Back in the days before RunKeeper and GPS watches, my jogs were a beautifully simple thing: I strapped on an iPod Shuffle loaded with a strong mix of Britney and Eminem, and vanished into my own little world for an hour.
A couple years later, I transitioned to Spotify and never really looked back. But running with an armband and a 5-inch phone never felt quite the same, and clearly other people agree. That’s why I’m absurdly happy that Pebble, a small Canadian company that makes wearables, is making a Shuffle-sized device that clips on to your shorts, plays your Spotify playlists, and tracks runs.
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The Core is a $70 device about the same size as an old Shuffle, complete with a little clip. It allows you to store Spotify playlists on the 4GB of built-in storage, or stream them over a 3G connection. It also has built-in GPS and integration with popular apps like RunKeeper and Strava, so you can track your workouts. Finally, it builds in an emergency SOS button using that cellular radio, so you still have the comfort value of not being completely cut off from the world in an emergency.
It feels like someone’s sat down, thought about what my ideal device would be to take running or biking, and then built that. It’s a stripped-down machine for people who just want to know how far they’ve run, and listen to music along the way. My only concern is the controls: Core only has two buttons, so you’ll really need to pair it to a Pebble smartwatch over Bluetooth to make the most of it.
Pebble actually has other plans for the Core beyond just workouts. As Pebble points out, Core is really just a tiny Android 5.0-powered computer, complete with a full suite of sensors like GPS and microphones, and Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. Pebble is making the device completely open to hackers, so you can expect a bunch of Core-powered lifehacks coming soon.
Alongside the Core, Pebble also revamped its line of smartwatches with a new focus on fitness. The Pebble 2 is a $100 smartwatch that looks a lot like the original Pebble, but with the notable addition of built-in heartrate tracking. The Pebble Time 2 is an update to last summer’s Pebble Time Steel, with a color e-ink display and heart-rate monitoring again.
Overall, the smartwatch updates stick to Pebble’s core philosophy of the simpler, the better. Pebble watches have buttons instead of touchscreens, and week-long battery life rather than 24 hours. They’re meant to be smartwatches for people who mostly want a watch, only with this update, they’re now also cheap and powerful fitness trackers.
All three devices are up for pre-order on Kickstarter right now, Pebble’s tried-and-tested method of selling products. The Core is $69 with delivery in January next year, Pebble 2 is $99 in September this year, while the Pebble Time 2 is $169, delivery November 2016.