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Pebble Core adds support for Amazon's Alexa voice assistant

Richard Easton
2 Jun 2016
Pebble Core lead
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The Pebble Core packs everything a runner needs into a small package so you can leave your smartphone behind

Hot on the heels of its Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 announcements, the company has also taken the covers off its first GPS-capable wearable and the first device that doesn't live on your wrist. Instead, the Pebble Core is an iPod Shuffle-esque wearable that is designed to clip onto your clothing using a built-in magnetic clip. It's 3G-capable, too, and is targetted predominantly towards runners and fitness enthusiasts who don't want to carry their smartphone with them.

Even music is packed into the tiny Pebble Core thanks to Spotify integration. You can either pop a Micro SIM in and use its 3G capabilities to stream music while on the move, or download offline playlists to the 4GB of built-in storage. You can use the built-in Wi-Fi instead if taking out another data plan just for a fitness wearable isn't for you.

Combined with the GPS mapping, this covers most of the running essentials meaning you can leave your bulky, cumbersome smartphone at home. As for connecting your headphones, you can either use the 3.5mm headphone jack or, better yet, connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones for a truly distraction-free run.

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All of the GPS and running data, which includes mapping, distance and pack, will work happily with most of the popular running services include Google Fit, Under Armour Record and Strava. As there's no screen on the device, if you want a readout of your on-the-go running information, the Core will work with Pebble watches to display your current speed, distance and other useful metrics. You'll still get some of these readouts as verbal cues in your ears if you don't have a Pebble watch.

Pebble Core running services

All of the GPS and running data, which includes mapping, distance and pace, will work happily with most of the popular running services including Google Fit, Under Armour Record and Strava. As there's no screen on the device, if you want a readout of your on-the-go running information, the Core will work with Pebble watches to display your current speed, distance and other useful metrics. You'll still get some of these readouts as verbal cues in your ears if you don't have a Pebble watch. Unlike the wrist-worn new Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2, there's no heart rate monitoring.

The Core isn't just for runners, however, even if that will likely be the largest market. The Core is geared towards developers, too, as an SDK will be available to develop extra functionality. The Core is built on Android 5.0, which should make it approachable for developers as it functions essentially as a compact Android computer. There's a programmable button that apps can tap into, and examples Pebble has given include the ability to track pets, call for an Uber or unlock your car. There's a microphone built-in, too, so you can use it to record voice notes.

Pebble Core charging

Pebble has rated the Core's battery life as long enough for five days worth of 45-minute workouts while streaming music and using the GPS. The Core will also support wireless charging for added convenience.

Personally, I think the Core sounds like a great idea for avid runners. Having to carry a smartphone in an armband or waistband is often cumbersome, so being able to get the basic functionality you need to successfully record a run and keep yourself entertained, all combined in a small package, sounds like it's the perfect companion. 

Related: See all our favourite smartwatches and fitness trackers

Pebble just announced via its blog that it is adding integrated support for Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, which is great news for those in the US but not so much for anyone else as Alexa isn't available in other territories yet. You'll be able to ask Alexa to do a number of things, including playing certain music from Amazon Prime Music and iHeartRadio. You'll be able to get a news digest from websites such as USA Today. Unsurprisingly, you can use Alexa to shop on Amazon.com as well. Alexa will also integrate into Pebble's ecosystem, too, allowing you to get a read out of your Pebble Health summary for the day.

Amazon seems to be at least in some way directly on board with the integration. Steve Rabuchin, Vice President, Amazon Alexa commented that "the integration of Amazon Alexa into Pebble Core is exciting to see. By making Alexa Voice Services available for free to device makers and developers, we knew there would be no limit to the innovative uses." The next step is to bring Alexa to countries other than the US, especially as it will soon be facing stern competition from the likes of Google Home.

The Core, like the Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2, is being funded on Kickstarter. Early backers can get a lower price of $69 + shipping at the moment, increasing to $79 + shipping after the initial 5,000. Pebble has said the Core will have a retail price of $99 when it is properly released, so either price will get you a discount for being an early backer. Notably, this is less than you would spend for a similarly music-capable fitness wearable, like the TomTom Spark (Music + Cardio), which also lacks Spotify integration.

At time of writing, the Pebble 2, Pebble Time 2 and Pebble 2 combined kickstarter campaign has nearly surpassed its $1m ten times over. The Core isn't expected to ship until at least January 2017, so there's a bit of a wait and as usual, delays can and will happen. Pebble having had two successful large-scale campaigns at least has a lot of experience so here's hoping we see all of their devices sooner rather than later.

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