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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pebble Steel smartwatch hands-on review: Pebble has a new smartwatch that adds more style and substance


One of the more unique pieces of wearable technology to launch at this year’s CES is the Pebble Steel . We got to spend some time with the device, here’s our Pebble Steel hands-on review.

The Pebble Steel is not like other smartwatches, where other smartwatches have opted for big chunky screens and bright displays, Pebble has opted for a more understated and traditional design for the Steel. The result is a smartwatch that we can envisage the business world buying into and putting into actual use.

When we first got our hands on the Pebble Steel we were a bit taken back by how light it was, and questioned whether the device we has was a dummy (it wasn’t), but the lack of weight did make us feel as if the Steel is a little flimsy and delicate. After the minor shock of its weight, we began enquiring about some of its design features. What we found, other than four physical buttons, was that the Pebble Steel comes two watch straps in the box, a metal strap and also a leather one. The rationale for this was that Pebble simply couldn’t decide which was better, so rather than compromise its customers it decided to include both.  A nice touch, especially as both straps look incredibly stylish.

The Pebble Steel has opted to shun a touch screen, instead opting to have its users control the smartwatch via is physical buttons located on either side of the watch face. This was something we were a little surprised about, as cycling through the watch’s features with physical buttons seemed a lot less intuitive than previous smartwatches we have spent time with. That said, the watch’s metal buttons were solid and easy enough to use and we can imagine this being something that becomes second nature and easy to use after very little practice.

On paper the Pebble Steel does well; it claims to have a 5-7 day battery life; is waterproof up to 5m; works with iOS and Android smartphones; and has a screen that is readable in full daylight. The Steel also works with the same apps that the previous Pebble smartwatch did (despite losing the touchsceen) meaning it will display messages and notifications, and also automatically track your runs and other activities without you having to pressing a button.

There were a couple of apps/feature that caught our attention. First was the ESPN scores apps, that has the ability to notify you of all your sports teams' live scores and results, secondly was the new partnership with Mercedes Benz. Pebble has partnered with the German car manufacturer to enable the Steel smartwatch to act as a second screen. When connected to your Mercedes, the Pebble Steel can act as a car locator, fuel gauge, alert you to your door look status, it can also operate your car’s entertainment system’s basic functions such as pause, play and skip, finally it has the ability to send traffic updates your vehicle’s sat nav. These are all pretty nifty features, if you have a new Mercedes Benz, the only problem is that the vast majority of people don’t so while it’s a good technological development, and great PR for the brand, it’s going to be redundant for most people.

The Pebble Steel will cost $249 and will go on sale on 28th January 2014.

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