Pebble shuts down and folds into Fitbit

In a blog post appeared on the company website, Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky announced that the company is ceasing operations in the hardware department and no more Pebble smartwatches are going to be manufactured or sold through the company’s website. In all honesty, I find it ironic that I received the announcement through email while I was working on a piece about the best watchfaces available for Pebble products. It’s unfortunate, too, because I really like my Pebble Time and I would’ve hoped that the company was faring significantly better. But then again, in a market where only the Apple Watch is faring relatively decently and the bulk of sales is made up by much cheaper fitness trackers, it shouldn’t be surprising to see companies ceasing operations. It’s a shame indeed, because as I said I really like Pebble products and thought they were a viable alternative to other products in a niche plagued with battery life issues and that, according to some, doesn’t have a real reason to even exist.

A good lineup with a few damning shortcomings

The Pebble smartwatch, the first product shipped by the company.
The Pebble smartwatch, the first product shipped by the company.

Pebble started operations in 2012, when they launched the Kickstarter campaign for their first device, simply known as Pebble. Compared to other smartwatches, the device developed by the company had a few aces up its sleeves. First and foremost, it offered considerably longer battery life thanks to the decision not to use a regular LCD display, instead opting for e-paper technology similar to what is found on ebook readers such as Amazon’s Kindle. The device was highly customisable thanks to the Pebble app, available for both iOS and Android (but not for Windows Phone), from which users could download new apps and watchfaces to make the watch truly theirs.

Along the line, the company released new products, such as the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, which added new features such as a color e-paper display (the original watch only had a black and white screen) and support for dictation of text messages, among others.

The Pebble Time, Pebble's second product.
The Pebble Time, Pebble’s second product.

More recently, a new Kickstarter campaign for the Pebble 2, Pebble Time 2, and Pebble Core keychain computer was launched, quickly surpassing the 1 million $ goal and clocking at a whopping 12 million $ in funds raised. But apparently it was too little, too late, and people who pledged on this Kickstarter will receive refunds for unfulfilled rewards.

I’d like to spend a few words about the user experience that the watch I have offered me. I really liked the product: it’s a no-nonsense device that does a couple things, but does them very well. It tells the time and acts as a central hub for all the notifications for my phone, which helps me know what needs my attention and what doesn’t while preserving the battery life of the phone itself. Compared to other smartwatches, it doesn’t have the flashiest interface, but it’s not supposed to. Instead, it was supposed to have a simple, yet elegant interface that does the work well.

It wasn’t all well and good, however. Pebble products were extremely rare to find at retail in Europe and its localization efforts were clearly lacking. Even the operating system itself was clearly machine-translated into my language and apps and watchfaces didn’t fare better, which is a real bummer that probably ruined the user experience for many. But it was still a solid and valid product that could get 3 or 4 days out of a single charge.

What will change for existing Pebble users

The blog post details what will happen for existing users and people who had placed an order with the company or backed the Kickstarter campaign for the Pebble 2.

  • Pebble is no longer promoting, manufacturing, or selling any devices.
  • Pebble devices will continue to work as normal. No immediate changes to the Pebble user experience will happen at this time.
  • Pebble functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future.
  • Kickstarter backers who have not received their rewards will receive a full refund by December 16, 2016 to their credit cards. No further action is needed. For more information, please visit our Support page.
  • It may take up to ten business days for the refund to appear on a backer’s credit or debit card statement. In the event that the initial refund attempt is unsuccessful, steps will be taken to ensure all refunds are successfully processed. Once a refund is successfully processed, backers will receive an email from Kickstarter notifying them of the amount of the refund and the payment source refunded.
  • Orders from pebble.com are no longer being accepted or fulfilled, including Pebble 2 pre-orders, which have not yet been charged or shipped.
  • Warranty support is no longer available for Pebble watches. How-to information and troubleshooting can still be found on our Support page and in the Pebble Forum.
  • Returns of pebble.com orders that were successfully completed before December 7, 2016 will be refunded by our Support Team.
  • Pebble watches purchased at retail may be returned or exchanged based on the retailer’s return policy.
  • Pebblers can still find replacement charging cables and other compatible accessories (bands, skins, etc.) from Amazon.com and third-party vendors like GadgetWraps and Clockwork Synergy.
  • If you have any other questions about Pebble’s wind-down of operations, please visit this page.

What should you do?

If you’re happy with your Pebble smartwatch as I am, you probably don’t want to kiss it goodbye right away. After all, it will continue to work normally for the time being, with functionalities being turned off as time goes by. I honestly hope Fitbit doesn’t pull the Pebble app from the App Store and Google Play, even if they decide they don’t want to support Pebble products any longer, because that would be the last nail in their coffin and the devices will end up being just novelty wristwatches.

I suggest you grab one or two replacement cables as soon as possible before they become too rare to find and start demanding ridiculously high prices from people trying to rip off people off eBay. Unfortunately, these smartwatches use a proprietary magnetic connector and the stocks for charging cables is going to grow thinner by the day.

If you were on the fence about getting a Pebble smartwatch and would like to get one now that their prices are expected to drop as retailers want to sell as many as possible, I’d say don’t bother, for you can take for granted that Fitbit will try to cease all Pebble-related operations as soon as possible and, judging from the wording on that blog post, has no intention to continue developing Pebble products. The fact that they’re giving refunds to backers who haven’t yet received their orders is a pretty telling fact.

About Andrea Luciano Damico 137 Articles
Andrea Luciano Damico is a freelance translator from Italy. Among his interests are linguistics, technology, video games, and generally being a chill guy. He runs Let's Translate.it and Tech4Freelancers.net.