In January this year, with much excitement, I posted up that I had ordered the new improved Pebble, the Pebble Steel, that was announced at CES 2014. The website mentioned that stock was limited and there would be possible delays, but I didn’t expect it would take two months! It looks like the Pebble Steel was more popular than the Pebble guys ever envisioned!
Anyway, my black Pebble Steel (you can also get it in silver) arrived in April and I was over the moon to finally try out my first smartwatch.
As mentioned in my previous posts and tweets, I’ve hesistated getting a smart watch up till now due to the pathetic battery times (e.g. 1 day of life) that many of them had. I work with two laptops, iPad Mini Retina and iPhone 5S everyday so another device that only lasts for one day would only increase the burden of my daily battery charging regime. This is what it currently looks like:
I chose the Pebble, because in January this year, it looked like the best smart watch offering available on the market and of course, it had decent battery life of approximately one week.
What is the main benefit of a smart watch like the Pebble Steel?
The smart watch concept has still a while to go before it can live up to its name : “smart”. The definition of smart in a device, implies that it has some level of intelligence to perform actions independently. At the moment, the Pebble Steel just displays the time and social media notifications (b ased on your pre-defined settings). While not an incredibly intelligent action, this simple notification means that I don’t have to look at my phone to keep in touch with what’s going on around me and pay attention to the person or task at hand. This is especially handy during important meetings or even just lunch or dinner with family or friends. The less people using their devices at the dining table, the better – put it away! (just keep the watch)
So if you’re ever having a meal or coffee with me, you’ll notice that I’ll pay more attention to you with only an occasional sideways glance to my wrist now and then (slap me if I do it too much).
The best thing I like about the Pebble Steel, especially compared to it’s previous version and to the Samsung Galaxy Gear is that it actually looks more like a normal watch. It’s not oversized, plasticky or has any large dohickies like cameras petruding from the form factor. The Pebble Steel has a similar rectangular shape as the first Pebble but it’s thinner and lighter. The metallic casing gives the Steel a much more refined and sophisticated look – I can actually wear it with a business suit and into executive meetings without drawing worried frowns from my senior colleagues.
I chose the the matte black version because I like the understated look compared withe the silver version which looks somewhat gimmicky.
The Pebble Steel is extremely simple to use with four main buttons. The left button is your back button, the top right is your up navigation, middle right is your menu and bottom right is your down navigation button. After using touch screens for so long, it was a bit strange, but simple enough. I’d much prefer a swipe interface, like for example the one found on Samsung’s Gear Fit, which is perfect on the curved screen.
One gripe I have with the design was the cumbersome and possibly damaging way of adjusting links on the metal band to suit your wrist. I had a professional watchmaker (albeit he works on the footpath of a busy Hong Kong street) change my links for me, but even with his careful time-tested method, still left a scratch or two on the band. While not noticeable to the passing eye, I can only imagine what scratches would have been produced by people attempting to do it themselves.
I love leather so was extra enticed to find that the Steel also came with a black leather strap. It gives the Pebble Steel an elegant look and again goes well with casual or formal attire.
To change from the steel strap, you’ll need a very thin screwdriver to push the pins that are holding the strap to the watch. Be very careful when you do this as the pins are spring loaded and could go flying into the air then landing who knows where!
The screen is a monochrome 1.26” (144 x 168 pixel) display. The lack of display colours allows the Pebble Steel to have a much longer battery life than its contemporary competitors. Yet another understated component about the Steel which adds to its appeal. The screen is made from scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass which means it’ll be protected from daily wear and tear.
I love the super easy to use magnetic USB charge port and cable – I don’t love the fact that it’s not a standard USB cable and if you lose it (which I did last week at the Pullman, but they found it!) you’re stuck with a dead Pebble for a few weeks till you get a new cable.
Having a IP67 rating, the Pebble Steel can withstand up to 5 metres of water so you can take it swimming and won’t malfunction in the rain!
Like most Bluetooth 4.0 LE gadgets today, the Pebble Steel setup was as easy as downloading the Pebble app from the Appstore then switching on bluetooth on my iPhone 5s to ensure that my phone and Steel could talk. It took less than a minute to get it all set up.
Within seconds, you have thousands of clock faces to choose from, with the Pebble catalog presenting the top 5 newest and best. I loved scanning through the abundant designs – there were clock faces with weather, steps achieved throughout the day, nostalgic faces and even a Rolex facade that I downloaded for fun. The sad thing is you can only install 8 clock faces at a time. It becomes tedious having to uninstall clocks and apps just so you can try out new ones.
Here’s my favourite clock face at the moment:
Quite honestly, the Pebble Appstore is still in its infancy. There are a couple of fun apps on it like Pebble’s version of FlappyBird but that’s about it. Hopefully, there will be a more substantial list to choose from. You can install up to eight apps or clock faces which I find a bit restrictive. They need to install more memory for the next version.
I’ve put the Pebble Steel through its paces for a few weeks now so and observed the battery to last for a very decent 5-6 days. Bear in mind, that I’m more of power user with more notifications streaming through the Pebble Steel than your average user – I use Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Skype and I’m on the phone quite a lot each day. Much better than the Samsung Galaxy Gear (version 1) that only lasted for 1 day before needed to charge.
As mentioned earlier, one of the key features of the Steel is the notifications from various social media and smartphone apps. It’s very similar to the notifications aggregator in Apple Mac OS but on your wrist. If you’re like me and very social media active, it’s a non-stop stream of notifications. To control this, just specify which apps you want notifications you want on your smartphone. Obviously the less notifications you have, the longer your battery will last, so adjust to your needs.
What I like about the Pebble Steel:
- New more stylish metal design. Less hipster and can now be worn with suits
- Inclusion of leather strap – I love leather so this is perfect
- Choice of silver or black colors
- Quick responsive UI
- 5 day battery time
- IP what rating? waterproof
- Choice of over 1000 different clock faces
- Magnetic charge cable and port
- Notifications from all social media channels as well as Skype and Whatsapp
- Access to huge amount of apps for productivity, health & fitness and notifications
- Easy to setup
- Bluetooth 3.0 LT connection persistent
- Scratch resistant Gorilla Glass
- Backlight to use when in dark places
- Easy access to menu and functions
- Same weight as normal watch
- Isn’t that bulky
- Ability to set multiple alarms
- Ability to control music : Play, forward and rewind
What could be improved on the Pebble Steel :
- Not easy to adjust steel band by yourself – you have to take it to jeweler or watch shop
- Can only have 8 clock faces or apps installed at one time
- Display could be bigger – doesn’t take full advantage of available space
- 5 days battery life for a smartwatch is great but if it could last for a whole month even better
- Full color display – I know this may impact battery life but I think we’re beyond mono color displays now
- Supply – took me 2 months to get mine! Make more Pebble
- Style can be further improved to match the likes of the Moto 360
- Partner with Fitbit
Mr.Gadget Score: 8/10 – Not bad for a version 2.0
You can buy it for USD $249 from the Pebble website.