Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is the latest smartwatch to attempt to crack the code on wearable computers. It is loaded with sensors and a camera, and has the brief battery life of a smartphone. It also costs $299. At the other end of the spectrum is the Pebble, a $150 watch with week-long battery life that relies more on a “micro-interactions” with an iOS or
Android smartphone to be useful.
Pebble, which raised $10 million on Kickstarter and earned a spot at BestBuy, had orders for more than 275,000 watches by mid-July, and in excess of one million apps have been downloaded. Other smartwatches offer similar functionality and apps, but Pebble founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky thinks that the Samsung and other smartwatch makers are headed down the wrong path.
“They are overspec’d machines…no one thought about how it fits into your life,” he said in an interview at TechCrunch Disrupt. He maintains that competitors have ignored the reasons that have made Pebble relatively successful.
Pebble took off because is does a few things well, such as SMS messaging, controlling music and easily changing the look and feel of the watch. A smartwatch also needs long battery life, and should not be annoying or cause concern about getting wet or banged up, Migicovsky said. “The size constraints are conducive to putting a little technology in there.”
Migicovsky’s idea is that a smartwatch should be more of a “thin client” that flows into the background and takes advantage of the smartphone in your pocket and other connected devices around you, such as thermostat or lighting controls.
“It doesn’t force you to change your life around the device, it just kind of meshes,” he said. “Pebble brings micro-interactions to your wrist…it’s more about having Pebble suit the activities you are doing at a given time.” He gave the example of the app, RunKeeper. “If you go for a run with RunKeeper, you open the app on the phone, and Pebble takes on a symbiotic form to work with it. That’s the experience we want to encourage.”
Migicovsky categorized the smartwatch market as “low-hanging fruit.” “There is already a spot on the body people where people are comfortable wearing technology,” he said. Pebble is at work evolving its technology and app platform, trying to figure out how to stand out as others, including Apple, go after the same low-hanging fruit.
“The really cool thing is that since wearables have moved to the forefront of computing, we are the guys who have been there for five years iterating in the background, working on what’s cool, figuring out how developers can build apps on top of the platform. We are in the best position to move quickly, break things and figure out what works,” Migicovsky said.