Proposed Pebble Time smart band could add standalone GPS, double battery life to 14 days

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While patents reveal Apple has explored the possibility of adding new functionality to the Apple Watch with connectable smart bands, a new Kickstarter campaign hopes to beat it to the punch with a GPS-connected, battery-equipped smart band for the Pebble Time smartwatch.

A crowdfunding campaign for the new Pal smart band proposes a fitness-focused smart watch strap for Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel created by Powerstrap. If it's properly funded, the project hopes to offer users a much-wanted feature: independent GPS.

In a similar manner, Apple has also been exploring how to add functionality to the Apple Watch via its own smart band concepts that would connect via a hidden diagnostic port, patents discovered by AppleInsider have revealed. Accordingly, some rumors have posited that Apple is working on smart bands that could add new capabilities to the Apple Watch without the need for an entirely new watch.

Some reports have claimed Apple has looked into adding additional sensors through new smart band accessories, potentially measuring a user's blood oxygen, respiratory rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

Anecdotally, one of the most commonly requested features for future Apple Watch and Pebble models has been independent GPS, allowing a device to track a user's location and fitness activity without the need for a paired iPhone. Pal plans to address this for Pebble Time owners by offering a built-in Qualcomm GPS unit that can be used to track route, distance, speed and elevation.

Pebble Founder Eric Migicovsky and his team have worked with Powerstrap for over a year to integrate the new smart strap, and Pal's kickstarter was able to raise more than $30,000 in just the first few hours on Tuesday. Backers can receive a unit, advertised to ship by October, for $79.

As with all crowdfunded projects, backers should be aware that such products are frequently delayed and ship without initially advertised capabilities. Sometimes, they don't ship at all.

In its pitch, Pal says the Pebble Time will display information on its color display while exercising, and data can be transferred to an app on an iPhone at a later time to sync with appropriate services, such as Pebble's own activity tracking capabilities. The proposed waterproof and sweatproof device also hopes to include a 250mAh battery to ensure users can utilize the power-draining GPS without affecting the Pebble's battery life.

Pal claims its accessory will be able to extend the battery life up to 14 days, doubling the weeklong uptime of the Pebble Time. Pal is also opening its software development platform for third-party development, which could lead to specialized tracking for any particular sport like running, golf or biking.

Pal however is not funded yet so the company is looking for support on Kickstarter with a target of $80,000. Powerstrap began development in April 2015 and expects shipment by October 2016.

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