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Wearable Tech

Say goodbye to these Pebble smartwatch features on June 30

Your watch will still work -- but new owner Fitbit is shutting down the servers.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Do you own and love a Pebble smartwatch? I do, and I've got some bittersweet news -- on June 30, a few of the most handy features will be phased out. 

In a blog post Wednesday, new owner Fitbit said these pieces of the Pebble experience are going away:

  • Voice recognition features
  • SMS and email replies
  • Timeline pins from third-party apps (Calendar pins will keep working)
  • Pebble appstore
  • Pebble forum
  • CloudPebble development tool

One of my favorite places to use my Pebble Time Steel is in the car, because I don't need to look at a screen to tap a couple buttons and speak a sentence like "Hey, love, I'm on my way home" to reply to my wife's texts. But without SMS replies and voice recognition, I won't be able to do that.

pebble-2-hr-20.jpg

A pair of Pebble smartwatches.

Sarah Tew/CNET

But honestly, it's remarkable how well Pebble watches will work even after June 30. They'll mostly still function as normal, their apps will still be able to access the internet and you'll be able to side-load apps from sources other than the official appstore -- all because Pebble put a contingency plan in place.

When Fitbit purchased the burned-out husk of Pebble for a paltry $23 million in December 2016, the writing was on the wall. Sooner or later, maintaining Pebble's fan-favorite smartwatches would cost the new owner more than they were worth in goodwill. But Fitbit and that burned-out husk were surprisingly generous, patching the Pebble watches so they would rely less on cloud services and promising to keep those services running through 2017

The new June 30 date is effectively 6 months of additional life for a platform that could have easily died a year ago, but for the love of its community.

Of course, Fitbit does have a slight ulterior motive. It would love Pebble owners to buy a Fitbit instead, and so it's also offering $50 off the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch for any Pebble owner. The "upgrade program" will begin this spring.