Our new series “Cool Tech for Your Commission Check” will give you ideas for some awesome technology that’s worth some (or in come cases, all) of your commission check.

Today’s recommendation is the Pebble Smartwatch.

I came across the Pebble Smartwatch a few years ago when I was browsing Kickstarter. They raised $10M in funding in 2012, which is pretty unreal. The more you get to know about Pebble Smartwatch, though, the more that makes sense.

The idea of a watch that you can use to read text messages, answer your phone, check the weather, even operate your smart phone’s camera remotely, likely sounds familiar on the brink of the Apple Watch launch in early 2015. When I first came across the concept in 2012, though, it was pretty revolutionary. And while at Handshake we are lovers of all things Apple, I have had such a great experience with my Pebble Smartwatch that I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned along the way. With a lower price point than Apple Watch, immediate availability and compatibility with Android, it might make sense for you too.

Pebble Review: What it is & how much it costs

By way of explanation, the Pebble Smartwatch is a watch that you connect to your smartphone. Pretty much anything you can view on your phone can also be viewed on the watch. This means it really is a product of the smartphone apps you choose to engage with regularly (more on this under Capabilities).

There are two versions: the Pebble ($99) and the Pebble Steel ($199). The main differences are aesthetic – Pebble has a plastic frame and a rubber wire and Pebble Steel looks more like a regular watch, coming in matte black or silver and the option for a chain or leather band.

Both watches are water resistant, which comes in handy in those scenarios where your phone rings just as you get in the shower, and you can just look at your wrist to see who it is before you decide to dry off and answer. Both have a battery life of up to 7 days.

Capabilities

Your Pebble Smartwatch is a customized view of the apps you’d like to interact with. You can pick and choose what makes sense for you, whether that’s a comprehensive list of all your apps or a few select functions like checking the weather and viewing your text messages. (Insider tip – I use the Dark Sky app and it sends an alert to my Pebble when it’s about to rain).

This CNET article of the best Pebble Smartwatch apps names Yelp, Foursquare, and PebbGPS as top contenders. To illustrate, this means you can find a restaurant, navigate there, and check in without having to touch your phone.

Here’s a quick list of what you can do with your Pebble, including but not limited to:

  • Check your email – both the subject line and a message preview
  • Check your text messages
  • Answer your phone
  • Control the music playing on your phone
  • View Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, (whatever social you happen to be into) notifications
  • View your calendar
  • View your fitness tracker apps like Jawbone UP
  • Click the shutter on your camera phone
  • Advance slides in a presentation
  • Pay for coffee at Starbucks

Oh yea – and you can check the time, too.

Other cool facts:

The Pebble utilizes the same screen technology as the Kindle, so it’s easy to view in sunlight.

To conserve battery, the backlight on the screen only comes on when you flick your wrist and it’s dark enough to warrant it.

How it’s changed my game

It’s pretty obvious that such comprehensive functionality and a low price point means the Pebble offers a ton of value. It’s also improved my quality of life in a number of ways.

1. I lose my phone less.

I frequently put my phone down in my office and I waste a lot of time trying to find it again. Now that I have my Pebble, I use the Find My Phone app which forces my phone to make a noise so I can easily find it again. The beauty of doing this with Pebble is that I can walk around while looking for it, without having to use my computer.

2. I take my phone in and out of my pocket less frequently.

#Firstworldprobz for sure, but it really does make a difference when you don’t have to continually take your phone in an out of your pocket (or, if you are someone who stores it in a purse, in and out of there). The simple action just gets annoying if you are a heavy phone user, and it’s so much easier to just glance at your wrist instead.

On a more practical level, it’s ideal to get notifications on your watch instead of your phone while you’re in a meeting.  This way you can screen what is or isn’t important without blatantly taking out and checking your phone.

3. I’m no longer a slave to my phone.

With my Pebble, there’s no need for my phone to be in earshot anymore. I don’t spend or waste as much time staring at it. It means I am able to be more focused at work, more present for my relationships, and have more fun when I’m having fun. Some may call this living a more mindful existence. Whatever it is, it’s great.

In case you haven’t gotten the memo by now, I think it’s worth giving the Pebble Smartwatch a try. Get your feet wet with the $99 Pebble and if it’s life changing, you can decide whether you want to spring for the Apple Watch in 2015.  If you have questions or have a smartwatch and want to share your experience, leave feedback in the comments below.