We’re generally not impressed by geeky personal gadgets, and the Pebble wearable technology is no exception. Moreover, we’re trying to reduce our inventory of distracting portable electronics for the cockpit. That’s why it was easy to shrug off the recently introduced interface between the Hilton WingX Pro7 navigation app and the Pebble Smartwatch. But valued readers rely on us to give this stuff a try before they buy, so we did. What’s one more USB charging cable in a drawer full of a hundred of them, anyway?
Data synch, alert
That’s the idea of the Pebble/WingX Pro 7 interface. The watch connects via Bluetooth to an iPad, iPod or iPhone and receives some of the data that’s displayed on the WingX app. Connecting could be a problem if you also connect to another device. Don’t expect the watch to display high-resolution mapping and weather data. That’s not the point or within the current capabilities. Pebble has a fairly utilitarian 1.26-inch e-paper display with a 144×168-pixel count, but a user interface that’s both intuitive and easy to work with, in our view. Battery life is impressive, with nearly a week of endurance per charge.
Pebble displays the battery level of the connected iDevice, in addition to its own battery status via two horizontal bars on the display. Once there is an active route programmed on WingX Pro 7, waypoint data is transmitted and displayed on the Pebble. The same waypoint data that’s displayed on the Pebble is what’s being displayed on the main app screen. The idea is to allow the user to toss the iDevice on the seat, for example, and rely primarily on the Pebble for waypoint alerts, altitude deviations and other prompts.
By default, the current time is displayed at the top of the Pebble display, but pushing the upper right mode button toggles through the current aircraft ground speed, current track and the current GPS altitude.
The lower right mode button changes the text that’s on the lower portion of the screen. You can display the desired track and time to the currently programmed waypoint, including track data to intermediate fixes within an approach, if loaded.
The middle mode button brings up a menu for programming a timer. This can be used for switching fuel tanks, for example. Up and down softkeys make it simple to change the timer and a Go button (the center mode button) activates it. The upper left mode button serves as a Back command, sending you back one level in the menu.
The menu also sets an altitude alerter. If you’re cruising at 6000 feet, for example, it’s easy to set a target altitude in 500-foot intervals. The watch warns when you deviate plus or minus 300 feet of the buffered altitude.
We particularly like the app’s ability to vibrate the watch when passing a fix. It’s a real attention-getter that eliminates having to look down at the iDevice when flying an approach. Additionally, you can set a 1000-foot altitude warning so the watch will warn you at 1000 feet prior to reaching the destination airport. When you’re on approach for landing, the watch vibrates five times when descending through 1000 feet to warn you to run a checklist, for example.
You’ll need to differentiate between the various vibrating alerts. When the timer expires, the watch vibrates twice. It vibrates only once when passing a fix.
We reviewed Garmin’s D2 pilot watch in the December 2013 issue of Aviation Consumer, with lukewarm results. We think the Pebble interface offers more utility and better contributes to situational awareness, mainly because of its vibrating timer and waypoint alerts. It’s also less bulky.
The Pebble sells for around $150, in addition to a WingX Pro 7 subscription. Visit www.hiltonsoftware.com, 408-268-8418.