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Pebble smartwatch app guys! Put your mind at WRIST: New SDK + iOS 7 alerts

But be warned: Software toolkit 2.0 will break your programs

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Pebble smartwatches gained new capabilities on Wednesday, thanks to a second version of the Pebble software development kit (SDK) and a new iOS app that handles improved iOS 7 notifications.

Pebbles were always able to display caller IDs, SMS messages, and email notifications from an iPhone linked via Bluetooth. With the new iOS app, they're now fully integrated with the iOS 7 Notification Center, so that any notifications you enable on your iOS device will appear on your wrist.

That means the Pebble's notifications display now works with Apple iOS devices just as well as it works with Android devices, which have always been able to share notifications from third-party apps with the smartwatch.

Another improvement with the new iOS app is that for the first time it enables Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) support, which has always been available in the Pebble hardware but so far hasn't been used. Major firmware updates and other data-heavy functions will still be sent over classic Bluetooth, but notifications will be pushed to the Pebble via Bluetooth LE from devices that support it, which should help conserve battery power on both the Pebble and the associated device.

Pebble says the new app is currently being evaluated by Apple but should appear in the iTunes App Store soon.

Big changes due by year's end

Meanwhile, version 2.0 of the Pebble SDK is now available from the company's website as an initial beta release that anyone can download and try – provided, that is, they're willing to install a beta-quality firmware onto their wrist-computers.

The new SDK activates yet another feature of the Pebble hardware that hasn't been used so far; namely, the built-in accelerometer. The new API gives developers access to raw three-axis accelerometer data, which they can now use to monitor the Pebble wearer's physical activity or detect gestures.

Persistent storage has also been enabled on the Pebble, meaning developers can write apps that store or cache data on the watch itself – game high scores, for example, or other small items. (The maximum size for any single data item is currently set at 256 bytes.)

Memory management has been changed so that Pebble apps now allocate resources dynamically using the C language's traditional malloc() and free() library calls and access them via pointers, which should allow for larger, more versatile apps.

There's a new logging feature that allows apps to send log data to the connected device easily and asynchronously, without worrying about managing communications. If the Bluetooth connection has been broken, log entries will be stored on the Pebble temporarily until it is reestablished.

Most significantly, however, Pebble SDK 2.0 includes a new JavaScript library that allows developers to write rich, internet-aware Pebble apps without writing a specific accompanying app for Android or iOS. A Pebble watch app can now include a bundle of JavaScript code that can make HTTP requests and send messages between the phone and the watch, among other capabilities. This JavaScript code is automatically extracted when the app is installed on the watch and run in a sandbox within the Pebble app for Android or iOS – meaning apps written in this way are completely platform independent and don't require anything additional to be installed on the phone.

The catch? Because Pebble SDK 2.0 includes so many significant new features and changes, apps written for Pebble SDK 1.x are not compatible with SDK 2.0 and will have to be migrated to the new APIs.

Expect developers to move quickly to get their apps up to speed, though. Pebble says the final version of SDK 2.0 will be released as an over-the-air update to all Pebble users "later this year" – and there's not much of this year left – so Pebble app developers who don't keep up with the latest changes will soon find themselves booted off the boat. ®

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