Today's Tech News and Reviews

Review: Pebblebee Stone – The Bluetooth smart button

1

Today we are covering a small little stone that can act as your smartphone’s companion. I am not referring to a rock you throw into your pocket to keep it company, but a fun little gadget that acts as a universal remote for nearly anything you want it to do (nearly).

The Stone by Pebblebee is a small stone shaped device that features a button on its face. A simple design that features two options. You can press the button to trigger an action of your liking, or press and hold the button for a seconds to trigger a secondary action. That’s it! Simple right?

How it works, is that you start off by downloading the Pebblebee Stone app for either an Android or iOS device. The app will then walk you through a simple registration process that doesn’t require a password. Once finished and at the main screen, you can choose to add a new stone to your phone. You will place the stone close to the phone and hit the button on it’s face one time. The app will recognize it as an unclaimed stone (hasn’t been associated to any account yet) and allow you to give it a name. From there you have the easy selection of choosing what you want it to do on press or hold situations.

pebblebee4aRight out of the box and connected to the phone, you can already choose from a number of options to associate the button to. You can take a selfie (not that anyone does that…), text a friend, control music playback (ie, press once to play, press and hold to pause), trigger a call, share your location and so forth. We have seen devices like this in the past, but then Pebblebee wanted to take it one step further by supporting IFTTT. There are a few other devices that do this, which makes all of these highly functional. IFTTT is an website that delivers a broad range of automation to the internet and home. A playground of if-this-then-do-this scenes you can create called “recipes”, where you can get so many websites or devices to react and work with each other. For example, every time one of your favorite authors tweets about something, you can automatically bookmark it or share it to yourself so you don’t miss it.

ifttt-animation

Now factor in the Pebblebee Stone and imagine what could happen when you press or hold that button.Send a tweet, tag your GPS position, control a light in the house, turn on the A/C, unlock the front door, trigger your house alarm, trigger a self emergency style of alarm and so much more. There are litterally thousands of options to play with on IFTTT which is great. That means, you have so many of those options that can be applied to the stone.

Pretty nifty right? To add to the mix, the Pebblebee Stone sells for around $30, which isn’t too bad when you factor in that it is pretty water resistant, can operate up to 50-100 ft away from your phone, the battery lasts 4 months to 1 year depending on if you enable tracking and is easily replaceable, it’s pretty durable (especially when using the silicone sleeves) and it simply offers so many triggerable options.

AdBuy the Pebblebee Stone on Amazon!

Speaking of tracking! The stone comes with tracking turned off by default. If you have the habit of losing things quite frequently, it has the ability to track itself within the home using a hot/cold technique by judging distance based on Bluetooth signal strength. In a worst case scenario, let’s say that you completely lose the stone outside somewhere while you are walking around. The Pebblebee Stone features an option called Crowd GPS that allows other Pebblebee users to anonymously detect and track the stone and report its location to you. They don’t even know it’s happening–it’s the app doing all the work. This only happens if you mark your stone as lost.

We weren’t able to test that out since we were the only Pebblebee user that we know about within the nearby…unknown radius, but if this does it’s job right, that makes for a great feature as long as there are other Pebblebee users walking around.

pebblebee1._SR720,404_

There is a opening at the top for a keyring or lanyard so that you can attach it to your keys, around objects or even hang it from your pet’s collar. It does come with a keyring, but it is pretty flimsy so you might prefer to use a sturdier ring if you have one lying around. There is also a small double-sided round sticker inside the box that you can use to stick the stone to a surface with (ie, wall, desk, nightstand, etc).

Inside the box there are 3 silicone sleeves that can wrap around the stone for extra protection, styling them up a bit and giving them slightly more water resistance. The stone they sent us was black and the included sleeves were white, blue and pink. I can’t say for sure if the colors of sleeves remain the same if you purchase a different color stone or not. There are 3 colors of stones to choose from, including black (“onyx”), white (“glacier”) and gray (“cascade”).

Also inside the box you find a cloth carrying case to carry all the accessories in or the stone itself. There is a tiny little foldout with information on how to get it setup and card with feedback information. You even get a sticker with the Pebblebee logo on it, in case you want to show your support by throwing it on a window or notebook somewhere.

In our tests of the device, we didn’t seem to see any drop outs or range issues outside of what you would expect in a building with walls and other objects that could wash out your connection a little. Especially if the phone was nearby, every time we hit the button, the phone responded.

This is where we touch on a few things we have read online about other user experiences. Some users seem to have reported that their stone never holds a connection to their phone or that it simply stops responding or functioning within a window of time like 24 hrs. Although we can’t speak for them nor know the variables of their environment, tech level or how they treat their toys, we weren’t able to recreate those issues. The one we have been testing here seems to want to hold a connection just fine, and hasn’t ceased to function for us.

The selfie option does indeed require the app to be open and it will tell you this when you hit the button (if it’s set for trigger a selfie), asking you to open the app by pressing the notice on your screen (we tested the stone specifically using an iPhone 5). It doesn’t simply link directly to the phone’s camera. The app itself acts as the central hub, so it is vital that the app is able to run in the background.

Another concern a few have brought up is the fact that the stone has fallen apart on them. We haven’t seen any poor construction of the connection of the shell where anything became loose on us naturally, but we did notice that the shell connects where the keyring would slide through. So if you were to place a keyring through that hole and then twist the keyring, you could potentially cause a point of pressure that could pry the two halves of the shell open. This indeed is a flaw in the design of the stone that hopefully they will address in their next model. A way to get around this would be to use one of the protective silicone sleeves. Not only do they add additional protection to the stone, but it would also hold it together, preventing it from ever popping open. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does affect the score a bit until that it addressed.

Our Conclusion

We have played around for quite a bit using the stone for all sorts of actions (or “recipes”). As long as your phone has connection to the internet, you can do all sorts of things. Personally, we are big fans of automation, most of our homes are filled with smart home features and the office here is too. Considering the price for a switch on the wall or remote to control any of it, the ability to use the Pebblebee Stone instead is pretty convenient as you can move it around and place it anywhere. With tracking turned off, you get a long window of battery life out of it and it’s just so darn functional.

The only thing we had to keep in mind was the construction issue with the keyring area and the fact that you have to factor in lag as unlike a switch on the wall directly connected to the network, you do have a little lag when using the stone. You need to keep in mine that when using IFTTT, you are sending a command through your phone to a website and if it’s to control a device in the home, it is then sending it back to your home to be received as a result. Just a few extra seconds here and there, but worth pointing out.

In the future, as Pebblebee enables app inter-compatibility, you will see a quicker response to things since those apps themselves may be connected directly to your devices on your network. Then you will a see an even quicker trigger with less seconds (or milliseconds) or delay.

The app screen also mentions that the option to call on Uber is coming soon which is pretty neat. Obviously it will reach out to Uber (most likely through the Uber app) and order your ride by automatically sending them your location.

The Pebblebee Stone has a great amount of potential for the future as long as they keep adding to the app and work on the design of the shell a little. We look forward to hearing more about them in the future.

 


Amazon-Buy-Now

Our Rating

6.5 / 10 stars           

Average Price*

$29.99

*Average price is based on the time this article was published

Video:

Additional Images:

WIN ONE!

Would you like to win the Pebblebee Stone featured in this review? The process is really quite easy. All you have to do is follow us via one of the social networks we exist on (ie, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Find the post related to this review and share it. As long as you are following us (follow, like, subscribe or whatever terminology applies to the given network) and share the post, you will be entered for a chance to win. Next month, our software will collect every following user who shared and pick a random lucky winner. We will contact you via that network for instructions on how to receive your Pebblebee Stone! For extra brownie points, it always helps to send an image back with you enjoying your new Stone. You can even include a sign somewhere that says “Thanks Poc Network and Pebblebee, we love you!”, because who doesn’t enjoy receiving gifts like that from their readers?!

Specifications:

SIZE

0.9 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches

WEIGHT:

0.3 oz

RANGE:

Up to 150ft
FEATURES:

Motion sensor
Temperature gauge
Range finder
Replaceable battery
Water resistant
Crowd GPS

BATTERY:

Replaceable
Up to 4 months in tracking mode
1 year in button mode
COMPATIBILITY:

iOS 8.3 or later and Android 5.0 or later. All phones must have BLE 4.0.
App available on iPhone and Android


Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.

6.5 Quite Functional
  • Final 6.5
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0
Share.

About Author

Tracy

Tracy comes with a background in computer science and engineering. She has a vast knowledge of consumer electronics, an avid RC/drone hobbyist and has been benchmarking both electronics and applications since 16 years of age. She has authored 3 personal blogs since 1999 and written for ProAudio magazine. The best way to win her heart, is a box of german truffles.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Tracy,

    Great write up. Good note about the plastic shape and lag time from IFTTT. Both are important to note. As you have done, the sleeves help the Stones from separating when on a ring thats too big. That design is being fixed in the next iteration. And yes, we will add more native functionality to cut out IFTTTT as a middle man.

    Nate Castle
    Pebblebee

Leave A Reply

*