Owners of the popular Pebble smartwatch were dismayed to find out on Wednesday that the company has essentially folded, with several of their assets being sold to direct competitor Fitbit.
The news comes only a few months after the Pebble 2 was successfully Kickstarted, making over $12 million for the company to make the products. Backers have now been told that if they haven’t received their device already, they just won’t be getting it. They will be able to get refunds, but they may have to wait till March 2017. That’s almost a whole year after they put their money into the project in the first place.
What’s even worse for current Pebble owners is that all warranties on any Pebble product is now invalid. Fitbit have confirmed that they won’t be honouring any warranties as part of their takeover, so you may be out of luck. If you’ve just bought a Pebble (and with Christmas coming, people may well be buying them as gifts), that’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow. You may be able to get a refund or store credit if you bought through a third party such as Amazon, but that’s about it.
Many tech fans have expressed their dismay about the takeover of Pebble. The plucky smartwatch was one of the frontrunners of the wearable tech scene, and unlike many smartwatches was made by an independent company. They were initially funded entirely by Kickstarter backers, giving Pebble more freedom to create the smartwatch that they wanted to see.
This meant that the Pebble was unlike any other smartwatch we’ve seen since. It had an impressive battery life, with some models running for ten days on a single charge. It didn’t have the processing power of later models by Apple and Google, but it offered features that no other company did. There was a real hobbyist feel behind the Pebble watch, so it’s understandable why so many tech lovers are disappointed about how that story ended.
No one expected to see Pebble fail, and it goes to show that Kickstarter can be an amazing place to get funding, but it can bite back. Any project, no matter how it’s funded, needs to be handled properly or it can still fail. No amount of money can fix poor management.
This does mean that trust in crowdfunding projects will now take a dip. After all, if one of the most successful crowdfunding stories can tank, why should you put your money in anything else? Kickstarter has got measures in place to help you claim money back if things go wrong, but it’s not a lot of comfort to many would be backers.