The Pebble Steel: smart watch with style

By Wout Funnekotter , Saturday, January 11, 2014 09:00, comments: 133 , Views: 79 967 • Feedback

One of the greatest successes of crow funding website Kickstarter is without a doubt the Pebble, a smart watch that features an e-paper screen and can work with both Android and iOS phones. In 2012, the young start-up behind the watch was able to get through the crowdfunding website more than $ 10 million since January 2013, and the watches sale online, but also in some large retailers in America.

There are now more than 300,000 units sold since its launch, the company has been busy developing the ecosystem. There has been doctored for several months on a new SDK version and the end of last year, the Pebble improved support for iOS 7. It was also announced that the watch gets its own app store.

At CES, the company came back with an announcement, the Pebble family is extended with a new model. The hardware of this new variant is almost identical, but the case has been completely overhauled. Where the original Pebble is completely made of plastic, the new Pebble Steel, as the name suggests, made of metal.

That seems like a smart move, for watch lovers probably do not want a simple-looking plastic timepiece on their wrist. The Pebble Steel skeptics would like to draw across the line. We went during the CES along with the young company to view the new variant of the popular watch and spoke with product evangelist Myriam Joire about the upcoming changes in the ecosystem. Just a real watch

The “problem” that most smart watches suffering, is that they are instantly recognizable as a smart watch. Often the watches on the large side and very thick. The plastic from which they are usually made and the bright colors help not to go unnoticed. Many people will not bother to, for example, but who often wears a suit, it may be less inclined to make a smart watch on his wrist to do.

Myriam Joire, product envangelist at Pebble, was one of the most recurrent criticisms from the user feedback. Also among the employees of Pebble itself there was a need for a version that was more like an ordinary watch. Signals of users did the company decide to make less noticeable and more traditional looks a version, which became the Steel.

Pebble Steel

The first thing you notice when you Stalk on properly, the low weight. With less than 50 ounces, it weighs at least half less than many other metals watches and feels that in the beginning a little weird. Also notable is that he is a bit thinner than the original Pebble. However, we found the Steel not feel cheap, quite the contrary. The best way to describe how the Steel feels and comes across is that it is just an ordinary watch. That sounds like a truism, but we have so far to say. No smart watch

The Pebble Steel will be delivered in two colors: stainless steel and matte black. The first has a decent retro look and has some similarities with the square Casio watches from the eighties. The matte black version is in our opinion by far the most beautiful of the two. By default, the watches are equipped with a metal strap with a folding clasp and turn gently, but users have also included a traditional leather strap. The top of the clock is covered with Gorilla Glass, the scratch-resistant glass that we know especially smartphones.
Pebble Steel Pebble Steel Pebble Steel Pebble Steel

Although the appearance is different from that of the original Pebble, the operation that does not. There are still four buttons on the watch, three right and one left, and charging is via a magnetic connector, which incidentally is slightly different than that in the first model. The Steel variant is waterproof, you can use it to wash or carelessly in the shower and a dip in the pool, he must also survive.

Functionally, there are two minor changes. The first is a small RGB-LED on the front side, below the screen. As yet this only serves as a charging indicator, but in the future, developers get access to it. Additionally, the antenna for the bluetooth chip is no longer in the watch, but it runs like a border around the enclosure, which should provide better reception. Conservative hardware choices

The Steel is technically almost identical to the original Pebble, though there is now a bit more memory. That was a conscious choice. Although there is a lot of pressure from outside to get faster and more modern hardware that contains, with a new version of the Pebble is something they do not aanwillen the young start-up, for two reasons. First, the work of app developers more difficult when there are differing variants come as the company wants true that developers are on the Pebble and apps will enthuse. Additionally Joire stressed that they at Pebble on to be able to carry as provide a better user experience. Hardware upgrades

The most important part of the user experience can be found at the Pebble battery life. With every possible new feature, whether it is software or hardware, it is checked if that does not affect the battery life of the Pebble negative. That is why the Pebble barely power on board in comparison with some other smart watches. Where a Galaxy Gear features an OLED screen and a smartphone processor at 800MHz, the Pebble e-paper screen and a simple Cortex M3 chip with a tenth of that clock.

Pebble Steel

There is a lot to say for that approach. Indeed, we do not see the usefulness of a very powerful chip in a smart watch but the screen is another story. Produced by Sharp e-paper screen Pebble may be economical and functional, it’s not very nice. The resolution of 144×168 pixels is so low that you can clearly see the cartel as little text is displayed, the contrast is low, and of course the picture is simply black and white. The company indicated that it would prefer to build a screen with better image quality, but there are no techniques available that allow efficient enough. If we had to choose, battery life could also winning image quality, but the screen is clearly the weakest link in the Pebble design. The ecosystem is going to kick

The most frequently asked question by smartwatchskeptici is perhaps: “What did you do? ‘. Almost all smart watch manufacturers are busy looking for a complete answer to that question, but they are there already agreed that send notifications from your smartphone belongs there anyway. In addition, many smart watches the ability to run. Tiny apps

Both applications are also possible at the Pebble. Via bluetooth it connects to an iPhone or Android smartphone via an app on the phone the watch can be managed. In total, the Pebble place for eight apps, a limitation which according Joire not due to hardware limitations, but is deliberately built, the company wants to users to think carefully about which apps they really want to use, and prevent people from their watch, just as their smartphone, load up with apps that they never start.

It was at the Pebble Steal some apps demonstrated to us, some new and some are older. Through the ESPN sports app can be checked while the music streaming service Pandora has an app which serves as the Pebble remote for the device on which Pandora running. Another simple but ingenious app that Foursquare. With a single press of a button, a list of places nearby appears and a second pressure, you can check immediately. It is even possible to operate with the smart watch a preview of the image display. Camera on the iPhone via an app

Pebble Steel

The development and dissemination of Pebble apps went far far from ideal. The first version of the SDK, which was released at the launch of the Pebble, was little thought and gives the company afterwards that the SDK had never come. Beyond the alpha stage It is therefore working for several months on version 2.0 of the SDK, which should be a lot more mature and gives developers access to more APIs. Pebble hopes thereby to impose developments in the near future the foundation and therefore carries hefty changes, with the result that existing apps need to be adjusted. Their developers

Pebble is planning to give, along with other major modification. Sdk free within weeks The apps for Android and iOS are actually equipped with an app store where users clock skins and apps to download. New That was much needed, because without a central place to download these things users were forced to go online search facility. From the community came in the last year fortunately several unofficial app stores forward, but the threshold was still very high.

Behind the scenes Pebble too busy to get to develop. Applications on large companies to During the CES example, was announced that Mercedes comes with an app for the Pebble. We were impressed on the recent developments surrounding the ecosystem the tip of the iceberg and that there are many large companies and services Pebble support in the coming months. More details we received, despite frantic efforts, not cheated. Finally,

Compared with other smart watches we’ve seen in the stock market, the steel does not seem actually a smart watch and people who were not hot for smart watches because of its appearance, could well be. Convinced by the Steel Or watch the real freaks will ever change, remains to be seen. Although the exterior of the new Pebble sleek looks, the screen is indeed more functional than beautiful, and in addition you will find the romance of a classic watch in a smart watch back.

Pebble want to see more of the Steel version or $ 100 for the normal version, which suits the price at $ 249. $ 100 seems a lot of money for just a beautiful body, but considering the target group is aiming at Pebble, it falls with the price not too bad. For people who love beautiful watches, is not extremely high amount of 249 euros. On price falls between the Pebble Steel Samsung Galaxy Gear and Sony SmartWatch 2, while the most beautiful and most functional of the three in our eyes.

The market for smart watches is still young and this year will fix many changes are taking place, but of all smart watches we’ve seen so far and have used, makes the new Pebble Steel both in appearance and in terms of functionality is by far the most impressive.


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