Pebble kicked off the smartwatch craze with its impressive showing on the
crowdfunding site Kickstarter. A year later and the tiny Palo Alto based
start-up is back with the Pebble Steel, a much classier looking clever
timepiece that ditches the plastic build and ramps up the professional factor
with swathes of steel, glass and leather.
But does it
deserve top billing on your wrist and is it a worthy successor to the original
Pebble, or is it trumped by the current crop of Android Wearsmartwatches like the Samsung Gear Live or LG G Watch? Read our Pebble Steel review to find out.
Essential reading: Pebble Steel and Pebble smartwatch tips, tricks and guide
Pebble Steel: Features
There was something quirky and playful
about the original Pebble, with its chunky colourful plastic build and rubber
strap. One thing it certainly wasn’t though was classy. That’s all changed with
the second iteration, however, with plastic making way for steel and glass,
giving it a much more premium look and feel. You wouldn’t feel out of place
teaming the Pebble Steel up with a sharp suit and heading into a business
meeting with Christian Bale and the other 1980s yuppies.
Hands on: Pebble Time review
Gone too is the rubber band, replaced
with either a leather or steel strap. You get both in the box, a nice touch we
say, though we instantly took a liking to steel version. It resembles the
classic Casio digital watches, with links and a folding clasp. The leather one
on the other hand is fine, but it feels a bit cheap.
Essential reading: Adidas miCoach Fit Smart review
One thing we did pick up on though was a
slight sharp edge surrounding the Gorilla Glass display; it feels unfinished
and is something you’d never see from the likes of Samsung and Apple. Pebble may be a
newcomer to the tech arena, but we’d expect better.
The display is perfectly readable in almost
any light. It’s a 1.26-inch, 144 x 168, monochrome one. It might not pack the
pixels of the LG G Watch or any one of Samsung’s Gear family, but it is perfect
for a basic smartwatch. Visibility is top notch, while the backlight, which
comes on when you shake your wrist, is a godsend in the darker hours.
Pebble Steel: Usability
Unlike Android Wear and Tizen watches, the Pebble Steel works officially with both iOS and
Android, while an unofficial hack will even stretch it to work with certain
Windows Phone devices. If you’re rocking iOS, this is easily the best
smartwatch you can pick up right now.
is fairly straightforward, you just install the Pebble app on your phone, turn
on Bluetooth, pair and you’re away. There’s a few preinstalled watch faces to
try and notifications will straight away start to come flooding to your wrist.
See also: Pebble v Samsung Gear and Pebble v Android Wear
Steel is actually really easy to just pick up and use, with little to no
learning curve in the operating system.
The only real
issue comes with trying to stem the almost never ending tide of notifications
buzzing on your wrist, especially on iOS as it really is all or nothing. On
Android you have a bit more control over what you see and don’t.
Pebble Steel: Performance
and battery life
thing that we think all smartwatches should be good at, and that’s holding
charge for at least a few days. We might be used to sticking our phones on
charge every night, but it’s a different story when it comes to our watches.
Thankfully the Pebble Steel really excels in this area, lasting in our tests
between four and five days.
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quibbles about the battery were that a few times it would suddenly drop from
20% to 0% in a matter of moments. Charging is quick, however, and we managed to get a fully
juiced up Pebble Steel in little more than two hours.
through the menus is smooth enough, there is a bit of a lag but we put that
down to the display technology more than anything.
Pebble Steel: Apps
email and calendar notifications beamed to your wrist is one thing, the real
winning feature for smartwatches is the app selection and what extra nuggets of
goodness they bring. Thankfully the Pebble proves pretty capable in this area.
release of the Pebble Steel, Pebble has spruced up its app and released an
official app store, so no need to go hunting for the best apps. The store is
clean and easy to navigate, while it makes finding apps super easy. Once you’ve
downloaded something (check out our best Pebble Steel apps feature if you’re
struggling) it’ll sync across to your watch and that’s it.
Essential reading: The best Pebble apps
You can only
store eight apps on the Pebble Steel at any one time but, thanks to the Pebble
Locker, moving apps to and from your smartphone is a pain free process. Though,
we would like to see the limit increased in the future.
You’ll find an
array of handy apps in the store, with everything from basic games to the
superb Yelp – which makes finding a spot for dinner as simply as checking your
The Pebble Steel improves on just about aspect of the original – it’s much better looking, feels premium in the hand and impresses with clever apps and a well thought out operating system. It may lack the specs of its Android Wear rivals, but the battery and screen make it a much better choice.
- Classier design
- Decent battery life
- Expanded app store
- Minor build flaws
- Limited display
- No Windows Phone support