When Fitbit acquired indie smartwatch maker Pebble at the end of 2016, it was clear from the beginning that it would be the end of the line for Pebble devices. In fact, Fitibit didn't even acquire Pebble's hardware assets. A year later, Fitbit seems determined to let Pebble's fiercely loyal userbase down easy — and to convert as many of them as possible into users of the company's fledgling smartwatch platform, the Fitbit Ionic.
In a blog post yesterday, Fitbit announced that it would extend cloud support of existing Pebble devices another six months, through June of this year. After that, as previously announced, devices will still function but many of the features, including voice recognition, third-party apps, and developer tools, will not.
"Pebble users are passionate about their smartwatches," the company wrote in its developer blog. "With that in mind, Fitbit is extending its support of the Pebble smartwatch ecosystem for six more months, to June 30, 2018. During this time, we invite the Pebble community to explore how familiar highlights from the Pebble ecosystem are evolving on the Fitbit platform, from apps and clock faces to features and experiences. We're thrilled to see hundreds of former Pebble developers already building with the Fitbit SDK, and look forward to helping more Pebble devs flex their creativity on a wearables platform that can reach millions of Fitbit users worldwide."
Additionally, as an incentive for users to migrate over to Ionic, the company is offering a $50 discount to any Pebble user who still has a device with a valid serial number.
Fitbit recognizes that while discounts and extensions can build good will, the most surefire way to hang on to Pebble users, as well as attract new users, is to nurture a watch app ecosystem that rivals Pebble's (as well as that of the elephant in the room, Apple). We featured 11 health and fitness apps for the Ionic last month, but Fitbit and its third party developer community continue to work on more.
On the same day as the Pebble post, Fitbit announced the winners of its #Made4Fitbit App Challenge, a contest designed to promote more app development on the platform. Two of the three categories for the contest were "Health and Wellness" and "Sports and Fitness", and the grand prize winner was an app for high-intensity interval training.
Other winners included a hydration tracking app, a medication adherence app, a brain-training game on the watch, two advanced run tracking apps, and an app for swimmers. Another app let users take a picture of the bar code on their CVS card, and then use the watch screen at the store.