You might have heard yesterday, one of my favorite smartwatch manufacturers has been acquired by Fitbit. Not only that, but Fitbit only purchased certain assets, mainly software engineering expertise to help them improve base performance of their under-performing Fitbit Blaze and possibly to establish a third-party app store (like Pebble had).
What didn’t Fitbit buy? All those hardware assets, the Pebble 2, the Pebble Time, and the yet-to-be-manufactured Time 2 and Core. Pebble was poised to shake things up again and release smart, heart-rate-monitor enabled watches that ran rings around devices that were twice their price. Instead, they’ve been shuttered. So if you’ve got a Pebble on your wrist, or you’d been waiting for delivery of your Time 2 (like I had), what should you do now?
Buy a Pebble.
No! Really! It’s true that Pebble has suspended all support for the device. Hardware warranties will not be honored and software support has been shut down. You can’t go crying to Fitbit if your Pebble dies; that was another reason they didn’t buy the hardware assets – they didn’t want to be saddled with maintenance.
However, Pebble has put together a robust guide on their Support site that walks users through what they can do to ensure their smartwatch lasts for as long as possible. First, make sure you have the latest Firmware installed on your watch. Then get cozy with the Pebble Community Forum and the sub-reddit dedicated to Pebble (you can find the links on that Support article I referenced). Pebble has enjoyed a robust fan following and they’ll be working hard to make sure that as much life as possible is eked out of the devices.
The next trick is buying a Pebble. The official site’s store is shuttered, which is a shame, because I’m sure they have stock sitting around that they could liquidate. But if you’re fast, you can get a Pebble 2 on Amazon (though at the moment, they might only have the white version, your mileage may vary). You can also check your local Best Buy to see if they have any left in stock. Retail price is $129, make sure you don’t pay more! A better bet would be to get a $79 Pebble Time. It’s what I have on my wrist right now and I expect it to keep working well into 2017 and likely into 2018. Pebble has said they’ll reduce the Pebble’s reliance on cloud services to keep things running smoothly for the discontinued hardware. Which is fine, I never really thought much about the cloud connectivity anyway.
So what’s a “dead” Pebble good for?
It’s still one of the most reliable smartwatches on the market. The battery lasts for a minimum of seven days on the Time, longer on the Pebble 2. Its notification system is second only to the Apple Watch; it’s the only other smartwatch that allows you to create voice responses to texts and emails on iOS. The activity and sleep tracker functions are perfect for the casual data hound. Operationally, I find the four-button Pebble to be much more intuitive to use on-the-fly than poking at a tiny touchscreen on my wrist. The only real disappointment will be that the excellent watchface and app community will no longer be available. They’ve provided a staggering variety of content for Pebble, from watchfaces that celebrate college football teams, to apps that help you meditate. I’m hoping that the Pebble team acquired by Fitbit finds a home for them on a new platform there.
So for less than half the cost of an Apple Watch, you’ll be able to enjoy months, if not years, of smartwatch goodness.
Or you could do what I did, and grab a cheap Pebble for your own personal use-case study to see if smartwatches even make sense for you. Either way, you’ll soon understand why Pebblers are mourning the death of their favorite company.