Several days ago I stepped into the Pocketnow family with a heartfelt piece on Pebble and how I thought that their future might be a little murky. Despite my intense love for the simplistic wearables that arguably kicked off the trend, I truly feared that the “big dogs” in the industry would end up forcing this scrappy underdog out on their keasters. With the recent news of the Pebble 2, Pebble Time 2, and the Pebble Core hitting the interwebs, I gotta say that Pebble may have changed my opinions on their potential future. So sit back and prepare yourselves to watch me eat a feast of proverbial crow while I completely refute my initial article.
The gateway drug
Much like Apple, Pebble has followed a similar model of offering their past products at introductory prices while still supporting and/or manufacturing said older products. This trend started with the introduction of the Pebble Time as they still offered the original Pebble and Pebble Steel at reduced prices. Despite the aged hardware, both of the latter products are still viable introductions to the world of wearables. Therefore, they are a gateway to Pebble products at large.
“>Pebble’s inherent problem is that the average consumer doesn’t immediately get their worth and this is compounded by the steep price of entry for their latest hardware. Furthering the issue is that even their entry level watches don’t immediately seem as appealing as similarly priced Android Wear watches of the first generation variety. As I pointed out in my initial article, an original Pebble next to a Zen watch or first gen Moto 360 seems like it would be a ridiculous choice with it’s bland screen, plastic body, and lack of a touchscreen. People don’t immediately see the value in a screen that has decent viewability in all lighting, a device that’s in all intents and purposes waterproof, and something that rarely needs charged. Spoken out loud it sounds ridiculous but side by side the pretty LCD/AMOLED screens win people over when priced similarly. The key to getting people in the front door is to offer them something at a price they can not ignore.
Pebble hasn’t yet confirmed what will happen to the original Pebble and Pebble Time but I’d be willing to bet that we will at the very least see them in a fire sale. They might even continue to offer them for the foreseeable future at an insanely low sub $100 price point. The Pebble 2 is already a steal at the “starting price” of $99 for backing their Kickstarter or even their advertised retail price of $129. Can you imagine what would happen if they offered the original Pebble at say… $60 new in the box with their one year warranty?! Or how about if they offered the original Pebble Time for $100?! That could potentially put a smartwatch in the hands of an entire new demographic of people. People that aren’t super tech savvy or have possibly dismissed smartwatches as an unnecessary expense/fad would probably be willing to pick up one of these at those prices and then become loyal customers that scream Pebble’s praise from the rooftops. Even if Pebble doesn’t do this we all will be able to pick them up dirt cheap on Amazon, eBay, and pretty much any other online retailer trying to dump their stock of old hardware. I personally would rather buy an uber cheap original Pebble to use while working on the car or mowing the lawn than buying some cruddy normal cheap watch purchased from your local brick and mortar.
This could still go wrong
Despite all the great news and possibilities that have spawned from the recent news of their seemingly awesome products things could still not work in the company’s favor if everything isn’t executed properly. Quality control, advertising, and product availability all go a long way in making any product a success.
“>It’s no secret that the very first Pebble and even it’s successor the Steel had their fair share of
hardware failures. The most notable was the screen tearing that happened in both models. Given that the Pebble 2 has a similar, if not the same, screen of its predecessor one can only pray that it does not share the same screen tearing fate of the past. That wasn’t the lone complaint though as many had issues with water damage, button failures, and vibration feedback problems. With that said, I have personally had a completely pain free experience with Pebble’s customer service in the past when going through the three exchanges of original Pebbles and will admit that they never made me feel inconvenienced.
Pebble can’t hope to ride the hype of continual Kickstarter successes or even that they were arguably the first modern smartwatch in the game. That was enough several years ago but it’s not enough when it comes to advertising masterminds like that behind every advertisement that Apple has had in recent memory. People know Apple. It’s a household name like Kleenex at this point. So when the Layman hears a name like Apple it is almost a guarantee that people know what company you’re talking about. Pebble, on the other hand, is still largely an unknown party outside of the realm of us geeks, nerds, and tech addicts. If I had a dime for every time someone asked me what is a Pebble when I tried to tell them about my watch I’d be a very rich man. Seriously Pebble, would it be too hard or expensive to throw a commercial on cable television or maybe snag a YouTube paid advertisement? Aside from the buzz in the techsphere I’ve heard nary a word about the company or products. Getting the name out there with a cool commercial would go a very long way. That way when someone passes the product in a store they might actually stop to check one out.
Speaking of stores, product availability is huge! Not everyone orders stuff online like a large portion of our audience here. I’m an extremely tech savvy individual and even I don’t like to order online for everything. Sometimes I prefer to buy at a brick and mortar for many reasons. Maybe I want to support a certain local chain, maybe I would like to try it out in person before dropping coin, and a lot of times I simply don’t want to wait for something to come in the mail if it’s something I’ve been hyped about. I have yet to walk into any store and see more than a couple Pebble products. Going to Best Buy, for example, usually results in the most basic of colors and options. Try recommending a Pebble Round to a friend only for them to go to Walmart and not even find one on the shelf to purchase. This is not OK from a company that’s trying to make its mark on the world! Get your products on the shelves for your own good Pebble.
Keep the positive vibes coming
In closing I’m personally feeling quite a bit better about Pebble’s future. The new products, especially the Core which I didn’t have much opportunity to talk about today, are awesome and priced right for what they are. I sincerely hope this piece and even my last one finds their way into someone’s lap over there at Pebble as I want them to succeed. My simple wanting will not be enough though. Nor will the unveiling of uber cheap devices be enough. It’s a great way to start forward momentum but there’s still just a couple more bits that need to come together to make the company the first name on everyone’s lips when talking about a smartwatch. I have faith in you Pebble, don’t let me down!