Rumors are pointing towards Fitbit closing on a deal to acquire struggling smartwatch manufacturer, Pebble. Sources close to the deal spoke to both The Information and The Verge, claiming Fitbit would buy Pebble’s assets including software and watch hardware, but phase out the Pebble brand. The purchase makes sense; Pebble’s tried to step into the health and fitness tracking wars with the Pebble Time 2 but has struggled with their focus. Fitbit wanting to phase out the Pebble brand is heartbreaking, and the cult following of fans could speak out against the idea.
Pebble’s slow demise would be an end of an era. The watch company started with a small Kickstarter campaign in 2012, which sparked the rise of the modern smartwatch. The company was focused on battery life, an operating system that made sense on the watch, and notifications. The shift towards health and fitness tracking was the end of their competitive and quirky edge, with a new focus on competing against Fitbit, the Apple Watch, and other fitness trackers.
I preferred the Pebble Time for the long battery life and friendly OS, and the Pebble Time Round was stylish and still offered the long battery life and accessible OS. Other smartwatches including Android Wear and the Apple Watch only manage a day of battery life, nothing close to Pebble’s week long battery. The Pebble watches used e-ink displays which sip on battery but also allow for an always on screen. The Pebble community, while small, is a committed group of developers building apps and watch faces for all the Pebble owners.
The Pebble community, while small, is a dedicated group of developers building apps and watch faces for all the Pebble owners. There are hundreds of apps, watch faces, and integration with the independent OS. Fitbit could keep the style and OS around, but Pebble by Fitbit isn’t a bad name. Think about it; “Phone by Google” is used on all of their commercials and marketing for the Pixel, so what else could be worse?
The deal is worth anywhere from $30 to $40 million, just enough to pay off debts. Pebble has raised $26 million in funding, but they laid off 25% of their workforce. Fitbit isn’t a shiny glimmer of hope either, they’ve struggled with slowing sales and have had trouble convincing consumers to upgrade to their newer smartwatch-esque devices.
While I hope Fitbit can produce a decent smartwatch with Pebble’s help, I’m skeptical of the company. Their fitness trackers are single serving devices without much use beyond being a glorified pedometer. Tell us in the comments below – what do you think about Pebble selling to Fitbit, and Fitbit phasing out the Pebble branding?