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Pebble's next step (getpebble.com)
529 points by david-given on Dec 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 442 comments

I'm quite angry. This sucks so bad. I "ordered" a Time 2 via Kickstarter.

I'm glad they are refunding me, but that makes me think... WTF, did they not produce any Time 2's? Or are they all going to the landfill? How long have they been knowing that they are going to be insolvent? This doesn't happen overnight! Was the last Kickstarter a gamble?

Why does everybody have to aim for total market dominance to be successful? They overreached and now the customers suffer. There should be a place for "small" manufacturer selling a niche product ("small" with a certain understatement like German "Mittelstand" enterprizes - I mean Pebble sold millions of units). If they had to increase the price by 10% to be sustainable, they still would have smashed the Kickstarter.

Sometimes I think there is a secret cabal conspiring so we can't have nice things ;-). The same one that decided that cell phone batteries have to be non-removable, touchscreens glossy, and wearables either mini-smartphones or bluetooth-step-counters.

> Was the last Kickstarter a gamble?

_All_ Kickstarters are gambles. Their messaging[1] is pretty clear in the fact that you aren't buying a product, you're contributing money with the hope that the maker will deliver on their promises.

[1] https://www.kickstarter.com/blog/kickstarter-is-not-a-store

Right, but I meant a gamble on their side, not the buyers'. Like when MtGox lost their bitcoins and ran as a fractional reserve trying to cover what happened. Or an actual addicted gambler trying to cut their losses by playing more. I wonder when they learned they were going out of business, and if the last Kickstarter was just a Hail Mary...

They probably thought a big KS would convince investors to give them couple hundred million.

What they should have done is cut costs and develop 10x fewer features, let the community grow slowly but organically and wait out the bad times.

"What they should have done is cut costs and develop 10x fewer features, let the community grow slowly but organically and wait out the bad times."

It's easy to say that, but when you are up against the Apple/Samsung type companies who have much deeper pockets, don't have to wait out bad times, have the ability to lean on vendors, have contracts in place with manufacturing and the supply chain to efficiently deliver the product, it might not be realistic to do that. On top that, as others here have said, once you take VC money, there isn't really an option to go slowly and let the community grow.

> there isn't really an option to go slowly and let the community grow.

Sure there is. Just not while also being the dominant, or one of the dominant players in the industry when there is competition form a bit name. Pebble didn't have to be a dominant player, they could have positioned themselves differently if they wanted. Both paths are a gamble, but if it comes to a small company I own trying to compete with Apple/Samsung/Google and it's obvious their resources give them an edge (which they almost always do), then I think I would try to position myself to net necessarily compete with them directly (e.g. be the more hacker friendly device, don't shoot for the luxury market, find some cool thing they aren't offering, etc).

> It's easy to say that, but when you are up against the Apple/Samsung type companies who have much deeper pockets

They did not really have to go against Apple/Samsung, their product was unique enough that Apple and Samsung don't have anything that's similar to it, and people like me would prefer pebble over their products. I mean now that pebble is gone, I'll most likely go back to regular watches.

> once you take VC money

their goals become your goals and their goals are almost always "Make more money now"

A gamble by definition is always a two sided transaction.

Perhaps the word gambit might suit better here?

There are Kickstarter projects that a year or two after the fact, haven't shipped. (for example, the Hydradock, which was to have shipped in June 2015)

I think this is an example of an issue that some companies that do kickstarter/preorder campaigns have.

They try to do a Hardware project that pushes boundaries and try to collect money to early during the development process at a time when it is really impossible to set a ship date. (Also a factor is company inexperience with manufacturing) This is why so many projects have to delay shipments and sometimes eventually run out of money without getting to a shippable product.

Companies that are successful typically do their preorders at a point where they have already completed multiple production runs at a cm in china and are ready to ramp for mass production. the order count helps justify the costs of ordering mass production parts. The issue of course is that it means investors had to be willing to fund seed/series A without seeing any traction.

This is not really an issue with what some companies are doing. This is the main point of kickstarter.

It's for people to support funding projects still in development and helping them get from that stage to get into production. In exchange for a "reward". It's not meant to be for products already having done multiple production runs ready to ramp up and customers are just pre-paying a long delivery time.

I would agree it appears there needs to be better communication about the risks and uncertainties. But they have said quite clearly kickstarter is not a store:


I think the point is that Kickstarter is not a sustainable way to build a hardware business. Despite kickstarter's own statement that it isn't a store, it really is. Would the majority of people on the site really back projects if they didn't expect the rewards?

I hear what you're saying but I have this perspective that includes Kickstarter in these issues. Why doesn't Kickstarter take a more active role in supporting it's campaigners after they raise funds?

Kickstarter for hardware products is very much its own insane, dysfunctional, extraordinarily risky world.

Most money spent on Kickstarter goes to projects which are far far more likely to be completed in some form: videogames, books, board games. I'd say that hardware projects should be banned entirely except for companies that have already shipped similar products but, well, that would've included Pebble.

I don't mind the risk. I think it's great there's a way to support cool product ideas that still need time and money to figure out if it will work.

It's not for everyone, but I'd be happy to back a hardware project knowing there's a solid chance it might not succeed, especially on the more niche products. Someone has to.

But I do think risky product creators can compensate their backers better for the risks and for taking a chance on them. For example I think it would be great to see something like a behind the scenes component with more sharing of the process as they go. Maybe like a weekly vlog about them building this new product from scratch, with successes and failures and what they are learning. The company doesn't have to show anything proprietary. It's like behind the scene DVD but for a product not a movie. I'd watch it. Plus all the backers would know that the creators tried and if they are failing, the reasons why. It could be interesting and entertaining. And if doesn't work they would at least have shared what they learned which others can learn from too. Anywho I don't see this happening.

A while back GPG announced their Kickstarter campaign for a game to be named Human Resources. It was later announced that they actually didn't have enough funds to survive if the Kickstarter didn't go through[1]. The campaign stalled and the entire company went under.

People were understandably angry. And it wasn't so much the risk (because none of the backers lost their money), it's that the company wasn't upfront about risks. GPG's leadership knew going in that the company would go under if the campaign didn't become a miraculous success, but backers didn't find that out until after the campaign had stalled.

Presumably, backers wouldn't have been informed at all if the campaign had succeeded.

This situation with Pebble is even more strange because apparently their campaign succeeded (in raising money beyond their target goal)....

[1]: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/659943965/human-resourc...

I think your parent means a gamble on the part of Pebble.

Yup. I actually bought the Pulse which was their forgotten pre-Pebble failure.

It arrived as a useless brick that I, and most other recipients, never even got to show the time.

So their first thing failed and then they got more people to gamble on them?!

Free Market at its finest

Even though Kickstarter explicitly says it's not a store, it doesn't mean people don't think it is. Perception = reality. This news will most likely have the largest effect on Kickstarter, specifically in the tech category, more than anything else. There have been many failures of promises on Kickstarter, but when your top 4 most funded projects are all now dead, people are going to start thinking twice about backing companies.

To be fair though the 1, 3, and 4 are all pebble. 2 is that coolest cooler project

I don't want to hit a person while they're down (in the dumps about their "purchase"), but going to Kickstarter for version 3 was my sign to give it a rest on buying Pebbles. Maybe it was just marketing, but it caused me to wonder "have you not made enough profit to support rolling out your third version without outside backing?" If it finally hit retail, great, I might get one then. But in the meantime I bought a Garmin Fenix instead of financing someone else's manufacturing interest-free.

Pebble wasn't aiming for market dominance, they were aiming for market traction. How many Pebbles do you see in the wild? Now, how many Apple Watches do you see? How many Garmins? FitBits? "Notifications" is the baseline these days. It's just a given if I buy a fancy electronic watch. So where does that put Pebble? Having the same notification functionality as other devices, only not as slick and more cheap looking. Oh, Pebble has fitness stuff now? Have fun going up against Garmin and FitBit. As more and more devices gain the functionality that defined Pebble, Pebble went from the leader in this segment to playing catch-up.

Sometimes I think there is a secret cabal conspiring so we can't have nice things ;-).

Of course you know better. :-) Pebble sold you a device, everyone else sells you an ecosystem. All the fitness add-ons in the world won't make a difference if there isn't some form of analysis and data storage behind it. I can go back to stuff my Garmins have recorded over a decade ago. FitBit's got something similar, Nike (back when they made hardware), and others I've missed. Apple and Android watches tie into their respective systems for more functionality than just notifications on your wrist. Nope, no cabal, the market just moved on and Pebble got left behind. We do have nice things, they just don't have "Pebble" silkscreened on them now.

>How many Pebbles do you see in the wild? Now, how many Apple Watches do you see?

Almost the same number for me. That said I barely see any Apple watches and most people I know who bought them have left them in the bedside drawer long ago

I always said that sport watches will become smarter sooner then smart watches sportier.

Because sometimes an up vote isn't enough: I have nothing more to add other than complimenting you on a very insightful comment that said in one sentence what has taken me paragraphs.

Totally this. Kickstarter is for, well, kick-starting things. It's not meant to be a business model. If you're already a million-dollar company, and you can't bring a new revision of your product to market without crowdsourced funding, maybe you're not doing it right.

> Pebble sold you a device, everyone else sells you an ecosystem.

Pebble actually had the full ecosystem going, app store, online integration, accessories, the whole hog. So much so that (for me at least) it was actually a /bad/ thing. I don't want my smartwatch to be a portal into web services and a means of datamining my life. I don't want a subscription to a watch service. I just want it to be a watch that I can program and that can talk to my phone.

> have you not made enough profit to support rolling out your third version without outside backing

I interpreted it more as a way to build hype around pre-orders for something that wouldn't come out for a while. In light of them going under, your explanation seems to gain some support, but I still wonder if they were also using Kickstarter as a hype builder and pre-order managment system.

They genuinely believed they were going to change the world, drank too much of their own kool-aid and eventually ran out of money.

Pretty sure they feel terrible right now and I don't think they slept well for the past 6 months. Could someone reasonable see this coming before KS? Most likely yes. Would they get this far without taking big risks? Most likely no.

You feel angry you didn't get your pebbles, I feel angry I didn't get my two pebbles and a core.

Imagine how they feel - reportedly turned down $750 mil and less than a year later had to apply for a job at another struggling wearables manufacturer.

You can take the "going to change the world" too far. They are bankrupt and still believe they're "Making Awesome Happen". Investors lost their money. Suppliers will not get paid. Employees are losing their jobs just before Christmas. Customers will not get their orders. Current customers are left without support and - in the near future - a limited functioning device. How is that "Making Awesome Happen"? A more humble attitude would be more appropriate.

I have to totally agree. Kickstarters fail, but this[1] is a gold standard of how not to write your "sorry, we failed" post. Ditch the marketing speak and the PR photos and just be honest with your customers.

[1] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-2-time...

Are you sure investors lost their money, considering the Fitbit transaction and the usual liquadition preferences et al

Fitbit is not a struggling wearables manufacturer. It is solidly profitable.

Their stock price is down 75% year-over-year, though their watch-ish sales are improving as the Apple Watch declines.

A company does not automatically struggle on account of previously having had a high stock price.

VC/exponential growth increase risk of exploding the whole company.

In alternative reality:

1. They could hire way less aggressive and stay lean. Product development will be much slower, but they can operate cash flow positive.

2. With Kickstarter/pre-orders they could avoid taking any serious VC funding.

3. They probably need to move less expensive region than SF Bay Area. SF is great for go big or go home, but not an ideal place for long-term sustainable business.

4. Probably the price of watches would be higher and they will be niche, but still there are tons of watch manufactures that survived decades.

I agree, and it's such a shame to see this company/product's demise due to overreach.

Per their site, Pebble's current product line has three different case designs, each available in at least three different finishes, and one with an additional heart rate monitor. That seems like an awful lot of SKUs for a small hardware startup to develop, manufacture, stock, fulfill and support. Their latest kickstarter added even more models.

From my armchair, it looks like they tried to expand and segment their market too quickly, for the sake of both growth and the optics of their product line in comparison to Apple.

I'm in the early stages of creating the world's tiniest "hardware startup" (the product consists of a single piece of metal), and it's a constant discipline to not get caught up in offering variations on the base design. Every product design choice ripples through the supply chain, increasing complexity and overhead at your peril.

Good luck to all the folks at Pebble in their new endeavors.

Totally this. I'd gladly pay double for Time 2 if it meant the platform will grow sustainably.

> Sometimes I think there is a secret cabal conspiring so we can't have nice things ;-). The same one that decided that cell phone batteries have to be non-removable, touchscreens glossy, and wearables either mini-smartphones or bluetooth-step-counters.

I feel that all the time. Of course it's not a secret cabal, just the free market promoting get-rich-quick schemes and making it harder for sustainable businesses and actually useful products to survive.

Unfortunately companies can't make a sustainable business around people like you. If they were to double the price, then they are going toe to toe with the features and infrastructure behind the Apple Watch, and that's an area they just can't compete in at their size.

Yep, everything in the past year has indicated that they were underpricing their offerings. I'm not even talking about turning a large margin, but that they were offering more services than they could sustain, regardless of market penetration.

This last kickstarter raised $12million while only requiring $1million to fund. I'm really unsure how they managed to get 12x the "required" funding but still fail to deliver.

Did you see that picture of the development team in the article? That's a hell of a lot of mouths to feed.

It's pretty common for Kickstarter projects to ask for a lot less than they actually need. Hence the reason for all the stretch goals and such. Companies like the story to be that they blew their goal out of the water, not just barely creeped over the funded line.

Which is super shady in my opinion. I've seen video game Kickstarters cancel their KS when they have a bit over 100% funding and a few days left. Clearly they are short of their real goal. Another common warning sign is when it fails to fund the first time and relaunches a few months later with a lower goal.

Their internal target would have absolutely been "Less than 5mil+ is total failure".

Low goal is just good for PR and means you actually get some money rather than none if you fall short of your secret real goal

> I'm glad they are refunding me, but that makes me think... WTF, did they not produce any Time 2's? Or are they all going to the landfill?

The probably made some, but it takes money to turn any component inventory they may have into shippable products. They probably burned all of the money on mechanical tooling and part procurement already, and maybe hit a major issue in doing so (critical component is suddenly a very different price, etc). All of that inventory either is returned (if possible) or ends up liquidated on the secondary electronics component market for pennies on the dollar, to pay back the creditors. Custom parts, tools, etc have less of a resale market, but I'm sure a company in China will be happy to pick them up cheap to make smartwatches for the local market.

> and maybe hit a major issue in doing so (critical component is suddenly a very different price, etc)

There were some stories circulating that their provider of screens for Time 2 is in financial troubles, so presumably may have not been able to fulfill the order.

Having done a hardware Kickstarter, I can tell you it's not as easy as just "increase the price". Hardware is hard. We did two crowdfunding campaigns: almost broke even on the first one, and are still in massive debt from the second one. Although I'm glad we came through for our backers, I wish we had just refunded everyone. The aftermath has been incredibly stressful both mentally and fiscally.

Hardware isn't really profitable or even sustainable until you are shipping millions of units. That's why you don't see many hardware startups succeeding without either massive amounts of VC funding, or a really cheap-to-make product that you can sell for much more than it's worth (e.g. Fitbit). That's why any investor will tell you that the subscription model is basically the only way to go if you're making hardware.

According to one of the developers, they produced a very tiny number of Time 2's for testing. She has said those ones all worked perfectly but even she didn't even get one.

It's clear to me that Fitbit bought Pebble to kill it. It was the only smart watch that had good functionality, good battery life, good pricing, and easy user programmability. So of course it had to die. The founders no doubt got a nice payout and the customers, as usual, got forcibly sodomized.

No need to be angry. It's a start-up. They all wanted to succeed, but life isn't always fair.

> They all wanted to succeed, but life isn't always fair.

So did we.

Edit: removed judgemental statement.

I feel your sentiment minimizes how difficult it is to run a business.

It shouldn't have been so difficult when customers were lining up months in advance to buy your product :-/

I think Kickstarter isn't for you, man. You just have different expectations for the site than what you're going to get.

Kickstarter is like the blind men talking about the elephant, its just too big. Cutting edge hardware? Gonna be risky, it almost always fails. On the other hand the board game and RPG scene on KS is reliable as the worlds slowest amazon-like fulfillment store, it always arrives in ten short months (after having been promised six). I swear board game developers are as bad as software devs at estimating delivery dates.

Of course that's kind of a mis-use of the kickstarter site... you've been in the euro/war/rpg board gaming business for over 25 years and you've had 8 completely successful kickstarters and now you're starting your 9th... I'm not naming names, but come on, you're not "kickstarting" anything, this is just your online store.

Kickstarter, the company and the 'creators', depend on this expectation mismatch. If everyone who kickstarter 'wasn't for' didn't use it, there'd be no kickstarter.

You'll get a refund. What's the problem? I've lost money backing stuff where the money just disappeared. Not even that has angered me. Kickstarter is not a store.

Did they aim for total market dominance? I haven't followed it to closely, but to me it didn't seem like they did any totally crazy expansions. Seems like they should have developed further models in smaller steps, but would people have bought enough of those then?

If they have 20 millions in debt, just increasing the price on their kickstarters slightly wouldn't have done it, so they obviously overdid something.

They hired more people than they had revenue to pay. That may be normal, even standard operating procedure in Silicon Valley, but not elsewhere.

> Why does everybody have to aim for total market dominance to be successful?

Because they want money, and it's very hard to be sustainably profitable when it comes to hardware without major scale.

If you can do different/better, then go do it. Be the change you want to see.

I saw somewhere that the japan company that produced Pebble Time / Time 2 displays is on a verge of bankrupcy - supply problems?

Their last Kickstarter doing also well, but wasn't enough to make them through the crisis.

> Sometimes I think there is a secret cabal conspiring so we can't have nice things

There is, it's called "Chinese OEM manufacturers".

(Yes, I know that an 'OEM manufacturer' is like an 'ATM machine'.)

No. Chinese manufacturers are building whatever you pay them for. It's literally a human-powered API converting designs to hardware. It's the western companies that don't want to build nice things.

Manufacturer: (n) Like an API, but it has even less idea what you're talking about and costs a whole lot more to use

> There is, it's called "Chinese OEM manufacturers". > (Yes, I know that an 'OEM manufacturer' is like an 'ATM machine'.)

OEM means "Original Equipment Manufacturer".

Yeah, he mentioned that in his post, in the part you quoted.

You're missing my point.

"OEM manufacturer" would mean "original equipment manufacturer manufacturer".

You're missing the point as well.

ATM Machine would mean Automatic Teller Machine Machine.

Gee, I really screwed up there with reading and comprehending. I don't know what I was thinking. You're right, of course.

Not "as well" because only Fnoord was missing the point.

I'm sad/angry/depressed as any Pebbler right now, so I won't repeat those comments. Instead, since this is HN after all, let me ask - what shall we do?

In a year or two, when my current Pebble Time fails, I'd love an equivalent smartwatch to be available. Since the market doesn't seem to want it, how can we make it happen anyway?

Features I'm looking for are, in order of priority:

  - always-on screen, preferably color (like Pebble Time), but monochromatic will do
  - open SDK for writing software for the watch
  - battery life at least the one like Pebble's - 5-7 days
  - *zero* dependency on cloud for it to work
  - basic, standard suite of sensors onboard - compass/magnetometer/accelerometer, maybe a mike
  - elegant form factor
Now I can go the DIY route (I have a friend with experience in making smartwatches from ground-up, though I'd look at some SOCs instead of going the uC + separate sensors route - to save on watch size). Many of us here could do it. But honestly, I have shit ton of other stuff to do, and I'd rather pay for such a watch and enjoy the ecosystem, just like I did with Pebbles. And if everyone goes the DIY route, and there won't be some standardization along the way, there will be no community. Any idea how to coordinate and make this happen? Maybe a community, open-hardware design + crowdfunding for production?

I feel like I'm starting to sound like a fanboy - but it's because I've had other smart watches and it's just so much better. Why not consider garmin? Not sure if their SDK is going to hit the mark as I'm guessing you want complete control and it's definitely not that, but they have everything else you've asked for.


Thar Garmin watches are so much more expensive and do an excessive amount of stuff. In Canada, for $150 I could have a pebble time with a color screen, great battery life, sleep tracking, step tracking and that can do notifications. That's all I use it for, I might like a heart rate monitor on occasion, but paying way more for extra stuff I'll never or rarely use doesn't appeal to me at all. The only Garmin smartwatch I can find in stores is over $800. This isn't a real alternative.

Well, they're three times the price. That's a bit hard to swallow, honestly.

A Pebble is a nice gadget. The Garmin (looking at garmin.com, clicking the first thing that looks like a watch) is close to a month of rent.

I believe you when you state that you're satisfied. On the other hand, I really don't feel that this is in the Pebble replacement league.

The fenix 3 does look nice, and 2 weeks battery in 'smartwatch' mode is a reasonable amount.

Been badly burned by Garmin in the past, but maybe I'll take a look. They seem to be competing with Suunto, but without that ridiculous iOS only thing.

The Garmin Vivoactive HR (which supports their app platform, has GPS and optical HR) was on sale for $170 on Black Friday. It periodically will go on sale for this price.

Thanks for that. Looking at the specs it seems to have equivalent battery life (ignoring GPS, which is fair), is just as water proof and generally looks like an alternative.

I'm not sure I like the looks of the thing (but then again, pictures are bad and I should get my hands on one first) and I've no idea about their app platform yet.

Do you happen to know if this works completely offline, ignoring cloud offerings? Can I track whatever I want to track and keep it on the device and/or my phone only?

> Well, they're three times the price. That's a bit hard to swallow, honestly.

Exactly, people keep bringing up Garmin as a replacement but I don't think it is. I was into Pebble for the open C API and price, which did everything I wanted. The Pebble 2 was at the limit of what I would ever pay for a smartwatch, Garmin I just won't consider as I only want a few features.

I'm sad that it is almost certain that the Pebble/fitbit blend that we will see in the future will be completely closed/proprietary which definitely doesn't help me "make awesome happen".

You've tried several different brands of smart watches and you like Garmin the most? Can I ask what you actually use your smart watch for?

I've always had nice wristwatches (and prefer to look at my wrist for the time instead of my phone) but I've been thinking about buying one recently. Most of them seem centered around health / fitness tracking, though, and that's not something I need or want. Mostly, I just want a "regular watch" (date/time) and perhaps notifications of incoming calls/messages (not necessarily even the content of messages -- just, for example, "SMS from Alice" or "Call from Bob", enough to let me decide whether to go pick up my phone). Garmin's API/SDK looks pretty cool, though.

I looked at some devices a week or two when purchasing a new FitBit for the girlfriend but, like I said, they had loads of features I didn't want. I'm tempted to just continue to wait on purchasing a "smart watch" and get a new wristwatch instead. I'm not really thrilled at the idea of having to charge my watch all the time anyways.

Tracking when I workout, notifications (I carry two phones and during the day my personal phone is in my bag most of the time). And just using it as a watch. I hated that most of the "smart watches" out there would either run out of battery in 8 hours, or have the screen off by default (with a wrist action or a button to enable it).

I don't use the sleep tracking at all, hate having a watch on at night, but the step tracker is fairly accurate and useful.

It's one of those things where I initially bought it for the notifications and the (supposed) battery life. And every now and again I'll find some random new cool use.

There are Chinese companies working on similar products, for example WeLoop[0], Goclever[1].

People are already working on open-source firmware for some of these watches[2], so I think there's a reasonably good chance that either some of these companies will create a decent alternative to pebble, or at least good enough hardware which can be used with community-developed firmware (and even more importantly: apps on the phone side).

[0]: http://www.weloop.cn/

[1]: http://www.goclever.com/uk/products,c1/smart-wear,c114/

[2]: https://ossw.github.io/

One problem for open source HW watch is that a lot of other folks will just use their factories in ShenZhen to clone the HW sell it for cheap without any R&D and marketing.

Similar to how OrangePI leverage Raspberry Pi situations.

It becomes race to the bottom ($5-10 pi zero) and no one can make $ in the market in both short and long term.

There seem to be a lot of sub $20 watch base on following links - not sure how good/bad are they.


Yeah, there are a bunch of crappy "let's see how much we can pack into this for under $20" smartwatches coming from companies in SZ. Most have terrible UI, terrible battery life nad terrible apps on phone side.

However I think that brands focused on quality will emerge. Xiaomi for example don't make the cheapest gadgets but instead focus on quality. If they decide that there is a market for pebble-like smartwatch, I'm certain they would execute well.

Are the Goclever products actually released? They look quite interesting to me.

It doesn't look like either of these are in production anymore. :(

Check out the Vector Watch [1]. It's a monochromatic smart watch with 30 days of battery life.

[1] http://vectorwatch.com/

I have a Vector watch and really enjoy it, but I was also going for more of a watch with some smart features rather than a full on smart watch.

That is exactly the sort of watch I'm looking at. It's a watch first, a smartwatch second - those notifications look ideal.

How does it hold up "out there" in the real world? Is it too focused on the suit/office crowd?

Not totally sure what you mean by "out there", but it holds up just fine for me. People comment that I have a good looking watch and only really notice that it's a smart watch when they try and see why I'm fiddling with buttons to read and dismiss notifications.

My only complaint is they try and be clever and detect when you move your wrist up to look at it, so it auto-shows you notifications. This sucks because it's not totally reliable (so half the time I press the button to bring up notifications and it ends up dismissing them because they are already in view, and other times it triggers due to an incorrect motion). I wish you could turn that off but I haven't found a way yet.

I've had this watch for about 3 months now. The first charge only lasted about 2 weeks but after that I actually got more than 30 days on the 2nd charge and going strong on my 3rd charge now, so the battery life claims definitely are true (though I did uninstall the weather app cause it was useless).

The build quality is good. People say it's a little thick but I guess my arms are big enough that I don't notice. I got the leather band and it's never felt uncomfortable to me.

I would recommend a screen protector (Amazon has some good fitting ones for cheap) but that's probably because it's been a decade since I wore a walk and got a tiny scratch because the first day I wore it I accidentally flailed my arm towards a brick column at work. It scratched the face a tiny bit (not really noticable) but I feel much safer with a screen protector.

Any other specific things you'd like to know I'm happy to answer.

> My only complaint is they try and be clever and detect when you move your wrist up to look at it, so it auto-shows you notifications. This sucks because it's not totally reliable (so half the time I press the button to bring up notifications and it ends up dismissing them because they are already in view, and other times it triggers due to an incorrect motion). I wish you could turn that off but I haven't found a way yet.

The Pebble watchface Time Orbit by Spectre Collie has the very same problem. I love the watchface looks, but if you tilt it, it decides to show other info such as date. It is a usability problem.

There's a rather large difference between the Vector and Pebble though. I checked various Vector watches and saw most at 500 USD, with one at 400 USD. So the cheapest Vector appears to be about 4 times more expensive than a Pebble 2 Classic. I don't know, that just doesn't seem like a fair comparison.

I bought mine from Amazon 3 months ago for $180. So not sure where you are seeing those prices, sheesh.

Their site:http://vectorwatch.com/vector-luna-smart-watch#luna-steel-bl...

The watches seem to start around 350 euros

I'll take a look on amazon :)

The exact one I got was: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0169MX7CK/ref=oh_aui_sear... which shows for me $199 US. I don't know the euro conversions though.

If you do actually purchase one, the screen protectors I got were: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01L03TF7Y/ref=oh_aui_sear...

By "out there" I mean things like hiking, biking, travel, etc. Away from a sterile lab/work type environment. Things like scratches, rain, dust. Most smartwatches work ok only if really babied.

Interesting to know about the display of the notifications. I was wondering how cleverly they did that, and if it was a check box. Sounds like it needs to be a checkbox or something.

The only scratch I have on it so far is from hitting the watch face against a brick column, but I don't even notice it anymore even looking for it.

Even as careful as I try to be with it I know I still hit it against things and it hasn't scratched up at all. Wheither that's due to the screen protector (not tempered glass, just a standard plastic protector you'd lay on a phone) or not I don't know, but it's held up pretty well. That includes biking and running outside.

I literally only take it off if I go for a swim or at night when I sleep (I don't like having something on my wrist while sleeping)

Very cool, I will certainly keep an eye out for them!

I also do want to say that looking at the Vector Watch SDK, everything with the watch is done through there servers. So that means that if they do go out of business I don't have much faith in the real smart functionality (outside of notifications) still working reliably.

That being said, as long as time and notification works I'm good.

That is an awesome looking watch, thankyou

How bad / hard is it to put our own software on a pebble? I think that would promote longevity more than looking for another "unicorn of Kickstarter"

My primary worry is that at some point, the hardware will die.

And by crowdfunding I meant crowdfunding of manufacturing; the hardware would be open source, ensuring you could (with enough skills or good enough friends) make your own instead of buying one, and the software ecosystem would be compatible with it.

I guess my inkling is the opposite. It's like video games, even if the hardware dies, you want the software to be able to run, then you can figure out what hardware you can acquire.

A good example of this is the raspberry pi's with all the NES/SNES/etc games. Withing needing to make sure cartridges and old NES's still work, we use a new piece of hardware to give a very similar experience.

Smart watches and other small worn devices will be changing a lot. I'd rather have hw builds posted to something like massdrop as they are iterated, once the software is mostly saved.

And when the current generation of pebbles die from planned obsolescence?

I'm not understanding the downvotes. Pebble devices, as well built as they are, are using components that have definite lifetimes. They are not designed to last forever or be fully user serviceable. What do you do when the components fail?

Components having definite lifetimes and planned obsolescence are two different things, the latter implying artificially limiting the useful life of a product. If that's what you meant, others may be down-voting you because they don't think Pebble in fact did that, especially as you haven't provided any evidence to that effect.

I've been working on a DIY watch off and on a bit.

One of the bigger obstacles for me personally has been bluetooth notifications. I have found surprisingly few examples online of people getting it to actually work, and if you read through their work more closely, it only very barely works. I've tried to reproduce what other people have done and had it actually work even less than that.

I was thinking of selling a pre-programmed bluetooth module with apple and android notifications etc. if I ever got it working, figuring there must be other people in the same situation with this pain point. So far the idea that I could do a better job than others that have tried has turned out to be hubristic, though.

You might want to reverse engineer the current Pebble app and see what they do?

Apple and Android have docs on how you're supposed to subscribe to notifications over Bluetooth. It's just the Bluetooth implementation + drivers + hardware module nitty gritty on an embedded system that's the hard part.

I'm really looking forward to something like a Trivoli [1] or Chronos [2]. It gives me most of the things I use the watch for (alarm and silent notifications) and allows me to use a nicer watch (or different watches, even). I don't get screen that allows me to deal with notifications, but over time I've found that to be 1) kind of rude if I'm talking to someone. 2) For the most part if there's something I need to deal with, it's easier to take the phone out. Mostly I just want to be notified if certain, important notifications come in (SMS, Google Hangouts, possibly one of my email addresses). Your use case may vary, of course.

Obviously we all need something different, but that's what I'm waiting for.

[1]: http://www.trivoly.com/en [2]: https://wearchronos.com/

Count me in, as long as it has a mic, accelerometer and health sensors.

I was planning on getting the Time Round for myself this Christmas, and I'm pretty bummed that this is happening.

I'd be pretty interested in making something like this happen and figuring it out and leading the charge so-to-speak. It'd be an awesome experience, at the very least. However, I have no experience on the hardware side of things. I'm down to learn, but the software side is what I do have some experience with.

You just described Garmin devices (though I'll admit to being sketchy on how "open" their SDK is).

I am so sad about this. I had told myself that at least I'd get a Time 2 and a Core, and stave myself off before the sadness hits again that Pebble is gone.

Pebble's products were an excellent example of lateral technology. No need for high DPI on your watch, because they made something that looks good with few pixels. Making battery life a priority in a world of WiFi-enabled pressure cookers.

Even when the battery ran out you still got 24 hours of a watch that would at least tell the time!

I have no idea if it is possible to produce something like Pebbles at low quantities, but I would love to see an open design with similar specs. I think these watches are better than anything else out there, and it's sad the design is going to disappear.

>Making battery life a priority in a world of WiFi-enabled pressure cookers.

I literally wear my Time Steel for 23 hours and 45 minutes per day. The only time it's charging and not on my wrist is when I'm in the shower, and over the course of a regular day it never drops below 80%. If I'm going away for a weekend I don't even have to bother with the charger.

I charge my first gen Pebble literally once a week. Monday morning, I get to work, and put my pebble on charge. By the time stand-up happens a couple of hours later (my first meeting of the day) it's back on my wrist and good to go for the next week.

I was aiming to get a new Pebble after Christmas, as mine suffers from that screen corruption glitch that plagued the first gens.

I expect this is actually part of the problem, and likely affects many smartwatch producing companies: If it wasn't for the screen glitch, I wouldn't be replacing my watch. It works, does everything I need, and speed isn't an issue. A colour display would be nice, but it's far from important to me. I'm sure the same is true for many Joe Average consumers. There isn't the same impetus to frequently upgrade a watch.

I had the same screen glitch with my Kickstarter edition OG Pebble, then bounced around to other smart watches until I landed again on the Time Steel which has been nothing but perfect.

But you're right. Much like the cell phone market which appears to be slowing down, the minor improvements made in the tech for smart watches don't appear to actually be worth buying if you already have the current version that isn't broken. Unfortunately, the software Pebbles run is so straightforward that even planned obsolescence through required updates wouldn't have been a viable option like it is for cell phones. Y'know, the updates that correct dangerous security vulnerabilities while at the same time crippling old hardware by introducing new, unnecessary features in the software? No Pebble owner would've bought (for lack of a better word) that justification and upgraded.

Do you really sleep comfortable with it on? I can't imagine wearing my (analog) watch to sleep.

Took a little while to get used to but yeah, I don't even notice it now. I have a third party silicone strap on it, which may help.

I can't help but think that maybe this is the manufacturing niche the US could fill... High quality, low run manufacturing that people are willing to pay a premium for.

Sorry you did not get your Time 2. I got my Pebble 2 and I really like it. I am sad the core I ordered will not ship as my pebble is not connected to my Windows Phone and GPS would be nice when I run.

The pebble 2 does compete with the fit-bit. This story reminds me of a time when I worked at a small semiconductor equipment manufacture. We were a scrappy team and build a great small footprint tool. We won an order from a larger customer. Everyone was celebrating until our competitor quickly bought us out for cheap and shut us down. A few engineer went over to the new company but not enough to keep the product going.

> I think these watches are better than anything else out there

I'm not sure about that. I read some comments on a few other articles about the Pebble shutdown, and people are recommending the Vector Watch [1]. It's a smart watch with a monochromatic e-ink display, and it has a 30 day battery life.

[1] http://vectorwatch.com/

I agree entirely. It's very rare that something fits a niche so nicely, while the competition misses it by miles. I have the same feeling about my simple sigma bike computer (though at least there's more options in that niche).

I will use my pebble as long as it continues to work, then it'll get retired to my shelf of tech fails. Most of which failed FAR more spectacularly.

What else is on your tech fail shelf? I'm curious...

I have an Ouya, an OnLive, a cuecat, a SuperDisk LS-120, Commodore Plus 4, PS Vita (maybe a little early to call, but...), a DivX, a DreamCast, a Jornada, a Palm Tungsten, a GameBoy Advance e-card reader, probably some other stuff in there too.

Shelf is a euphemism, it's actually a small pile of boxes that I keep just to remind myself that even great ideas will die with poor implementation, planning, DRM, or bad support.

Want a crunchpad? Or whatever they renamed it to. I have no use for the thing.

Wow, I didn't know they ever shipped those things.

No thanks, my stack is big enough, but I betcha someone collects those!

They didn't, as it isn't a "Crunchpad" _per se_. But Fusion Garage, the team actually developing the tablet in a branding deal had a falling out with Michael Arrington at the last minute and released the product under the rebrand of "JooJoo" :


They actually delivered on orders, although I don't know how many. I got an early review model for free. I've kept on to it because it is x86 with an NVIDIA ION board. I thought it'd be fun to put XBMC / Kodi on it, and maybe some retro game emulators. Never got around to it though and it's still running stock firmware and sitting in its original box.

A piece of history to be sure, although I doubt anyone who wasn't there at the time would remember it. The highly anticipated device that invented the tablet market was not the iPad...

> but I would love to see an open design...

Well - there's always this:


> ...with similar specs

Hmm - I doubt they compare, but then again, one is open-source and nearly infinitely customizable (depending on your budget, skills, and needs) - and one, well - doesn't exist any longer.

Considering that Pebble is stopping product development, cancelling orders, ending warranties, ending support, and essentially completely shutting down I find the positive tone of this post and the Kickstarter update post to be nearly unbelievable.

I know we see plenty of "our incredible journey" posts filled with optimism, but euphemistic language and dozens of photos of watches and happy people and more watches is jarring.

It's not a shame to try hard at something and fail. But it is a shame to fail and pretend you succeeded. We can see through you.

Indeed, the tone, headline, and imagery are bizarrely incongruous to the gravity of the message. I have to assume that internally they're just trying to make sense of a difficult situation and PR is not one of their strengths. One recalls that the first stage of grief is denial...

They might have gotten a relatively lucrative deal with FitBit by way of an asset sale with hiring bonuses for transitioning staff, enough for them to abandon their current efforts without any sort of Hail Mary fundraising or outreach to their customer base. This doesn't seem like an act of desperation to me, and if that's the case then they would have to down-play internal celebration since such a deal negatively impacts their user base. As for Fitbit, they don't have to honor warranties or fulfill orders for Pebble if they scrap the company while still getting what they want. They are competitors, so even if Pebble had strong cash flows worth maintaining, it's still a competing product line they might have eventually consolidated. Cut out the middle man. Buy the assets you want to keep. Avoid the liabilities. Tell customers whatever you think they need to hear.

You know, Pebble has garnered one of the best group of loyal customers I know of: well-off techies.

Had they came to the community and said, "hey we are losing sales and we need everyone to pitch in $10 / year for software support (maybe a web interface for fitness or something) I guarantee a few hundred thousand people would have done it.

Had they shared a coupon with the community (i.e. email add campaign, or add on watch - "buy one, get one half off" for christmas they would have probably had a large bump in orders. Although I recognize this would be a mild annoyance, I can also guarantee they would have sold plenty of units.

This simply seems like poor management and it's frustrating because it's the best smart watch I can find at the moment. It does exactly what I want, is cheaper than the competition, and is dead simple to use.

WTF pebble, you had the product people loved - you just didn't market it well.

>"Had they came to the community and said, "hey we are losing sales and we need everyone to pitch in $10 / year for software support (maybe a web interface for fitness or something) I guarantee a few hundred thousand people would have done it."

What is this based on? I'd be shocked if that worked. I think it'd be a sign of blood in the water, and signal the end (if vendors see this, they're going to want to be paid up front, employees are going to start looking for the exits).

> Had they shared a coupon with the community (i.e. email add campaign, or add on watch - "buy one, get one half off" for christmas they would have probably had a large bump in orders. Although I recognize this would be a mild annoyance, I can also guarantee they would have sold plenty of units.

Pure volume wasn't what sank the ship, I'm sure. It probably would have put them out of business faster.

> "This simply seems like poor management"

That's an easy thing to say, but it's probably more complex than that. They were in a tough spot, with competition from much, much deeper pockets.

I would gladly pay around $10 a year, maybe even $15. My Pebble has been worth it. However, I am now going to return it because if the next Android update breaks the app, it will become a paper weight.

I really love my Pebble Steel. It still works, does everything I want it to do and has a cool look to it (I got the fancy linked metal wristband).

I mostly just use it with cycling (MapMyRide supports it) and for the music app. I realize their servers/app store will shut down eventually (I hope they at least decide to take whatever money they have left and keep the servers running as long as possible after paying off people/debts) and at that point it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get it working with new phones.

I'm going to do what I can to keep mine working until then though. I prefer the simplicity of a Pebble to any of the Google/Apple offerings.

I've been wondering about what happens if the next android update breaks the app. For now I've found this open source app which allows you to use your pebble (and mi bands) without the vendor's app.


It seems very much like poor management. The "go big, or go home" culture of the valley. Where businesses think if they can't be a billion dollar unicorn, then they might as well die. It makes companies push too hard for explosive growth instead of building a sustainable business.

This is exactly right. 100s of thousands of well off techies strap your product to our body and the best deal you could arrange is to put a bullet in the companies head?

It seems very strange they are basically just shutting down. That has to be an ego driven decision on the FitBit side - they wanted to kill Pebble. Are they even going to use the brand name? The combination of: working production facility, users in the wild, and (the biggest asset) a developer community had to have some value. Now that the deal is done there is no chance to pry that out of publicly traded FitBit, but it seems like this could have had a better outcome.

>This is exactly right. 100s of thousands of well off techies strap your product to our body and the best deal you could arrange is to put a bullet in the companies head?

Actually, I think what happened is that Eric, the CEO, is now a multi-millionaire.

So, this is more of a success story than most of us might consider savory to think about.

> So, this is more of a success story than most of us might consider savory to think about.

In general this sort of thing is probably far more common than you'd think (top brass gets paid, everyone else gets a "thank you"). If I'm not mistaken, that's what happened at Sam Altman's company, and a good number of the YC company exits.

? As founder he held common stock, which would be worthless now.

There are lots of ways around that. His stock is worthless, sure, but he probably has something else, whether it's a huge retention bonus (cash or Fitbit stock, which is public and can be sold), an executive-level salary at Fitbit, or some combination of the two. There's also the possibility that he sold some of his equity to investors for cash earlier on.

EDIT: I was wrong, he is joining YC. Thank you for pointing that out kobeya.

He's not at Fitbit. He's joining YC.

Yeah seen that pattern before with the treo and handspring. That gang (palm clueless mgmt) even killed BeOS with the same stone.

Wow, I remember the Treo. That was a device long on promise, short on delivery.

I actually can't think too much about that era without being angry about how all of that sector played out. Frivolous lawsuits, bad management, amazing hardware, flashes of brilliant software.

And hope. So much hope.

FitBit got the best deal, they get any salvageable tech/developer resources and put a bullet in a competitor's head.

Your next step: boycott Fitbit and make it known you are doing this because of the shutdown of pebble. EDIT: Also, this is my last post on YC. So Pebble's CEO is joining YC. And being critical of innovation killing deals by the boys on YC gets you down votes to negative territory.

OK over and out you guys, Done with your echo chamber. So long and thanks for all the fish.

> being critical of innovation killing deals by the boys on YC gets you down votes to negative territory.

I haven't noticed this effect. Your post is currently positive, in fact. If I were to downvote you, it would have been for _complaining about downvotes_, as I think (though might be mistaken) that such commentary is not considered on topic.

> Your next step: boycott Fitbit and make it known you are doing this because of the shutdown of pebble.

This is the interesting idea. I don't think it would be effective, as I suspect that if FitBit came out with a smart watch similar to Pebble (a year from now), most of the Pebble fans would hop ship and buy one. (I might be mistaken in such a belief.)

It's possible that people downvoted you to reflect an opinion of "that wouldn't work". It doesn't seem like a personal grudge, either, as your comment history doesn't seem (well, at my inexperienced first glance) to be downvoted very much.

Why are you mad at Fitbit? They didn't cause Pebble to fail or ask them to turn down the past buyouts.

I don't think they even have a few hundred thousand customers. Their first one kicked in the neighborhood of 50k supporters. Did they even ship the second?

A hardware company on the hook for fulfilling 50k orders of the sequel has some pretty serious expenses. A sale might have been the best landing and what got everyone a refund for the 2nd.

Their pebble app has 500,000+ downloads on the Google store, and they have 2 million in pebble sales (I believe that's delivered). They've shipped their second Kickstarter last year (Pebble Time Steal).

Ah. I guess they probably sold plenty of units through other channels.

Still, they might need an incredibly high number of people to pay. And then people would bitch and say that they're running a ponzi scheme like a bitcoin wallet that lost all of its deposits. My guess is they've engineered a soft landing for orders they can't fulfill and employees and it's the best option in a bad situation. I'd commend them for doing that rather than taking the easy route.

Pebble Time 2 would have been their third major product. They had the original Pebble, and then the Pebble Time. IIRC the Pebble Steel and Pebble Time Round were sort of secondary projects, but if you include them then they had 4 generations of delivered products.

Yeah, pardon my french but I'm fucking angry this morning.

There's some initial reports that they need service back-end to be live in order to do the initial pairing. My Time Round is a dead watch walking if that's the case.

There's not a comparable smartwatch right now that is like the Time Round, I'd happily have paid for ongoing support.

> There's some initial reports that they need service back-end to be live in order to do the initial pairing.

So much of the time "the cloud" is an anti-feature.

Assuming all of the ~200,000 kickstarter backers would have been okay with the $10/year software, and no duplication of backers between their three campaigns, and that yearly payment kicking in as soon as each of the three campaigns ended (so before the customers even got their devices), that would have brought in a bit shy of $5m, compared to the ~$43m they brought in from their three campaigns. It's a good thought, but I doubt their revenue stream was only 10% away from being sustainable.

You have to remember the overhead for that $5m in revenue would only be a few engineers let's say 5 at $1m, that's $4m profit.

Whereas on the $43m they still had to manufacture, ship, hire designers, engineers, etc.

That $4m profit would be a LOT more than 10%, that would cover 20 people's salary

I was assuming a flat "free" boost to their total revenue stream, so my assumption was even more generous than yours.

I sincerely doubt they were only 10% of revenue away from being solvent, even if it was money that came out of nowhere. Reports I've heard are that Fitbit paid ~40m to pay off Pebble's debts, meaning that instead of $10/yr the subscription fee would have to have been closer to $10/mo.

Somebody pointed this out to me the other day:


I've not looked into it yet, but it is described as:

"A free and cloudless replacement for your gadget vendors' closed source Android applications. Pebble and Mi Band supported."

The feature list seems substantial. So hopefully we'll be able to continue to use our pebbles for some time.

I don't know whether to applaud or criticize those who create open source software on unstable proprietary platforms, but if nothing else it shows what potential good greater openness would serve users.

Um...have you paid attention to the open source space for the past decade?

Audium/Pidgin/libpurple all were originally created to have open source interfaces to close systems (MSN, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, etc). Most of the OSS work is about reverse engineering and creating open yet compatible tools to use with or in place of closed systems.

If anything, projects like this can help keep Pebble watches alive after the demise of the company.

I don't think we're in disagreement. There is end-user value at least in short term. But when efforts are expended to keep users engaged with and thus financially supportive of closed systems instead of building alternatives isn't that folly?

None of the closed systems you mentioned exist in any meaningful form today and it's hard to imagine that a substantial number of Pidgin/Adium users began to sing the praises of XMPP rather than adopt another closed messaging system.

I can't believe this, just got a Pebble 2 a week ago and now they are literally saying it may not work in the future.

If we rely on their cloud services for activity tracking and app downloads then it will be useless if FitBit doesn't maintain the platform.

I have to say I'm really disappointed and this is a huge blow to people that invest in startups offering hardware. If the company fails forget about the smart stuff you bought, it just won't work anymore.

We should look for ways to minimize the impact on backers. Sadly we'll see more of this in a future in which the products depend a lot on the company cloud services to operate.

>>I have to say I'm really disappointed and this is a huge blow to people that invest in startups offering hardware.

Buyers need to start demanding Open Source Software and Open Hardware...

With out that, you will always be screwed

Or at least treat any kind of cloud integration as a big negative. Without cloud dependence, the devices can always be hacked and made to work again until hardware dies.

One of the main reasons I went with the Pebble over other options was that I could use sleep tracking with it via a 3rd party app, without any need for their cloud. Sleep as Android has your back there. It's the only sleep tracking tool I like because it's able to keep your data locally on your phone or sync'd via a few mechanisms.

As for the step tracking... yeah, not sure.

Your device will keep working yet, but what if you switch phones/tablets? Now you need to setup a new device with the watch and...oh wait... Pebble re-downloads and re-installs all the apps. If their app/servers go away, now we'll be looking up hack people wrote on github to get our devices working again.

Yeah, fortunately TiBu can backup both the Pebble app and the Bluetooth pairing. But that's basically next, modified firmwares already exist I believe, so I don't think it's unreasonable to think that if we need to use those and sideload apps we'll be able to.

I'm fairly sure that I could crack the pebble apk myself to remove the authentication stuff at the beginning if it's needed. Backing up all the apps and stuff before it's gone might be the bigger worry here.

Backup is already underway, Reddit folks stepped up to the challenge.

I don't think PBW format has any magic in it that could enforce cloud dependency.

Yeah, from what I saw with the customized firmwares it looked fairly open to tinkering.

I'll have to check out what's going on with the pebble community over there. Might be interesting to get as much reverse engineered as possible before everything goes belly up.

Shenzhen is booming because of Open Source hardware. It's amazing. They realized that IP is garbage and only holds back everyone.

Interesting. Where can I read more about this?

A non-comprehensive, short list of what I could find from a couple of minutes of Googling around:

[1] https://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4751

[2] https://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4297

[3] http://qz.com/771727/chinas-factories-in-shenzhen-can-copy-p...

>>Buyers need to start demanding Open Source Software and Open Hardware...


Point me to an F/OSS and Open Hardware version and I'm there. Seriously, I'm always backing those sorts of devices over proprietary ones every chance I get - though it's rare as heck.

Pretty sure this is still under active development, but it's supposed to be a completely open fitness tracker: http://openhealth.wemaketotem.org/

There's also the FOSS smart watch OS Asteroid OS: http://asteroidos.org/

Thanks! Not sure that the tracker is what I'm looking for (or I'd be into the fitbit move), but Asteroid looks intriguing. I'm following both now.

Appreciate the tip!

Then Open Source Software needs to get better.

It is already very good.

I like how they announce it after Black Friday and Thanksgiving sales. I'm sure they knew of it during the acquisition as it would be all laid out, but they wanted to squeeze in more sales. Hopefully the average consumer gets wind of this and return their product.

I'm really thinking about returning mine. I just don't know what I would get instead since the competition is either crap or crazy expensive.

I think it's likely their product will reduce in price for fire sale, like the HP Touchpad.

At least with HP Touchpad you could flash the ROM and change the OS.

It is a difficult sell to have someone pay full price for a product when the manufacturer openly states they won't support it anymore, and may even reduce functionality in the future.

You can keep yours till the end of the return period and see if the price drops. Or maybe pebble will change their own, or open source their software (but now you paid full price for a product with no hardware support). Depending on where you bought, some stores have extended returns for the holidays.

e.g. a pledge to open source the code base if the company folds?

That sounds like a really good idea, and gives more confidence to the early adopters that the platform might live even if they fail

Could such a pledge provide enough assurance? If the company folds its IP is up for grubs, this might include their products source code. Right?

If that's the case I would prefer to purchase devices that are actually already running free software or there is free software available to flash on them.


That would be a pre-existing contract that the future IP holder would (or should, if written 'securely') be obligated to uphold.

Thanks hmm... that indeed sounds legit. Would definitely like to see that. If I have no open source alternative for a connected hardware device that seems to me like the next best thing.

I also have a Pebble 2, what cloud services? The android app checks for a firmware update when you pair but is otherwise standalone.

I enabled sync to google fit because I hoped it would backup sleep data but that does nothing sensible, it's all stored locally (and in fact if you reinstall the Pebble app you lose all your data).

ps: if anyone knows of some software to export these data from an android phone, I'd love to know because I could not find anything

The timeline has features which rely on a service, and all of the voice stuff is processed remotely by nuance.

The timeline and dictation both require cloud services to function. Also, the app store is a cloud service.

I see, good thing I don't use any of those then...

It would seem that fitbit would want to retain pebble customers. If they discontinue cloud support for pebble that won't be a good thing

From what I remember, Fitbit has ~30M customers, and Pebble has ~1M. That's just 3% of Fitbit's userbase, so pretty much a rounding error. I don't believe they will care.

I'm pretty sure the pebble cloud services are going to be up and running for the foreseeable future.

source: I do infrastructure stuff at fitbit. Also they explicitly said this in the developer.pebble.com blog post.

Great! Thanks for chiming in.

I mean, I won't really blame Fitbit for whatever happens now. It was Pebble's fuckup, and my anger (which I sadly expressed in the threads last week) is wearing off.

I do hope you guys do something great with all those new people and IP. In the meantime, I guess me and other Pebblers will be extra-careful about our watches. They are really something unique and there's hardly anything like it on the market now.

Caveat emptor.

I'm not sure if this even makes sense here.

It does, if one broadens "quality and suitability of goods" to include the manufacturer–originator, which seems like a reasonable thing to do for a tech gadget purchase that will involve a long/ish term relationship with the corporation that makes the gadget in question.

As someone who quite likes their time steel and who was patiently waiting for their time 2 this is incredibly frustrating. No other watches do what I want so I guess my foray into smart watches is over. It's a shame too because I appreciate the convenience it offers but I probably won't miss it much after a couple of weeks

I agree with this being frustrating. I had to explain to so many people that even though my watch doesn't have a SIM card, integrated 4G, GPS or a memory card slot for music it is still exactly what I wanted. Pebble watches do what smart watches should do, without trying to be a tiny phone on your wrist.

I guess I can only dream, but I hope they some day open up parts of it so that the phone app can continue working even with changes to Android/IOS down the line (if Fitbit doesn't want to keep the old Pebbles alive).

But with that said, a smart watch makes me feel hyper-connected. Putting it in quiet mode (and/or taking it off my wrist) every now and then is liberating and definitely makes me more productive.

Wow this is so true with me, I just want a watch that is a small extension of my phone. Not a watch trying to be a phone. Now I got to figure out wtf to get next if anything. A watch I have to charge every night isn't going to happen.

> But with that said, a smart watch makes me feel hyper-connected. Putting it in quiet mode (and/or taking it off my wrist) every now and then is liberating and definitely makes me more productive.

I feel that you probably did not configure notifications. Each time I received a notification that is not important I went to Pebble, and disabled it, after a while pebble was no longer as annoying.

Hear hear. I wish I could get the simplistic-but-effective features of a Pebble elsewhere. Track my steps, send me the notifications I want, and let me customize the watchface. The heart rate monitoring was what I was looking forward to the most, it would have made it /perfect/ for my use case.

I have an OG pebble steel and it does everything I currently want in a smartwatch. I don't expect it will stop working for some time, and I plan on using it as long as possible.

Has anybody managed to make a nice dissection of the device to see if it's possible to reimplement it ?

iFixIt does a teardown of the Pebble Time where it seems to have a relatively straightforward construction


EDIT: there's also this post on the tech specs on reddit[0]. This looks pretty re-implementable if you're a hardware engineer looking to do something fun. The right component mix seems to have been figured out already.

[0]: https://www.reddit.com/r/pebble/wiki/tech_specs

Firmware can be reversed, and as for the hardware, I suppose the teardowns iFixit did should be enough for a competent hardware engineer to replicate the design.

Tldr: FitBit acquires() bankrupt pebble, lays of 60% of staff, cancels all pebble product lines. FitBit also cancels the warranties on already sold pebbles. FitBit may also have stiffed some holders of $27m of pebble's debt.

() due to legal shenanigans we must not call this an acquisition or an acqui-hire. Also, FitBit didn't do those things, a shell company created by this deal did, which is totally different somehow.

When things like this happen, I always hope that consumers that got screwed over by the deal (and people that hear about it) avoid the acquiring company after the fact. If they treat pebble customers like this, how will they treat their own customers later?

This couldn't be further from the truth: Pebble is going under, and Fitbit is buying up their software IP before they do. Fitbit didn't buy the company or acquire the employees. They aren't shutting down Pebble's product lines, or canceling the warranties (Pebble's doing that). And they didn't acquire the people, rather offered them jobs:

"Fitbit began sending job offers to about 40 percent of Pebble’s employees in the last week. Most of these are software engineers."


> When things like this happen, I always hope that consumers that got screwed over by the deal (and people that hear about it) avoid the acquiring company after the fact. If they treat pebble customers like this, how will they treat their own customers later?

Well, the CEO of Pebble Technology, Corp is joining YC.

Also, the services aren't shutting down right away.

If everyone gets their money back, the major downside is the lack of warranty and the lack of fixes to the product. Especially any security & reliability fixes.

As a Pebble 2 owner who is happy with the product as-is I am not sure if I should be happy I did receive my Pebble 2.

The trouble is all the apps come via the services. I hope they release some tools so you can at least install all the watchfaces; maybe give their repo/archives over to archive.org or some other entity that can at least maintain what's there even if you can't add anything new.

This is the trouble with everything hosted in "the cloud" or where you have apps that need to be downloaded. If the company and distribution platform goes away, your device can become useless (or require way more effort to get working).

It's like trying to play an old MMORPG you paid for years ago, but is gone today.

Why does FitBit have the responsibility of providing support for another company’s products? If they didn’t buy Pebble, it would’ve shuttered anyways and they might not even refund the preorders.

When you buy a company, you don't buy just the assets. You also acquire the liabilities, which include debt, warranties and support contracts.

Which is why they did not buy the company. The company is going bankrupt and sold IP to recover money to pay some of the debts with. If you did that to a healthy company that might be fraudulent, but when the company is going under either way it is probably not.

Agreed, but I didn't see anything about court approval for this deal. If a neutral third party signed off on it being the best deal (for the creditors and customers) possible, then fine.

What if you instead of buying the company you buy the assets? Why would anyone buy a company with negative value?

Once the operations have failed the various creditors likely benefit from reasonably priced sales the assets.

Clearly that did not happen, because they stopped support for warranties. So only a moral, not factual, argument could work here.

Unless you buy the company in liquidation (chapter 7 style) which is more and more what this seems like.

Because they bought the assets? Why should they be able to only get the good stuff, and not the responsibility?

Would it have been better for Pebble to go bankrupt, shutdown their services now, and not refund anyone's orders?

Honestly, probably. Because then the precedent wouldn't be continued that companies can shirk responsibility for things they acquire.

Because that’s how the real world works? If you tagged on the responsibility, they would’ve just paid less for it. It’s Pebble and their investors that only sold the good stuff to maximise their returns.

> 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's very unfortunate. How much of Pebble relies on some online service? Is it still possible to install apps/updates without their infrastructure?

For companies that don't open source their stuff by default, it would be so nice if there was some kind of escrow service where upon dissolution of the company (sale, bankruptcy, etc) the required software to keep their hardware going would be released. I suspect the problem is while it's a win for consumers, not enough would care: the mass market is not going to only buy products that have this escrow service, and at the same time, it's handcuffs for the business, likely complicating a sale or liquidation of the company, and possibly turning investors off.

I hope the Pebble doesn't become a complete wristbrick, but it's always a shame to see perfectly good hardware crippled because there's no longer a piece of software running entirely outside the consumer's control.

It sounds like the developers at Pebble are hopeful that Fitbit will allow the community to step in where Fitbit can't (or won't): https://developer.pebble.com/blog/2016/12/06/developer-commu...

"Further down the road, we’ll be working to phase out cloud services, providing the ability for the community to take over, where possible."

I understanding them selling a lot of IP to Fitbit to pay back their debts and settle bankruptcy, but I really feel all the source for their app/store-services should have been made open source instead, prior to this announcement.

That way at least their customers could try to hack together stuff or make mirrors of their app repos to keep their devices functional.

I think you're overestimating how much they value their former customers.

This could also be an issue on Fitbit's side. Open Sourcing all the IP makes the deal less enticing to them (that's the first order analysis, but there's arguments in the other direction too)

I recall them having quite a good SDK ( https://developer.pebble.com ) to write your own apps and run basically whatever you wanted on the thing. I hope you can use the SDK to load apps directly, but I'm not sure.

Hopefully the community can run with this and set something up so people can distribute and install apps outside of the official services.

this blog post is absurd. They are shutting down, not manufacturing/selling stuffy anymore. It's over, the bubble popped, icarus flew too high and crashed.

And yet everybody having fun with their pebbles on the pictures. Also featured: the energetic team, the diverse ecosystem with lots of developers. This is absurd. The only thing missing is the "our incredible journey"-phrase.

The whole blog-post if marketing BS, even the headline is a lie. "Pebble's next step", there is no next step, it's over for pebble! Some might work for fitbit in the future, but pebble is dead. They don't explain why and how, they are just glorifying their past and don't admit any mistakes.

Wow this is even worse than expected from the previous news articles... If they're winding down all support and warranties, PLEASE release as much of the watch operating system code as possible! I know some of the IP was sold, but if Fitbit won't be continuing support please help those of us who love our current watches keep them going!

That's Fitbit's call. Would be a great way to retain some product/brand loyalty among its supporters though!

The name would be something of a poisoned chalice if they can't fulfil existing orders.

They've bought the parts that are worth something. They haven't bought the liabilities. It seems like a pretty obvious move, in that cold light.

Sure, that's how we think here. But the suits will see it differently.

It might not be Fitbit's call depending on how the bankruptcy was structured. From reading between the lines of the post, it sounds like Fitbit is onboarding much of the staff but maybe didn't pay for (or was unable to pay for) some or all of the IP.

I don't usually get upset about this stuff, business is business, but with my outstanding time 2 and core orders, I am definitely feeling bamboozled.

I always thought of pebbles fighting fitbits, the watch for 'us' vs the trackers for everyone. The open platform vs the locked in, the device that got just what you wanted done vs the not-really-a-watch.

It seemed like with pebble health and their relationship with Stanford things were on the up and up. Now ending warranties and such a trying to be nice but not really announcement. I expect nothing from fitbit. This sucks.

I'm not a lawperson, but can companies really just terminate a warranty like that?

Presumably the people affected could sue over it, but if there isn't any money left in the entity responsible for the warranties it is kind of a futile gesture.

When being bought, one would think the new company would take over the responsibilities.

But I also read that the employee-shares would be worthless, so it looks like FitBit bought Pebble in a weird sense.

They didn't buy the company, they bought some of the assets. In an asset purchase you don't take on the liability of the company your purchasing the assets from. Pebble as a company will go into bankruptcy and cease to exist.

There's probably some startupy term for this. If Fitbit and Pebble were both buildings next to each other, Fitbit just bought Pebble's to demolish it and build Fitbit Tower 2.

I don't know. I'd probably read some terms of service doc somewhere to understand better, but I guess I don't care enough to do so.

What are you going to do, enslave the owners to provide warranty service?

I'd like to know how this happened really. Pebbles were pretty decent and their successful campaigns definitely contributed to the rise of smart watches. But after having two hugely successful crowdfunding campaigns, how did they fail?

There are dozens of people on the pictures on the linked pages. You have to sell a lot of $99 watches to pay them all. They say 2 million watches sold; gross margin of - what - $10? $20? Say $40mm margin over the 8 years they mention; staff costs of $5mm/year (50 people, 100k/year including everything - unrealistically low estimate). That doesn't even leave room for other development costs, visits to production factories, returns, everything else. Having done 'a successful crowdfunding campaign' is not an enviable position to be in, most of the time - although of course the vast majority of backers have no experience running a business whatsoever and think 'these guys are sitting on a mountain of money, what can go wrong'.

This is what can happen when, unlike most tech startups, cost of goods sold is a business consideration.

> But after having two hugely successful crowdfunding campaigns, how did they fail?

One could argue having to go continuously go back to that well meant they never gained the market traction they were hoping for.

I don't know, that may be true, but I saw multiple people walk into target and ask for Pebble's. I was actually astonished when I first saw it, but I was like - "alright, pebble is going to be okay".

This was like six months ago, but it was in SF.

I think it was simply a kind of tradition. It wouldn't be Pebble without a Kickstarter for each new watch. Also I suppose this way they got better deal on preorders that they could do elsewhere, coupled with lots of free marketing.

I think it was simply a kind of tradition. It wouldn't be Pebble without a Kickstarter for each new watch.

It was the cute the first two times. By round #3, I was tired of the "we'll ship soon, after a slew of delays!" dance, and ready for Pebble to put on their big boy pants and let me know when they ship to a retailer from whom I can buy one that day.

And apparently those big boy pants were still fitting a bit loose.

When such a large percentage of your sales as a company come from kickstarter, where you seemingly have to give a heavy discount to the real price. My guess is that it becomes hard to succeed in retail/other channels at a real price with margin that could sustain a company.

Why do you think they failed? Didn't FitBit just buy them?

FitBit bought just their software assets for under $40 million. In 2015, Citizen offered to buy the whole company for $740 million.

FitBit did not acquire their $24 million in debt or any physical asserts. They offered jobs to 40% of the staff.

> In 2015, Citizen offered to buy the whole company for $740 million

ouch, i can only imagine how the founders feel

It depends on the terms of the offer. He might have thought he was working in his employee's best interests by not taking the offer. Alternatively he could have negotiated support contracts for existing customers and provided stock options to employees then cashed out.

But in hindsight he's probably kicking himself.

A bankruptcy judge is going to have to approve all this. You can't sell all the valuable assets of a company the same day you declare bankruptcy - that could be considered fraud. If I had just fulfilled a big order of theirs yesterday on net 60 terms we had been operating under for the past 5 years I would be pretty upset.

No, Pebble is bankrupt and winding down operations. FitBit is buying some parts and offering jobs to the software people. This is not an acquihire. The designers and hardware people are not joining FitBit. The owners get nothing. Some of Pebble's creditors will likely also get nothing since the software/IP sale doesn't cover Pebble's debts.

What is success?

The product they named their company after is never going to be manufactured again. People who paid them for that product but haven't received it yet never will. Their company is dead.

Or do you mean the fact that their founders and owners probably got some cash back for selling the whole thing? Well, how much do you get back for an acquihire? Fitbit didn't buy them for their tech, or they'd still be selling it.

They may have bought them for patents though. E-ink display on a watch could be pretty important for fitbit going forward.

Pebble never used an E-Ink display. They used Sharp memory LCD displays (which Nike funded the development of in the watch formfactor) and called them E-Paper because they promised E-Ink in one of their kickstarters.

Bought because they likely could not survive on their own, cancelling their product lines & support for them, and for ~ 5 % of the highest buyout offer they received before. There are worse ways to fail, but it's not really success.

No, Fitbit are buying the assets of Pebble, the company is closing.

Well, it was a acquihire, which is kind of sad. Not a failure for investors, perhaps, but certainly for their customers.

> FitBit bought just their software assets for under $40 million. In 2015, Citizen offered to buy the whole company for $740 million.

I'd say that was a failure for Pebble investors as they raised $58.81M according to crunchbase.

And of that $40 million, they still owe their creditors something like $27 million. So for investors/founders, they're all looking at <1/4 of their investment cash value.

FitBit bought them for the equivalent of pennies because they were, it seems, deep in debt.

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