Fitbit buys Pebble, leaving watch owners in the lurch

Fitbit, one of the biggest fitness band makers, has acquired "specific assets" of Kickstarter-fueled smartwatch maker Pebble. The official press release from Fitbit clarifies that this acquisition includes "key personnel and intellectual property related to software and firmware development," but excludes Pebble's hardware products. Bloomberg reports the price of the acquisition as being under $40 million. In a prepared statement, Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park said that "with basic wearables getting smarter and smartwatches adding health and fitness capabilities, [Fitbit sees] an opportunity to build on [its] strengths and extend [its] leadership position in the wearables category."

The sale is surely a good thing for the founders of Pebble and Fitbit, but what about owners of watches made by the Kickstarter golden child? We have some bad news, coming straight from Pebble's support page. With this acquisition, Pebble is shutting down its regular operations immediately. One-to-one support is no longer available, and while the company says that active Pebble watches will continue to work, functionality or service quality "may be reduced over time."

Pebble watches, the company says, are "no longer covered by or eligible for warranty exchange." Anyone who ordered a Pebble watch from the official site is "no longer eligible for return or exchange," though any outstanding orders will be refunded. Those who braved the risks of Kickstarter to help make a dream come true will see "eligible pledges" refunded by December 16. If you funded the Pebble Time, Core, or Time Round watches, or if you hadn't filled out the necessary information to get your Pebble 2, you'll get your pledges back. Kickstarter refunds may take until March of 2017 to be processed, though. Additionally, if you ordered from outside the US, your refund may be subject to changes in exchange rates.

As Gizmodo notes, sales like these don't happen overnight. It seems likely that Pebble sat on backer funding for months while working out this deal. While Kickstarter isn't pumping away at the same feverish pitch of a few years ago, Pebble was one of the site's highest-profile successes. It's possible this sale could erode trust in Kickstarter even more than the many troubled crowded-funded video games of years past.

This sale might not be much of a surprise to those who have been watching. Rumors have been flying about a Pebble buyout for some time, and market research firm IDC showed most smartwatch makers seeing a decline in sales since the initial rush. Even so, this is a disappointing move for a consumer-favorite company as its most fervent supporters are left almost empty-handed for their love and money.

Comments closed
    • Wonders
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]The sale is surely a good thing for the founders of Pebble and Fitbit[/quote<] I find this statement a bit misleading. Based on some further reading, I wouldn't be surprised if right now the founders of Pebble are contemplating pulling a [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bMDMFy0ir4<]Denholm Reynholm[/url<].

    • SNM
    • 3 years ago

    Other news reports are that the purchase price was basically just enough to wipe out debts and that Pebble turned down a larger purchase earlier this year (and a MUCH larger one from Citizen last year) — I’d speculate Pebble was betting on a lot more Pebble 2 orders than they managed to turn out and everything collapsed.

      • Major-Failure
      • 3 years ago

      Wow. With that in mind, the guys at Pebble probably weren’t cashing out as much as pulling their neck out of the (debt) noose. Seems like they wanted to do right by their customers but didn’t have a choice in the end.

    • MrDweezil
    • 3 years ago

    The headline “Fitbit buys Pebble” is misleading.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Pebble dumps its customers for the warm embrace of Fitbit dollars

        • MrDweezil
        • 3 years ago

        Pebble goes out of business, Fitbit buys up a few pieces.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 3 years ago

          “Pebble sells out to the lowest bidder”, at least based on rumors of deals they walked away from.

            • Arvald
            • 3 years ago

            The due diligence on the transactions with larger offers would have likely failed and had the buyers walk away if the company was doing this poorly.

            • floodo1
            • 3 years ago

            Which would have soured transactions like this one so yeah they probably had no choice but to turn down the higher offers surprisingly enough!

            The way they are leaving customers in the lurch by ending warranty support is just gross though

            • Arvald
            • 3 years ago

            The one benefit is Fitbit has agreed to continue running the infrastructure for the near future.

            They could have done a lights out and done type of closure.

    • TwistedKestrel
    • 3 years ago

    RIP pretty much the only smartwatch that I liked

    • Neutronbeam
    • 3 years ago

    So Pebble owners are between a rock and a no place?

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      We really need a “best worst pun” contest one of these days.

        • Neutronbeam
        • 3 years ago

        Make it so Bruno! I think I just came in #2 for the PSU, so I’m gunnin’ for a win!

          • morphine
          • 3 years ago

          The thing is… you see, it’s good that staff is automatically excluded from competitions.

          Because we sometimes make such horrible puns in the articles that given a level playing field, it’d be a clean sweep for the writers and editors. 😀

          Wait, I don’t think I should be proud of that…

            • Neutronbeam
            • 3 years ago

            You SHOULDN’T be proud of that…I will attempt to suggest a suitable…punishment.

            [Well, I’M laughing…]

            • K-L-Waster
            • 3 years ago

            Having to read all the comments would be a good start… 🙂

        • drfish
        • 3 years ago

        I was going to make a joke about Pebble, “skipping out” on their customers, but I’ve never skipped a pepple, only rocks.

      • Kevsteele
      • 3 years ago

      As a Pebble Round owner, this news rocked my world. I had just taken for granite that they’d be around forever. I can’t even put it up for shale…

        • Neutronbeam
        • 3 years ago

        Nice! Were you stoned when you wrote that? I appreciate your honest comments, but you could have been boulder.

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