Smartwatch Vendor Pebble Lays Off 25 Percent of Its Staff

The company confirms that 40 workers will lose their jobs as Pebble refocuses on the health and fitness features of its products.

Pebble, smartwatches, Pebble Time Round, Pebble Time Steel, Apple Watch, layoffs, fitness apps, health apps

Smartwatch vendor Pebble is laying off about 25 percent of its workforce, or about 40 people, as it apparently refocuses its business on the health and fitness capabilities of its products.

The layoffs at Pebble were revealed in a March 23 article on Tech Insider and confirmed by eWEEK in a telephone conversation with a Pebble spokesperson.

Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky talked about the company's layoffs in an interview with Tech Insider, and said the job action came despite the company being able to raise $26 million over the last eight months. That money was in addition to $20 million it raised in a Kickstarter campaign that began in February 2015.

"Migicovsky blamed a chilly fundraising environment in Silicon Valley for the layoffs," the story reported. "We've definitely been careful this year as we plan our products," Migicovsky told the Website. "We got this money, but money [among VCs in Silicon Valley] is pretty tight these days."

The Pebble spokesperson declined further comment when eWEEK asked about the situation.

In the near future, Pebble will now "focus on the health and fitness aspects of the company's wearables," Migicovsky told Tech Insider. Sales of the company's products will begin in India in April through a partnership with Amazon, the article said.

The CEO said his company is in the marketplace "for the long haul" and will continue to produce and sell its products.

The smartwatch market is crowded with competitors, including the Apple Watch and devices from Samsung, Huawei, Motorola, TAG Heuer and others. Apple just cut the starting price of Apple Watch by $50, to $299, in what could be a sign of a tough sales environment.

A Juniper Research report in January said Apple Watches captured 52 percent of the global smartwatch market in 2015, even though the first ones didn't go on sale until last April, according to a recent eWEEK story.

Pebble offers a full line of smartwatch models. The latest Pebble Time Round smartwatch (pictured) went on sale in November for $249 as the company's first round fashion smartwatch, following a string of four popular rectangular models over the last several years. The watch includes a 14mm or 20mm wide band and comes in silver or black finishes, along with a wide range of leather band colors and styles. A special-edition rose-gold finish is available only with a 14mm band.

The Pebble Time Round features a battery life of up to two days, 15-minute quick charging that provides one day's use, splash resistance, an always-on color display, a built-in microphone for replying to messages, a marine-grade stainless-steel chassis and bezel, and tactile buttons for easier control of its functions. The watch face is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass for scratch resistance.

Also in October, Pebble added new health- and fitness- tracking capabilities to its original Pebble smartwatch and dropped its price to $99 from $150 previously, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The upgrades include new non-stop activity tracking and sleep monitoring.

In early August, Pebble unveiled its Pebble Time Steel model, which features a stainless steel body that's available in three colors, starting at $249.99.

The Pebble Time Steel is a variant of the company's Pebble Time smartwatch that was unveiled in June 2015, which includes a stainless-steel bezel and a non-metal body. The Pebble Time Steel is available with a 22mm-wide Italian leather watchband for $249.99 or with a stainless steel band for $299.98.

In February, Pebble's latest Pebble Time smartphone Android and iOS app versions added a host of updates and improvements for controlling functions on Pebble smartwatches, giving users more options for messaging, health tracking and more.

The Pebble Health tracking app debuted in December as the first native app for health tracking information for wearers. In the past, Pebble smartwatch owners had to use their devices with third-party health tracking apps to keep abreast of their calories burned, distance covered and more. The app is available for the Pebble Time, the Time Steel and the Time Round smartwatches.

Pebble Health is a fully native activity tracking app that integrates with the timeline feature in the company's watches. The app and its capabilities were developed in collaboration with researchers at Stanford University to track a user's daily activity and automatically detect their sleep phases. The app gives users information about how much sleep time they receive, as well as a report at the end of the day about how many steps they took.