Home News and Editorial Fitbit acquires Pebble, but it really looks more like Fitbit kills Pebble

Fitbit acquires Pebble, but it really looks more like Fitbit kills Pebble

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It was rumoured, and now it’s confirmed: Fitbit has killed acquired Pebble, including its technology, software, and other intellectual property. Of course, Pebble sells this as a positive, but if you’re a Pebble user, chances are you’re probably not going to be too thrilled.

Pebble became the darling of crowdfunding, raising a tonne of money via the Kickstarter platform and shipping smartwatches to millions around the world. By modern standards, the Pebble is pretty primitive, but at the time it was somewhat revolutionary; finally we had a smartwatch that was affordable and actually useful. Of course, like many things though, Pebble came and kind of went … after the success of the initial Pebble, they never really found continued momentum. Follow-up devices were significantly less popular, and inevitably, Pebble’s business model pretty much collapsed.

Fitbit moved in and, perhaps quite wisely, acquired the valuable parts of the company, including a good number of its staff. The news there is good; undoubtedly, the team behind Pebble have some skills which Fitbit would love to use, and Fitbit’s products could only be the better for having some more smartwatch-oriented cred behind them. The downside, though, is for pretty much everyone else.

Those who have bought Pebble watches in the past and looking for support will need to know this:

  • 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.

That last dot point is a big one; while most of the way Pebble works is cloud-independent, issues may arise in future. If the partner app for the mobile isn’t updated, it may fall by the wayside and eventually stop working. Of course, by the time that becomes a serious enough issue, most people will probably have given up on their Pebble watches anyway.

For new customers, or those who had ordered newer generation watches through Pebble’s kickstarters and other forums, there might be less good news:

  • Kickstarter backers who have not received their rewards will receive a full refund within 4-8 weeks as a chargeback to their credit cards. For more information, please visit Pebble’s Support page.
  • Orders from pebble.com are no longer being accepted or fulfilled, including Pebble 2 pre-orders, which have not yet been charged or shipped.

That part makes sense; if they’re not selling them anymore, they should stop shipping them and refund unfulfilled orders. The last part is the kicker, though: Pebble won’t offer warranty support going forward. In other words, if your watch fails from today onwards, you’re on your own. For customers in Australia, it’s worth noting that Pebble never really set up shop here, so unless you somehow managed to buy a Pebble from an Australian retailer, you won’t have protection of Australian Consumer Law rights. If you bought from overseas and something goes wrong, your chances of getting your Pebble repaired just got significantly worse.

Do you still have, or use, a Pebble smart watch? Let us know your thoughts on this development.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Pebble was facing bankruptcy which would have made the app store and cloud infrastructure fold rendering 50% of the watches functions inoperable , leaving kickstarter backers down 200 or so bucks and the difference parts of the business would be snapped up by different scavengers. Fitbit and Pebble had been consulting for quite some time, I suspect about a possible collaboration because Pebble added support for natively running fitbit apps to its SDK – I think they might have shown Fitbit the Pebble Time 2 and offered to release it under both brands, using fitbits algorithms and sensors (HR and pedometer)

    Fitbit bought the IP for the software and nabbed a bunch of Pebble staff and now , though they have no obligation to do so they are providing software and firmware upgrades, curating the app store and maintaining all cloud services through till a minimum of 2018.

    if this winds up in a fitbit watch running Pebble OS then that will be my next, I have no time for smartwatches that come from the other end of the paradigm and try to miniaturise smartphone hardware – I loved Pebbles attitude of keeping all the best things about digital watches (good battery life, great daylight visibility, water proofing etc) and thats all Im interested in.

    seems like apple and google are thinking they need to continue the chain, no desktop PC access ? use a laptop, laptop charging? grab the tablet, not at home? grab your phone, don’t want to get phone out of pocket? swipe on your “smart watch” touch screen and with lots of these needing gestures to make them even display the time the logical end of that idea seems to be wearing something like google glass so you don’t move your arm!

  2. As someone who backed the original Pebble and Pebble Time I’m very saddened by this news. I love my Pebble Time Steel, as does my wife and the 10 day battery life is the “killer feature” I just couldn’t live without. Even without any more updates I’d still be happy with my Pebble watch.

  3. I was very interested in the Pebble 2. But now without any appealing smartwatch options, I might actually have to go back to a Casio G-Shock

    • I got someone from Reddit to send one to Australia for me. it has 1 year (so far) of committed support from Fitbit and the community are developing their own app stores and alternatives to the official Pebble app (gadget bridge) so as much as possible works for many years into the future – the real worry is random part failure. no way to replace P2s because so few were made and are floating around

  4. It sucks as Pebble really was the only great day to day smartwatch that added functionality to your day but wasn’t a hassle to charge. Pebble was the boom. Really sad that company doing all the right things didn’t get picked up by enough people to keep afloat. I dont think Eric would have bailed if he had a choice. I think he did it for his employees and stakeholders. This is the death of the smartwatch for me. Unless another company starts making a smartwatch you only have to charge once a week. Hopefully get a year or two more out of my Pebble Time steel.

    • I was ready to hate charging my smart watch every night, however, it really isn’t an issue. It has a magnetic charge clip that seems to snap on almost automatically.

      Although, if I’m going camping or something, I won’t wear it, or I’ll take my old watch.

    • Eric did the inpulse blackberry smartwatch thing years before people were doing this (connecting to phones) and then Pebble which predated apple and googles efforts he really is the unsung king of smartwatches that do useful things and I cannot see a future without him winding up back at the helm of a company making devices like this. if Fitbit don’t make a successor thats worthy of Pebble Eric will recover from this blow and end up somewhere like google convincing them to support passive screens and lower specced hardware for astounding battery life.

      I was impressed to see a teardown of a Pebble Time – its battery is just short of *half* the capacity of the Apple watch and it managed to do a week between charges. someone with fitbit, with the money to get everything inside that casing well integrated and as compact as possible could get a larger battery in there so that you could put in a nice evenly lit backlight to pair with an ambient sensor so that Pebbles one real weakness is addressed and it can automatically brighten up indoors when you make a gesture like raising your wrist (obviously optional)

  5. I have (and still use) a original Pebble and I’m really sadden by this news, Pebble helped pave the way for smartwatches but also was the underdog in the category. Pebble’s watches offered an easy way to get notifications from your phone, smartwatches with great battery life and relatively on the cheaper side (all their watches were about $199 USD or less), while Android Wear watches start at $249 USD or more (but I’m in Canada, so it’ll be $400+ CDN)

    I was a backer of the Pebble Time 2 (partly because my replacement original Pebble watch was having screen tearing issues and was out of warranty), so I was really excited for the Time 2 but I guess that is gone forever (along with the Pebble Core)

  6. For Pebble users this is pretty bad news, for those who have not yet invested in a smart watch, something wonderful may come!

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