Up until now, if you were an iPhone user and wanted a wearable device that allowed you to respond to text messages, your only choice was the Apple Watch. Unlike Android, Apple keeps a large number of its API’s private, including the ones that enable interaction with the Messages app. These restrictions are done for security reasons, but it results in Apple devices and software achieving a level of integration that is not possible via 3rd party hardware and apps.
Pebble, though, has been hard at work figuring out a way around these limitations. Beginning with a beta feature in Pebble Time OS 3.7 catchily named iOS Text Reply, iOS users on AT&T can send pre-set text responses directly from their Pebble smartwatch. It might seem odd that AT&T mobile service is required for a software feature, but Pebble is achieving the SMS work-around by sending the messages directly through the carrier. This unfortunately means the solution is less than perfect; any messages you send will not show in your Messages app and texts will be sent as SMS messages that count against your monthly limit. Also worth noting, AT&T requires you to have a post-paid account to activate this feature and it is only available on Pebble Time, Time Steel, and Time Round devices.
It is really fantastic that a company has finally engineered a way around Apple’s messaging limitations, but the solution is so un-Apple-like I will be curious to see if many people use it. The way the work-around is implemented, Pebble has an incredibly complicated road ahead of them, needing to work with every possible carrier and adjust the software to the carriers’ protocols. Things are also messy from the user perspective, your half of the conversation does not show up in the Messages app – you have no record of what you communicated. Honestly though, kudos to Pebble for what they have achieved! But the real solution is for Apple to become more lenient with some of their private API’s. While allowing any developer access to Messages in a horrible idea (think of all of the spam Candy Crush could text your friends), select and vetted developers should have access. But ultimately, perhaps this all circles back to Apple not wanting other devices to be able to squarely compete with their own wearable.