The Pebble Is a Stone’s Throw From Delivery

Pebble is poised to start shipping its smartwatch, company founder Eric Migicovsky announced at CES on Wednesday. The device — a wristwatch that connects wirelessly with Android smartphones and the iPhone — was a sensation when it was featured on Kickstarter early last year, raising more than US$10 million.

Pebble smartwatch

The Pebble watch is in mass production now and will start shipping on Jan. 23, Migicovsky said. At a manufacturing rate of 15,000 per week, the watches will reach Kickstarter backers in six to eight weeks. People who placed preorders are next on the list for delivery.

Migicovsky showed off the Pebble during his presentation, and as promised during the Kickstarter campaign, it is sleek and customizable. It has a black-and-white e-paper display, configured to 144 by 168 pixels, that is “perfectly readable in the sunlight.”

A Sports and Fitness Device

The Pebble watch has a battery life of seven days from one charge, is very light, and can be worn while swimming. To make the device water resistant, the company developed an innovative way to charge it — a tiny USB cable that snaps onto the Pebble so there are no holes or sockets.

The company is building sports apps for the Pebble on the assumption that it will be a hit with fitness devotees. There will be apps for cyclists, runners and golfers. Pebble is working with Freecaddie to create a golf rangefinder app that will work on more than 25,000 courses worldwide.

The Pebble can display incoming caller IDs, email, calendar alerts, Facebook messages, tweets and weather alerts. Push notifications can be set up for a wide range of things — to alert users to local bus departures, for example.

Pebble has released an SDK that gives developers full control of the device.

Pebble Mania?

Although Pebble is flush with early success, its long-term future is far from certain. One factor in its favor: Wearable technology appears to be poised for takeoff. Google Glass can be counted to blaze a path. Also, there have been rumors that Apple is developing its own smartwatch.

Apple may well have primed the pump for companies like Pebble, suggested Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.

A market arose for iPod nano wrist holders, although Apple killed it with its recent nano redesign, he pointed out.

“Folks liked putting the devices on their wrists when they were bike riding, jogging or doing many other sports — or just having it more handy than in their pocket,” Enderle told the E-Commerce Times.

“For a startup, this is a decent market that could grow to become the next big thing,” he said, “because often we don’t have a free hand and still need to interact with our personal technology.”

Not Glitch Free

Pebble’s road hasn’t been entirely smooth. It originally promised watch shipments would begin last fall, disappointing its eager customers.

“I have had mixed feelings throughout the process,” Steve Mnich, director of MWW Group and an early Pebble donor, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Had I known the wait would be six months or however long it’s been, I likely would’ve bought something else of comparable performance,” he said.

Still, the company has been very impressive with its communications about its issues, Mnich acknowledged.

“Although they’ve been backlogged, they’ve kept customers informed via video, stories, photos, etc.,” he said. “This is a very impressive case study in managing expectations.”

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