Best Buy is backing yet another Kickstarter phenomenon, with the Pebble smartwatch heading to stores this weekend.
Pebble will arrive in stores on June 7 for $150--the same price as pre-orders from Pebble's website. Best Buy will also sell the watch online, but attempts to place an order online Tuesday morning resulted in an error message. The watch will be available in jet black only for now; a cherry red version is coming to Best Buy in August.
Pebble connects via Bluetooth with iPhones and Android phones, allowing it to show incoming messages, e-mails, caller ID and other alerts. Users can also download additional apps and watch faces for Pebble's 1.26-inch low-power LCD display. Instead of using touch controls, Pebble uses navigation buttons on the side of the device.
Jason Snell's Pebble review for TechHive praised the hardware and found lots of potential in the concept, but noted that the software still needed work. To Pebble's credit, the company has been delivering regular software updates, and has since added some of the features it originally promised, such as integration with the Runkeeper fitness app and two-way communication for third-party apps.
After announcing Pebble on Kickstarter in April 2011, the project racked up more than $10 million in pledges, making it the most-funded project of all time. The watch began shipping to Kickstarter backers in January, but general availability is still considered to be in the pre-order phase.
This is the second popular Kickstarter project that Best Buy has decided to put on its store shelves. The other project, the Ouya game console, launched in stores last week, even though some Kickstarter backers are still waiting for their units.
Pebble may run into similar complaints now that it's selling the smartwatch through Best Buy. Although the company said in an official forum post that Kickstarter orders for every color except Arctic White should have shipping notices by now, some non-backer pre-orders haven't been fulfilled yet. Pre-order customers who haven't paid yet can cancel their orders simply by ignoring Pebble's requests to finalize payment when their turn comes up in the pre-order queue, but customers whose orders are in processing or in transit will have to wait.
News of Pebble's Best Buy deal hasn't gone over well in Pebble's online forum. Some Kickstarter backers are still waiting for replacements of defective units, while some pre-order customers are simply upset that Best Buy shoppers get to jump the line. "I won't buy a Pebble, either through my pre-order or from [Best Buy]," one forum poster wrote. "I don't want to be in business with a company that treats its early backers like this."
Pebble hopes that backers will appreciate how their support allowed the product to exist in the first place. "This milestone is as big for us as it is for you: as retail customers discover Pebble, savor the fact that your support got us to this point in about a year's time," the company's forum post said.