Pebble Steel – The Smartwatch for Grown-Ups [Review]


When the Pebble first came to market as a publicly available and purchase-able product, around a year ago, its market was clear. It was a cool, plastic toy for nerds. It wasn’t the classiest of watches and had questionable build quality. But, its features were awesome enough that many of us tech-heads jumped up and down, got all excited, and couldn’t wait to get our hands on them.

I wasn’t one of them. I waited. I wanted something with all those cool connected features and notifications, without sacrificing style and design. And that’s where the Steel comes in. Although it’s $100 more expensive than the original version, the $249 Pebble Steel is so much classier.

Its body is still water-tight, but is built from metal and Corning Gorilla Glass. Its chassis is slim, and it comes shipped with two watch straps: Leather and Metal (chain/link). From a distance, no one looking at it would assume it was anything more than a regular, understated, but professional timepiece. And that’s what’s so great about it. I can wear it at home, or out at a formal occasion with a suit, and no one would bat an eyelid. The same could not be said of its chunky, plastic predecessor.

As for features, it comes with a built-in alarm, a couple of different watch faces, and the ability to connect to your smartphone through an app. With the iPhone, it’ll show you any notification that you have set to show up through Notification Center. But it’s the app that makes or breaks its feature-set.

With the new Pebble Appstore, you can install third party apps like Foursquare, Yelp! and GPS as well as fun mini-games, like the popular Flappy Bird clone. And the list is growing all the time. As is the list of available watch faces. I was hooked as soon as I found a copy of the retro Casio digital watch fact, but there are so many more.

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And here’s where Pebble fails: There are so many available faces and apps, and yet the device itself can only hold 8 of them at a time. It took me no time at all to fill it, and realize, that I have to be incredibly selective about what I let on to my Steel.

As for its performance, I can’t sing its praises enough. Notifications come through every time, I’ve had no connection issues, and the e-paper display shows everything clearly whether I’m indoors or out in bright daylight. Battery life is as advertised. I went from 100-30 percent charge in 4-5 days, fitting pretty much exactly in to the predicted 5-7 day battery life.

And while the watch itself has a great battery life, it does drain my iPhone’s charge a little quicker than it would otherwise. But then again, that’s expected, even with the use of Bluetooth 4.0, sending notifications a few times each hour is clearly going to impact the battery of a phone which is already pretty poor.

Overall, I love the Pebble Steel. Before owning one, I rarely wore a watch. I’ve gone through phases of wearing various watches, but it’s never at the fore-front of my mind. With Steel, I wake up each morning and my first thought is to strap the Pebble to my wrist and switch my iPhone on. It’s slim, light, practical and lasts almost an entire week, and it’s waterproof. What’s not to like?

Yes, it could maybe do with the ability to actually respond to notifications through voice control, or have a color screen. But for what it’s trying to be, it’s perfect.

To order your own, head on over to GetPebble.com/steel. Be warned, waiting times are long.

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  • David Jacobs

    Looks a bit chunky,like having Big Ben on your wrist!

    • http://kevinfsanders.wordpress.com/ Kevin Sanders

      I don’t think so–I think it looks rather streamlined for what it is. I imagine seeing it in person looks smaller than in close-up pictures too.

      Now if only I had an extra 250!

  • Derrick Amundsen

    I know this is an iPhone site, but I’m curious on how this compares to the Gear 2 from Samsung (comes out in April). I’m doing homework, and I’m not sure how I feel about a non-color screen and I do have a Note 3.