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Review: Pebble Steel finally brings style to the smartwatch

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
The smartwatch is quickly coming into its own as each successive device brings new levels of utility, but it would be a reach to call any of them stylish. Pebble's new Steel was made specifically with design in mind and just may be the first smartwatch we would consider wearing with a suit.

Steel


When the smartwatch trend started to gain steam over one year ago, it was almost a given that buying one meant you would be standing apart from the traditional wristwatch-wearing crowd. There was no way you were going to wear one to a meeting without people noticing that "unique" styling.

With their large screens, most smartwatches don't fit in with sport watches like Casio's G-Shock or a Timex. So really, the smartwatch has been caught between two different worlds and, until the Pebble Steel, couldn't be fully accepted in either.

Design



After debuting the original plastic-wrapped Pebble last year, Pebble Technology upped its game in February with the launch of the second-generation Pebble Steel.

Steel


As noted in a previous hands-on with the device, Pebble Steel swaps out the plastic exterior of the original unit for a Gorilla Glass display and stainless steel chassis. The two pieces fit together nicely to offer high torsional rigidity. This translates to much less creaking and squeaking compared to the old model.

With the Steel, users can choose from a leather band or steel bracelet (both come included in the box) instead of original's rubber strap. While the leather isn't fantastic and the bracelet's folded links feel inexpensive, from five feet away this is a watch you could wear in the office.

Steel


In use



Pebble's strong suit has always been the hardware's ability to support apps, and they've really nailed it home with this latest release. In Pebble's earlier releases, they had difficulty in reliably pushing email and third-party app notifications to the watch.

Steel


You used to have to toggle notifications for each app in iOS Settings after re-establishing pairing with the watch. That's no longer the case: notifications of all kinds make it over to the watch display without issue. We have noticed that the last notification received will continue to display long after it was received if no interaction with the watch takes place, however.

Weather, sports scores, and other "glance-able" information is available right on the watch face, without a whole lot of trouble. These things are easy to configure in the Pebble app store, as is the addition of watch faces and apps. Even if you don't load any third party watch faces, it's easy to get workable notifications from the phone to the watch.

Unfortunately, in its current state, the third-party app store is a Wild West mix of things that work well (Yelp!, Smartwatch+) and things that don't (Twitter client apps). Just because a developer can do something, doesn't mean they should. Under no circumstances do we wish to type a 140-character tweet using three buttons.

While notifications are good, this watch cannot yet replace a traditional "dumb watch." Sure, it tells the time, but it lacks the craftsmanship and technical achievement that people appreciate in mechanical watches.

Steel


So we've been forced to examine why we don't care when we forget to put on our Steel, or feel the same pangs of absence as we do when we leave our iPhone behind at home or in the car.

Craig Hockenberry of IconFactory touched on this a little in some of his tweets recently.

"It's not like music players and phones where the existing products were crap. There are thousands of great watch design on the market."
"The question I constantly ask myself is, 'Why wear that bulky piece of [expletive redacted] instead of a a nice timepiece?' I already carry a computer."
"No tech company is going to make a watch that can compete stylistically with firms that have been refining their craft for centuries."

As Hockenberry puts it, "The least interesting thing in the smartphone is the phone." And we proffer the least interesting part of the smartwatch is the watch.

There is something remarkable and interesting in the materials choice, the handmade craftsmanship or even the perfectly machined and hand-perfected design of the mechanical watch. There's something very dull about the PCB and lithium-ion battery that's doomed to die in a few short years, housed in a waterproof case that can only be replaced, not serviced.

Steel


Where a traditional watch could work if the world came to an end, these smartwatches are very short-lived and can't really exist beyond the phone in one's pocket.

As it is, I don't want to have to scroll through pages and pages of notifications and emails on my wrist. I don't wish to look at my wrist and see the last notification from a few hours ago - it's no longer relevant. Instead, we ought to see relevant information in the moment it's relevant and not longer.

Conclusion



As good as the Pebble Steel experience is -- it's reasonably good and getting better everyday with new app store content -- we wish it were better. That the hardware be more refined. That the app store have more effective curation.

Steel


We admit that it's a difficult to strike a balance between encouraging developers to write watch apps and stifling developers for releasing apps that need more attention. Discouraging developers by rejecting apps weakens developer support. Allowing apps without curation weakens the platform as a whole.

Pebble can address these issues as their app store progresses, and the Steel design is a step closer to something "normal."

Still, the new Pebble does not successfully overcome the stigma attached to an electronics-based connected timepiece, and as such we are less apt to wear it day-to-day.

After all, this is prime real estate we're talking about; it's our wrists. Forgive us for wanting a product that's worthy of the space.

The Pebble Steel smart watch can be purchased for $249 and is available in silver and black. According to Pebble's website, supplies are limited and orders placed today ship out in 6 to 8 weeks.

Score: 3 out of 5



ratings_hl_30.png

Pros
  • Notifications on the wrist are convenient and helpful.
  • App store expands the possibilities of a wrist-worn device.
  • The ecosystem has good support for data related to weather, sports, and third party services.

Cons
  • Seeming lack of app store curation.
  • Cheap construction details (bracelet, leather, and the sharp bezel edge around the screen).
post #2 of 44

Finally? You know it came out in January, right?

post #3 of 44
"Pebble Steel finally brings style to the smartwatch"

Then it's rated: "Cheap construction details (bracelet, leather, and the sharp bezel edge around the screen)."
That's not my style. It's fugly (& cheap) like the others too me.
post #4 of 44

It's a statement as to how ugly the others have been that this is considered even remotely "stylish."


Scary.

post #5 of 44
OT Rant - How come Goog ads are now incorporated willy nilly into the body of posts? A couple of weeks ago they appeared as standalone posts. Bloody awful but less intrusive. This is really annoying me. Can someone alter this behaviour ? OT Rant off

And yea - Pebble your watches are still fugly !
post #6 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick LeSwunder View Post

"Pebble Steel finally brings style to the smartwatch"

Then it's rated: "Cheap construction details (bracelet, leather, and the sharp bezel edge around the screen)."
That's not my style. It's fugly (& cheap) like the others too me.

Something can easily be stylish -and- cheap. Just consider knock off jewelry, purses, etc. you can purchase in grey market shops throughout the world.

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post #7 of 44

Not even close to hitting the mark.

post #8 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Something can easily be stylish -and- cheap. Just consider knock off jewelry, purses, etc. you can purchase in grey market shops throughout the world.

 

True.  But knockoff bags and jewelry are only "stylish" from a distance.  Once you're within a few feet, a knockoff Birkin, for instance, looks exactly like that: a knockoff.

post #9 of 44
It looks like a cheap Chinese made watch I bought 4 years ago. Stylish? Who the hell considers this crap stylish unless they're on some band wagon or getting paid for their review? It looks like crap, get real.
post #10 of 44

Oh yeah.  Did you see that caller ID watch ThinkGeek.com was selling a few years ago?  Now that was stylish.  It was cheap and made in China, but it was solid and it looked nice.  It was a helluvalot nicer than this Pebble crap....

post #11 of 44
The more I look at this watch, the more doubtful I feel about an Apple one. I just can't get my head around what it brings to the table. Fitness and health, sure, but these seem so niche. What can be compelling, that can make us wonder how we ever did without it, like I did with my iPhone or iPad or wife?

Mobile payments? Phone? Geolocation? Remote control?

The iPhone was killer on many levels.

The iPad had no killer app, but the form itself was the killer.

What's the killer for wearables?
"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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post #12 of 44
Looks like PAID review !!
post #13 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronJ View Post

True.  But knockoff bags and jewelry are only "stylish" from a distance.  Once you're within a few feet, a knockoff Birkin, for instance, looks exactly like that: a knockoff.

The better knockoffs are hard to tell apart even up close.
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post #14 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


The better knockoffs are hard to tell apart even up close.

 

The stitching is always off.  But you have to be fairly familiar with that sort of thing, I'll grant you.

post #15 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronJ View Post

The stitching is always off.  But you have to be fairly familiar with that sort of thing, I'll grant you.

You do know that Prada and Fendi, both outsource manufacturing to China when they're overwhelmed with orders? I wouldn't be surprised if the people entrusted to make the real deal are the same ones making the knockoffs.
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
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post #16 of 44
Quote:
...the bracelet's folded links feel inexpensive...

Say it, it's feels cheap. Isn't that better.

Quote:
from five feet away this is a watch you could wear in the office

All crappy looking things look better when you can't see them.
post #17 of 44
If that qualifies for style I'll forego the smart watch revolution
post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post

The iPad had no killer app, but the form itself was the killer.
 

 

Sure it did. Education.

post #19 of 44
Stylish or not, when the Pebble (any Pebble) works, it is liberating - I find not having to dig my phone out every time a message or notification arrives is great. While on silent a phone and calls don't have to be disruptive - in a meeting just excuse yourself and leave to take the call - or ignore till after the meeting

However, the Pebble is not without fault - if there are any issues (and there will be!) the customer support leaves much to be desired - deal breaker??? Too early to tell
post #20 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post


What's the killer for wearables?

The death laser app.

post #21 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by HHP View Post

Looks like PAID review !!

Then they didn't pay enough since they only got a 3 out of 5 on the review.
post #22 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

You do know that Prada and Fendi, both outsource manufacturing to China when they're overwhelmed with orders? I wouldn't be surprised if the people entrusted to make the real deal are the same ones making the knockoffs.

Sometimes it is the same factory. The day shift heads home as the foreign supervisors leave for the day, then the night shift fire up and pumps out the same stuff to be sold on the black market.
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post #23 of 44
Someone is sure proud of those hairy arms. Lots of hairy arm pictures.
post #24 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by djkikrome View Post

Someone is sure proud of those hairy arms. Lots of hairy arm pictures.

 

What I notice even more than the manly arms in the photos is that the steel watchband is *still* so damn difficult to adjust that the model couldn't do so, and thus couldn't properly show off the watch. Or perhaps such nuances of fashion as good fit are passé.

post #25 of 44

Does this Pebble smartwatch come with a stylus? I have large fingers, and using such a dimuitive touch display would be impossible without a stylus...  

post #26 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post

The more I look at this watch, the more doubtful I feel about an Apple one. I just can't get my head around what it brings to the table. Fitness and health, sure, but these seem so niche. What can be compelling, that can make us wonder how we ever did without it, like I did with my iPhone or iPad or wife?

Mobile payments? Phone? Geolocation? Remote control?

The iPhone was killer on many levels.

The iPad had no killer app, but the form itself was the killer.

What's the killer for wearables?

I have an idea about what the Apple smart watch will be and, perhaps, won't be. I don't think it will be marketed as a watch. I think it will be sold as fitness gear. Fitness is no longer a "niche" market. It's massive. Go into any gym and look at all the armbands with iPhones in them. All athletes, wannabe athletes, people who care about their bodies, and those who want a cool, multifunctional gadget are all part of the market. I doubt we will see an iWatch. Let Pebble and Samsung struggle in that market. It will be harder to convince everyone they need a wristwatch than convince the fitness crowd to buy fitness equipment. As a fitness professional, given how fast I've seen the fitness community embrace trends, I know that Apple will get a heckuva lot of free advertising from personal trainers, nutrition specialists, dietitians, coaches, etc. I expect the "iWatch" will become the next elite, must-have, fitness item. $$$
post #27 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post

Does this Pebble smartwatch come with a stylus? I have large fingers, and using such a dimuitive touch display would be impossible without a stylus...  

It's not a touchscreen.
post #28 of 44
I dunno. Put this next to a Tag Heuer and we'll see how stylish it looks.

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post #29 of 44
I agree benjamin, I have been following smart watches for years, and recently I wrote an article about the new Samsung gear, however the issue I have is they look stupid when you pair them with a suit and tie combo, however this offering could be what myself a lot of other like minded business people have been searching for.
post #30 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by james0378 View Post

I have an idea about what the Apple smart watch will be and, perhaps, won't be. I don't think it will be marketed as a watch. I think it will be sold as fitness gear. Fitness is no longer a "niche" market. It's massive. Go into any gym and look at all the armbands with iPhones in them. All athletes, wannabe athletes, people who care about their bodies, and those who want a cool, multifunctional gadget are all part of the market. I doubt we will see an iWatch. Let Pebble and Samsung struggle in that market. It will be harder to convince everyone they need a wristwatch than convince the fitness crowd to buy fitness equipment. As a fitness professional, given how fast I've seen the fitness community embrace trends, I know that Apple will get a heckuva lot of free advertising from personal trainers, nutrition specialists, dietitians, coaches, etc. I expect the "iWatch" will become the next elite, must-have, fitness item. $$$

The fitness market may be big, but it's not universal. But maybe Apple thinks it's a big enough market. I think Apple would argue that pretty well anyone benefits from either an iOS device or a Mac, but at best, I would have thought fitness is going to be less than 50% of the population compared to 90+% with iOS and Mac.
"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
Reply
"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
Reply
post #31 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post

The fitness market may be big, but it's not universal. But maybe Apple thinks it's a big enough market. I think Apple would argue that pretty well anyone benefits from either an iOS device or a Mac, but at best, I would have thought fitness is going to be less than 50% of the population compared to 90+% with iOS and Mac.

The actual percentage is impossible for me to say and you could very well be spot on. We'll see. We just hear so much about fitness guys being hired and I think I heard that a fashion designer was hired. Even if that's the case, there's still plenty of room for this to be a wristwatch and not just fitness gear. Whatever the case, this is definitely a product that has the rumor mill churning like crazy. Whatever Apple comes out with might be something nobody expects. I have a feeling it's going make heads spin in the tech industry.
post #32 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by james0378 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post

The fitness market may be big, but it's not universal. But maybe Apple thinks it's a big enough market. I think Apple would argue that pretty well anyone benefits from either an iOS device or a Mac, but at best, I would have thought fitness is going to be less than 50% of the population compared to 90+% with iOS and Mac.

The actual percentage is impossible for me to say and you could very well be spot on. We'll see. We just hear so much about fitness guys being hired and I think I heard that a fashion designer was hired. Even if that's the case, there's still plenty of room for this to be a wristwatch and not just fitness gear. Whatever the case, this is definitely a product that has the rumor mill churning like crazy. Whatever Apple comes out with might be something nobody expects. I have a feeling it's going make heads spin in the tech industry.

 

It seems to me that the fitness market will be niche (but could be a large niche), and the health monitoring market will also be niche, at least to begin with until 24/7 health monitoring becomes a way of life (it probably will eventually). The larger potential market perhaps comprises those who either already wear a watch and would switch to a smartwatch with added functionality, or those who would start to wear one again to get that added functionality. In particular, the convenience and discreetness of not having to set a plethora of different alert sounds for different events, and then pull the phone out to check it every time it alerts/rings etc., will be a major draw for some people. As has been mentioned before, in situations like meetings, restaurants, while driving, playing sports etc., that functionality may be significant. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

 

I personally think that the market will grow as people start to see the advantages, and that given that, historically, nearly everyone chose a wristwatch over a pocket watch for their timekeeping needs, there is no fundamental barrier to returning to a wearable device if it enhances or extends the smartphone experience.

post #33 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

I dunno. Put this next to a Tag Heuer and we'll see how stylish it looks.

 



Of course, put a £150 watch next to a £2000+ watch and compare style and build quality.
post #34 of 44
If you like the cheap look of generic RadioShack disposable gadgets and the Pebble's uselessness, I guess the Pebble is OK, but the nicest most modern wrist device by far right now is the new Galaxy Fit..and far more useful.
post #35 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

It seems to me that the fitness market will be niche (but could be a large niche), and the health monitoring market will also be niche, at least to begin with until 24/7 health monitoring becomes a way of life (it probably will eventually). The larger potential market perhaps comprises those who either already wear a watch and would switch to a smartwatch with added functionality, or those who would start to wear one again to get that added functionality. In particular, the convenience and discreetness of not having to set a plethora of different alert sounds for different events, and then pull the phone out to check it every time it alerts/rings etc., will be a major draw for some people. As has been mentioned before, in situations like meetings, restaurants, while driving, playing sports etc., that functionality may be significant. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

I personally think that the market will grow as people start to see the advantages, and that given that, historically, nearly everyone chose a wristwatch over a pocket watch for their timekeeping needs, there is no fundamental barrier to returning to a wearable device if it enhances or extends the smartphone experience.

That's a pretty fantastic thought about people going from a pocket watch to a wristwatch. One idea that came to my mind while I read your response, and it's probably outlandish, what if they gave it a vibrate mode? I don't have a clue about how much space is required for that as I'm no engineer. For a meeting, though, a silent alert function (other than the watch lighting up) would be nifty.
post #36 of 44
Dreadful hatchet job of a review.

1) What do you expect from a leather bracelet. I've got one. It's well-stitched, supple, looks good and is comfortable.
2) Steel bracelet. Same as I had on another watch - a Citizen Ecodrive costing far more - what did they want? Depleted uranium links?
3) Stopped wearing a watch years ago. Now with Pebble I never leave home without one. The killer points - I get notified without my phone disturbing the entire office, I get turn by turn directions without pulling my phone from my pocket in the rain, I have a smart alarm and sleep tracking without getting a one job only fitness monitor.

As for the app store - there is rubbish and gold on there. Like the very heavily curated Apple App Store. The most loved stuff on the Pebble App Store is generally pretty good.

I've had a Pebble jet black which looked like a sports watch. I've now got a Pebble Steel Matt Black and I can honestly say it is nicer looking than anything I have bought up to twice the price. I like simple lines in a watch which probably puts me at odds with most of what I see in a jewelers window.
post #37 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by james0378 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

It seems to me that the fitness market will be niche (but could be a large niche), and the health monitoring market will also be niche, at least to begin with until 24/7 health monitoring becomes a way of life (it probably will eventually). The larger potential market perhaps comprises those who either already wear a watch and would switch to a smartwatch with added functionality, or those who would start to wear one again to get that added functionality. In particular, the convenience and discreetness of not having to set a plethora of different alert sounds for different events, and then pull the phone out to check it every time it alerts/rings etc., will be a major draw for some people. As has been mentioned before, in situations like meetings, restaurants, while driving, playing sports etc., that functionality may be significant. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

I personally think that the market will grow as people start to see the advantages, and that given that, historically, nearly everyone chose a wristwatch over a pocket watch for their timekeeping needs, there is no fundamental barrier to returning to a wearable device if it enhances or extends the smartphone experience.

That's a pretty fantastic thought about people going from a pocket watch to a wristwatch. One idea that came to my mind while I read your response, and it's probably outlandish, what if they gave it a vibrate mode? I don't have a clue about how much space is required for that as I'm no engineer. For a meeting, though, a silent alert function (other than the watch lighting up) would be nifty.

It has a vibrate mode. The silent alert is a big part of the attraction, in my view.
post #38 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by james0378 View Post



That's a pretty fantastic thought about people going from a pocket watch to a wristwatch. One idea that came to my mind while I read your response, and it's probably outlandish, what if they gave it a vibrate mode? I don't have a clue about how much space is required for that as I'm no engineer. For a meeting, though, a silent alert function (other than the watch lighting up) would be nifty.

 



The Pebble's alert is a near silent vibrate. It's perfect for meetings.

I get alerts for calendar events, phone calls, text messages and emails I actually care about. All without looking at my phone. It's a perfect business tool.
post #39 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by rp2011 View Post

If you like the cheap look of generic RadioShack disposable gadgets and the Pebble's uselessness, I guess the Pebble is OK, but the nicest most modern wrist device by far right now is the new Galaxy Fit..and far more useful.


lol.

 

The galaxy fit that has the screen in the wrong orientation?

post #40 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


You do know that Prada and Fendi, both outsource manufacturing to China when they're overwhelmed with orders? I wouldn't be surprised if the people entrusted to make the real deal are the same ones making the knockoffs.

 

Oh, they definitely do.  But nowhere near the amount of care is put into them.

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