Home Take A Look Inside At What Makes Pebble Tick

Take A Look Inside At What Makes Pebble Tick

Google does not yet have a smartwatch on the market. Nor does Apple. But for more than a year, smartwatch darling Pebble has been shipping wrist-based gadgets to eager consumers ready to take the next step in evolutionary computing. To date, it’s put more than 400,000 devices on wrists.

To see what makes Pebble tick (and tock) in preparation of my upcoming interview with Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky, I decided to pay a visit to the Palo Alto headquarters of the fledgling smartwatch maker.

It’s an unprepossessing office on a leafy street, blocks away from the Caltrain commuter rail station—and from Migicovsky’s home—making for a short commute. The first thing you see when you walk into Pebble is a display of T-shirts and other giveaways. The company also sees the occasional walk-in sale of its smartwatches (a good way to beat some of Pebble’s shipping delays). Yet there isn’t a proper storefront. Instead, a Pebble employee swipes their card on a Square reader at the front desk.

Pebble headquarters has a small area for retail sales. T-shirts and other logo wear are free, and the company sells Pebble smartwatches with a Square card reader.

Most of Pebble’s 70 employees work in the Palo Alto office, though there are some employees still in Canada, where Pebble got its start, and scattered elsewhere around the world. Migicovsky recruited one developer from Wroclaw, Poland, whose watch face had been downloaded 68,000 times.

Business development and finance have their own area in Pebble headquarters.

The concrete-walled building is open and filled with light. Some engineers use an Ikea Löva canopy to shade their monitors.

Some Pebble engineers use an Ikea Löva canopy to shade their monitors.

As I poked around corners of the office, I rapidly saw signs that this was a different kind of startup from the typical app developer shop. There are less hardware makers in Silicon Valley then there used to be. Circuit boards and electronic-testing equipment are scattered in corners throughout the office, as well as an area for handling returns and repairs.

What’s impressive is how much Pebble has done with a handful of employees. While Apple and Google have created a lot of buzz about their plans for wearable devices, Pebble has actually been building and shipping wearable devices.

That is no accident. Pebble has been at this for a while. Before the first Pebble smartwatch, there was the Allerta InPulse, an early notification watch that worked with BlackBerry and some Android smartphones. A conference room still has an old InPulse poster, and there are stacks of boxes of the older devices that serve for a bit of nostalgia.

The Allerta InPulse was the first smartwatch from the team behind Pebble.

Designing The Wearable Future

At Pebble, there is as much emphasis on the future as there is on the past. In a near-hidden room that’s easy to mistake for a storage closet, Pebble has a design lab, with dozens of watches on display full of boards of design inspiration, from the anatomy of the forearm and wrist to studies of why consumers want smartwatches.

Pebble considers the anatomy of the forearm and wrist in designing smartwatches.

You won’t see this kind of equipment at a typical mobile-app shop.

Fitness apps are a major interest for smartwatch buyers.

Pebble’s leader Migicovsky works at a standing desk near the center of the largest room in the office. From that perch, he lends the place a sense of steadiness and calm, under a sign that declares the office a “no-bullshit zone.”

Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky works at a standing desk.

Crunch Time For Pebble

There’s no time for bullshit in Pebble’s business. Despite the Pebble’s early lead, it’s clear that the giants of the smartphone business don’t intend to be left behind by the coming wave of wearable devices. Pebble doesn’t have a color display or a touchscreen interface, like some upcoming devices. But it’s not clear whether it needs those bells and whistles.

More components than a RadioShack.

Pebble’s advantage is simplicity and focus. The smartwatch does a few simple things well, especially notifications that let you leave your smartphone in your pocket. For the rest of Pebble’s features and functions, it depends on its growing ranks of independent developers, who create watchfaces and apps that users can load onto wrists. I’m a fan of the Foursquare app: I always feel rude taking my phone out to check in when I’m meeting someone. With the Pebble Foursquare app, I can check in with a few button taps.

What will the future hold for Pebble? I’m looking forward to hearing that from Migicovsky himself at ReadWriteMix.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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