Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, television was in black and white, and politicians didn't Tweet nude photos of themselves I backed a Kickstarter campaign called Pebble. The Pebble is a watch that synchs with you smart phone's Bluetooth, and delivers emails, phone call ID, and text messages. As we all know by now the campaign became Kickstarters most successful campaign to date.
I love Kickstarter. I have invested and continue to do so in many of the enterprises posted there. Not only is Kickstarter a superb platform for young companies to get their idea off the ground, but it encourages creative thinking and problem solving. Someone who might have sat on an idea, now has a launch pad to not only try and raise money on an idea, but see the public's appetite for that idea.
Pebble was the ultimate success story. To date they have shipped over 93,000 Pebbles to 150 countries. Understandably the scale of their success took the young company by surprise. They instantly had production problems and logistic problems. It took a year for my Pebble to ship to me, and after giving that first one to my nephew, I ordered a "pre-order" Pebble for me. That still hasn't arrived. What did happen though is that Pebble did a deal with Best Buy to distribute Pebbles. This has pissed a lot of people on the waiting list off that they would release inventory to the public before fulfilling the remaining 182,000 units, me being one of them. It clear to say that Eric Migocovsky
and his young management team are trying to keep their heads above water and are not necessarily making the smartest decisions.
On a whim I ventured into Best Buy yesterday in Manhattan. They had one Pebble left. It was the last one from a shipment of 30 watches they had received the previous afternoon. This is quite impressive, think about it. a product launched exclusively online with no marketing what so ever sold out their inventory of 30 units within a day in one store, and apparently has been doing so in all stores ever since they started receiving units on July 8th. The Pebble costs $150, so did Best Buy sell 30 pairs of $150 headphones within a day, or UP bands from Jawbone...I doubt it. There is definitely an interest in wearable technology, it can't all be early adopter geeks like me.
So what's it like. I'll break it down into different categories.
Construction: It feels cheap. It is plastic, lightweight and feels cheaper than a Swatch. It is water resistant but not recommended to be worn in hot water, so don't take a bath or shower. It is rated for freshwater and saltwater so you can swim but don't dive with it. The case is shiny plastic so waiting for the first scratches. The strap a cheap matt rubber. The buttons on the side feel particularly cheap to the touch. If Apple has designed this it would feel substantive and of high quality, you notice things like this when you wear it.
Design: It's not a small watch, (it has to house a lot of stuff), so on my wrist...it looks OK, but if my wife were to wear one it would look like a Gigantor had lent her his watch.
It has a smart clean look, but again not s sophisticated as one if Apple or samsung had designed it.
Setting up: The online instructions were complicated and clunky. It IS easy to setup, but at the same time you find yourself jumping from screen to screen in their app trying to source information on why certain things didn't happen the way they ere meant to.
Synching with an iPhone: I was able to synch texts immediately, caller ID doesn't work properly, the phone number comes up but no name, which is the main function. It took me into the night to have email synching and to be honest it just started working which makes no sense, but now it does synch with all my accounts and I must say this is the best part of the watch. The watch immediately synched with my iPod/Music on my iPhone and that's a cool feature. Some of the third party apps do not work as advertised, but as they're freeware, nothing to shout about.
Watch faces: There are a great and ever increasing selection of cool watch faces that you can easily down load. I have already downloaded seven.
Alerts: The watch alerts you to an incoming message or email by vibrating. this is really useful as it makes no noise and I can now turn the ringer off on my phone, which pleases my wife immensely. The alarm also works on vibration and it does wake you up.
Overall this is an exciting product development. I liken it to when streaming video hit the internet. Most people had a dial up connection or if they were posh a DSL, and streaming video was in a tiny little player at 4 frames a second. It was exciting, didn't quite work as advertised, but the potential was huge. People are going to want to wear and use wearable technology. This is the tiny rough end of a huge iceberg, it is cool, but what's to come is larger and a lot cooler. One thing I have noticed since synching is an increase in battery drain and my iPhone is a lot hotter than it was, if it explodes I'll let you know. The Pebble is cool, it will get better. I predict by the end of the year Apple will at least announce their wearable iWatch, and Samsung also. They will look and feel better than the Pebble and that unfortunately will kill the Pebble business. But for the moment, they own this space, and I think what they have produced is a market changer.