I love my original generation Pebble, and have kept an eye on the company and their subsequent watches. I even toyed with backing the Pebble Time, but after seeing how fast prices plummeted, I’m glad I didn’t. Understandably, many who did back the Time and Time Steel are a bit surprised by how fast prices have dropped!
Pebble Time, the color followup to the original Pebble, was released with an MSRP of $199.99 (Kickstarter backers were able to get a slight discount of $159-$179 depending on when they backed it). Pebble also subsequently crowdfunded the Pebble Time Steel, which debuted at $299 retail (and could be backed for $249). The campaigns closed in the spring and watches shipped in late spring to mid-summer of this year. Less than six months later, the Pebble Time can be found for only $129.99 at most retailers and on Pebble’s own site, while the Time Steel is down to $199.99. Their newest watch, the Pebble Time Round, has an MSRP of $249 but is currently being sold at Best Buy for only $199. Basically, if you want a Pebble but don’t want to pay full price, just wait a few months and you’re bound to find it a lot cheaper.
On the one hand, this is a normal part of technology, plus some of the pricing (like at Best Buy) is out of Pebble’s control. Still, for a new, hyped device to have several significant price drops even before the holiday shopping season indicates there may be a pricing issue at work here. Pebble wants to charge a premium for their watches, but those premiums put their watches directly against Android Wear, and retailers and shoppers are indicating that’s far too high. Best Buy is discounting Pebble Time and Pebble Time Rounds because they want to sell them, and they’re clearly thinking the $199/$129 is more attractive than $249/$199. At $249, you’re getting into Moto 360 territory, and at $149-$199, you’re up against last-gen Android Wear like the Sony Smartwatch 3 as well as newer offerings like the Asus Zen Watch 2. The lower price points put Pebble below their closest competition, and make them far more attractive and competitive to price-sensitive shoppers.
The biggest problem here is why Pebble is starting their pricing off so high. They may just want to max out what they can from early adopters, which is a common pricing practice, or they may need to charge more first in order to have enough cash to keep momentum going, which is a bad sign. There was a lot of grumbling and anger when Pebble announced the Pebble Time Round less than four months after the Time Steel started shipping, and Pebble tried to assuage that with a deal for $50 off the Time Round. Best Buy has since taken that same $50 off the Time Round for any buyer, and while that’s outside of Pebble’s control it still drives home the main pricing problem here, which appears to be not buying a Pebble when they first debut; after all, waiting even a few weeks can net a 20-30% savings!
Were you a backer who felt betrayed by the quick price drops, or have you been taking advantage of them to score cheaper Pebble Times? Let us know in the comments!