Pebble where do we go now

Most of our staff has or had a pebble of one type or another, I personally have a Pebble time, but with the buyout finalized in the (somewhat insulting) letter to their users which we published here it seems appropriate that we look at where things started, where they went wrong, and how the fallout has precipitated throughout the community.

Pebble Started as kickstarters darling project, and looking at the hardware produced it’s very clear why In my professional opinion, the pebble, time, and time steel are a template on choosing the right compromises when designing a smartwatch, they combined an e-ink display(color on the time series watches) with a custom responsive OS as well as good battery life(5-7 days in my current experience) unfortunately they’ve had a rough year, from the outside looking in it looks like the company was run by designers and developers first, which sounds good but doesn’t work out in the business world unfortunately. The company has been in trouble for a good portion of this year financially and looking in the mirror(I acknowledge that hindsight is 20/20) they had several better choices for who to acquire them than fitbit. I will admit I am not familiar with Citizen who offered pebble 740million in 2015, I am however familiar with Intel who offered 70 million earlier this year and their much more successful acquisition strategy.

Fitbit acquired the pebble os itself, several additional software assets and some of the hardware design however not the existing products themselves although the reasons for this are not immediately apparent they’re contrary to how I’m used to seeing successful technology acquisitions go. Intel’s acquisition of Altera(a FPGA maker) is closer to how an acquisition should go, quite simply they bought everything, and then improved it, moving production of altera hardware to their own fabrication facilities and looking towards the future incorporating it in their cpu lineup. A stark contrast to buying half of a company, and shutting down the rest of it a rather rude gesture to it’s current user base.

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Where do the users go from here?

For the time being the current pebble app continues to work, I doubt it’ll stop working as killing a running app is far from easy and it should continue to work for anyone that already has it, although i doubt we’ll see any updates for it there are thankfully alternatives, Gadgetbridge came up doing a bit of a search although there isn’t a app in the playstore from a cursory glance i’d be surprised if we don’t see it at minimum used to rebuild a pebble sync app.

The pebble store is going to stop working, sooner rather than later i’m sure, developers who were still supporting and working on their projects have been working to exporting their stuff from cloudpebble fortunately with help from it’s original developer on reddit it seems, there also seems to be a movement to build a new app store to keep new apps coming long after fitbit finishes shutting down the servers.

Others who had gotten their start making accessories for pebble smartwatches such as gadgetwraps have branched out

The battery is a bit trickier, there isn’t going to be a new pebble 3 or 4 to jump to when they die however there is good news, typical lithium batteries in consumer products are rated for 300-500 cycles before a significant decrease in capacity occurs, the pebble has a huge advantage longevity wise here, my time is rated for 7 days maximum and I regularly get to 5 before deciding to take it off and charge it, on the low end a charge every 5 days at 300 cycles would yield a life of just over 4 years, at 500 cycles is just under 7 years. Long story short the battery isn’t going to be what causes the pebble to  be replaced with a once a week charge most of us are going to have the watch become physically damaged at some point in the next 4-7 years, a relief compared to other watches which will burn through those cycles after 1-2 years and likely be replaced along with the phone they’re used with.

The future is a bit murky still, the terms of the agreement aren’t fully publicized currently it’s possible someone could buy the rights to pebbles hardware, and their OS was based on an opensource project it could be rebuilt easily potentially. the community seems to be working to fill in the gaps, I’m not going to go throw my pebble out but the options of what to replace it with just became a lot less clear.

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Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith is a full time IT administrator at a medium sized private business former FRC coach and technology enthusiast.