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Wearable Tech

​Smart button, fitness music player or Android mini-computer? Pebble Core goes for all three

Coming in 2017, this off-wrist keychain computer aims to do a heck of a lot of stuff.

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Editors' note, December 7, 2016: Pebble has announced that its assets have been acquired by Fitbit and it will no longer release new products. Kickstarter backers of the Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core will receive a full refund for their purchase.

Meet the Pebble Core, one of the hardest-to-describe products I've seen recently. Unlike Pebble's other wearable devices, this isn't a smartwatch.

Think of it as a standalone, multipurpose, Android-powered smart button. Or a GPS fitness tracker that's also a Spotify iPod Shuffle. Or, a 3G-optional GPS tracker. Pebble Core wants to be all of these things -- and more.

pebblecore2.jpg

Pebble Core can be a keychain.

John Kim/CNET

Maybe the best way to think of the Pebble Core is a product that takes features missing from the Pebble Time and offloads them onto a separate clip-on product. The Core has standalone 3G functions, and can track runs via GPS without a phone. Or, it could stream music over 3G cellular wireless (if you invest in a SIM card, and add it to your monthly phone bill). An included headphone jack plus Bluetooth make it, at the least, a Spotify mini-music player (it can play a downloaded Spotify playlists from its 4GB of built-in storage).

According to CEO Eric Migicovsky, the Pebble Core is programmable and hackable. It can not only run software, but it has two large touch buttons on the front that can be assigned smart-button functions. Send an SOS ping via text, call an Uber, open a door, turn off a light -- whatever smart buttons (such as the Flic) do, Pebble Core could theoretically do via a Pebble app interface.

pebblecore3.jpg

Two buttons and a headphone jack.

John Kim/CNET

The Pebble Core runs for about 9 hours of music playback using GPS, or for days on standby. And it charges using the contactless Qi standard, meaning you don't need to worry about a dongle, something that even the Pebble watches don't have yet.

Pebble Core works as an accessory while wearing a Pebble watch, but it also works independently. It can pair with a phone or work on its own.

Pebble Core is available to back on Kickstarter, but it won't arrive until January 2017. At its current $69 US promotional price, it's affordable. (Converted, that's £47 or AU$96.) But it's not entirely clear whether what it does will be as good as what it promises.

pebble2andcorebluecrop.jpg
Pebble

The Core could be a truly open type of online mini-computer hub, or hacker's smart-button dream. Or, it could be a missing link for wearable off-wrist fitness. Or, perhaps it's a testbed for the direction Pebble watches and products could evolve in the future.

That said, its lack of a screen and more buttons could limit its appeal, especially as a music player.

Features:

  • Runs Android
  • 3G SIM card slot
  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi
  • Two programmable touch buttons
  • GPS
  • Syncs with health apps (Runkeeper, Strava, MapMyRun, Google Fit, UA Record)
  • Records voice notes
  • Wireless Qi charging
  • 4GB storage

Where to Buy

Pebble Core

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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