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Pebble smartwatch gets $50 price cut, background tracking for fitness & sleep

In the wake of the Apple Watch announcement, startup smartwatch maker Pebble has countered with a $50 price cut for its entry-level and high-end Steel model, while also adding new background tracking capabilities for exercise and sleep.

Activity tracking applications from Misfit, Jawbone and now work seamlessly in the background on all Pebble hardware. Users can view installed "Activity" apps and toggle their preferences in the Pebble Settings menu, and a dedicated icon is visible within menus when a compatible app is installed and running.

The Misfit app for Pebble allows continuous, around-the-clock activity tracking and sleep monitoring. Jawbone has also launched its own activity tracking watface for Pebble which shows daily and weekly activity progress, and it syncs with the Up app for iOS.

Finally, is the first watch app that allows users to measure distance, pace, times, stroke and efficiency while swimming with their Pebble, which has a water resistance rating of 5 ATM. The watch app also syncs data with the iPhone and the cloud once the user is out of the pool.

Pebble is differentiating itself from Apple Watch and Android Wear devices by focusing on its multi-day battery life, which offers uptime of as many as seven days before a recharge is needed. And the company has also responded to competitors with a $50 price cut, and is now selling its original plastic model for $99, or the premium Steel for $199.

In addition to the new activity functions, all Pebble models also gain a new "Quick Launch" feature, which allows users to set shortcuts from a watchface to their favorite apps. These shortcuts can be accessed with a long press of the unit's up or down buttons after the feature has been enabled in settings.

Pebble now also displays a persistent battery icon within menus. And iPhone users running iOS 8 gain notification dismissal for both their watch and phone when pressing the select button.

The accessory maker revealed on Tuesday that the Pebble appstore has more than 4,000 applications available, and that they have been downloaded over five million times. There are more than 18,000 developers on the Pebble platform, and partners include Mercedez-Benz, Pandora, the Weather Channel, and ESPN.

Pebble hardware is also expanding its retail presence in the U.S to Sam's Club, Fry's Electronics, and Sprint stores, while the U.K. will seee availability at Dixons, O2, and They join Best Buy, Target, AT&T stores and in America.