You could argue that Pebble is responsible for starting the smartwatch craze back in 2012.
Its first smartwatch was the most-funded Kickstarter project of all time until the Coolest Cooler surpassed it in 2014. Its newest smartwatch, the Pebble Time, also skyrocketed on Kickstarter, and is now the website’s most funded campaign ever.
Since Pebble’s first watch generated buzz about three years ago, companies like Samsung, Motorola, Google, and now Apple have been making smartwatches a priority, too.
And that puts Pebble in an interesting position with Apple.
Its product is considered a direct competitor to the Apple Watch, but it’s also a Bluetooth accessory for the iPhone, which means Pebble has to work with Apple while competing against it.
Recent reports even suggested that Apple’s App Store started blocking updates to apps that mention compatibility with Pebble in their description just after the Apple Watch launched.
“There’s no specific rule book or something,” Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “I think they’re definitely not going out of their way to make it super easy for us.”
Migicovsky’s Pebble competes with Google’s Android Wear smartwatches in the same way, but there’s a big difference between working with Apple versus Google. Since Android is inherently more open, it’s easier to add new features for Pebble on Android than iOS.
“I think it would be wonderful if Apple could take more of a proactive and more of a supporting role, a little bit more like what Android has been doing,” he said.
Android, for example, gives Pebbles developers a level of access that makes it possible for them to build a feature that lets Android Pebble users send dictated voice responses to messages from the watch.
“I think Apple [doesn’t have] much tradition of being open or accessible,” he said. “That plays itself out with smartwatches as well.”
Despite Pebble’s success, Migicovsky is realistic about the formidable competition Apple brings to the space.
“Apple will sell more than Pebble and Android combined, and I don’t think anyone is going to beat around the bush and not tell you a pretty straightforward answer on that,” he said.
Apple is estimated to have sold nearly one million Apple Watches in the first day of preorders alone, according to data from Slice Intelligence. Last year, 720,000 Android Wear watches were sold, which includes ones made by LG, Samsung, Motorola, and Google’s other partners, according to Canalys. Pebble shipped one million watches in 2013 through the end of 2014.
What Pebble has going for it, though, is a giant community of followers and developers that love making customised watch faces and apps for its products. This is probably part of the reason Pebble is always so massively successful on Kickstarter. (For context, there are about 7,000 apps and watch faces that work with Pebble watches, while there are about 3,000 apps for the Apple Watch).
“People can vote with their dollars now, and choose what they want to support,” he said.