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It's all in the wrist: E-ink smartwatch Pebble bags $2m

Upstart wanted just $100k, clocked much more

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A group of people who designed an e-ink watch and were looking for $100,000 to fund its production raised that in a couple of hours – and they're now well on their way to having $2m to spend.

The "Pebble" watch comes from the team that created the smartphone-on-a-watch inPulse. The Pebble is a smaller version of that product, with the addition of an e-ink screen, and it's already at the prototype stage. The team wanted $100,000 to fund a production run, but the unexpected deluge of money has already allowed them to waterproof the final device and should speed things up.

The new watch uses an e-ink screen, so is readable in direct sunlight and consumes very little power, but it’s the Bluetooth connectivity and SDK which has attracted most interest with the "Hacker Special" pack (offering early access to the SDK for those pledging more than $235) selling out particularly quickly as fans salivate at the imagined functionality.

The nearest competitor to the Pebble is probably Motorola's Motoactv, though the latter is an Android device capable of decoding MP3 files and streaming music to a Bluetooth headset as well as interacting with a mobile phone, while the Pebble is just a client device displaying what the mobile phone tells it to.

The Pebble should be cheaper, a little over $100 – though the price isn't set – while the Motoactv will set you back around twice that ($197), but the Motoactv has a touch screen and will run Angry Birds (and, perhaps more usefully, Google Maps). Both claim a battery life of more than a week, and both are promising an active developer community taking the hardware beyond its inception.

But to read the time on a Motoactv, one has to flick one's wrist, and at 35g and almost a centimetre thick, one will need a decent wrist to do so. The Pebble is thinner, both in width and depth, and the e-ink screen is always on, so perhaps the comparison isn't fair.

What's most interesting is how the Pebble has captured the imagination, and thus the pockets, of its backers. The idea is to get the watch into production later this year, and with $2m available that shouldn't be a problem, but probably even more valuable is the amount of interest the fundraising has attracted, assuming that turns into applications once the hardware is available. ®

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