For the past couple of years there has been much written about Apple’s impending entry into the wearables market. In recent days invitations have been sent out for a March 9 launch event for Apple Watch (sometimes referred to colloquially as the iWatch), which is expected to be commercially available in some markets by April this year.
But what about the incumbents in this space?
Proving that there is a latent demand for smartwatches, Palo Alto based Pebble Technology has sold more than 1 million units since its official launch in 2011. Its first Kickstarter campaign in May to April 2012 set what was at the time a record for funds raised via the site, with backers contributing $10.3 million.
In 2013 Pebble’s first mass produced smartwatch, Pebble Watch, went on sale in the US. When consumer electronics chain Best Buy began stocking them in July 2013, they sold out in five days. This success was followed up a year later by the more up-market Pebble Steel.
Three years after their initial Kickstarter success, Pebble has launched a second Kickstarter campaign, this time to fund the commercialisation of their next generation smartwatch – Pebble Time. Whilst the latest crowd funding round is open until 28th March, they have already blown away their initial target of $500,000. With four weeks still to run, the campaign is massively oversubscribed. More than 50,000 backers have pledged over $11 million to help make Pebble Time a success. With its financial supporters coming from 150+ countries, there is a great deal of excitement about this project – and it is truly global.
Why is Pebble so popular?
Pebble has been able to achieve the level of popularity that it enjoys largely as a result of the flexibility of the technology used. Pebble smartwatches are compatible for Bluetooth connection to iPhone, Samsung and Android phones, as well as working with all major apps. The Pebble appstore has over 6,500 apps and watch faces available.
This flexibility results in tremendous functionality, including:
- Receive incoming calls
- Send and receive text messages
- Send and receive emails
- Social media notifications
- Map display and GPS
One key area of utility rests with Pebble’s compatibility with fitness tracking and activity based apps, including Strava, mapmyrun, GoPro and Jawbone to name a few. This is a growing market in its own right, one that Pebble has been able to capitalize on. Pebble smartwatches also have the ability to be used as a remote control device for paired phones and cameras (e.g. GoPro).
What Next For The Smartwatch?
Pebble Time is scheduled to start shipping in May.
Apple Watch is expected to be ready for launch in April.
There is undoubtedly demand from savvy consumers for stylish, functional, wearable tech that helps them stay even more connected whilst on the move. With two anticipated launches in the coming months, 2015 is shaping up as an exciting year for developments in the smartwatch space.