Posted in: Hands-on, Mobile Accessories, Smartwatches

Pebble Steel smartwatch review

Announced at this year’s CES in January, the Pebble Steel was one of the brightest stars of the show. The newcomer is the young company’s upscale sidekick to the original Pebble, which took Kickstarter by storm last year.

In addition to its sleek looks and premium build, the Pebble Steel arrives with a well-polished, dedicated store for apps and watchfaces.

Retail package

The Pebble Steel ships in a retail package, which matches its premium aspirations. The nicely-looking black box with a leather-like finish contains the smartwatch, a metal band to match the gadget’s finish, a black genuine leather band, a USB charger, and a couple of booklets.


The retail package is decidedly luxurious

There is nothing missing in the retail box of the Pebble Steel as far as additional accessories go.

Hardware

The Pebble Steel features the same hardware and controls as its regular sibling. The only major addition to the newcomer is a tri-color RGB notification light added discreetly in the clock face lower left corner.

The above considered, the Pebble Steel features 80 MHz ARM Cortex-M3 CPU, 1.26” LED backlit e-paper display with a resolution of 144 x 168 pixels, and Bluetooth 4.0. The rest of the specs include a 3D accelerometer, ambient light sensor, and e-compass capability.

As before, charging once again takes place over a proprietary cable which attaches to the Pebble Steel through a magnet. Battery life of the gadget is rated at solid 5-7 days. So far I haven’t had the opportunity to measure the real life performance of the battery.

Design and build quality

Design and build quality are the two areas where the Pebble Steel stands out head and shoulders not only above its regular sibling, but also above its competitors. The smartwatch offers hands-down the best looks and build quality on the market today.



The Pebble Steel looks great in the flesh

The design of the Pebble Steel follows a classic tonneau watch theme with a rather compact footprint, considering today’s watch size standards. The device is great to look at in the flesh and can easily be mistaken for a regular watch without a closer look.

Available in a stainless steel or matte black finish with a matching metal bracelet, the smartwatch is the only offering currently on the market, which you can wear with more formal attire without looking like a total geek. The Steel represents a massive improvement over its predecessor in this regard.

Build quality of the Pebble Steel is exceptional. With an all-metal body and display covered in Gorilla Glass, the smartwatch is ready to take on life without breaking a sweat (or a front panel glass).

Additionally, the Steel with a metal bracelet is waterproof at up to 5ATM (50m of depth) and you can actually go swim with it. When using the leather strap however it doesn’t enjoy any waterproofing.

Ergonomics

At 56 grams (99 grams with the metal band), the Pebble Steel is slightly heavier than the first Pebble (38 grams). Thanks to its extra heft and metal build, the newcomer feels like a regular watch on the wrist, despite its slightly smaller footprint than the original.

The buttons are also finished in metal and offers great tactile feedback. Both the leather strap and the bracelet are well-made and comfortable. Choosing a favorite is entirely a matter of personal taste – I found myself enjoying the soft, genuine leather strap better.


The steel bracelet and the leather strap

Speaking of the bracelet and the leather strap, it is worth pointing out that instead of making the Steel with standard 22mm lugs, Pebble opted of a proprietary setup. This means that users will not be able to freely change the gadget’s strap or bracelet with a third-party one of their choice.

Overall, the Pebble Steel deserves high marks for its ergonomics. The smartwatch is great to live with on a daily basis by combining ease of use and superb tactility.

Pebble app

The Pebble app is the one-stop shop for all apps, watchfaces, and settings of the Pebble Steel. It is available for Android and iOS and features clean design and intuitive interface.

When you install and open up the app for the first time, you will be prompted to pair the Pebble Steel with your smartphone. The process takes a couple of minutes and is as simple as following the on-screen instructions.

Once you complete the setup, each time you open the app you will be greeted by the My Pebble menu. It shows you the installed content on the smartwatch, including watchfaces and apps, and lets you adjust it or remove it. Up to eight apps or watchfaces can be installed on the watch.


The My Pebble menu

A Pebble Locker submenu displays all the content you have installed on the smartwatch, including the content you have removed from the device. Of course, you can remove apps and watchfaces from the Pebble Locker too.

The next section of the Pebble App is the watchfaces’ showcase. All available watchfaces are arranged into categories – you get featured on top, followed by a section for all watchfaces, most loved, and Pebble picks.


There are plenty of watchfaces to choose from

There is a large number of watchfaces available on the platform. They range from all-business solutions, through minimalistic ones, all the way through honestly goofy designs.


Some of the available watchfaces

The section with Pebble apps is neatly organized in six categories – daily, tools & utilities, notifications, remotes, health & fitness, and games. Popular apps are featured in a section above the categories.


The apps section

The list of available apps for the platform is extensive and includes popular and handy titles such as Yelp, Evernote, Pandora remote control, etc. It sets the Pebble Steel apart from its competitors and is bound to grow even further as the company makes a great deal of effort in expanding its catalog.


A look at the app catalog

Final words

Among the currently available smartwatches, the Pebble Steel is the easiest one to recommend. It combines classic looks, solid build quality, water resistance, and top notch battery life. Even more importantly, the smartwatch offers rich, constantly growing selection of apps thank to a vibrant developer community.

Pebble’s entire approach to what a smartwatch should do is impressive. Unlike most of its competing smartwatches, which try to take over as many smartphone duties as possible, the Pebble Steel is focused on superbly delivering notifications while acting like a regular watch the rest of the time.

The Pebble Steel pricing kicks off at $229 for a watch with only a leather strap. You can pick one up directly from Pebble over here.

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