My Thoughts on Pebble
In case you missed the news this week, Pebble is no more. Every report seems to indicate that post-acquisition, Pebble will no longer produce smart watches. That’s not a terribly surprising move when you look at the larger market. LG is pulling out and Moto says NoMo. With a Pebble exit, Apple and Samsung are really the only major players remaining. A recent Gartner study gives pretty compelling evidence as to why the mass exodus is occurring. Adoption rates are still in the 10% range and even worse are the rates of abandonment. The overwhelming majority of people that buy a smartwatch stop using them shortly after buying them.
I personally think Pebble would have been the exception to that trend. I tend to always have three things on my person at all times.
- My Qalo Wedding Band
- My Phone
- My Pebble Time
When I say, “At all times” I mean just that. Swimming? Yep. Sleeping? The phone is charging but yep. Riding the motorcycle? Yep. In a house that is literally burning down? YEP.
In that time I’ve crushed 2 phones, lost one of the wedding bands, but still have my Pebble Time. It hasn’t broken or failed in all that time and including some pretty harsh environments. I loved it from day one and despite trying the Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear I still think Pebble is best. Now that we all can agree Pebble is Dead, here are some of my thoughts on where the other companies need to emulate to drive better adoption.
First, the battery life. Once a week (approximately) my Pebble vibrates to let me know it’s time to charge. It does so with a friendly message like, “Charged until tonight.” The Apple Watch I tested ran a respectable 48 hours on average. To really drive adoption you have to keep the wearable ON the user. If in your mind you take off the watch to charge it once every day or day and a half then you’ll start just laeving it on the charger. By contrast, I forgot the charger for my Pebble once and I was very conscious of the fact I wasn’t wearing it. I literally just never take it off.
Second, the interface is “simple enough.” Pebble did a good job of being an extension of my mobile device and not a replacement. It was a screen for viewing notifications, making quick replies, and getting a HUD type view of my day. I didn’t play games on it. Or need to book an Uber with it. Or GPS some directions. For wearables, simpler can be better.
Third, COST! If I break my $99 Pebble in a structure fire I’m not as sad. If instead it was my $300 device then I’d take it off before doing anything risky. See point number one. If users aren’t wearing it, they aren’t adopting it.
Last, the screen is simply amazing. Visible in daylight, low power, plenty of color, and “good enough.” Wearables don’t need to be the next mobile device war. I never missed a “touch screen.” When riding my motorcycle I could simply look at my wrist to see what notification had come through. No button press or swipe to activate a backlight. Just a glance.
TL;DR; Keep it simple, make it comfortable for extended periods, and make it usable. I truly hope someone steps in to fill the gap that Pebble is leaving.
About the author
Brooks Garrett is a dedicated technologist who specializes in information security. Brooks has spent over 10 years implementing security programs for both the public and private sector including some of the biggest names in the Fortune 500. When he's not managing risk in the corporate environment you can find him at the local firestation where he is a volunteer firefighter.