Wearable Tech

Pebble Makes Big Ripples on Kickstarter

The money is pouring into Pebble's Kickstarter campaign for its new smartwatch, Pebble Time. Within hours, upwards of 26,000 supporters had pledged more than $5.3 million. The project's goal was to raise a mere $500,000. The strength of the response highlights the enthusiastic fan base Pebble has built. "Pebble Time appears to be yet another blockbuster," said tech analyst Ryan Martin.

The money is pouring into Pebble’s Kickstarter campaign, launched Tuesday, for its new smartwatch, Pebble Time.

Within hours, upwards of 27,000 supporters had pledged more than US$5.6 million. The project’s goal was to raise a mere $500,000.

The strength of the response highlights the enthusiastic fan base Pebble has built over the years.

“Pebble’s no stranger when it comes to wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns, with its first-gen watch currently seated second among the sites most-funded projects,” said Ryan Martin, an IoT and wearable technologies analyst at 451 Research.

“Pebble Time appears to be yet another blockbuster for the California-based wearables upstart — one that could easily top the Kickstarter funding list when pledging closes at the end of March,” he told TechNewsWorld.

About Pebble Time

Pebble Time has a color e-paper display, offers up to seven days’ batter life, and sports a new timeline interface that serves up information — notifications, emails, calendars, alarms, news — chronologically.

The Timeline UI dynamically loads and caches apps as needed. Users can add pins to their timeline to keep track of things such as upcoming events, sports, weather, traffic or special offers.

Pebble later will develop Timeline to run on its earlier smartwatch models — Pebble and Pebble Steel.

Pebble Time is water-resistant and customizable. It has a Gorilla Glass lens and a stainless steel bezel, and it comes in black, white and red.

The smartwatch is fully compatible with all 6,500 or so existing Pebble apps and watch faces. Pebble is asking devs to upgrade their apps to support color.

Pebble Time has a built-in microphone for making voice responses to incoming notifications or for taking short voice notes. This feature works with major Android apps including SMS, Hangouts, Gmail and Facebook Messenger.

However, iOS users will be limited to making voice responses to Gmail notifications.

Pebble Time works with all Android 4.0+ phones, including those from Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG, Google, Motorola and Xiaomi. It also works with iOS 8 on iPhone 4s and above.

Pebble will begin shipping the new smartwatch in May.

For Devs

Pebble Time offers a Rich C SDK for apps and watchfaces running natively on the watch even when the phone is disconnected.

A new emulator can be used locally or on CloudPebble.

Pebble will offer color APIs to support the 64 colors of the Pebble Time screen, and it will publish the 3D data needed to create straps, covers and docks.

A smart accessory port will let hardware devs build sensors and smart straps that connect directly to the watch.

“That’s not the real story here,” said IDC Research Manager Ramon Llamas, “but it’s really important to have an accessory story to go with your wearables wherever you can.”

In Apple Watch’s Shadow

The Apple Watch, which is expected to launch in April, is casting a long shadow over the smartwatch market.

“We estimate Apple could ship 18-20 million units in 2015, which is a lot more than Pebble has been shipping and is expected to ship,” said Gartner Research Director Annette Zimmerman.

That said, “Pebble has not fared badly against the Samsung watches that have been on the market so far,” she pointed out.

“It’s important that Pebble get a jump on [Apple Watch], which the company likely hopes to achieve by setting the close date for its Kickstarter campaign to just days before [Apple Watch] is expected to hit store shelves,” 451’s Martin said.

Pebble’s recent announcement of support for Android Wear will broaden its appeal.

Granted, the Apple Watch will flood the market, but “I think Pebble will still have a place, if only on price,” IDC’s Llamas told TechNewsWorld.

The Apple Watch will offer an involved and immersive experience, but Pebble “just services what you need,” he noted, “and does what it does really well, consistently.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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