The Pebble smartwatch is exactly why I never use Kickstarter myself

I write a lot about Kickstarter projects, but I never actually back any projects myself anymore. Aside from some pesky project creators finding it appropriate to use the site’s contact email to ask me to personally back their projects, I simply can’t do the whole crowdfunding thing. I’m not a millionaire, or by any means rich, so if I pay for a product, I want the product, when the project is said to ship.

No project on Kickstarter actually comes with a guarantee of success. You’re backing a project, and the reward is being promised to you if the project succeed. Delays are to be expected, and if it all hits the fan, you’re not really entitled to anything. Kickstarter is trying to get this information out to people who think it’s essentially a store, but with limited luck.

The problem I have with Kickstarter is that project creators are eager to point to release dates and plans when they list a project, but quickly turn to the “stuff happens” excuse once they’re funded. Take the Pebble smartwatch. It set records on Kickstarter when it brought in over $10 million, and people were very excited to get their smartwatch in September, as was listed. It’s now late November, and the Pebble isn’t anywhere close to shipping yet. With the production capabilities listed, it will also take a couple of months just to fulfill Kickstarter “orders,” putting the shipment date for other orders way into next year. The comments on the project page seem to be split between people who can take the wait, and people who are pissed off. Legally speaking, the second group has no say, but morally speaking? I don’t know.

I considered the Pebble when it was first announced, but figured I’d get one when it came out in September. I’m glad I didn’t pledge, because I would now have been $115 out of pocket with nothing that resembles a watch on my wrist.  While people have been waiting for the Pebble, a competitor has launched (through Kickstarter), funded, and shipped the Metawatch Strata, which now ironically has features the Pebble doesn’t. All the valid reasons for Pebble’s delay doesn’t change the fact that those that didn’t pledge for the Pebble can now simply go buy something else.

Crowdfunding does a lot of good, but it’s not for everyone. I might even go as far as stating it’s not for most people, as I think the majority of backers are expecting a product at the end of the process. I think that there’s still a long way to go before the rules of crowdfunding are understood by everyone, and I think that once they are, there will be a lot more people like me, who like the idea, but aren’t interested in making that sort of commitment themselves. I think that right now, there are a lot of projects that only got funded because people don’t know what they’re actually paying for, and that’s not right.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

7 thoughts on “The Pebble smartwatch is exactly why I never use Kickstarter myself

  • November 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I think they would have easily been able to meet their timeline goal, had the project not taken off like it did. They definitely weren’t expecting to sell 85,000 watches, and at that volume things become a lot more difficult to deal with.

    If you’ve only sold a thousand or so units, small defects aren’t the end of the world, as they can be worked out in your next production runs. But when you’re on the hook for 85,000 units, you’d better be sure you’ve crossed all your T’s and dotted your I’s. The logistics of producing 10-100 times your original estimates cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the Pebble is made by an existing company, with a reputation on the line. They don’t want to take your money, provide a sub-par product, and run. A delay is much more digestible than a poor finished product.

    I bought one just before they capped it, fully expecting to be waiting until Christmas. I’ll happily wait. Knowing that so many people have bought one and will be contributing to the developer community is a huge bonus, and you don’t get that on launch day with any other company (Google & Apple excluded). There was competition before it was put on Kickstarter (Sony, & others) and there will be competition in the next few years, but right now we do have a pretty good idea that this particular watch won’t just be a flash in the pan.

  • November 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I think my Hand Stylus from kickstarter was late 1 1/2 months late.
    But it is as promised, and a good product. Glad I backed the project.
    I understood it could be late, or not delvered at all. And that is the risk of backing a project.
    People are not always as smart as they should be. To back a technology product that could be irrelevant by the time it is released is not a risk, it is short sighted.
    Kickstarter is exactly what it says it is and an excellent platform.
    That being said, I have not backed another project yet.

  • November 27, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    The Strata costs 50% more than the Kickstarter price, doesn’t let you change the band, and “all the apps live on the phone and not on the watch”. Functions like the clock are widgets powered by the phone. Is it even capable of telling time if the phone isn’t connected? For that matter, on its spec page: “Alarms (coming soon)”. Really? It’s a friggin’ watch!

    And what’s even more hilarious is that while you’re praising the Strata, you failed to note that they, too, promised shipping for September. This was for a quantity of backers that was 1.5% of the total orders for the Pebble. But at least they met that ship date; good for them! …Oh, wait? They didn’t? Huh, looks like they didn’t make the September ship date. Turns out, folks didn’t start receiving their watches until about a week ago. First delay was because of the iOS update, then manufacturing holidays, then FCC approval issues, then customs issues.

    And the app you need to install to communicate with the MetaWatch and do all those fancy things (except for being able to set an alarm)? It didn’t even come out until today. Oh, and right now it only supports caller ID, SMS, calendar notifiications, and time and calendar widgets. Oh, but if you were one of the lucky folks who got their hands on a Nexus 4, the MetaWatch doesn’t work with it because of bug they’re trying to fix. No word on when that’ll be taken care of.

    This is all the more hilarious when you find out that MetaWatch is a spin-off of a Texas Instruments developer unit. Yes, THAT Texas Instruments. So if a multinational Fortune 500 electronics corporation can’t get all its ducks in a row for a tiny batch of product, it’s a little bit unfair to slam Pebble for having the same sort of problems when they’re dealing with an order size nearly 2 orders of magnitude greater.

    And for the record, the pledgers who ponied up for Pebble developer units will be getting theirs in a few weeks from watches picked out from the verification batch.

    • November 28, 2012 at 7:33 am

      Calm. Down. Breathe. Count to 10.

      I don’t think he was “praising” the Strat at all. I think you had too much coffee today.

      • November 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm

        You’re right. In contrast to the hand-wringing over Kickstarter and Pebble, it’s practically a glorification of the Strata.

  • November 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    The new Sony MW1 Bluetooth device shows SMS and now playing titles. This is almost exactly the device I need. Just want it to buzz if I walk away from my device, like the too expensive Zong.
    Still loving my MW600.
    Can’t wear a watch, so I passed on the smart watch products, that don’t play music. Besides, I don’t want the ear cables running up my arm anyway.
    While I like the apps idea, they could be on my phone too.
    Smart watch = redundant.


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