Fitbit will end support for Pebble smartwatches in June

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Fitbit said in a blog post today that it was extending support for Pebble smartwatches until June of this year, which is another way of saying that support for Pebble will come to its inevitable conclusion in June.

RIP Pebble, but for real this time. Pebble will soon become less of a smart timepiece and more of a relic of a time when Kickstarter projects were successful and scrappy startups could claim a slice of the smartwatch market.

Many of Pebble’s features will be sunset, including Pebble’s App Store, the Pebble forum, the Pebble cloud development tool, voice recognition features, and SMS and email replies.

There are some caveats to the Pebble wind-down. Pebble’s main mobile apps for iOS and Android will continue to work for now, though compatibility could be broken with future iOS and Android OS updates. Notifications — one of a smartwatch’s core functions — will still work as long as those apps work, a spokesperson for Fitbit confirmed.

Digital health company Fitbit acquired Pebble, an independent maker of open-sourced smartwatches, in December 2016. As disappointed as some early Pebble adopters were, the acquisition made sense, as I wrote then: Fitbit was in search of a wearable operating system for its upcoming smartwatch, so that it could compete with the Apple Watch and Android Wear watches, and Pebble was struggling financially.

Fitbit had assured Pebble fans and app developers that it would keep Pebble smartwatches going for a period of time, despite not having acquired any of Pebble’s hardware assets. Today’s announcement puts a timestamp on that, with Fitbit saying that it would extend its support for the watches “for six more months, to June 30, 2018.”

Fitbit is pushing hard for users to transition over to its own smartwatches at this point. “During this time, we invite the Pebble community to explore how familiar highlights from the Pebble ecosystem are evolving on the Fitbit platform, from apps and clock faces to features and experiences,” the company wrote. Pebble watch owners will also get $50 off a Fitbit Ionic smartwatch. It’s not a bad of a deal for anyone who wants a Fitbit smartwatch, but it will feel like a small consolation prize for true Pebble fans.

Comments

Inevitable, but sad. I’ve loved both Pebble watches I’ve owned, but wearables have turned out to be a niche market, and the e-ink screen is apparently a niche within a niche: people are willing to surrender battery life for LCD screens.

More like people are willing to surrender slender watches for fat ones. The screen might have sunk the Time line of Pebble watches but why are every Android Wear watch like, twice as thick as a Time Round?

Just lamenting there are no market replacement for my Gold Time Steel…

wearables have turned out to be a niche market

More like wearables are only getting started.

Who in his right mind wouldn’t buy a device that, for example, could alert of an incoming heart attack? A sugar blood continuous monitoring add-on to smartwatches alone could mean 200.000.000 pieces sold.

Fitness is just the starter; health care 2.0 is the main course.

Agreed, mostly. It is for now fairly niche, and will likely remain so if mobile carriers’ tariffs on allowing LTE access separate from the premier phone plans required for full use of wristrockets, but the thing that debunks any debunking of the long-term viability of wearables is companies’ (mainly Apple for now, sadly; Google apparently bores easily if it doesn’t get its way and swallows market share like it did web ads) devotion to keeping things updated, relatively secure, and useful. The second-hand Series 0 42mm stainless steel variant on my left right now attests to that. Battery life remains strong (after a full day of use —one or two workouts, morning and/or night, plus any activity in between, I have 50-40% stated life remaining), I just updated to the latest software offering in the last 24 hours, the sapphire front is intact, none the worse for wear, same with the crown and power button, and it does what I need it to, which is to give me the casual impetus to track workouts, set cooking/tea timers (commands I whisper to it rather than yell at my phone or pull said phone out of pocket because hands aren’t clean enough or whatever enough), and a variety of small, often location-based notifications, codes, etc. I completely understand any diminishment of a sector in which someone invested $100+ just to see their chosen maker of x product disappear slowly or even quickly into the night. I didn’t anticipate Apple’s success there; I’m only benefitting from their persistence at a multi-billion-dollar hobby, as it is sometimes snidely known.

You don’t need a device to alert of an impending heart attack. Generally, if you’re at risk of that, you need to change your lifestyle and diet. That’s the fix.

It isn’t even e-ink! It’s e-paper, which is just a glorified LCD display.

Pebble Round: best watch I ever owned. It even went out with a bang when the battery finally exploded. RIP fellow pebblers.

How do u claim this $50 off the fitbit smartwatch. there is nothign on their website about that. Also. the fitbit watch is $300!!!. i paid $150 for my Pebble Time Steel.

You have to opt in to receive the coupon here: https://dev.fitbit.com/blog/2018-01-24-pebble-support/

Now, if the Fitbit device:

  • Had an always-on display that doesn’t need a backlight
  • Had enough physical buttons to be used as volume and playback controls and to navigate (ex. dismiss notifications, reply to them, etc) without looking at the screen and/or with gloves on
  • Had week+ battery life
  • Looked like an actual watch rather than A Smartwatch

then I might actually consider a Fitbit device (or another smartwatch) as a Pebble replacement.

This. I haven’t worn a watch in probably 10 years. I picked up a Pebble Time Steel on major clearance ($50, new) just on a whim. I really hate almost everything about smartwatches, but especially the thought of being slave to yet another daily battery charge. With the Pebble, I charge it maybe once or twice a week, and it’s great. I also love that it’s platform agnostic, and rather than trying to be a mini smartphone, it just does basic things like notifications, weather, time, and music controls.

If and when it dies, my next smartwatch will be pulling my phone out of my pocket again, unless something comparable exists.

Spot on! I had a Pebble Steal Black, and only gave it away because I needed a Samsung Gear S3 to use for a life critical medical application. The S3 is – or was – the best smart watch on the market today. Really is superb. HOWEVER, Samsung’s Tizen update that has not been fixed, causes all manner of issues, such as faces acting up or quitting. So I returned the two we owned.

I so miss the Pebble, may get another one. It did all it did well and the second Fitbit bought them I was devastated because Fitbit stuff is terrible ugly, has no decent UX or ergonomics.

Garmin are the only quality wearable maker today, but their stuff is for pros and priced as such. Fenix is amazing, but huge. They should have bought Pebble and kept everything the same, but added their GPS technology.

Is there a way to load watchfaces and whatnot once Fitbit turns off the servers?

Honestly, the nutballs at https://rebble.io/ will hardly skip a beat over news like this. Such a shutdown was pretty inevitable…Fitbit’s got to pay their AWS bill somehow.

Hey Fitbit, why don’t you hold off on shutting the service down until after you have a comparable product to offer, with features like those mentioned above? My wife and I each have Pebbles going strong and we have no interest in your current products.

It’s not like this product was still on the market. It was cool that they didn’t immediately kill it off, but it’s not like they were still selling these.

It’s totally insane and ridiculous that companies these days are not able to guarantee a long term support for their products and services. A note taking service diactivating after 3 years, a to-do app closing and a "watch" once lasting hundreds of years now can not last for 2 years. It is ridiculous and unacceptable. It is the contemporary "evil" whithin the tech business (and every other business). In previous centuries you could buy something and have it for a long time without being worried about it being obsolete. To overthow this capatalist, consumerist, evil manner everyone should figure out a solution to make available a long term support (at least for core fucvtionality) for every apparatus/instrument/product to keep it functional. It help with protecting the planet, sustainability, and preventing further climate change.

I’ve tried every smartwatch thinkable (Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, Android Wear, Galaxy Fit, and Fitbit Iconic). None offered the balance of battery life, notification, and simple feature set.

I don’t think OEM get it.

I’m just going to say this: The Pebble Round is the best looking and most practical smartwatch to date. No Fitbit would ever replace that. The end.

3x Pebble owner here. I love my devices and have nothing but contempt for fitbit products. They are poor in software and manufacturing quality. The pebble on the other hand just runs and runs and it will hopefully endure over 3+ future smartwatch generations. Very sorry about the aquisition and I hope some gifted hackers will have a go at the pebble sw.

In the meanwhile I jus got a normal watch, you know. All smartwatches on the market are crap, including the apple watch. A gimmicky watch that you have to charge daily.
Pebble got the whole concept right, they just didn’t have the financial power to go through this testing waters period. And fitbit just makes crappy stuff.

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