The Pebble Time smart watch has become the most successful Kickstarter project ever, raising $20 million in a month. But will it be enough to take on giants like Apple and Google with their billions of dollars in financial resources?
At the end of May, most of the major thematic publications published their reviews of Pebble Time, but then it was about test samples sent to the press to test the device. Now, commercial models of the device have begun to reach customers with Kickstarter, and there are more balanced opinions about these smart watches. The time has come to assess the prospects of the novelty and the company as a whole in the actively developing market of wearable devices.
Impressions from the final Pebble Time
One of the employees 9To5Mac, House Esposito, has been actively using Pebble Time for a week now, which he ordered on Kickstarter among the first investors. The experience of this person is interesting in that he was an active user of the original model literally from the moment it was released. In addition, Esposito is no stranger to other relevant platforms in the face of Android Wear and Apple Watch.
The journalist liked the design of the watch, its more compact dimensions, the metal frame on top, although he did not hesitate to troll their appearance:
The Pebble Time has a cool metal frame around another frame framing the E-Ink color display [по факту там цветной Sharp Memory LCD, прим. редактора]covered with Gorilla Glass.
In general, Esposito was pleased with the device, noting the cool updated software with high-quality smooth animation. He also praised the gadget’s impressive battery life, drew attention to the fact that the Pebble Time really looks and feels like a new generation compared to Pebble and Pebble Steel, plus they are not as distracting and annoying as competing models can be.
Continuing the talk about Pebble’s new smartwatches, Dom mentioned the fact that they are less functional with iOS than with Android. So, in the first case, there is no way to separately control the list of applications that send notifications to Pebble. Either the programs send notifications to both the phone and the clock, or they don’t send either here or there. On iOS, there is no way to turn off vibration or sound from notifications on a smartphone if they come to a smart watch too. But the most frustrating moment was the fact that the Pebble Time microphone is so far useless in conjunction with the iPhone, while on Android it can be used not only for phone functions, but also for interacting with hundreds of applications that support dictation.
On the other hand, Pebble is one of the few smartwatches that can work with multiple mobile platforms. Esposito’s final conclusion was as follows:
Should you get a Pebble Time anyway? No, it shouldn’t.
Are there better deals on the market? Yes there is.
His copy cost the house $180 and according to him, it would be better to pay a little extra (and in the case of Android Wear, there are cheaper offers in the US), but buy something more integrated with iOS or Android, more modern and functional. The journalist is sure that over time the novelty will be significantly improved programmatically, but at the moment it is felt against the background of competitors, like a relic stuck in the past.
She also shared her impressions of the new product with us. Rhiannon Williams from Foggy Albion. She is a journalist The Telegraph and has been actively using Pebble Time for a couple of weeks now.
The lady turned out to be a lover of retro style and all sorts of hipster troubles, so she liked the device in terms of design. However, Williams emphasized that Pebble Time literally teetered on the fine line between «stylish hipster toy» and «obsolete rarity«. She liked all sorts of retro interface elements that make you think of classic Casio watches with nostalgia, funny animation, but not everyone will like the quality of the display. Especially if a person is used to the bright OLED and LCD screens of modern smart watches. What’s more, the colors look quite dull even when using the backlight. But the watch is really light (42.5g with a standard strap) compared to the 38mm Apple Watch (40g without a strap) and LG Watch Urbane (66.5g).
The girl liked the updated software platform (especially the animated dials, like Mario or the face of the Domo monster, which reacts to the movements of the watch), although she, like Dom, noted the limited interaction with iOS (she tested it in tandem with the iPhone 6 Plus) and the inability to use a microphone smart watch. This fact was especially annoying after using the Apple Watch for several months, when you can fully respond to notifications without taking out your smartphone. Both journalists suggest that the problem is not in Pebble, but in iOS and the limitations of its API in terms of interaction with external gadgets. But it doesn’t get any easier.
As for third-party applications, Pebble Time has full compatibility with the entire library of 6500 programs, only a few are really adapted to the color display and the new OS. For the most part, third-party solutions look unfinished and not particularly functional. However, there is an API and complete freedom of action for third-party developers, so in the future the novelty can get a lot of interesting applications.
As for autonomy, Williams has never been able to achieve the claimed seven days of work from the clock, but for five days the battery has enough iron, which is also good against the background of 1-2 days from competitors.
The journalist liked the watch, although they are not without drawbacks. They have something to oppose to competitors, including good autonomy, an always-on display, an open developer community. Technically and in terms of design, the device can lose to solutions based on Android Wear, not to mention the Apple Watch, but this is a matter of taste. According to Williams, Pebble Time is currently the most versatile smartwatch that needs a little more time to gain a foothold in the market and reach its potential.
Will Pebble smartwatches be able to compete with Apple and Google in the market?
As you can see, the novelty did not bring journalists who use Pebble on an ongoing basis into indescribable delight, but it did not cause any negative feelings either. Moreover, there was confidence that the device is still firmly held in its niche and it will not be easy to knock it out of there. There will always be those who need a simple accessory that can display notifications, work for a long time without recharging, and fully replace a watch whose display is always active. However, competitors are not standing still, or rather, they have set a very fast pace, notes an expert in mobile phones and wearable devices. Steven Fluin:
They are [Pebble] found themselves in a very difficult position. This is the first full-fledged smart watch in the industry, it has sold over a million copies and has been able to earn the love of society. But today, a year after the launch of Android Wear and the recent release of the Apple Watch, the project is facing a harsh reality.
The specialist highlights Pebble’s two main problems:
- lack of free resources in comparison with competitors;
- Difficulty identifying your own audience
In 2012, the original model raised $10 million on Kickstarter, becoming one of the most successful projects on the crowdfunding service. In 2015, the successor collected over $20 million and became the most successful Kickstarter project. But against the backdrop of the financial resources of Apple and Google, all these figures look frivolous. Pebble has no reserve and safety margin.
On the other hand, the analyst is sure that small companies do not need to compete head-on with industry giants like Apple and Google in order to be successful in the market. But to remain an important and necessary part of this market, you need to clearly differentiate yourself, and Pebble has problems with this, Fluin notes.
Pebbles aren’t as perfect as Apple’s or Google’s solutions, but they aren’t as specialized and utilitarian as Garmin’s wearable sports computers, for example. This kind of uncertainty greatly hinders the sales of the mentioned smart watches in a market densely filled with competitors.
The design is just as important as the filling. When Motorola launched its first smartwatch, the Moto 360 created a huge buzz thanks to its chic looks. In turn, Apple launched its own product in six of the most famous designer boutiques around the world.
Dan Ward, co-founder of app development company Detroit Labs
An analyst joined the conversation Daniel Matte from Canalys, stating that the race in the smartwatch market now looks like a David vs. Goliath situation. According to him, it is almost impossible to compete with Apple, Google and Samsung, since their resources are orders of magnitude greater than the available funds of their closest rivals. But even against this background, Pebble should not leave the race.
Pebble has its clear advantages over competitors’ solutions. They are not created by Apple or Google, that is, they are compatible with both major platforms — iOS and Android, which allows the user to switch from one smartphone to another without changing watches. Pebble also has excellent autonomy up to seven days, compared to 1-2 days for Apple Watch and devices based on Android Wear. Yes, the gadget does not have any bells and whistles of competitors that can become an obstacle for some users, but for others, on the contrary, a plus. This is a very simple, rational and unobtrusive product.
Daniel Matte, analyst at Canalys
It was the unobtrusiveness of Pebble that became the decisive factor for Tim Shrimptonwho once supported the original Pebble watch on Kickstarter:
What I like most about Pebble is that it is first and foremost a watch. The screen is always on and you do not need to be distracted by it once again. Even the need to simply turn your wrist to activate the display (as implemented in the Apple Watch) looks strange and illogical.
As a survey of smart watch users showed, the solutions from Google and Samsung simply confused them and people consciously opted for the minimalism of Pebble.
I don’t need a million features. I just want a long battery life of the device from a single charge, and that it should be hours first of all. Pebble’s keynote is: «Having less gives you more» — and I highly appreciate it.
Active Pebble user Aaron Crocco
Head of Pebble Eric Migikovski notes that Apple and Google helped the company raise interest in smartwatches, create hype and tell everyone about such devices. As a result, this led to the fact that the audience expanded, and people began to look for an interesting alternative to traditional watches and wearable devices.
We’re not chasing the luxury market like Apple does. The original Pebbles were simple. We didn’t say it was a revolutionary device that would change your life. It did several things, including showcasing call, text, and mail notifications, controlling music playback, and doing it all well. I think it was this approach that attracted our customers and formed the user base.
Eric Migikowski, head of Pebble
Pebble Watch has not turned into a combine on the wrist, but has remained the same simple smart watch that just performs several useful and important functions for the user well. Only now they are doing it even better, plus they have the potential for further development with Pebble Smartstraps. In addition, the project already has an extensive audience of loyal users and developers, and the openness of the platform is a big plus for Pebble compared to its competitors.
Fluin is confident that Pebble can stay in the race and keep up with the pace set by rivals if clearly define your niche. For example, a geek product for enthusiasts from the DIY community who love to fine-tune devices for themselves, or even remake them at their discretion. Open APIs, support for hardware extensions — there is a big field for creativity. In addition, the original model is still in production and is still a highly relevant and yet inexpensive device, which is a great purchase option for children and other family members who do not want to miss notifications, but are not striving for technical innovations.
In turn, Matte suggested that, if necessary, the company can switch only to software development and release high-quality applications for smart watches. Fortunately, there is already a wealth of experience.
Whatever path Pebble chooses, all analysts are sure of one thing — it cannot stand still. It is necessary to act, and very actively and assertively.
In the modern realities of the most active development of the mobile and wearable devices market, you either grow and succeed, or fall and die. As for Pebble, the company is still in business.
Steven Fluin, expert on mobile phones and wearables
[9To5Mac] [The Telegraph] [Phys.org]
Judging by my own experience of operating Pebble, which I will write a separate material about, the company is really still alive, vigorous and has prospects in the market. I use the very first, plastic model, the device works fine and really performs its functions well. At least, the desire to return to the Moto 360 has not yet arisen. In addition, Pebble was successfully able to replace another dead activity tracker and play the role of an almost smart alarm clock. But that’s a completely different story.
In Cplaza you can buy any Pebble watch