April 23rd, 2013


Bluetooth got more powerful when I wasn't looking

My new toy came in the mail the other day: a Pebble watch. I was one of the roughly 22 zillion people who backed this and made it one of the highest-funded Kickstarter projects ever. (Goal: $100,000. Pledged: over $10 million.) It's basically the modern equivalent of a Dick Tracy watch: a wristwatch that is actually a computer with an e-ink screen, which is in constant communication with your smartphone. It lets you control your music, see your emails as they come in, and stuff like that.

(Yes, it's a silly toy, and for now mostly has the effect of confusing people because every time my phone beeps, I look at my wrist to see what the message is. But my bet is that it's going to prove to be the leading edge of wearable computing for the masses, and it's not *crazy* expensive.)

I did have one concern, though, which was how effective the radio would be. The watch talks to the phone via Bluetooth, which is famously short-range. I confess that I haven't had too many Bluetooth devices, so I'd taken the traditional description at face value: that it's intended for uses of 3-10 feet. That seemed good enough that the phone in my left pocket would reliably talk to the watch on my right hand, but I wasn't entirely sure.

So much for that worry.

I'm sitting here at my computer, where the watch is plugged in overnight. And it is buzzing every time the phone -- plugged in one story, at least thirty feet and a *lot* of walls away -- gets a message. I've seen Wifi get worse range than that. Is this normal for modern Bluetooth?