Pebble Time

Pebble’s CEO Thinks Smart Wearables Are The Future

July 17, 2015 - Written By David Steele

Pebble boss, Eric Migicovsky, is no stranger to being outspoken about his products compared with the competition. In a recent interview with British newspaper, The Guardian, he shared some of his insight into the market and of course how Pebble fits into the world of the smartwatch. Pebble is a relatively old hand at the smartwatch market, having beaten Apple and Android into the game by launching the first Pebble smartwatch as a Kickstarter project in 2012. Pebble sold the one millionth smartwatch earlier in the year and has continued to utilise Kickstarter, having launcher the new color Pebble Time product via Kickstarter’s 87,000 backers and over $20 million worth of pre-orders. When asked about the future for the smartwatch, at a time when many people are asking what the point of the product is, Eric exudes a certain confidence. He says this on the matte: “When I look five years ahead, I see computers getting smaller and smaller, and I see them really worn on our bodies. We’re going to be wearing more computers on us: I think that’s inevitable.” The smartwatch in 2015 has a number of core uses, chiefly these being activity tracking and logging and handling notifications. He expects that as the product evolves, more uses will surface.

As regards the Pebble, there are a few interesting twists to the design that are helping developers innovate already. Pebble are focusing on the core platform with the tools to enable developers to expand the product, giving the example of the Nightscout, which is a smartwatch health monitoring service for people with diabetes. This displays their blood sugar on their wrist, replacing a relatively bulky computer the size of a pack of cards. The Nightscout is not a Pebble project, “it wasn’t even on our radar,” Eric explains. Another innovative project is that of the smartstrap, whereby developers add in missing functionality into a (Pebble) smartwatch, including sensors, batteries and features. Eric says this on smartstraps: “We’ll see smartstraps for those soon. The majority of people might not want a pollution sensor, an extra-long battery or a gesture detector or IR blaster, but people are experimenting [with] putting these kinds of technologies together. They were doing this with Pebble from a software perspective, but from a hardware perspective it wasn’t really open until now.” It will be interesting to see if the Pebble platform is gradually transformed into something with overtones of Google’s Project Ara, the modular smartphone.

One recent trend is that for technology designed to reduce our reliance on staring at our smartphone screen, albeit at the cost of us staring at our smartwatch. A core function of the smartwatch is to notify us of potentially interesting things happening in our world and in theory is more discrete than picking up a smartphone, although many early adopters might argue against this! Eric says that he believes Pebble could be doing more to tap into this trend: “We have room to grow in regard to how we filter notifications, and how we let you disconnect when wearing a Pebble. It’s that ambient-computing aspect of it, where you’re not actively sitting at a desk, so it needs to mesh more into your life.” This ideology sound not too dissimilar from the foundations of Google Now, a product that Eric does not believe has a home on the smartwatch.

Another Pebble strength is that it uses e-paper, which uses significantly less power than AMOLED or LCD panels and contributes towards the devices having multiple day battery lives. Eric proudly announced that, “Less than 1% of our users charge every night.” It’s unclear if customers will accept a more regular recharging schedule in exchange for a more capable device, but for now Eric is happy with the compromise, including citing the subtle wrist vibration alarm that the Pebble can manage but Android Wear and Apple Watch devices cannot as they require a nightly recharge.

When asked about the “killer app” for the smartwatch, Eric explains that, “It’s not about finding a killer app in my opinion. Once Pebble is on people’s wrists, once it’s helping people exchange notifications, keep track of the people they care about, and manage their day, that’s when the next phase kicks in, and people start imagining what the next generation of services will be … Most people can’t live without their phones right now. In the future, we expect that people will not be able to live without their wearable.”