From Kickstarter to retail: Pebble smartwatch comes to Best Buy

Although the Pebble smartwatch was the most successful Kickstarter project ever, raising $10.2 million, many mainstream consumers haven’t heard of it. That’s about to change thanks to an exclusive deal to put the Pebble on Best Buy(s bby) retail shelves. The wireless wearable in a Jet Black color can be had now for $149.99 at Best Buy’s online store and in Best Buy locations starting July 7.


If you’re not familiar with Pebble, it’s a smartwatch that works with iPhones(s aapl) and select Android(s goog) devices, wirelessly connecting to them via Bluetooth. Once paired with your phone, Pebble receives text messages, emails, Facebook(s fb) status updates and incoming calls so you can decide to respond or take action on your phone.
The watch has a built-in backlight and also functions as a remote control for music and other media playing on the phone. You can customize the watch face with dozens of choices. Third-party apps are also available for the watch, allowing you to track your exercise or use the watch as a GPS caddy on the golf course.
RunKeeper on Pebble
Using a low-powered, black-and-white e-paper display, the Pebble is easy to read in sunlight and lasts for up to a week on a single charge. And unlike various smartwatches in the past, Pebble doesn’t look too clunky. It measures in at 1.3 inches wide and 0.4 inches thick. The Jet Black color is just a starting point for the Best Buy partnership: In August, the Pebble will hit Best Buy in a Cherry Red color.
Is Pebble a smartphone for the masses then? The Best Buy deal is a solid step in the right direction and a key success as very few Kickstarter projects continue on from self-sales to full-blown retail offerings. Supporting both iOS and Android certainly helps as these platforms account for around 90 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, giving the Pebble a wide audience.
It also helps that Pebble has functionality right out of the box. Aside from pairing the device with your smartphone, there’s little that’s needed to immediately see the benefits of a smartwatch. Generally, the Pebble is a second screen for your smartphone but the ability to add third-party apps offers the promise of additional functionality. Even without extra apps, I’ve seen the immediate benefit of having that second screen on my wrist: Testing prior smartwatches I found that I spent less time pulling out the smartphone unnecessarily.
I anticipate that both Google and Apple are getting ready to enter this market however, and that could potentially blunt Pebble’s retail efforts. Apple has a history of product successes so a rumored iWatch — a trademark Apple has applied for in various countries — might quickly gain momentum. And Google inherited a solid smartwatch, the MotoACTV, when it bought Motorola in 2011. A few tweaks to that watch could bring another solid contender to the growing smartwatch market.
Still, neither Apple nor Google are in the market now and Pebble is. Striking a retail deal with Best Buy is a huge accomplishment and speaks volumes to the smarts of Pebble’s founders as well as the company’s watch.