Pebble, it was nice knowing you

by Volker Weber

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Pebble booth at IFA 2016

Pebble built the first watch I wanted to wear after having a naked wrist for more than ten years. Charge it once a week, wear it carefree, get notifications from the phone. I loved the original watch. At first I could not use it since I was on Lumias, but when I went iPhone only, Pebble was my companion.

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I did not like Pebble Steel in matte black with matching steel band, but eventually the stainless steel model with leather band grew on me. It was always a geek magnet, nothing for the general public.

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And then Pebble lost it. First with the Time and Time Steel models. The display was too small, and the colors were so dull that it got blown away by the Apple Watch. The round watch never appealed to me. Pebble lost me.

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In 2016 Pebble tried to go back to its roots by running yet another Kickstarter campaign, and essentially osborned all of their Time watches. Pebble had to lay off 25% of staff.

The company has been looking to sell itself for a while. Now it looks like Fitbit will buy them. That makes sense for Fitbit since there is hardly any overlap. And it's the only competitor they can buy. Xiaomi rules at the low end of fitness trackers, Garmin has sports watches, Apple has premium smartwatches. They are all way bigger. Acquiring a smartwatch platform and the talent behind it - for a reasonable price - is a good thing.

Everybody, from Xiaomi to Apple, is heading in the direction of health and fitness. It's a difficult market since fitness bands get quickly abandoned and end up in a drawer. It's the silicon version of the gym membership. You know you are not exercising enough, but you tried.

I expect the Pebble brand to disappear. Fitbit will rebrand the platform and make new devices, again strengthening the health & fitness theme. In a way, it is another proof point that smartwatches do not sell. Many Android Wear vendors passed in 2016, Lenovo Moto will even pass on the Android Wear 2.0 launch in 2017. Samsung has made at least ten different designs in their Gear range, now on Tizen.

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There is one company that got it right. They built a smartwatch business the size of Rolex.

Comments

Hey Fitbit, I love my Pebble. Now I want a bike computer / accessory display that connects to my phone via bluetooth, based on Pebble technology. Please.

Hanno Zulla, 2016-12-01

Last sentence: smartwatch business. If their smartPHONE business was so "small", they would run into trouble. ;)

Fabian Kruse, 2016-12-01

Signal is your friend, if you want to make comments not meant for eternity, Fabian. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2016-12-01

It is truly a matter of perspective.

Apple is the King of Smartwatches, but the kingdom is far smaller than Apple hoped for/needs it to be.

Craig Wiseman, 2016-12-02

Was ist denn eigentlich mit der Time 2? Die wollten doch im November liefern? Meine ist jedenfalls noch nicht da... :-(

Eigentlich sehr schade die Entwicklung, ich mag die Pebbles sehr gerne und trage meine jeden Tag. Kann mich gar nicht mehr erinnern wann ich das letzte mal eine konventionelle Armbanduhr getragen habe...

Ralph Hammann, 2016-12-02

Craig, how do you know that?

Ralph, ich drücke Dir die Daumen!

Volker Weber, 2016-12-02

This makes me sad. I liked my original Pebble which I bought cheap to test the smart watch idea a few months before Apple Watch came out. Then I tried Apple Watch and lasted less than a week before gratefully going back to my Pebble. I've now had the Round since it came out and I love it. Perfect for what I want and I even developed my own watch face. Too bad. If Pebble disappears there's nothing to replace my Round.

Bill Greenberg, 2016-12-02

@Bill Greenberg

I wouldn't worry too much. Fitbit is buying Pebble for it's OS and people, as long as you aren't attached to the actual "Pebble" name, this acquisition is a very good thing.

The "smartwatch" market goes up and down depending on Apple's release of new items, but it's a market that is not growing & developing the way many thought it would.

The one market that's growing consistently is the activity tracker+ market. And that's where Fitbit will be able to leverage PebbleOS. They've been edging toward smarter activity trackers and this will help them along that path.

Craig Wiseman, 2016-12-02

Okay, ich stehe auf dem Schlauch, ganz öffentlich. Mein Verständnis war: Wenn der letzte Satz sich auf Apple bezieht, dann ist deren Smartphone-Business doch hoffentlich deutlich größer als Rolex, während ihr Smartwatch-Business an Rolex ranreichen dürfte.

I guess I really need some clue procurement now. ;)

Fabian Kruse, 2016-12-02

Das ist auch so. Nun lies den letzten Absatz und Deine beiden Kommentare nochmal. :-)

Volker Weber, 2016-12-02

Mit dem Update des Satzes macht es wieder Sinn. Vorher stand da: "They built a smartphone business the size of Rolex." :)

Fabian Kruse, 2016-12-02

Da musst Du Dich verlesen haben.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-02

Ralph, lies mal die Updates auf Kickstarter. Drum ja "osbourned", erst die nächste Generation ankündigen und diese dann nicht (pünktlich) liefern. In diesem Fall ist es sicherlich schmerzlich, das Weihnachtsgeschäft total zu verpassen. Die Pebble 2 scheint es ja zu geben, die Time 2 ist offenbar in Schwierigkeiten...

Ragnar Schierholz, 2016-12-02

Interesting, I went for Pebble 'cos I can'y abide the idea of daily charging for a watch - it's bad enough with a mobile 'phone. I've also backed the latest campaign as I liked the idea of a larger, higher density display. Sure, the colours are washed out compared to the Apple Watch, but I think that compromise (for battery life) is fine.

I never have a problem reading the time day or night with my Pebble Time and surely that's the fundamental issue dealt with :)

John Ash, 2016-12-04

I am with you. They are really nice. But they never got past the initial geek customer. And after making a couple of mistakes, the company is running out of funds.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-04

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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