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Pebble Census 2020

Published April 29th, 2020 by Emily

After Pebble was acquired in 2016, the /r/Pebble still has 37.9k users and a decent number of posts each day. A lot of the posts are by former Pebble loyalists reviewing newer watches from other companies and noting the Pebble features the new watches lack. There are also a good number of users that specialize in buying old, broken Pebbles and fixing them up for resale.

I had some questions. How many of these Reddit users are still using Pebbles? Which smartwatch brands do former Pebble users switch to?

With the US Census on my mind, I created a Pebble Census and posted it in /r/Pebble. At the time of publishing, the census received 551 responses. I did my best to interpret the responses below.

I started with the basics...

It looks like a lot of Pebble users started with the Original Pebble. This Pebble was the first watch to be released, so many of these users have been with the company since the initial Kickstarter. The Pebble 2, Pebble 2 HR, and Pebble Time Round were the last Pebbles to be released, and make up the smaller slices of this pie.

Which Pebbles are most popular overall?

The results were more evenly split than I was expecting. The two smallest slices are the PTR and the Pebble Steel. Both of these watches were marketed toward different markets than the other models. The PTR was market toward those who wanted a tiny watch, and the PS and PTS were marketed toward those who wanted a higher-end watch.

The Original Pebble is still pretty popular, likely because 40% of the users owned that watch first and even after newer models were released it was still the cheapest Pebble for those who wanted to buy a second watch.

How many /r/Pebble users are still wearing Pebbles?

This question reveals some problems with how I received my responses. I posted in the /r/Pebble subreddit, so most of the people who answered are people with some enduring interest in Pebble. They are more likely than the average former Pebble owner to still be wearing their Pebble day-to-day. However, the responses to this question can still tell us information about the make-up of the subreddit itself.

More than a third of respondents are still wearing the Pebble they bought pre-2016, and another third have gone on to buy a new Pebble since the acquisition. A full quarter of the respondents have moved on from Pebble to buy a new smartwatch, and very few of them have returned to wearing a dumb watch or no watch.

What are the most popular watch brands for former Pebble users?

This is the question I had the most interest in. Nothing really compares to a Pebble, but many brands have replicated some features.

The most popular watch is the Apple Watch, a watch that is almost entirely inside the Apple ecosystem, has a touch screen, and is regarded as the industry-leader in the market. It is very different than any Pebble, however, given its incredible popularity in the world at large, I find it unsurprising that it ranked so high.

In my mind, people who answered that they now use an Apple Watch, a Samsung Watch, or a Huawei watch are the same category of people: they chose a popular smartwatch that worked well with their brand of smartphone. These watches all have touch screens and proprietary software that is made by a smartphone brand. Their features are also very similar. This category makes up 56 of the responses, or almost a third.

Next, I wanted to look at the number of users that moved on to fitness bands. I considered Garmin and Fitbit users who answered that their daily driver was in the "fitness band" category and also those who use a Xiaomi Mi Band. There were only eleven of these users, or a little over 6% of those who have moved on from Pebble.

I find it funny that even though Fitbit bought all of Pebble's engineers, they are unpopular with former Pebble users. Apparently you can buy a company, but not their customers. Only fourteen people total wear a Fitbit, or around 8%. They rank behind Apple and Samsung (unsurprisingly), Garmin (their closest competitor), but also Fossil and Amazfit.

Fossil made up a much larger portion of the responses than I was expecting. I have started seeing Fossil ads in the very recent past, and they seem to be marketed toward a high-end, on-the-go, trendy customer. Most of the Google Wear OS watches ranked relatively low, representing the fragmented market, but Fossil had the strongest showing by far in this category.

Amazfit is a more recent introduction onto the market and also garnered a lot of responses. When I first researched the brand several years ago the watches were receiving great reviews but the name and the website suggested to me it might be a cheap knock-off of the Apple Watch. Now they appear to have rebranded with a slick website and mentions of all the awards they've won, and released many more watch models. Regardless, they definitely aren't as well known as any of the brands I've mentioned above. I'm very interested to see how this brand progresses. Will they be bought by a major player or continue independently?

Which brands are the winners and losers?

In my entirely unscientific opinion, I believe that Amazfit and Garmin smartwatches are more popular with former Pebble users than the general public.

I did a quick Google search, and I found that Fitbit is ordinarily more popular with the general public than Garmin. My survey I found that Garmin was much more popular with former Pebble users. I think that Pebble users are less likely to buy Fitbit watches after the company bought Pebble and did not continue to support Pebble watches. This could also not be related to a grudge and instead related to the features of Fitbit and Garmin's smartwatch offerings, but I haven't done much research into that area.

Apple, Samsung, and Huawei, and the Google Wear OS watches are about as evenly distributed as I expected, however I believe that they make up a smaller share with Pebble users than they otherwise would. My best guess is because Pebble users do not favor touchscreens as much as other smartwatch users. This is from anecdotal comments that I will hopefully have time to sort through and create a follow up post about.

What features are most important to Pebble users?

I asked users to rank how important each feature was to them. It is clear that battery life and notifications are the most important things. The buttons and the price are important to users, but not as much as the first two features. Users seemed indifferent to the size of the watch and didn't think the fitness aspect was important at all. The touch screen issue was split evenly between users, with some people really liking that there wasn't a touch screen and some users not caring.

Most respondents provided detailed comments that I do not currently have time to go through speaking specifically to what features Pebble has that users cannot find in other watches. The data is attached, please feel free to go through it and find information that I did not uncover.

Raw Data can be found here.