The smartphone has diminished the need for a traditional wristwatch, but a different breed of timepiece is edging its way back into the mobile ecosystem. Enter the smartwatch — a gadget that can forward notifications, alerts, messages and phone calls from the handset in your pocket to your wrist. The $150 Pebble isn’t just one of the first smartwatches to populate the genre, receiving record-breaking crowdfunding on Kickstarter and selling out of Best Buy stores upon launch, it’s the best device in its category thus far. But what makes the Pebble so special?
The Pebble is different from other smartwatches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear or Sony Smartwatch 2. It doesn’t run full apps; you can’t make or receive phone calls with it; and it features an e-paper display that only shows black and white. But what makes the Pebble innovative is its simplicity — it’s not trying to simulate the smartphone experience, but rather, it serves to enhance it.
“We developed the Pebble as a smartwatch that people could easily imagine using in their everyday life,” said Eric Migicovsky, founder and CEO of Pebble. “The wrist is a great place for wearable technology, since we’re already used to getting information from that part of our body. We’re just taking a classic behavior — wearing a watch — and making it smarter and more enjoyable with technology.”
Unlike most smartwatches, the Pebble’s robust community of third-party developers allows for more personal customization. For instance, you’re likely to find watch faces catered to your favorite band or video game characters, rather than just your typical Android-esque backdrop. More importantly, the Pebble is built on an open platform, meaning that literally anyone can build their own apps or watch faces if they desire to do so.
“A lot of people aren’t necessarily building these apps for other people to use,” Migicovsky said. “They’re building a product that solves a problem for them in their everyday life, and it’s really awesome to see what people are creating.”
Simply put, the Pebble is a game changer because it’s the first smartwatch that made wearable tech appealing to the masses. Earlier models, such as the i’m Watch and Martian Watch, failed to gain as much traction with everyday consumers. And while the Galaxy Gear has a lot more features, such as voice calling and a camera, its high price and short battery life are turnoffs. The Pebble watch balances the right amount of features with a simplistic, sleek style.
“What we’ve shown with the Pebble is that when you have the right combination of cool features, that’s when people are going to care about smartwatches,” Migicovsky said.
That’s not to say the e-paper waterproof watch won’t face stiff competition. With major tech industry players like Apple, Google and Microsoft all rumored to be working on smartwatches of their own, the Pebble will surely have more formidable rivals than it did in 2013.
“Competition isn’t really new in the smartwatch space, but it seems like more people are entering every day,” Migicovsky said. “Now is the right time to be thinking about a smartwatch because the technology is there and the people are ready for it.”
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