FitBit snaps up Pebble in bid to stay alive in shrinking wearables market

The wearables market explosion that wasn’t

Two struggling wearables companies have joined forces in a bid to survive in a surprisingly shrinking tech marketplace. TheInformation.com says FitBit has purchased Pebble, which arguably was one of the first companies to make a truly usable smartwatch way back in 2013. But after initially raising millions to fund that first watch, it’s been slow going in the wearables market, especially after Apple debuted the Apple Watch in 2015.

Pebble laid off a quarter of its workforce earlier this year despite rolling out a new version of their smartwatch, and FitBit isn’t faring much better with a stock price hovering close to $8, or 60 percent lower than their IPO price. The wrist-wearables market has actually shrunk by almost half, with only Garmin and Samsung showing any growth numbers. FitBit reportedly paid about $40 million for Pebble, far less than the $200 million Pebble’s CEO was hoping for.

Bring back the crazy phones, please

Remember Nokia? For a lot of people, their first, and maybe second, third and fourth cell phone was a Nokia phone, mostly back before smartphones took over the world. Well, Nokia, the phone brand, which is no longer owned by Nokia, the giant Finlandian tech conglomerate, is plotting a comeback. Microsoft bought Nokia’s phone biz back in 2014 in a bid to bring their Windows Phone OS to prominence, which… didn’t go so well.

So now a new group, HMD Global, which is led by a Nokia veteran, has wrangled the brand, and they are hoping to launch an Android-powered smartphone next year, because, clearly, there aren’t enough Android phones on the market already.  But Nokia does have that name recognition thing going for it, and HMD says they will also be making non-smarty “feature phones,” or “burner phones” as we like to call them, that will sell for as little as $20.

That price point is especially popular in India and some other Asian countries, and HMD says their phones will be made by Foxxconn, which also makes the iPhone and many other devices, so maybe there’s hope.

How’s the traffic? Ask Apple’s drone fleet

There once was a time when Apple’s Maps app was the laughingstock of the tech world, but give Tim Cook credit, they’ve stuck with it and it’s steadily improved to the point where it’s pretty much as reliable as anything else out there, but perhaps a bit less… entertaining than it once was. Anyway, Bloomberg is saying that Apple is enlisting a new tactic to improve Maps data and design, and it has a thoroughly modern twist: they’re going to use drones.

Apple apparently filed an FAA request in 2015 that granted them permission to use the buzzing UAVs for data collection, photography and videography. The request also noted that Apple intended to use birds from dronemakers DJI and Aibotix, which makes pro-grade surveying and mapping flybots, including an impressive $21,000 hexcopter called the X6.

Anyway, Apple Maps is definitely more reliable – and boring – these days, but they still lack Google’s “street view” feature, so don’t be surprised if a drone buzzes by while while you try to track down that elusive Szechuan food cart. Data from above…

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