When Pebble announced its Kickstarter to fund its watch a few years ago, I jumped on board. For two years I enjoyed the functions and features of the watch, but there was something lacking. Apparently, the company also found something lacking, as it announced it is shutting down operations.
In an email to backers and supporters, Pebble announced Fitbit is buying its assets and it will cease making all hardware.
What you need to know
It will be interesting to see what Fitbit does with the hardware, and how soon any – if any – hardware from the Pebble will make its way into a Fitbit device. My guess is a design change on Fitbit devices is coming but that is about it.
One item that will be frustrating for current users is the lack of updates or support for the Pebble going forward.
Active Pebble watches will work normally for now. Functionality or service quality may be reduced down the road. We don’t expect to release regular software updates or new Pebble features. Our new mission will focus on bringing Pebble’s unique wearables expertise to future Fitbit products. We’re also working to reduce Pebble’s reliance on cloud services, letting all Pebble models stay active long into the future.
For roughly six month, every time I tried to update my Pebble device, something would go wrong with the update, forcing me to reset the watch to the factory default, and rebuild from there. It was very frustrating to the point that when Apple released the Apple Watch 2.0 I dropped the Pebble completely. So, part of this announcement comes as no surprise, but I think there will be more than a few people upset over this news.
Unfortunately, this is all too common when new technology appears on the scene that doesn’t have enough support or backing to survive. Even with two million Pebble watches being used, it isn’t enough to keep a company growing, especially when Fitbit sold 11 million devices in 2014, and Apple sold 12 million Apple Watches in the first year of release.
This announcement also highlights one of the bigger problems with gadgets; we have reached a point in our society where rabid consumerism is slowing. Having the latest geegaw is no longer as important as having a geegaw that actually works for an extended period of time. I don’t need to buy a new Apple Watch every year if the current Apple Watch does what I need it to do, functions as it should, and doesn’t have a built in expiration date. When Nest was first released, my household instantly switched to it, as it provided a more efficient way to maintain the HVAC in our house. Because the Nest did what it was supposed to do, there was no need to upgrade, no need to buy a new one, no need to buy ten of them. And for people who are happy with the way their thermostat works, there is absolutely no need for them to purchase a Nest unit, which means Nest struggles to grow, and may eventually shut down as well.
It seems gadget technology is often trying to answer a question no one has asked, hoping that consumers will suddenly feel the need to start asking that question until they convince themselves the question has always been around and needs an answer immediately. That business plan may have worked a decade ago when the iPhone was first introduced, but today we simply aren’t buying into the latest smart device ploy.
Have we reached The Gadget Apocalypse, or has the technology cycle changed? I think it is simply a change in how we perceive status symbols. Consumers now want something that does exactly what they need it to do. They want those devices to last, and they don’t want to pay half of their monthly paycheck for a watch.