Pebble: Requiem for a dream

Pebble Time 2, Pebble Core, and Pebble Time Round watches will never ship.

One of the latest and greatest market disruptions didn’t come from Apple, Tesla or Amazon. It came from a company you had never heard about, and it also showed that a good idea could also be the start of a revolution even if you had not the resources to make it a reality.

hype

Pebble started the smartwatch era, and it made everyone dream of the next step in the wearable and mobile devices. As with any other of the trends in the Hype Cycle (made famous by Gartner) the peak of inflated expectations led to the trough of disillusionment. Pebble, though, has not find an exit from that trough.

Others in the smartwatch market are trying to enter the next step of that cycle and enter the phase of ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ to end finally in that dreamed ‘Plateau of Productivity’. Apple is apparently doing fine with its Apple Watch, but interest in those devices and the ones based in Android Wear isn’t growing.

But whereas Apple and Google partners can survive —smarwatches were just a little part of their businesses—, Pebble can’t. It’s only mission was to make the smartwatch succeed. In fact, it was more than a mission. It was a dream. Their dream.

Seeing a smart, brave dream like this fail is a tragedy. But the market is right: smartwatches are just glorified smartphone accesories. At least for now.

Hopefully they will become something else in the future, but Pebble won’t be part of that future. If someone at the company reads this, I’d like to say: thanks for the ride.

Related (coincidentally, Fitbit bought Pebble assets): Smartwatches didn’t kill the Fitbit

What if HTC and Xiaomi merged?

HTC’s revenue has dropped 55% year-on-year accoding to its latest financial results. The company situation is worrisome, and its smartphone business has been unable to reverse that fact. Every single model released in the last few years hasn’t had the warm welcome other HTC devices had in the previous years.

But HTC is far from dead. The HTC Vive seems to prove that, and it’s clear that virtual reality –and wearables– is now a possible last resort now that their phones are fighting with irrelevance and, above all, with the ones from Apple, Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei.

Xiaomi is doing quite well, though: it’s soaring in wearables and the recent launch of Xiaomi Mi 5 marks an interesting milestone that will allow them to compete in the high end (with almost mainstream prices).

HTC’s smartphone business isn’t working, and Xiaomi smartphone business is limited by its international expansion, something that HTC could provide.

What would happen if these two companies merged? Current HTC market cap is $81.94B, while Xiaomi has a market valuation of $45B. One could benefit from the other: HTC would be able to take advantage of Xiaomi’s strengths and ditch its own smartphones (or combine them with the best from its partner), while Xiaomi would be able to expand globally faster.

Is this nonsense?

Where is the future of wearables and smartwatches? 

 

This week we’ve been able to see a lot of new products and projects at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona. The smartphone is showing its age and the evolution of the latest high-end devices has not been demonstrated on the devices themselves, but on the accesories we can use with them.

Virtual Reality has been the star of the show, but these accesories must prove that they really can work out for users. Last year smartwatches and wearables were clearly getting a lot of headlines, but not this year: this year the MWC hasn’t payed attention to them.

The latest numbers from IDC show how the market for this devices has grown: every company involved has shown double digit growths -Xiaomi multiplied its unit shipments by 12x- and Apple has become the greatest smartwatch vendor out there currently. There’s another confirmation in these numbers: the smartwatch isn’t killing the activity trackers. Far from it.

So if the growth has been so nice, what has happened at the MWC? Why not showing them some love? The reason is clear: there’s currently little room for innovation in current models, but that could change in the next coming months.

First, with the launch of new versions of watchOS and Android Wear before summer. And second, with the arrival of the eSIM, the technology that will transform the smartwatch into an autonomous, independent device that no longer has to rely on the smartphone.

We’re getting there, and I suspect MWC17 will give us a lot of reasons to talk about smartwatches again.

Smartwatches didn’t kill the Fitbit

Lauren Goode on The Verge:

NPD estimates that nearly 33 million fitness trackers were out there in the wild by the end of the fourth quarter of 2015 (though, not necessarily being worn —see earlier point), compared with 13 million smartwatches. And Fitbit still holds a whopping share of the activity tracking market, accounting for 79 percent of sales.

I made the same mistake twice. I thought tablets would kill the e-reader -wrong- and I thought that smartwatches would kill the fitbit and other similar wearables.

On that early thoughts, I assumed that e-readers didn’t deliver anything special to the reading experience. They did, of course: easier on the eyes, free-distraction reading and an everlasting battery were arguments too important to dismiss.

The same has happened with wearables: they have become something nice to wear on, they provide simplicity and don’t overcomplicate the product, and again, they’ve got near everlasting batteries -at least, compared to smartwatches-.

Hopefully I won’t make the same mistake again. A device that does something but also a lot of other things isn’t necessarily better. In fact, most of the times the experience is worse when you were just looking for that something in the first place.