“Dhapola, what’s the point of a smartwatch,” someone asked. “Nothing, absolutely nothing,” was my reply. I said this despite being an active Pebble user. I’ve had the Pebble Kickstarter edition for some time now; a senior colleague at my former workplace had given this watch to me because he couldn’t find any use for it. Then in 2015, I got the Pebble Round (rose gold) as my anniversary gift, which I still think is the best smartwatch I’ve had, period. Now, just a little over a year, this pretty smartwatch is rendered completely useless.
For starters, I’m not sure when the support for the Pebble will stop completely, but it will happen at some point in the future. The Pebble App, which is what syncs my watch to the smartphone will also stop getting support. Again there is no clarity on the date. As a user who paid close to Rs 22,000 (including the import duty) for this, I’m angry the device has been rendered useless so early, well at least in the near future. More so, since I got Pebble Round Rose Gold when it was not available in India.
Plus, this is a watch I love wearing. It is the only smartwatch that fits my hand perfectly. Most other fitness bands or watches are just too ugly and big for my bony, tiny wrists. The overall design and form factor is stylish enough to wear with any outfit. I can’t do that with many of the fitness bands I get for review.
The sudden death sentence for Pebble is especially disappointing because this watch was my go-to device for dealing with the flood of notifications that I receive each day. The Pebble let me dismiss messages, alerts from the watch. Frankly, I was grateful the watch didn’t expect me to type a reply for each WhatsApp message, although it recently got the ability to send text messages. But still, it is dependent on the phone for this. The Pebble’s simple UI was what made it so appealing.
But there is a contradiction here. Even I as mourn the impending death of my Pebble, I can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t long coming. The problem for the smartwatches remains use case. Beyond a core band of early adopters, most folks are unable to locate this. The question remains: What’s the point of a smartwatch?
Not every user needs another device just to glance at their notifications or play music on their primary device. When a smartphone can do this, why bother with a watch. Plus the Pebble Round with its diminished battery life was a device I had to charge every two days. This battery issue is something I’ve seen in most smartwatches; the more functions and features offered, the worse is the battery life. I can understand why people don’t want another device they forgot to charge in their daily life.
Perhaps the biggest letdown for smartwatches has been the failure to convince users that these devices can serve an actual purpose. In Pebble’s case, it never really evolved to have a wow factor. Sure when it launched on Kickstarter, it was one of those few devices that would let you manage your phone, straight from your wrist. But since then, the market has been flooded with a flurry of similar offerings. Be it fitness trackers or smartwatches, all of which offer the same capability and then some more.
For instance, the Gear Fit 2 (a band I reviewed) will function as a fitness tracker and let you manage notifications as well. And this is just one such device; many others are available in India at a lower price that can track your steps, give notification alerts, etc.
In the end for Pebble, nothing emerged as a USP. Even I, a user who loved the watch, can go for days without wearing the Pebble and still not miss it. And that really says it all; the Pebble was never the must-have, the don’t-forget device like your smartphone.