Pebble Steel: Detailed Review & Comparison With the Samsung Gear and Other Leading Smart Watches
Wait – That’s a Pebble?
The new Pebble Steel turned a lot of heads at its debut in December, 2013. It was a striking departure from the chunky me-too look of the most-sold watch of 2013, the Samsung Gear.
While the innards remain the same, the styling changes were huge. The new Pebble Steel now looks so good that for the first time many skeptics are now saying they want a smart watch.
It does look good. Compared with the original Pebble, the face of the watch is curved and the body is made of high-grade stainless steel.
As you can see below, the styling changes make the Pebble Steel an elegant, wearable piece of jewelry (for men only – but that’s another story altogether).
The Steel’s metal watch bands look great and come in two colors, black or stainless steel. You can also order it with a high-quality black leather band.
The Pebble Steel also upgraded its display to use Corning’s Gorilla Glass, so scratches should not be a problem.
App-wise, the original Pebble and Pebble Steel share the same software, so reviews of Pebble software and apps also apply to the Steel.
This is good news, too, because Pebble’s new App Store now lists over 3,000 apps and watch faces – by far the greatest selection in the smart watch market today.
You will NOT run out of apps to play with.
Pebble app selection continues to explode, with big brands like ESPN, Mercedes, Yelp and Pandora recently adding their own.
There are so many things you can do with a Pebble that it’s impossible to list them all here.
But be warned: due to the Pebble’s limited memory, you can only load 8 apps on the device at a time. That said, Pebble’s new appstore app let you to store more than that in a “personal locker” – which you can see in the image above.
The Pebble includes a great media player that lets you control tracks on a run or bike ride, with ease.
One of the best things about a Pebble smart watch is its elegant and simple user interface. Keeping the UI extremely simple is important and something that too many smart watch manufacturers overlook.
Controlling your apps and paging through music and alerts is super-easy using the Pebble’s 4-button layout.
The center button on the right opens applications and launches commands. The buttons above and below the center button let you move up and down through menu selections. A tap on the single left button exits the current menu selection, returning you to the top.
Comparison With Other Leading Smart Watches
vs. Samsung Gear and Samsung Gear 2
Compared with the Samsung Gear 2 ($299), the Pebble Steel lacks many features: a camera, a heart rate monitor, an internal mic and an onboard IR LED controller.
Also, while the Samsung Gear 2 offers a bright, gorgeous color touch screen, the Pebble Steel’s ePaper display is only black and white – it’s the same daylight-visible, batter-sipping tech used in parking meters and outdoor displays around the world (see below). And no touch screen.
The Gear 2 definitely packs more technology into its footprint, too.
On the other hand, the Pebble Steel is still our Top Pick because it offers 4 key advantages over the Gear 2:
- Simpler, more approachable design. Put simply, the Pebble Steel looks a lot more like an ordinary luxury watch than the Samsung Gear. This broadens its appeal beyond gadget geeks and early adopters. The user interface is also a model of simplicity, something that’s very important to any wearable device user.
- Greater selection of apps. Samsung recently announced they would no longer use Android on their new Gear 2 lineup; instead, they are moving a new and unproven OS, Tizen. While Samsung did announce an SDK for Tizen, Samsung has a very long way to go to build an ecosystem of thousands of apps like the Pebble enjoys today.
- Longer battery life. the Pebble’s battery can last a week, but the Gear 2 will only last 3-4 days according to Samsung.
- Works with more smartphones. The Pebble works with all Android smart phones (4.0+) and iPhones shipping today. The Gear 2 only works with select Samsung Galaxy devices.
vs. Sony SmartWatch 2
The other smart watch that most people compare with the Pebble Steel is Sony’s latest entry, the Smartwatch 2.
Like the Samsung, the Sony Smart Watch 2 (For Android Phones only) offers a high-resolution color touchscreen, something that all Pebbles lack.
The Pebble Steel ($229) also costs more than the Sony ($199).
On the other hand, Sony’s user interface is more awkward to use than the Pebble’s, although Sony has improved that with recent firmware updates.
Our bottom line with the Sony Smartwatch 2 (MNSW2) is the same as with the Samsung Gear 2: the Pebble is the better overall choice, as long as you are OK with a black and white screen. The Pebble Steel offers a more beautiful design, a much wider selection of apps, longer battery life and compatibility with both Android and Apple smartphones (the Sony only works with Android devices).
Pricing and Availability
The Pebble Steel sells for $229 and is available online on Pebble.com, on Amazon.com and at other electronics retailers.