Last week, Pebble launched its third-generation smart watch, called Pebble Time. Pebble is considered a smart watch pioneer, having raised over $10 million during its Kickstarter debut in 2012. Since then, Pebble has sold more than 1 million smart watches.
With the Apple Watch coming in April, Pebble had no choice but to come up with something compelling enough to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded field. Its monochrome e-paper first edition smart watch could only go so far in competing with the AMOLED, full color, animated display of the Apple Watch. Pebble Time has a color display, but it has stuck to its e-paper roots, giving it an edge on battery life, expected to last up to 7 days. Pebble Time is targeted at an entry-level price of $199 when it goes on general sale.
Apart from new hardware, Pebble is also launching a new software platform, called Timeline. As the name suggests, Timeline organizes alerts, email, alarms, news, and apps in chronological order – Past, Present, and Future. There is also a new Timeline API, which can push notifications directly from the web, without the need for an app, something unique to Pebble and worth keeping an eye on.
Pebble couldn’t have asked for a better launch for its new watch. Pebble Time reached its $500,000 goal on Kickstarter in a matter of minutes and within an hour it had raised $2 million. At the time of writing, 3 days after launch, Pebble had raised more than $11 million and sold more than 60,000 watches, with 28 more days to go for the Kickstarter campaign.
At this rate, by the end of the year Pebble could sell more than 5 million watches, although that would be highly aggressive, even by Pebble standards. Pebble has most likely kept a manufacturing target of about 100,000 watches for the Kickstarter campaign, which should sell out in a week or so. After that, when the watch goes on general sale later in the summer, it is difficult to say for sure how many watches they will sell. It all depends on the Apple Watch and how the competition shapes up.
Pebble Time shouldn’t impact sales of the Apple Watch, because Apple is targeting a higher price bracket, while Pebble Time is for the entry-level smart watch customer. If anything, Pebble Time has primed the market for Apple, creating enthusiasm for the smart watch category, unlike what we have seen with any other smart watch.
The Android Wear platform, which only sold around 750,000 watches in 2014, has the most to worry about with Pebble’s latest offering. Pebble Timeline has created a new benchmark for the watch UI, with their chronologically dispersed notifications being one step ahead of Android Wear cards that don’t have any ordering mechanism.
Android Wear brought in a lot of promise around contextual notifications, but they haven’t delivered yet. I explored the issues with Android Wear in an earlier post, Time for a Reality Check on Android Wear. Android Wear is failing to keep device vendors interested, with LG’s latest premium smart watch, LG Watch Urbane, choosing to skip Android Wear and go with its own WebOS. For the most part, Android Wear needs new updates to its software, with a renewed focus on getting developers to create compelling apps.