The Pebble Core is a first from the company as a non-wrist wearable, officially ushering forward Pebble's push into fitness.
The little device was designed for people who don't want to be tethered to a phone but still want to be connected to the internet for music. While it sounds like an iPod shuffle - which co-founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky doesn't deny for one minute - it promises to hold its own providing even more functionality than a music player.
"We kicked it off four years ago and I think this is our biggest change to our status quo of what we've been building in the last couple years. I'm particularly excited about this (Core) because as a cyclist and talking to people who run, there's clearly a need for music when you run.
"When we came up with this, we thought, 'well it's an iPod shuffle that does Spotify.' And then when we thought about it some more, it was like 'how come no one's thought of this before? How come no one's pushed it out before?'"
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What exactly makes it so different? Likely the Core's ability to harness the power of a SIM card, provide you with music thanks to 4GB of onboard storage all running on an Android OS.
The most notable features for runners includes an accelerometer motion sensor and GPS built in so you can track runs accurately. It's lightweight and has strong magnets to clip on to your clothes. There's also of course, a headphone jack for music.
There's no heart rate monitoring and no screen but Migicovsky says Core isn't meant to replace the Pebble watch- it's just a router with a few added perks.
"There's this interesting thing with smartwatches - it's a multifunctional computer that's on your wrist and can do anything. We've never really had the same feeling that we've built it to be a great watch first, then added notifications, then sports and fitness and activity tracking.
"We've always kept it focused. It wasn't this 'anything' machine, like your phone, that can do anything. It was built with a specific purpose in mind, the hardware reflects that, and the design - and the software reflects that as well.
"We were really excited that with Core, we can look at that in the same way where it was built for those who want to listen to music when they work out. But at the same time, build another path to the internet for our watches."
Internet at a small cost
There's no official word on whether there will be specific plans for the internet portion of the Pebble Core but Migicovsky says it's a small price to pay for another SIM card.
"Core takes a SIM card in the back. So you can either get another SIM card added to your existing AT&T or T-Mobile plan, which should be about five bucks a month, to slot one in and it should use the existing data that's already on your plan."
If that doesn't sound appealing, Core can also connect via Wi-fi plus you can store a decent amount of music on the device. You just won't be able to get notifications or connect to the internet without the SIM.
According to Pebble, the Core can manage up to 20 hours of battery life in GPS mode, 9 hours with GPS and listening back to stored music, or 4 hours when the GPS is in use and you're streaming music over 3G.
No screen, no problem
On first glance, the Core is pretty unassuming. There are only two buttons that can be customized to launch various apps or actions, with the larger (the big middle indent) controlling stop/start for music. It's a simple, lightweight but powerful device which again, is purposeful.
Migicovsky sees the Pebble Core as a little Raspberry Pi computer that's a bit easier to use by everyone.
"A lot of people who run and exercise love the idea of just using a device as a Spotify player with GPS. For $99 it's a simple, straightforward, understandable product. At the same time, it's pretty much just an Android computer inside a tiny little box. That's it. There's no screen, it has GPS, memory, 3G, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, it has all the baseline features of what an Android phone has, just no screen. Developers have been coming out of the woodwork to tell us what they want to build with it."
It's like a Raspberry Pi - a single board computer that's wrapped up in this nice consumer package with a battery and it works."
A few use cases have already been highlighted, but Migicovsky says there's interest in using the Core for everything including tracking suitcases, kids and cars. It's even possible to use the Core as a GoPro attachment to stream 3G.
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Beyond that, he notes that the medical industry has also reached out.
"Right now if you make an blood glucose sensor device or something that tracks if someone's fallen, it all has to go through the phone. But phones are expensive, they break, they have short battery lives and they're more complicated. 'Is there a way for those sensors and those devices to talk directly through the internet with Core?' Yeah, of course, that's what it can do. These guys are now looking at a $79 device that they could bundle with existing sensors or existing devices, that could be used as a router."
The CEO also thinks with time, the Core's pricing would decrease allowing people to have additional Cores all with their own abilities.
"Over time, I could imagine that Core's price could come down to a point where you might have one that does one thing - like leave it as a Spotify player in your car - and it's your Alexa and then you have another that's your running something else.
"It takes on a very specific purpose and doesn't try to take on everything your phone does."
Pebble Core still isn't out yet but it sounds like an interesting piece of tech that needs further testing beyond a quick hands on. I personally would be worried about losing it but Migicovsky says the magnets are very strong and durable. As for usefulness, that still remains to be determined. Replacing the phone with another device just to use a smartwatch seems counterintuitive but if it really proves to be the better option, then I'm willing to forego another screen.
The Pebble Core is currently available for $69 through Kickstarter, with the price jumping up to $99 when it officially goes on sale and is expected to start shipping in January 2017.
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