|Pebble Smartwatch Goes Mainstream|
|By JOANNA STERN (@joannastern)||Jul 2, 2013, 9:20 AM|
When Pebble launched its smartwatch on Kickstarter last year, the company quickly had a hunch that its wrist gadget had widespread appeal. The watch became one of the most popular Kickstarter projects ever, receiving more than 85,000 orders and more than $10 million from people who wanted to back the company.
But the company and its watch, which provides notifications on your wrist when paired with a iPhone or Android phone, has proven that it has even more mainstream appeal. It will be available at Best Buy stores, starting July 7.
The watch, which began shipping in January to its Kickstarter backers for $99, will cost $149.99 and will be available at all Best Buy stores and on bestbuy.com. The watch's e-paper display makes it visible in sunlight and pairs with a phone to show you text messages, email and incoming calls right from your wrist.
The company, which now has 25 employees, up from nine when ABC News visited it a year ago at its Palo Alto office, says the deal is to help address demand for the product. It has already shipped 100,000 of the watches.
"It's been so rewarding to see and share the great things our early backers and development partners have done with Pebble already," CEO Eric Migicovsky said in a statement. "Their work and our evolving app ecosystem has kept demand very high. Best Buy's partnership with us is a big step towards meeting that demand."
And that demand and its arrival at a big box consumer electronics retailer might be exactly what Apple, Google and others rumored to join the smartwatch market see. After months of rumors that it would make a watch that pairs with the iPhone, this week Apple registered for a trademark on the "iWatch" term. Samsung and Google have also been said to enter the space. Sony, which has already made a smartwatch, announced its latest version last week.
Still, analysts believe that the smartwatch has a few obstacles to overcome until the category can appeal to everyone from women to men to teens to adults.
"Wearing devices like the Pebble will be reserved for the early adopter until one of three conditions are met," Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told ABC News. "Watches that serve a specific, pragmatic purpose -- like a sports or health watch -- could gain mass market appeal. Smartwatches could also gain mass appeal if a celebrity makes it 'cool' or 'hip' to wear one, turning it into high-tech jewelry. Finally, miniaturizing or concealing the smartwatch would be a big step in popularizing the devices."
Until those other companies can solve some of the issues, the Pebble might just continue to be the smartest pick. It is available in black online starting today and in stores July 7. The red version will come in August and the orange, gray and white will remain exclusives on Pebble's own website.