Pebble smartwatch users fear ‘Fitbit takeover’

Fitbit Blaze

Users of smartwatch pioneer Pebble have expressed concern about reports it is a takeover target for Fitbit.

According to several reports, the fitness tracking company is offering about $40m (£31m) and the deal could see the Pebble brand disappear.

Analysts said that although Pebble has a “dedicated and loyal fanbase”, its financial difficulties have left it vulnerable to a takeover.

The BBC has not been able to independently verify the reports.

However, it has been widely reported by news sites including The Information,Techcrunch,Verge and Venturebeat.

Pebble was one of the first to enter the smartwatch market, breaking records on crowdfunding site Kickstarter during three successful funding rounds.

Pebble watchesImage copyrightPEBBLE
Image captionPebble raised $12.8m earlier this year for its Pebble 2 devices

Juan Espinosa, who owns three Pebble devices, told the BBC: “Pebble was a start-up company that was made by the users and for the users.

“It was open in the sense that you could tweak the system basically in whichever way you wanted. You could create your own faces and apps unlike the others.”

Mr Espinosa said he would switch to an Apple Watch if Fitbit acquired Pebble, because “that is the most complete smartwatch”.

“All the others are either running Android, which I’m not a fan of, or are not actually smartwatches but fitness devices,” he added.

Users also took to Reddit and Twitter to lament the possible changes for Pebble.

One said: “What a stupid thing to do… There’s no other watch like the Pebble. I loved the openness of the developer community, how it was so easy to develop apps and watchfaces.

“Only to be crushed in an instant by some big company who doesn’t want competition. So pathetic.”

But Chris Anderson, another user and the chief executive of robotics firm 3DR, tweeted: “The Pebble team should be really proud of what they accomplished. I love my watch and am delighted they’ve found a good home at Fitbit.”

‘No surprise’

Fitbit launched the Blaze smartwatch range earlier this year, but is still best known for its fitness devices.

George Jijiashvili, an analyst at CCS Insight, said: “Even though it’s quite a small, niche company, Pebble has a very loyal and dedicated fanbase.”

Fitbit yoga workoutImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

But he was “not surprised” at the news of the Fitbit talks, because slowing smartwatch sales and Pebble making staff cuts earlier this year marked it out as a takeover target.

A year ago, Pebble and Fitbit would “definitely not” have been a well-suited pairing, Mr Jijiashvili said.

But since then Pebble has been moving more towards fitness.

“A smartwatch has not become an essential device that people need,” he said. “One feature that has really stuck is the fitness aspect.”

The Apple Watch has also increased its focus on fitness through a tie-up with Nike, announced earlier this year.

Fitbit shares rose 2% on Thursday, suggesting cautious approval from investors for a Pebble deal.

Its shares are down 71% so far this year, though, after investor concerns about the Blaze and an underwhelming reaction to its third quarter results.