Normally when I feature a Kickstarter project, the last few sentences comment on what’s needed to get it funded and how likely it is that it will be. Well, here’s a project that has been funded more than 30 times over in less than a week, despite the funding goal being $100,000 to begin with. The Pebble smartwatch is a project I originally wrote about on Pocketables due to its smartphone nature (though it will work on tablets too). It connects to iOS or Android (unlike the company’s first watch, the inPulse Blackberry watch) and uses its e-paper display to do all sorts of things like control music, show sports tracking info, and show notifications. Basically in the same category as the Sony SmartWatch, but with a display technology that’s perhaps better suited for such use, trading colors for outdoor visibility and better battery life (over a week).
With still a month to go, the project has raised over 3 million dollars. Yes, million. While other projects have trouble climbing above $10,000, this project has climbed that much while I’ve been writing this article. The funding boom has even made the project creators go out and promise the watch be waterproof instead of just splash proof, which takes the Bluetooth-enabled mobile device accessory to a new level.
So what exactly is it that people are going so nuts over? The LiveView and SmartWatch from Sony, and the i’m Watch never saw this much attention, and I think the explanation is the display and compatibility. E-paper with optional backlight is completely different from backlit LCD screens, both in terms of the resulting thickness, usability scenarios (outdoors), and battery life. Who wants a clock that needs to be recharged every day and can’t be viewed well outside, and at the same time is very bulky? Some, but those are definitely trade offs that many would rather be without. There’s also the little detail of this being iOS compatible, including pushing apps to it over Bluetooth from an app on the mobile device, which makes it more LiveView-ish without being Android-only. iOS is a huge market, and all those other watches may have just worked in the Pebble’s favor by not supporting iOS at all/well. After all using iPod Nanos as watches is a popular thing in the Apple world, and this is just that on steroids, without a color screen. In fact, it’s what the iPod Nano should have been if you ask me.
If I were to buy one of these, I would probably have it connected to my phone. I do see lots of scenarios where this would be a nice tablet accessory though. I don’t actually use SMS or phone calling much, so in theory I could make do with a 3G enabled tablet, though it would have to be a rather portable one – like 7 inches or so. That’s actually a more common method of using tablets than many people think, and for such use, this watch would be absolutely perfect because it would allow you to control a lot of things on your tablet without actually taking it out of a bag or large pocket. I’m pretty sure the majority of Pebble backers are phone users though, but I like to think there’s a tablet user in there somewhere. With 22,000 backers (and counting), there’s certainly a decent chance of that being the case.