On May 26, Pebble launched yet another crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter for its latest smartwatch line-up and the Core, a cellular running module. A week later, Pebble announced that Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant will be coming to the Core.
Although CoWatch, another smartwatch startup currently fundraising on crowdsourcing website IndieGoGo has also announced compatibility, Pebble will likely become the first wearable company to ship a wearable with Alexa.
Pebble was one of the first, if not the first smartwatch to hit the market, and sold well, particularly for the size of the company. It has shipped 1.8 million units to date, more than some smartwatches built by smartphone OEMs. However, with the new iterations and evolution of smartwatches from the bigger OEMs, the kinks are being ironed out and Pebble’s simplistic design and limited functionality is starting to make Pebble slowly fall out of relevancy. Google is improving its Android Wear platform, which so far has been Google Now on your wrist to a standalone OS. Apple is also following a similar path to decouple the iPhone from the Apple Watch, requiring all new Watch app submissions to be native.
As smartwatches are tried and tested in the real world, the limitations of the Pebble are becoming evident. The small screen makes it difficult to interact with the device and the tiny controls make it hard to hit the appropriate screen space, especially compared to a smartphones. Smartwatches will need to find features that are device agnostic that will not be affected by the smaller size. In addition, they will need to ensure that they work flawlessly in order to have an attempt at selling the feature that will ultimately make potential consumers interested. A voice assistant is the latest trend for OEMs to try and implement on smartwatches. As long as the watch is connected, it does not matter whether the device is the size of Amazon’s Echo or the size of a smartwatch, it will do the same job.
This move also demonstrates Amazon’s greater ambitions. It does not simply want to be in your house, but with you wherever you go. By putting its software on other people’s hardware Amazon is looking to become a viable wearable option, before Apple, Google, and Samsung gain too much ground. Amazon’s collaboration with Pebble is a great stride, partnering with the leading smartwatch startup that has managed to remain impartial to date, supporting both Android smartphones and iPhones. Although the functionality is currently limited, as Alexa’s abilities improve, so will the devices that run it.