Pebble vs. WeLoop Tommy Smart Watch Specification Comparison

WeLoop, in cooperation with DealeXtreme, will release released the US$70 $75 Tommy smart watch on September 15, 2014. This table compares the technical specifications of the Tommy and Pebble smart watches; superior specs are highlighted in bold text.
Edit 2014-10-13: Updated prices
Edit 2014-12-11: WeLoop will release an SDK

Spec Pebble WeLoop Tommy
Price US$100 (Original), US$200 (Steel) US$75
Image Pebble originalPebble Steel WeLoop Tommy smart-watch
Dimensions    52 × 36 × 11.5 mm       46 × 34 × 10.5 mm (Steel) 45 × 34.5 × 11 mm
Case colors (Steel) Stainless steel in brushed silver or matte black;
(Original) Polycarbonate in fly blue, hot pink, fresh green, black, grey, white, orange, or red
Polycarbonate in black or red (white in the future)
Watch band(s) included (Steel) Proprietary watch band connector; stainless steel band in brushed silver or matte black matching watch plus a black leather band.
(Original) Standard 22m watch band connector; color matched 22mm band included: Silicone (black) or TPU (white, blue, pink, green).
Color matched TPU band, proprietary band connector.
CPU Cortex-M3, up to 80MHz Cortex-M0
RAM 128KB SoC 24KB (8KB SoC+16KB external)
Flash memory 4MB (8MB in Steel) external + 512KB SoC 512KB external + 256KB SoC
CPU Power usage  32 µW/MHz 13.36 µW/MHz
Battery 7 days, 130mAh 21 days, 110mAh
App store 1000’s of custom apps and watch faces
(including: pedometers, find my phone, RSS readers, swimming lap coach, home control, remote controls, and much, much more)
None
Update Dec, 2014: WeLoop announced they will release an SDK, date unknown
Common built-in apps Caller-id, accept/reject calls, notifications, multiple analog & digital watch faces, music control
Unique built-in apps Multiple alarms, RunKeeper display Notification filtering, pedometer, find my phone, camera remote
Sensors 3-axis accelerometer, magnetometer, ambient light, thermal 3-axis accelerometer
Crystal Material Scratch resistant polycarbonate (Original) Mineral glass
Gorilla Glass (Steel)
Backlight White Blue
Compatibility iOS & Android
Bluetooth 4.0+LE
Display Sharp 1.26″ Memory LCD, 144×168 monochrome pixels
Output Vibration
Waterproof 5 ATM

Personalize the Meaning of “Retina Display”

Apple’s Retina Display marketing broadly publicized the concept of retinal acuity, but each person’s vision differs; so, just how small do those pixels need to be for your vision?

Fortunately, inverting the well known Snellen notation (e.g. 20/20 corrected vision, 20/30 uncorrected vision, etc…) gives your personal visual acuity in minutes of arc. For example, inverting 20/20 = 1 meaning that 20/20 vision can resolve 1 arc minute sized details.  Similarly, someone with 20/60 vision has a visual acuity of 60/20 = 3.3 arc minutes; 20/15 vision can resolve 15/20 = 0.75 arc minutes.  Go ahead and calculate your own visual acuity in arc minutes.  Ready?

OK, let’s see how tiny the pixels on a screen need to be to make it a retina display for you.  To do this, we’ll calculate the smallest pixels that you can resolve at a given distance. For example, if you have 20/20, or 1 arc minute, vision and hold a smartphone 11 inches (28 cm) away, you’ll be able to resolve individual pixels if there are 313 pixels per inch (123 pixels/cm) or fewer; if it has more pixels than that per inch/cm (i.e. higher pixel density & smaller pixels), then it’s a “retina display”.

Here’s how to calculate the minimum number of pixels per distance to match your eyes (fill in your visual resolution in place of “1“:

tan(½ × 1 arc minute) × 2 × 11 inches = 0.0032 inches (or the inverse of 313 pixels per inch (ppi) or more)
tan(½ × 1 arc minute) × 2 × 28 cm       = 0.00814 cm (or 123 pixels per cm (ppcm) or more)

Spreadsheet formulas for this looks like:

<resolvable pixel> = tan(radians(0.5 * <your arc min.>/60)) * 2 * <distance>
<pixel density> = 1 / <resolvable pixel>

In more detail: to calculate the pixel size, s, opposite the viewer divide the angle, a, in half to give a right triangle with the viewing distance, d, adjacent to the angle and the length of ½ of a pixel opposite. 1 arc minute = 1/60 degree. Then with basic trigonometry:

tangent (angle) = opposite/adjacent
tangent (½ a= ½ s/d
½ s = tan( ½ a ) d
    s = tan( ½ a ) 2 d

Tangent of half of the angle time the distance equals the spacing needed

If you were looking at a television 5-½ feet away instead, then you’d only be able to resolve 52 ppi (20 ppcm):

tan(½ × 1 arc minute) × 2 ×   66 in.  = 0.0192 in. or 52 ppi
tan(½ × 1 arc minute) × 2 × 170 cm = 0.0495 cm or 20 ppcm

A 42-inch diagonal, full HD television (1920×1080) also happens to have 52 pixels per inch; therefore, when viewed from 5-½ feet or farther the pixels begin to blur together for 20/20 vision.  Homework: how close/far should you sit from your television to turn it into a “retina” display? Enjoy!

Snellen acuity Visual resolution (arc minutes) Retina display, iPhone Retina display, TV
(11 in, ppi) (28cm, ppcm) (9′, ppi) (2.75m, ppcm)
20/200 10 31 12 3 1
20/100 5 63 25 6 3
20/70 3.5 89 35 9 4
20/50 2.5 125 49 13 5
20/30 1.5 208 82 21 8
20/20 1 313 123 32 13
20/15 0.75 417 164 42 17

Renderings of the New Apple Store at 340 University Ave. in Palo Alto, CA

The Palo Alto Weekly’s web site published nice renderings of the new Apple Store to be built on the former site of Z-Gallerie at 340 University Ave.

Plans for Apple's new glass-fronted and topped retail store at 340 University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto are edging closer to final approval. The existing Apple Store is just to the left.

A new Apple retail store is planned for 340 University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto, the former Z Gallerie.

This view of the new building shows what a pedestrian would see from the sidewalk.

Existing Apple Store across the street.

Even More Details About Apple’s Grand Central Store

Rendering of the Apple Grand Central store proposal looking from the northeast balcony toward the east balcony.

More detail behind the WSJ's rendering of Apple's Grand Central store. View from the NE balcony area toward the E balcony. Credit: Rob Bennett for WSJ.

Mr. Grossman’s Wall Street Journal blog entry about Apple’s new Grand Central Terminal store provides great visuals for the new space.  Their proposal began as a response to the MTA’s May 23, 2011 Grand Central Terminal Request for Proposal and that RFP contains quite detailed floor plans, elevations, sign locations and mechanicals for the areas that Apple has proposed to occupy (see pg 32 of 61 for instance).

In RFP Addendum 2, Apple’s questions provide even more suggestions about their proposed modifications.  Enjoy!

The new Apple Store turned out just like the renderings!

Update 2: Apple’s store in Grand Central Terminal opened to the public on December 9, 2011 just in time for the holiday shopping season and it looks just like the renderings.  Happy Holidays!

Update:  Appendix 4 of the RFP links to an entire folder full of architectural, electrical  and construction plans.

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Why the iPad Succeeds Where Others Failed…

When Apple announced their iPad in January, my initial reaction was skepticism.  Why would the iPad succeed where other tablets have failed for the past twenty years?   After trying one out, the answer turns out to lie in the iPad operating system named “iPhone OS” “iOS”.¹ iOS elegantly solves two critical problems that have plagued past tablets:

First, poor on-screen input has kept tablet computers cornered into niche “stand-up” computing markets where people have to tolerate difficult touchscreen input because they have no place to sit down to use a keyboard.  Success for tablets was restricted to workplaces such as package delivery, patient care, and inventory management. The iPhone’s on-screen keyboard, however, finally conquered the touchscreen input problem and obsoleted physical keyboards on app-phones.   Apple’s expansion of their on-screen keyboard solution to the larger iPad frees it from the first deficiency of the tablet world.

Hardware solves the second problem. Tablets must remain compact and lightweight for portability, respond quickly to dynamic inputs, and provide long battery life for folks in the field all day.  Moore’s Law has annually doubled hardware capacity for over forty years and so you might reasonably expect that today’s computers would be blindingly fast and run on sunshine.  Today’s CPUs are exponentially faster; for example, my first tablet computer, built nearly two decades ago sported a paltry 0.02 GHz “i386 SL microprocessor which [was then] several generations ahead”, but it still starts up and runs about as fast as modern hardware running Microsoft Vista. What happened to all of that computer power from Moore’s law advances!? It turns out that the coercive monopoly software vendor has continuously squandered that wealth of capacity on bloat-ware and left the end-user experience wallowing along at “sluggish”.

Apple’s iPad resolved the hardware problem by exploiting this bloat-ware gap. By rigorously keeping iOS lean, they unleash the hardware’s real capacity to deliver a superb UI.  While Apple’s hardware team delivered relatively standard hardware components, that standard hardware in 2010 is several thousand times faster than my original tablet and new lithium polymer batteries hold four to six times the energy of their older NiMH and NiCAD brethren.  With a great battery life and decades of Moore’s law advances to spend,  the software team under Scott Forstall erased the bloat and delivered an OS where less (code) truly is more (usable).  The iPad user experience is astonishingly engaging and a quantum leap ahead of anything else in the market.  Even the fastest x86 computers, oozing GHz and dimming the lights for miles around, cannot throw off the shackles of traditional software to deliver the iPad’s user experience.   The larger screen on the iPad delivers a substantively expanded experience beyond its app-phone predecessors.

Apple’s latest offering, using only modest hardware, leaps at your touch and then quickly gets out of the way allowing you to engage directly with your content.  Comparing the iPad UI with other tablets is like comparing the experience of picking up a toy with your own hand versus using The Claw to snatch that toy from a vending machine.   Your own hand’s motion barely registers in your consciousness; you just have the toy and using the iPad feels the same way.  “The Claw” UI from other OS’s, in contrast, occupies your consciousness so completely that your content gets forgotten altogether.  The iPad readily evokes comparison with Stephenson’s  A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer or perhaps it’s actually one of Roddenberry’s Star Trek PADDs that was misdelivered a century too early and on the other side of San Francisco.  Hopefully other vendors will get the message.  The iPad cold boots in under 20 seconds, starts apps seemingly instantly and has access to the largest set of online books (iBooks, Kindle App, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Wikipedia, etc…) and movies (iTunes, Netflix, YouTube, etc…) ever assembled in on a single device. Oh, and if you need to get some work done, there’s an app for that too. Multitasking arrivesd this fall

Watch out horse and buggy monopolies, the automobile has arrived!

1. Update: Apple has rechristened “iPhone OS” to “iOS” and delivered multitasking APIs.

MobileMe Compliments…

MobileMe got beat up in the blogosphere this summer, but Apple’s free trial with my new iPhone was too good to pass up.  For me, it’s been great.  I like the UI and it’s great to have access using whatever computer I happen to be near. So far, so good.  I’m new to the service and so I don’t miss the features that I never used; that seemed to be one of the main complaints.  

With good experiences behind me, I decided to go for the $40/year renewal plan (60% discount) and ordered a new .mac version 4.0 retail package with an activation code good for one year.  In this case, $40 wasn’t absolutely the lowest price available, however, the extra few dollars seemed worth it to use a well rated amazon.com vendor and avoid the scammers who misrepresent used codes as new. 

While I was away for Thanksgiving, MobileMe wound up automatically renewing and billed my credit card for the full $99 price.  I returned today and contacted MobileMe support who created yet another reason to compliment MobileMe!  The online chat support from Adam C. made it quick and painless to get a refund on my credit card and switch the renewal over to the .mac activation code.  Thank you Apple!

Mobile phones need to be phones first…

What’s the main purpose of a mobile phone?  Phone calls!  My last conference call opened with one of the primary speakers explaining  that he was late because “Windows Mobile froze while I was entering the meeting ID and I had to reboot my phone”.   Windows Mobile users are probably nodding their heads in sympathy while Symbian (Nokia), PalmOS and iPhone folks are shaking their heads in disbelief.   Microsoft seemingly forgot that phones need to reliably make, well, phone calls.

Misbehaving “third party” applications usually get the blame for Windows Mobile crashes, but the real fault lies in the OS’s architecture.  Application isolation is a fundamental requirement of an OS but Microsoft’s Windows Mobile still has plenty of weaknesses eight years on.   You can choose to avoid third party apps to help avoid their flaws, however, the phone loses much of its appeal then and, even then, it’s still not as stable as dedicated phones!  The iPhone is no saint either but its watchdog does kill hanging processes far more effectively than Windows Mobile. I’ve never had a problem with the iPhone’s Phone app (knocking on wood).   Restrictions against 3rd background apps (aka high cost to license) help to stabilize both PalmOS phones and Apple’s iPhone.  While these restrictions avoid stalled phones, they also limit the platforms’  potential.  Let’s hope that Android and  webOS will do better.

iPhone 3G or Treo Centro?

After a month of using the new iPhone 3G, friends have been asking what I think of it and how it compares with the Treo.

Executive Summary:  The iPhone 3G has an uncannily intuitive UI that makes anyone an instant power user; what’s the point of having a high tech feature if it’s too hard to use?  The UI is a joy and, combined with the superb Mobile Safari browser and the Mobile Mail app, it pretty much makes up for the iPhone’s other shortcomings. You’ve probably seen the ads about Mobile Safari and Mobile Mail.

Shortcomings?  Yep.  Moving to the iPhone 3G did require some compromises.  I’m a fan of the Palm Desktop’s speed.  The iPhone, however, has very limited PIM support; it only syncs appointments, contacts, bookmarks and email account information from either Outlook 2003/2007 on Windows or iCal and Addressbook on Mac OS X.  If you’re already on these apps, you’ll have a great out-of-box experience.  If not, Outlook in particular is a pretty heavy weight PIM both in size and cost.  Some folks have strong feelings about Outlook 2003/2007 or the Mac OS X PIM apps; if you’re one of them, keep in mind that you’re pretty likely to be forced to use these apps on the desktop. Linux desktops and other PIM suites are out of luck.

MobileMe from Apple provides an excellent, Firefox friendly web interface, but it comes with a $99/yr. tax.

The Treo Centro has the runaway advantage in Task management, Memo sync and editing documents (spreadsheets in my case).  The iPhone has no native way to manage todo lists, sync memos or edit office documents.  If any of those three activities are critical, either stick with the Centro for now or get comfortable using a web-based replacement.  The Treo also runs the stellar DateBk calendar from Pimlico Software; I really hope that they release something for the iPhone soon.  On a scale from 1-10, the iPhone calendar gets a meh, 5, while DateBk6 gets something like an 8.5 or 9.

Other Treo/PalmOS applications may have deep hooks into your lifestyle and, if you need one of them, just stick with the Treo (or find a web-based replacement).  For me, HandyShopper, Eat Watch, Tide Tool and Planetarium are still MIA and missed.

Typing is a big concern for folks considering the iPhone, but once you’ve used its on-screen keyboard for a while you’ll find that it just works and move on to other issues.  The iPhone has the best on-screen keyboard ever and Apple has finally found a solution to computing’s twenty year quest for touchscreen typing. It’s so far superior that it’s almost a shame to even compare it to PalmOS, Windows Tablet edition, Nokia, Windows Mobile, PenPoint, GEM or anything else before it.  The predictive text entry dynamically resizes the active area for a key and guesses (pretty accurately) what you’re trying to type.  In Walt Mossberg’s words:

“The iPhone’s most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism. After five days of use, Walt — who did most of the testing for this review — was able to type on it as quickly and accurately as he could on the Palm Treo he has used for years. This was partly because of smart software that corrects typing errors on the fly.” — Walt Mossberg, June 26, 2007

While the tilt-to-maneuver games on the iPhone are fun, gamers will prefer the Treo’s physical keypad.  It offers more precision, heads up input and tactile feedback.  It’s pretty hard to type on the iPhone without looking at your thumbs.

Battery life is another area of concern.  The iPhone’s 3G networking, WiFi and GPS support all use extra power and if you leave on all of the bells and whistles, you’ll be charging somewhere midday. Fortunately, the extra radios are easy to turn off to throttle battery drain between charges when juice is sparse. The iPhone lasted through a three day trip when I forgot my charger.  I would advise, however, getting a car charger along with a spare iPhone sync cable for the office.

The Centro has the battery edge; Sprint’s network based GPS services use less battery and provide location information that’s good enough for navigation; they won’t pinpoint which room you’re in like the iPhone can (spooky) but do you really need (want) that accuracy?  Similarly, the lack of WiFi will not be such a big deal if you’re in an area with EVDO coverage.

For video playback, the iPhone has the best LCD screen I’ve ever seen and it makes everything look great (but that video must be encoded in either MPEG4 or H.264).  If your favorite web video isn’t on YouTube, check out www.tinytube.net.  Centro video playback looks good too and The Core Pocket Media Player (TCPMP) offers a LOT more codecs.  Still, the iPhone has that gorgeous screen.  Music playback seems about the same on both devices where I use it (working out, airplanes) and I’m in environments where there’s enough noise to wipe out high fidelity playback anyway.  Softick’s Audio Gateway allows the Centro to play stereo audio wirelessly over bluetooth (A2DP profile support) while the iPhone requires a wired headset for stereo output.

Dial-Up Networking (DUN) or “tethering” your phone to your laptop for mobile data connectivity is not officially available for either the Treo Centro on Sprint’s network nor for the iPhone.  There are hacks for both to workaround these limits, but you risk getting a big bill from your mobile supplier if you get caught.  In the case of the iPhone, the web and email apps are so good that you’re unlikely to need to break out your laptop anyway.

There are many 3rd party applications available for the iPhone, but a lot of them so far are simply fancy front ends for web sites.  There is an argument for having access to the native widgets instead of “just” the ones available in the Mobile Safari browser, but I’m not completely convinced yet.