Pebble introduced the Pebble 2, Pebble Time 2, and Pebble Core through another Kickstarter campaign. While I was excited to see what the startup had developed and worked on, I feel they fell short. If we don’t consider the Pebble Core: the two new watches are late to adding fitness tracking and are focusing on features other watches already have. I have an Original Pebble from the first Kickstarter and upgraded to a Pebble Time, which I love, but this campaign I couldn’t bring myself to buy another watch from Pebble.
The Pebble drew my attention initially because they were a struggling Y-Combinator that launched a Kickstarter campaign with a modest goal of $100,000. The campaign changed the course of the company and started getting normals and techies talking about smartwatches. While the first Pebble wasn’t beautiful, I bought one because I liked the idea of notifications on my wrist and felt like the watch gave me a little geek cred. Then the Pebble Time campaign launched, and I was more than excited to give Pebble more money to keep their idea going. The Time campaign changed how we viewed a watches OS, and added a color eink display! The changes were meant to keep consumers interested before Apple released a smartwatch.
Now, the Pebble 2, Time 2 + All-New Pebble Core Kickstarter introduces incrementally better watches. There are small improvements, but Pebble is focusing on going after health tracking. I understand many folks don’t want to wear a Fitbit and smartwatch, but adding in a heart rate monitor and calling it a day isn’t what I expected from an innovative company. Moreover, these devices won’t be on consumers wrists until September, when more advanced Android Wear and Apple watches have been announced and gone on sale.
The new Apple Watch will refine its fitness tracking and take advantage of HealthKit and the partnerships to create something astonishingly powerful. The new Pebble watches will now directly compete with the Apple Watch, but I understand their customers wanted better fitness tracking. The Pebble Core will complement the new fitness tracking watches, but this is something they could have skipped Kickstarter for and just did a small upgrade.
It also appears the company is ditching the round clock face and premium steel watch. These were popular among folks who had to wear a suit to work or dressed professionally often. My girlfriend loved the Pebble Time Round because it was smaller and less geeky looking but also they came in different colors like ‘Silver and Stone’ and even ‘rose gold.’ Unfortunately, Pebble has told us these watches are their watch lineup for 2016. It doesn’t look like they introduce a new round watch or a steel version of the Pebble Time 2.
Their new fitness-focused direction is unnerving. One because they’ve already cut staff. Two because Android Wear 2.0 is amazingly powerful. Huawei has designed watches for every occasion, and one’s which my girlfriend loves until she see’s the price. The price is what will keep Pebble alive and in minds of consumers. These low-cost fitness devices are well-built, has developer support, and have their quirky style.
Pebble is pivoting before our eyes, and doing it ever so quietly. They started out as a smartwatch startup with a focus on, well, smartwatches. Once the Pebble Time came around, they were focused on creating a unique OS UI, which made sense for the watch. Now, they’re focused on health and fitness as the rest of their competitors also rush towards it. I hope Pebble can find success in their new path, and they have done so with their Kickstarter raising over $1 million in an hour.
Tell us in the comments below if you backed the Kickstarter or decided to skip it this time!