I was so excited when I first saw the Pebble Steel – it was for me the first smartwatch that looked like a high-end timepiece rather than a throwback from some childs Sci-Fi fantasy.
I put my order in once they announced they had begun shipping backorders, figuring that I’d probably have to wait while they cleared early orders.
Upon completing the order I was notified there would be be a wait of 6-8 weeks – fine I thought, at least I know! Here’s how that panned out:
- 28th January – Ordered
- 31st March – Shipped email
- 31st March – Money taken
- 4th April – Tracking started
- 11th April – Arrived at Heathrow Worldwide DC
- 23rd April – On my wrist
So slightly longer than estimated – but not so long I was fretting, although my product photographer might disagree on that point.
The Steel is Pebble’s second smartwatch and I feel it’s been aimed at a different demographic. The plastic casing has been replaced with a sexy steel case with a Gorilla Glass screen making it look much more grown up.
In some ways it is reminiscent of Casio calculators or the Samsung P300 mobile from technology of yesteryear.
The screen is a black & white, always-on, e-paper affair with a blueish tint backlight for when you can’t quite make out what’s displayed. In normal light and strong sunlight you won’t need that backlight but in the dark it helps quite a bit. A nice feature is the ability to ‘shake’ the backlight on – useful if you only have one hand free! The resolution of the screen is sufficient but hardly mind blowing in post ‘retina’ times at 144 × 168 pixels in a 1.26-inch display; working out to about 176ppi.
In use the low ppi is not a real issue, but the lack of greyscales does mean you are limited to faux gradation and jagged edges on diagonal lines – which could be quite often on an analogue watchface. I’ve opted for a wordy watchface depicting fuzzy time instead – I like the irony of a ‘state of the art’ smartwatch that tells me roughly what the time is!
Because I ordered quite early on I got both the stainless steel & the leather strap included – and because I had to wait quite some time I got a $25 discount off the initial $250 asking price – in real money that worked out to about £138 plus another £38 in customs taxes and admin fees.
The leather strap looks quite tacky in most photos I’ve seen but in the flesh is actually nicer than the steel strap. It is very soft to the touch and has the Pebble logo on the back and on the clasp.
It’s not perfect though and I guess will last only a year at most. Unfortunately the Pebble Steel, unlike its plastic counterpart, has a proprietary watch ‘mount’. This means you are restricted to straps design specifically for the Steel. I will probably opt to have a handmade leather strap made here in the UK.
Aside from the straps the only other thing worth mentioning in the box is the charger – in principal it is similar to Apple’s Magsafe connection. I would have preferred some kind of wireless charging but given the watch only needs 2 hours of charging for 5-7 days worth of use that’s not a big deal.
So, was it worth the wait?
The Pebble Steel is smaller than I was expecting but heavier and thicker, it’s a comfortable weight but does mean the watch tends to wander on my wrist. This occasional travel means I subconsciously shake the watch back to a more comfortable position activating the backlight; I guess I’ll get an idea over time how this effects the battery.
Aesthetically the watch is very pretty in an incredibly plain kind of way. The stainless steel catches the light in a subtle way when you check the time and the slab like buttons offer it a very industrial feel. Pebble have really surpassed themselves here, especially when you look at the original.
My only complaints in the looks department are that it’s a bit thicker than I’d like and the screen could benefit from a doubling of resolution.
If version 2 of the Pebble Steel could knock ~2mm off the depth and upgrade to a higher resolution screen then I think anyone sitting on the fence would have a much easier decision on their hands.