPad mini is slightly less but still works. Needless to say I am extremely impressed with the Snap mount and would recommend it to anyone looking for a mount that doesn’t mind giving up their cd slot. My wife just bought one as well. She replaced her old nGroove Grip that I had bought her. She absolutely loves the Snap as well. If you are interested in purchasing one of your own, it is available now to the public on Mountek’s website as well as Amazon.
I recently purchased a Pebble Smart Watch and have been using it for several days now. I wanted to give my thoughts on it for those interested, but first a little back story on the subject. The Pebble started as a Kickstarter project on April 11th, 2012 with a $100,000.00 fundraising goal for the project to be made. It quickly became one of the most successful projects ever on Kickstarter with a total of $10,266,845.00 raised by May 18th, 2012. The Pebble started shipping to backers on January 23rd, 2013. As of July 4th, 2013 they have sold over 85,000 watches. I followed the Pebble on Kickstarter but I did not back it myself. I wanted to learn a little more about it before spending the money on it. Several reviews have been posted by people & tech sites who have received their Pebbles in the last several months and after some research I had decided that I indeed wanted to purchase the Pebble. I just needed to find out how to get my hands on one. This proved to be harder than I had anticipated. The only place you could buy one was through Pebble’s website, which would let you pre-order one, with no real idea of how long you would have to wait to receive it. Thankfully about a month and a half ago, Pebble announced a partnership with Best Buy for them to be the first (and at the time of this post, only) retailer to stock the Pebble. It would be available in stores on the 7th of July, 2013 for $149.95. It would be available in two colors – Jet Black & Cherry Red. I decided this was the best way to get my hands on one. Unfortunately, my local Best Buy was receiving very limited shipments and were selling out of them as soon as they arrived in stores. After numerous phone calls & several visits to my local store, I purchased a Jet Black Pebble a little over a week ago. Read on for my thoughts on the Pebble Smart Watch.
So what is the Pebble exactly and what does it do? The Pebble is a watch that connects over Bluetooth to your smartphone. You can use it with either an iPhone or an Android phone. As most people probably know, I am an iPhone guy so my thoughts on the Pebble will be based on using it with an iPhone running iOS6.1.3. It has a low power 1.26-inch 144 × 168 pixel black and white “e-paper” display and runs about a week on a full charge. The Pebble has a backlit screen that can be activated by pressing a button or by flicking your wrist.
It charges with an included magnetic USB charger that snaps onto the left side of the watch. The Pebble will of course tell the time & date but it has several other functions as well. After you pair your Pebble with your smartphone over Bluetooth you can add quite a bit of functionality to the watch. You can receive text messages and phone call alerts to the watch with very minimal setup. Text messages come with a vibrating alert and phone calls show up as the phone number calling you, or if the person who is calling is in the contacts on your phone, as their name.
The buttons on the side of the Pebble allow you to either take the call or ignore it. Now, you can’t actually talk on the phone through the watch. You still need to be connected to your phone either by having ear-buds with a built in mic like the ones you get with an iPhone, by wearing a Bluetooth headset, or being connected to the Bluetooth in your vehicle. As I have Apple’s earpod headphones in my ears the entire time I am at my job, it is very handy to not have to take my iPhone out of my pocket to see who is calling or texting me. This functionality worked flawlessly in my testing. You can also enter in your email account information into the companion Pebble app on your phone to get email notifications sent to the Pebble watch. This however does not seem to always work. Sometimes I get my emails sent to the Pebble & sometimes I don’t. (EDIT: Pebble released an update to the Pebble iOS app & I now receive all of my email notifications. Yay software updates!)You can also get notifications from your other apps pushed to the Pebble as well, but it is not without its kinks. I like to get sports score alerts from the MLB & ESPN apps sent to my Pebble, as well as Twist updates, reminder alerts, Twitter alerts, etc. To accomplish this you have to perform what is affectionately referred to on the Pebble forums as “the finger dance”. Basically, if you lose the Bluetooth connection from your phone to your Pebble, you have to go into the notification settings on your phone and toggle alerts on and off for each app that you wish to receive notifications for. This kinda sucks but it is due to certain limitations in iOS6. iOS7, which is due in less than a month will according to rumors drastically change the Bluetooth permissions and allow notifications from any app to be sent over Bluetooth. I do hope that this is the case, as this is the one half baked feature at the moment.
You can also use the Pebble to control your music playback. It will display song information on it’s screen and allow you to pause and skip whatever is currently playing. I really like this feature. Another fun thing to do is go to http://www.mypebblefaces.com and download some new watch-faces and apps for your Pebble. You can store a total of 8 watch-faces or apps at a time. It is unbelievable how many different watch-faces you can find there. I will share a few of my favorites below.
The Futura Weather watch-face is the one I like the most. I use it 90% of the time. I love that it shows the current weather. You enable the weather by downloading the free httpepple app from the app store. This is a great little app that expands the functionality of the Pebble.
I love the Mario Time Watch-Face as well. Every minute he jumps up and changes the time.
I also installed the Pebblis app to my Pebble. It is just Tetris with a different/punny name. It is fully playable although you would have to be kinda crazy to spend more than a few minutes with it.
Overall I am very satisfied with my Pebble Smart Watch. Don’t get me wrong nobody needs to buy one of these for their life to be complete. It is a very first world product, much like heated seats in a car or wifi on a plane. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a nice thing to have and enjoy. I recently bought a screen protector for my Pebble (it is not very scratch resistant) and had to leave it home as it needed to sit for 24 hours. I really missed having it with me that day. While it is not without its quirks. It drastically cuts down on the amount of times I pull my phone out of my pocket throughout the day. I think that over time it will become a better and better product.
Update: I found a cool iOS app called Smartwatch Pro which is $2.99 and adds quite a bit of functionality to the Pebble. I highly recommend it.