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Pebble Boosts Smartwatch Game With Appstore

Pebble pushes hard for developers' attention with plans to launch a dedicated application store early next year.
8 Wearable Tech Devices To Watch
8 Wearable Tech Devices To Watch
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Pebble's momentum is accelerating headed into the New Year, with plenty on deck for 2014. Perhap its most important project will be the Pebble appstore, which it expects to kick off in the weeks ahead. The store is meant to help Pebble owners easily find and install applications for their smartwatch.

Pebble says the appstore will work directly within the Android and iOS Pebble applications, meaning users will browse for apps on their smartphone, not their watch. They'll be able to search for, purchase, and download and install apps from the appstore to their Pebble.

The store will feature seven categories for browsing apps: daily, remotes, games, notifications, tools and utilities, sports and fitness, and watchfaces. Pebble will highlight the best apps and newest apps in each category on a daily basis. Watch apps that require companion smartphone apps will be able to link from the Pebble appstore to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store to make it easier for consumers to get all they need.

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It is free to register and develop apps for Pebble. The Pebble Developer Portal is already open and accepting new apps ahead of the appstore's launch. Pebble announced a new SDK earlier this year, which includes four key APIs that developers can use to craft smarter apps.

The APIs cover Javascript, accelerometer, data logging, and persistent storage. According to Pebble, the APIs will lead to apps that can talk directly to the Internet to pull down data such as weather and traffic. Developers have access to the accelerometer for gesture-based controls and health and fitness apps. The persistent storage and data logging APIs mean Pebble users will be able to log workout and other data even when there's no phone nearby, as well as store settings, scores, and other data locally. Pebble says that companies such as iControl, Foursquare, GoPro, and Yelp are already working on apps with the new SDK.

Developers should be aware ahead of time that Pebble is not offering paid applications at launch. However, developers may charge for companion Android and iOS smartphone apps. Pebble does not regulate the companion apps -- those are for Apple and Google to manage. All smartwatch apps will need to meet Pebble's appstore terms and conditions. Pebble says it reserves the right to yank smartwatch apps that don't meet its terms. Pebble didn't provide many details on the validation process, however, including how long it will take between submitting apps and seeing them appear in the store.

Last, it's important to note that Pebble will not block third-party app stores after its own launches. It hopes developers will choose to submit to the Pebble appstore, but if not they'll still be able to offer apps to Pebble smartwatches through other portals.

As of early November, Pebble had shipped about 190,000 Pebble watches worldwide. Pebble owners have downloaded and installed 2 million apps, collectively, which averages to about 10 per watch. There are already more than 50 companion apps available for Android and iOS devices, and more than 10,000 developers have registered with Pebble to create smartwatch apps.

At $150, the Pebble is a great gift for tech-enthusiasts. Some retail outlets have dropped the price to as low as $120 to entice holiday deal seekers. With the appstore on deck for launch early next year, now's the time to jump onto the smartwatch bandwagon.

Eric Zeman is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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