image/svg+xml Rebble · Blog

An all new developer experience

Hi All, today we are happy to announce that the new Rebble developer portal is live! This has been in the works for a while now, and involved extending the capabilities of the appstore backend, as well as building a new frontend.

The result is a shiny new way for you to upload, update, and manage your apps and watchfaces on the Rebble store, replacing the cumbersome old rebble.io/submit process! Let’s take a look.

To get started, head over to dev-portal.rebble.io. If you migrated your pebble account back in 2018, you should see your watchfaces and apps as soon as you log in. If you didn’t migrate your account, you’ll need to follow the steps to link your newer Rebble account with your original developer ID.

Once you’re logged in you’ll see a list of your watchfaces and apps. You can upload new releases, change appstore listing information, manage screenshots and more!

Uploading new apps and faces is easy too, just press the ‘new app’ button on the left hand side to go through the upload process.

We’re lucky enough to still see a decent number of people developing for the Pebble smartwatch, which is a testament to the development process and the Rebble community. Hopefully this new tool will enable existing developers to get their apps and updates out faster, and perhaps even entice new developers.

Check it out at dev-portal.rebble.io. If you need assistance, check out the help centre at help.rebble.io or ask a question on Discord.

Get a (Side)load of our New Android App!

It’s a tribute to Pebble’s vision and engineering prowess that their watches still provide value to tens of thousands of wearers more than four years after their much-lamented demise — of course, we may have helped along the way, but a lot of things “just work” as they always have. One exception to this, however, is the ability to sideload Pebble apps and firmware on modern Android devices — even Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky ran into difficulties with a .pbz file recently, and while we got it working, there are many more hoops to jump through than the average user should have to deal with. Hence our introduction of Sideload Helper by Rebble — the missing bridge between Pebble files and the legacy Pebble app!

The app began as a discussion on the Rebble Discord server:

“I had the idea to make an app that made sideloading .pbws easier, since that functionality was broken in the original Pebble app.” says Lavender Glaab, one half of the dynamic duo behind the project. “Alice Grey had it working an hour later, and we had a Play Store page within 24 hours. It was really cool to see this app come to life thanks to her programming skill, and I think it’ll be a useful tool for anybody who uses their Pebble on Android.”

In addition to sideloading .pbw (watchface/watchapp), .pbl (language), and .pbz (firmware) files, the app also handles Rebble appstore links — in fact it will even translate legacy Pebble appstore links, providing users have Rebble Web Services set up. Finally, the app will facilitate the eventual transition to Rebble’s own in-development mobile app.

While the developers have achieved their initial goal of making sideloading easier on modern Android devices, there’s still more to do. One particular goal is localization — the process of adapting the app to work with different spoken languages — which is actually something the team could use help with! If you would like to contribute translations, or even just let us know what languages you’d like to see support for, please get in touch via our Sideload Helper localization issue on GitHub.

The particularly observant Pebbler may have noticed a fun little easter egg in the app ID (visible in the Goole Play URL): the name Charon in io.rebble.charon refers to the mythological ferrier of souls from the world of the living to the world of the dead — just like Sideload Helper by Rebble ferries files into the undead Pebble APK that still gives life to all of our watches! :grinning:

Announcing: Rebble Grants!

Hello, hello! Joshua here, with some exciting news. @ishotjr and I were chatting some recently, and we’ve been super excited by some of the things that people have been working on in Discord. We were wondering to ourselves: what can we do to make it even more exciting to contribute? Well, we took a look at the Rebble Alliance’s books, and we’re happy to announce something new: Rebble Grants!

Rebble Grants are our new plan to reinvest some of the proceeds from running the Rebble Web Services into development that keeps Pebble watches – and the Rebble service! – running well into the future. We’ve been saving up a little money over the past few years (!) of running the service (more on that in “The Shiny Rebble Future”, from last year), and we’ve allocated $25,000 to fund all kinds of things that might make the world a little better for Rebblers! Some of the things we hope to fund are:

  • work on a replacement mobile app for Pebble;
  • development on the RebbleOS firmware replacement project;
  • design work that supports the Rebble Alliance’s goals;
  • new features for Rebble Web Services; and
  • development on new watchapps or watchfaces.

Of course, if you want to do something that you think fits within our general goals, but that we didn’t list above, please let us know and we’ll tell you if it’s a match! We’re looking to fund all different sizes of projects, big to small; we’ll offer funding proportional to the importance of the proposal to the Rebble Alliance’s goals, and of course proportional to the amount of work that it’ll be to do it. Remember that you can submit multiple grants, so you can decide whether you want to go big right away, or whether you want to break things up into phases.

If you’re ready, you can submit a grant proposal starting right now! And if you just want to chat about it, we’re here for you – come talk to @joshua or @ishotjr on Discord.

We’re super excited to be launching this – we’re thrilled about getting to invest more in Pebble into the future, and we love the idea of kickstarting a new wave of Pebble development. We’re looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Squeezing the most out of your Pebble

Hi there! It’s Will here (some of you may know me as @Will0 on Discord). In the ~6 months since our last blog post a lot has happened, both in the Pebbleverse and the real world. Yet, despite the ever-increasing gap between the Pebble shutdown and today, still new people are signing up with Rebble to bring their beloved smartwatch back to life!

On that note, there have been a number of similar questions over the last few months on Reddit and the Rebble Discord, such as ‘why do I need to use RWS’, ‘I’m struggling to get setup’, ‘What are the best apps to use in 2020?’.

In this post we’ll go over the answer to all of these, as well as cover how you can squeeze the most out of your Pebble in 2020.

Let’s start with the easy questions first…

What is RWS / Why do I need it?

RWS stands for Rebble Web Services, and is what most people mean when they say ‘Rebble’ (though Rebble encompasses more than RWS, I’ll get to that later). RWS replaces the old Pebble servers, but does not replace the app - instead, during setup, you’re telling the original Pebble app to point to Rebble servers. Without RWS you’ll have to sideload Pebble apps, and won’t get any of the other server-dependent functions. RWS provides two tiers: Free and Paid. Here’s what you get with each:

Free Tier:

  • Access to the Rebble appstore
  • Timeline Server Support (3 hour sync period)
  • Access to the Rebble app store
  • Timeline Server Support (30 minute sync period)
  • Voice Dictation (note that iOS SMS reply doesn’t work)
  • Weather API (For the system weather app and timeline pins, watchfaces do not need this as they handle it themselves)
  • You fund the free tier and other Rebble work

How do I get setup with RWS?

Follow the guide at rebble.io/howto. Do not use any ‘Rebble’ apps from the appstore, as they aren’t legitimate and probably don’t work. If you run into any issues, check the ‘common issues’ section under the howto, or ask in #rebble-help on Discord.

What doesn’t work anymore?

Since the Pebble shutdown in 2016 some small features don’t work anymore, namely:

  • Timeline based apps that use ‘topics’, which allow lots of users to subscribe to a single source of timeline pins. But this is a small percentage of timeline apps, the rest still work. Note that your calendar pins are special, and do not require the timeline server to work.
  • Reply to SMS on iOS - Pebble used clever carrier-specific workarounds for iOS’ locked down SMS behaviour in a way that Rebble can’t easily replicate.
  • Apps that rely on servers no longer available - Some apps serve their settings page from web servers, and if those servers don’t exist anymore you can’t setup the apps. It’s not always a total loss though.

So what can I do with my Pebble in 2020?

The sky is the limit! Most of the apps and watchfaces on the appstore still work, and more are still being published - Like swanswanswanswansosoft’s Covid-19 tracker.

Apps

Here are some great apps that still work and are useful daily:

App Description Platform
Checklist A checklist of items, for shopping etc. Both
Timer+ Pretty, animated timer Both
Alarmist Set phone alarms from your watch Android
Dashboard Control your phone from your Pebble Android
Dialer for Pebble Better call integration Android
Skunk Store and view barcodes (for reward cards etc.) Both
RSS Reader Browse and read RSS feeds Both
Snowy ($2.99) Voice assistant for Pebble Both

… some other personal favourites …

App Description Requires Voice Platform
HTTP Push Make HTTP Calls (useful for home automation) No Both
News Headlines View BBC News Headlines No Both
Solanum A pomodoro timer to help you focus No Both
Music Boss A better music app No Android
Piny Wings A fun little game No Both
Pebtris You’ll have to hum your own theme music No Both

..and some that have been released only recently:

App Description
Hand wash timer Make sure you wash your hands for long enough!
2019-Ncov Track the number of Covid-19 cases around you
RSS Reader Read the title and contents of your favourite RSS feeds
Hybrid Watchface A minimalistic watchace for Pebble Time and later
Sheikah Slate Watchface The power of the sheikah slate on your wrist!


Timeline

June last year Rebble implemented timeline support. Which means you can once again push news, data, stocks, events and more to your timeline. It’s a convenient way to get information you can about available quickly but unobtrusively. As some you already know, I wrote a service that lets you hook anything from If-This-Then-That to Pebble timeline, making it easy to push data.

As an example, I push the following data to my timeline:

Data Method
BBC Breaking News IFTTT: New Tweet to Timeline
New post to /r/Pebble IFTTT: Reddit to Timeline
New RSS feed IFTTT: RSS Feed applet to Timeline
NASA Breaking News alerts IFTTT: NASA to Timeline
Monzo Debit card payments Timeline Bounce Server
New Hot item on hacker news IFTTT: Hacker News to Timeline

This keeps my timeline full of interesting stuff to read when I choose to. Only BBC breaking news creates a notification, the rest is passive and I either read it when it pops up in timeline peek or when I scroll back through timeline past (By mapping the ‘up’ quicklaunch to timeline past)

To get going with timeline you’ll need this app to generate a ‘token’ and to follow this guide or - if you prefer pictures - this guide. It helps if you’re familiar with If-This-Then-That too.

Developing New Apps

Do you know how to program in C or JavaScript? Maybe you want to learn? Developing on the Pebble is super fun and between the #app-dev channel on the Discord and the documentation there’s plenty of support still.

To get started you’ll need the SDK. For which there are now a few options:

Once you’ve got an app or a watchface you’d like to publish, you can do so through the new Rebble developer portal. This developer portal is a work in progress, but the basics are there now. Watch this space!

Some other neat tips

Here are a couple of neat Pebble tips that I’ve seen recently, that maybe you didn’t already know:

  • When you start playing music on your phone, the stock music app will move to the top of your app list on your watch, making it easy to open by pressing select twice from your watchface
  • Holding back from a notification will toggle quiet time
  • Enabling ‘Stand-By Mode’ from Settings -> System on your watch will disable Bluetooth when your Pebble doesn’t move for 30 minutes, saving battery power

Darksky API Shutdown

You might also have seen recently that Apple have purchased Darksky, one of the most popular weather API providers for Pebble apps and faces. Apple are going to shut down the API June 2021, and have already stopped issuing new API keys. Whilst this won’t affect the Rebble weather service, watchfaces that require this API will no longer work properly from June 2021. There’s plenty of time to come up with a replacement solution though, so I’m hopeful.

What else are Rebble up to?

Work continues in the background by our trusty band of volunteers, which can be followed on Github and Discord.

  • RebbleOS (the replacement firmware) continues to get frequent updates, with automated testing being a recent addition, as well as loading apps over bluetooth! Check out #firmware for more.
  • The RWS infrastructure has seen some upgrades recently, moving some services to Google Cloud and integrating operational analytics and observability tooling to make finding and fixing errors and choke points easier.
  • RWS Bugfixes! - For those of you on iOS, a fix was recently deployed that resolves the locker sync issue some of you were experiencing. If this has affected you, check out this Reddit post. You’ll also notice that the ‘see all’ buttons that mysteriously disappeared from the appstore are back for good now.
  • Work on the developer portal has begun, to make submitting new apps easier.
  • There’s even some work on a replacement mobile app, though this is a huge piece of work likely to take time.

So there you have it, the answer to some of the more commonly asked questions and hopefully a demonstration of just how much functionality you can get with a few apps and some timeline trickery! At some point I’d like to do a blog post of my Pebble workflow, and all the cool things I use it for, so watch 😉 this space.

Finally, if you have a question that wasn’t covered in this post, check the Common Issues section or stop by #rebble-help on Discord. If there’s one thing the Pebble community isn’t short on, it’s people willing to help!

Rebble, Rebble Everywhere!

…and now a blog to link (?!)

It seems almost beyond belief that nearly three years have passed since Pebble ceased operations and early members of the Rebble Alliance announced our intention to create a new hope! And while so much has happened during this time, it feels almost like we’re back where we started with the news that Fitbit, who rescued portions of Pebble from the ashes, are themselves being acquired by Google! But this isn’t the only recent wearables headline of note: Rebble has been in the news numerous times of late! :grinning:

Wareable

Our perennial publishing pals at Wearable can always be counted on for coverage and were the first to report on our re-opening of appstore submissions!

iFixit

Kevin Purdy interviewed Katharine, Joshua, myself (ishotjr) and others for an absolutely fantastic piece on the history of Pebble (see also my Thingscon Salon talk, which I provided to help with background/research), the rise of Rebble from Pebble’s “rubble” :joy:, and the plethora of hacks being used to keep Pebbles alive now and in the future. One of the best articles I have ever read on the subject, and a catalyst for countless outpourings from Pebblers past and present, as well as reblogging all over the world!

Motherboard (VICE)

It seems the force was working its way across the entire blogosphere, since right on the heels of the iFixit interviews, Jared Newman reached out to the Pebble community, hoping to derive the source of our enduring enamourment with these elite exemplars of horology. The result was a rollicking recap of the rise of Rebble, from the day I registered the domain right up to the first new appstore submission!

The Extra Dimension (The Nexus)

And because omne trium perfectum - as I’m sure we have all uttered frequently - a third interview that week from podcasting pro Ian Buck at The Nexus’s The Extra Dimension yielded an auditory exploration of the environmental impact of product perservation projects like Rebble!

Hi, Hello, Help!

Hopefully all of these press pixels have meant even more Pebble-y people have peeped our project - so now seems like a good time to say not only “Hi!” but also…“Help!”. As each of these fantastic pieces of journalism mention, there are many challenges we face in attempting to keep (the STM32 oscillator in…) our beloved smartwatches ticking - and while we’ve many dedicated developers and sympathetic support specialists, we can always use more help with our myriad efforts! I’d intended to do an entire blog post detailing our projects, their status, and opportunities to contribute, but in order to capitalize on our current celebrity, wanted to include a brief request here: if you’re interested in helping with firmware, back end, appstore - or perhaps most urgent of all, given the uncertainty of our friends at Fitbits’ ability to help keep the originals online post-acquisition, replacement Android and iOS app - development please look for ishotjr#4319 on our Discord server, or send me a Tweet if that’s more your cup of :tea:.

:heart: