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Pebble Supporters Are Pissed Over Rumors It Will Sell Itself

Image: Darren Orf/Gizmodo
Image: Darren Orf/Gizmodo

Pebble, the maker of the original e-ink smartwatch, has a lot of passionate and loyal customers, and those customers are pissed. Following the rumors that Pebble is about to crumble under the heel of Fitbit, the company’s many Kickstarter backers are in an uproar.

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As we shared earlier today, rumor has it fitness tracker maker Fitbit is in talks to buy Pebble, dismantle the business, and take all the tech. It’s a smart move for Fitbit, and an ouch move for Pebble, which would be selling for a tenth of what watch maker Citizen offered it last year.

But fans don’t care about the business, they care about their damn smartwatches, which many supporters of Pebble’s most recent products haven’t even received yet. Pebble launched its biggest and most ambitious Kickstarter campaign in June, promising contributors (depending on the investment level) everything from a revamped Pebble Time Round to a new fitness focused Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2. However shipment of all the promised devices has been delayed.

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The Pebble 2 was promised in September, but the device didn’t start shipping to backers until the 30th. Ontop of that, it only shipped in small batches of specific colors. As of December some backers still don’t have their devices, and others found that theirs had been delayed after Pebble chose to fulfill orders to big box stores like Walmart instead of Kickstarter backers.

Things are bleaker for Pebble Time 2 backers. Those backers were expecting the device to start shipping in November. Many went to bed hoping to see an update sometime late on the 30th or early on December 1st. Instead, many woke up this morning to find that there was still no news on shipments apart from a quiet update that to the Kickstarter page suggesting they’d ship in January 2017. Worse was the news of the sale to Fitbit.

The comment page for Pebble’s latest Kickstarter project is littered with hundreds of comments featuring demands for refunds, calls for lawsuits, and general misery from confused backers. “I know delays happen, but at least some transparency,” one backer told Gizmodo. “What worries me is that there is a possibility of buying a product that is not even built/shipped and then immediately phased out.”

Pebble has been mum on things. The only response was from its official support twitter to an concerned backer:

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Investing in a Kickstarter project is always a gamble. Products are late, non-existent, or arrive doing half of what was promised. Its gotten to the point that many people are immediately wary of a new gadget just because it’s launching on Kickstarter. But Pebble, with it’s history of making good on crowdfunded promises, was supposed to be different. Now, it might be gone forever.

Update: This post originally stated Time 2 shipments were expected to begin in January 2017. It has been updated to reflect the original promised ship date of November 2016.

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Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.

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DISCUSSION

warriorscot
warriorscot

I think this is the combination of factors with the delay and radio silence making the offer sound more likely than it possibly is. They’ve been cash tight for quite a while, but still turned down far far better offers from far better companies that would have at least maintained the product.

Frankly fitbit products are vastly inferior in almost every aspect, it would be pretty terrible for the smartwatch industry as a whole to lose pebble to the likes of fitbit. But also for pebble customers and fans because it would mean the loss of that fantastic open and innovative platform.

As a pebble owner and someone waiting on the time 2 announcement I’m concerned in general that it will be the last ever pebble watch. But not that concerned it won’t arrive, after all the Time was a bit late too. I am though annoyed by pebble at the minute just because of the lack of information they are putting out, they usually are pretty open and it’s not good that they are radio silent.

Here is hoping that they resist the offer, or if it’s that bad find someone that is going to maintain the brand rather than roll it into something that isn’t as good a product line or operating methodology. Frankly if they are cash strapped I’m pretty sure they could run another kickstarter simply asking for funds in exchange for some items they can make a quick profit on(like watch bands or other accessories).