Pebble smartwatch sets second Kickstarter record, and it's not done yet

Over two years after breaking a Kickstarter funding record to get its smartwatch off the ground, Pebble returned to the crowdfunding site to fund its new watch, the Pebble Time.

030415 pebble time smartwatch
Pebble via Kickstarter

With 23 days to go in its latest Kickstarter funding campaign, Pebble has raised over $15 million. Last year, Pebble shipped more smartwatches than Android Wear. This year, the company might ship more than Apple.

The smartwatch maker went back to Kickstarter, where it initially found enough funding to enter the smartwatch market, to fund its next watch, and again it set a record.

Pebble set a Kickstarter record once before. Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky started the company in his college dorm room in the Netherlands, eventually becoming a fledgling startup selling BlackBerry smartwatches. Migicovsky and his team had a new idea for growth – the original Pebble smartwatch that worked with iPhones and Android smartphones – but they needed an investment to build it.

Sadly for the venture capital firms, Migicovsky says every VC he asked for money turned him down. Undaunted, Pebble turned to Kickstarter and raised $10.2 million from 68,000 backers in October 2012. After the latest performance on Kickstarter, VCs would line up to invest in Pebble if Migicovsky would take their money.

The Pebble Time is like the original Pebble watch in some ways and different in others. It's similarly made with premium materials with a sporty watch style, and it's energy-efficient too. Consumers spend enough time worrying about keeping their notebooks and smartphones charged. They don't want to worry about charging one more device like a smartwatch unless it makes them 10 years younger or more attractive to the opposite sex. The new Pebble Time has an increased battery life of up to 10 days – a lot longer than any other smartwatch on the market.

The Pebble Time has added innovations. A new Timeline user interface that organizes apps and content according to the past, present, and future seems to be a unique approach to reducing the noisy and frequent interruptions from smartphone and smartwatch notifications. Also new is the Pebble Time's color e-paper display and microphone for responding to notifications.

Pebble also introduced smartstraps with the Pebble Time, which lets developers interface new and novel sensors for the Pebble. Along with battery life, novel sensors have been a design flaw in Android Wear and Apple smartwatches. To keep component costs down, smartwatch designers have specified cheap, low-fidelity sensors so the data collected is inexact. For instance, smartwatches and fitness trackers don't record accurate heart rates during high-activity states and become less accurate as movement becomes more energetic. With smartstraps, a designer can find a use case for an accurate expensive sensor, such as a CO2 sensor to monitor the respiration of a user with heart disease, where the user or insurance company is willing to pay for the premium sensor but the price of the initial smartwatch doesn't need to go up.

Migicovsky has maneuvered Pebble between giants Apple and Google and sustained the company's position in the smartwatch race, which is becoming a marathon and not a sprint. The Pebble team has an advantage that Google and Apple's money can't buy – years of experience designing smartwatches.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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