- Classier design
- Decent battery life
- Expanded app store
- Minor build flaws
- Limited display
- No Windows Phone support
The original 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 Wear smartwatches 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 and design
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.
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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.
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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.
Initial set-up 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
The Pebble 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
There's one 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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Our only 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.
Scrolling 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
While having 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.
Alongside the 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 watch.
How we test