As a fan of their cheap and cheerful smartwatches, this sucks.
Of course, it’s only a rumour, and from a single source at that. But that source, paywall-protected site The Information, is fairly reputable. And it certainly doesn’t help that Pebble tweeted, then promptly deleted, this shrug emoticon last night.
I woke up to this story with a post from Android Police in my RSS feed, but it’s big news all around the web:
- Fitbit is reportedly close to buying Pebble (The Verge)
- Fitbit in talks to buy smartwatch pioneer Pebble (Financial Times)
- Fitbit Buying Pebble? Smartwatch Company Acquisition In The Works, Reports Say (IBT)
- Fitbit could be close to acquiring smartwatch maker Pebble (Neowin)
- Reports: Fitbit wants to acquire Pebble (liliputing)
Worst of all is that there are apparently no plans to continue the Pebble line; Fitbit’s interest is in the company’s technology and intellectual property only.
Contrary to what you might think, there is still an active and significant userbase for Pebble products. The subreddit devoted to Pebble actually has more subscribers than its Android Wear equivalent. And unlike Android Wear I actually see people wearing Pebbles out in the world—including the new Pebble Time Round on my girlfriend’s wrist.
So where did they go wrong? I can think of two things: The refocus on fitness with Pebble Health, heart rate sensors and such was bound to end badly—if anything, it got Fitbit’s attention and made them an acquisition target. Also, the wide distribution to retail chains like Best Buy—though great for bargain-hunting consumers—might, in hindsight, not have been the best idea. Pebble could perhaps have done better as a boutique online-only smartwatch-maker, funding products via Kickstarter then building them to order.
Then there are the market forces working against them. Smartwatches are tanking as a product category, so it might well have been inevitable for Pebble to be gobbled up by a competitor with deeper pockets. But it would still hurt to see them go. Pebble wasn’t the first smartwatch on the market, but if you know your wearable history you’ll remember that it was the first successful one.