Hands on with Pebble’s appstore: Bite-sized apps on your wrist

It’s a double news day for Pebble, the smartwatch darling that now boasts a presence on more than 300,000 wrists. The new Pebble Steel model, launched earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, is now shipping to customers. And the Pebble appstore is nearly ready. In fact, I got an early glimpse of the store and had a chance to install some of the new partner apps announced at CES.

pebble appstore

To use the appstore, my Pebble first needed an update to the Pebble 2.0 software. The process worked flawlessly with my iPhone(s aapl) pushing the firmware to my Pebble review unit over Bluetooth.

On the iPhone, the Pebble app is expanded to show off software in the appstore and is also the mechanism to get apps on the smartwatch. Likely because of memory limitations, you can only push eight apps to the Pebble. But there’s an app locker in the software that can hold more apps; you can pull apps off the Pebble to swap them out from the app locker quite easily.

pebble app locker

Like any software application store, Pebble smartly categorizes the apps by type: Daily, Notifications, Fitness, Tools & Utilities, Remotes, and Games. There are also recommended top picks and essentials, plus you can search by an app name. Unlike most new app stores, there’s a fair amount of software to choose from, even prior to launch. Pebble says there are nearly 1,000 titles in the appstore already and more than 6,000 developers have registered to create Pebble apps.

pebble appstore front

Pebble will have four big partner apps at launch: ESPN(s dis), Yelp, GoPro and Foursquare. I’m not a big user of Yelp or GoPro cameras and since I’m not working outside of my home office, I skipped Foursquare as well. I am looking forward to checking in to places through a wearable, however. So I installed the Breaking News app and ESPN from the Pebble appstore; Within 15 seconds, I had game scores and headlines on my wrist.

espn pebble appstore

Navigating through the ESPN app allows you to pick a sport — hey, where’s the Barclays Premier League? — and your Pebble will update scores for it on the interval of your choice.

espn app settings pebble

My NJ Devils hockey team plays tonight and I can’t watch the game, so I’ll be looking to my wrist for updates. The app is nice but basic. I’d like to to be able to pick a favorite team or even get notifications of key plays, but this is a good start.

nhl on pebble

In fact, the overall store is a good start.

There’s a wide range of apps to choose from: You can play Asteroids or even Chess on your Pebble if you want to. It’s easy to get apps on or off the watch. And of course, these apps are all in addition to the already existing functionality of notifications from your smartphone appearing on the Pebble.

Will it be a hit? Time will tell, but this smartwatch is definitely showing more potential long after its humble beginnings thanks to small bits of functionality gained through tiny apps.