clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pebble’s smartwatches may not be smart for very long

New, 11 comments

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Pebble Gmail iOS stock

It’s been a week since Fitbit announced that it was buying up the assets of smartwatch maker Pebble, and a lot of questions still exist around exactly how Pebble’s existing products will work. Today a member of Pebble’s developer team attempted to address some of those questions.

In a blog post on the company’s website, Pebble employee (well, now Fitbit employee) Jon Barlow wrote that Fitbit is “going out of its way” to keep Pebble’s software and services running and that no one is seeking to “brick Pebble watches in active service” (thanks Fitbit). But that’s only being promised throughout 2017. After that is still unclear, and it seems that even in the short term some of Pebble’s functionalities will be limited.

A Pebble watch’s core functions will keep working for a while, according to Barlow. This includes stuff like timekeeping and basic app functionality. The way Fitbit plans to do this without really having to actively maintain Pebble is by reducing reliance on the cloud. So, for example, things that require logins or any type of authentication could change as the software is disassociated from cloud-based authentication services. And just like you could technically keep running apps on a device without updating them until there is some sort of break in service / required update, existing Pebble apps should keep running for the time being.

The Pebble Health API, which is not dependent on cloud services, will also keep running — though I’m told that Pebble’s Health product was one of the least interesting assets to Fitbit in the acquisition.

But the “smart” features of the smartwatch are a big question mark. Things like messaging and weather updates rely on third-party services, Barlow writes, and neither Fitbit nor Pebble have an answer yet for how or if those will still work except to say they are “currently evaluating” them.

The blog post encourages developers to keep creating and updating Pebble apps, but Pebble’s own developers are already having mixed reactions to that.

“I, for one, am glad to hear that Fitbit is committed to maintaining the Pebble ecosystem for as long as possible,” one commenter wrote below the Pebble blog. Another developer, who goes by R.J. Spears, said he would keep wearing his Pebbles, “but I can’t see myself continuing to code for a platform whose end is visible.”

Update: A previous version of this article mentioned notifications as a feature of Pebble watches that could be impacted. Fitbit has clarified that notifications are not tied to cloud services, and are considered a core part of Pebble watches.