Pebble Steel.

Metal, leather and tweaked hardware add a bit of class (and $100) to the Pebble smartwatch

Put the Pebble smartwatch next to any of its major competitors from the past year, and this much is clear: Metal trumps plastic when it comes to sophistication. We've known it. Pebble's known it.

Android Central @ CES

And now it's doing something about it.

Pebble today is unveiling Pebble Steel — a classed-up metal version of its previously plastic and rubber watch. It's available today for preorder from getpebble.com, ships starting Jan. 28 in mid February,  and costs $249 — a $100 premium over the (now) basic Pebble.

Last month, we spent a day at the Pebble offices in California, getting to know the smartwatch, as well as the folks who make it. Today, we bring you our first look at Pebble Steel.

As the name implies, Pebble Steel is made of, well, steel. Gone is the plastic of the earlier iteration. And, in fact, we've got two designs to choose from — traditional stainless, or a matte black, the latter with a PVD semi-gloss finish. Both colors come with matching metal bands as well as a leather strap. (We recently showed you how easy it is to change a Pebble strap; here's your chance to put that to use.)

Pebble Steel.

You'll note that the watch itself has gotten a bit of a redesign, too. While many of the past months have been dedicated to getting the existing Pebble into customers' hands, the industrial design team went back to work on Pebble Steel. The face has become a little more angular (still covered in Gorilla Glass, though), and the bezel made smaller. The three side buttons have found a tighter design and are now spaced more closely together. The charging connector has been redesigned. (The new one is color coded, so you can keep them straight if you have both versions.) And, yes, Pebble's eponymous logo is now front and center.

Pebble Steel.Pebble Steel.

All in all, it's safe to say we're now looking at a more mature, sophisticated Pebble. And that was the point, Pebble execs told us here in Los Vegas. Some customers had said there were times they weren't wearing their Pebble because it was just too casual — especially if in brighter colors. So the idea wasn't so much to redesign Pebble, but to class it up a bit. And, more important, they still wanted it to be a Pebble. Maintaining consistency in the experience was paramount. Developers have taken to the SDK, so fragmentation could not happen.  

This is still a Pebble. Same monochrome, e-paper display. But it's more grown-up Pebble. Newer apps. A classier look. And a more grown-up price to go with it, for sure, but still below that of the more major manufacturers. We'll have more on this new guy later in the month.

For more, swing by our pals at Smartwatch Fans.

 

Reader comments

Pebble Steel first look: Our favorite smartwatch, sophisticated

60 Comments

Oh my god that is to expensive for a watch. I can't afford it. Q the music. I've got my kleenex handy.

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Sorry, but many are not going to agree that it is the "best" smartwatch in many ways. It is perfectly decent, but slapping on an additional $100 just for a nicer looking version of what is the same old specs is not going to have it compete all that well with the likes of the Sony 2, for example. No touch screen is perhaps the biggest issue- can't even use it as a calculator.

Still, it is a welcome move and does make it even more compelling.

I damn sure do not agree. U can still have ur ugly pebble with lack of features and I'll keep my gear. It's still a better watch in my eyes. Now ur pebble is $100 more just because they changed the design a little but basically the same watch. Now that funny.

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I'm having to agree with you. Although I like that they made it a grownup look for only 50 more i can have a color screen, talk like dick tracy and take a picture (umm ok), If they would have come out with at least a mic to help offset the $100 addition I might have been able to spring for it.

I have both watches. I would say each has it's benefits. Pebble more "useful" simply because you can see the time without needing 2 hands as it's always on, no button needed. Well, basically that's it but it's a big "it". I can't tell you have many times I look at my Gear expecting to see the time. Yes I could enable the gyro screen on option. I could also lose my ass in battery life as it's always turning on when I don't want it to.

Gear needs an always on mode like the Sony Smartwatch and it would be the best option hands down. I honestly get 2-3 days battery out of it. Not the one day that a lot of reviewers were posting.

If someone were to pay $150 for the original model then they will definitely fork out the extra $100 to have it look good. Now all it needs is a Rolex screen saver to make people feel like they are important.

Meh, not me. I got my original on sale for $130, so this would actually be twice the price, and one of my favorite uses for the Pebble is when running, to show my time, distance, and pace, and to skip songs. I don't think these new ones will be as comfortable for running or other sporting activities. People who have extra money to drop might pick up both though, the original for outdoor / sporting activities and the new one for when they want to dress up.

Personally, I think the original already looks pretty good with the type of clothes I typically wear. I don't often wear suits or tuxes, so I don't feel that my original Pebble looks out of place on me anyways.

I would not pay extra. If I want stylish, I will wear one of my stylish watches...I wear my pebble for function. At 130, I won't feel bad if I trash it or it because outdated. Would rather get the TOC for 50 more...I guess I am in the minority on this one.

I think you're right, it's still no "Mr fancy pants" dress watch. So I think if you've already got a pebble you're better off with a toq. then you have two different smart watches to play with, rather than two of the same thing with different casings.

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I love the upgrade in materials, but I prefer the design of the original. Maybe its just too angular, and I don't really like the name on the face.

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Really, we are now going to complain about the name on the face? It is a watch after all, go look into a watch case and find one without the name on the face.

I agree every watch has it but it's just too large IMO. Slightly more discreet branding would've been more sophisticated.

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You'd be hard pressed to find a tackier-looking name on a $250 watch.

The only point of this watch is the way it looks, to become a fashion accessory rather than just a smart watch. People who don't care about looks wouldn't buy this version in the first place. So the name on the bezel is a pretty big fail.

Given how quickly all this stuff is changing, are many folks going to want to drop an extra hundred bucks to "class up" something that's going to be obsolete in a year or two? Idunno.

That being said it just brings it up to the level of my Sony Smartwatch 2 with black matte metal band which I got for $159. ;-)

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I haven't personally used the Sony Smartwatch 2, but most of the reviews I read recommended the Pebble over it, claiming the software on Sony's watch was cluttered, slow, and just didn't work that well. Also, the Pebble has better developer support. Tons of apps and watch faces for Pebble, and that will only improve now with the official Pebble app store.

I read that as well in the beginning and let me say that those people represent the portion of the tech industry who will always have something to complain about and overall have unreal expectations for most new products.

Comparing both, my SS2 looks and feels more refined. Yes, the pebble last longer and has more faces (majority of which, I will never ever use) and has better dev support.

That said, I don't need the watch to last all week, just more than 2 days. I'll find time to charge it within that window. Especially if that longer battery comes at the cost of a screen that looks like it belongs in 2010. The faces it has work well for my needs. The apps and functions that the SS2 supports are the core functions that I would want to look at my watch for. Most of the ones I put on my pebble were shortly unistalled, because they either weren't useful or simply cluttered up my smartwatch experience.

For those looking for a true smart watch, look no further. However, the pebble is a cool toy.

On a side note, the metal pebble is a huge fail IMO. Most importantly, it's fugly and offers nothing new to the experience. I'm ok with wearing a smart watch that looks like a smart watch. Just don't charge me extra for a "dress watch" that's just an extra ugly smart watch. Now it just looks like I have no style.

Will the original pebble get all the apps? It should, it makes sense that it would.

Posted via Android Central App on my Moto X

I'm just happy they only changed the looks and materials and not the internals. It would have sucked if the original Pebble lacked functionality compared to this one, became outdated, or was left behind development wise.

Was about to go out and buy a Regular Pebble, I think I'll save up another hundred till next month. Awesome redesign.

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Just ordered one, ships in mid february just in time for my birthday!

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Doesn't do enough, all it does is tell you when you have a call or a notification. To buy a watch for those features is just nuts. I have the Note 3 and yes the Galaxy Gear. If you own a Samsung phone the only watch to buy is the Gear, it just does so many more things and does them well. With the fairly recent Gear update it makes the new Gear watch a no brainer compared to the Pebble. I think the Gear looks slick and is made of metal. I laugh because the big push on the new Pebble is it's made of "metal", the Gear is made of metal and no one seemed to mention that as a positive feature of the Gear, now the new Pebble that does the same thing as the old Pebble, no new features at all is the best thing out there due to being made of modern materials, "metal" What a joke. The Galaxy Gear is the watch of choice for any Samsung Note 3, S4 and I think the S3 might have been added. The best features of the Pebble is it can be used on both IOS and Android. The battery life is great along with the charging cable. The Pebble just doesn't do enough IMO.

Not true. The Pebble can do a lot more than just show notifications. Not sure why you think that. It has apps, so it can do pretty much anything. I use mine to control music, show my time, distance, and pace while I'm exercising (with the Runkeeper app), and I use the Glance app on my Pebble to see the weather, calendar appointments, and to send predefined text messages.

I been saying the same thing on all these tech blogs. I had the Pebble for a bit then got the Gear for 200. There is a night and day difference. Im convinced these blogs have an agenda because the Gear is in NO WAY aAS BAD as they claim and the Pebble is in NO WAY AS GOOD as they claim. The Gear is like a BMW and the Pebble is like a Kia. No comparison in build quality, features, and functionality. I guess the fact that the gear only works with Samsung devices is a knock against it, but otherwise, it's already leagues better than the Pebble. I think the Pebble gets so much hype because it's like David vs Goliath, but in reality the Gear is hands down better in almost every way.

... but that's a massive negative. I've got a Galaxy S3 but there is a massive chance that my next phone will be a Nexus or Motorola, so why would I buy a watch that will only connect to a Samsung? Samsung definitely doesn't have the loyal following yet to make the watch a success.

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Samsung has more brand loyalty than other Android OEMs. Personally, Im on my 3rd Samsung device (Nexus, Note 2, Note 3).. That's just me though. I do know a number of people who have gone from the GS3 to Note or GS2 to GS4 or whatever.

Also, the Gear needs a Samsung device because certain functions rely on Samsung proprietary stuff like S-Voice and touchwiz versions of apps. Also the apps for the watch come from the Samsung app store.

They probably did it this way cause they were trying to get the product out quick. Ill be interested to see if they make Gear 2 compatible with all Androids..

I agree with you 100%. Most tech reviewers, including some here on AC, seemed to have an agenda to push the Pebble.

The Gear is a great smartwatch, and can do everything the Pebble does with the added bonus of a still camera, video recording, full color display, and touch capacity.

People complained the price of the Gear was too high, but if other OEM's put in the functionality and build quality of the Gear the price of their device would soon inch up to the same or more than the Gear. By upgrading the build material even Pebble was forced to add $100 to the price of the original.

In an earlier post I suggested that Pebble would soon be forced to upgrade the materials if they wanted the business or fashion consumer to buy their product. Most people who wear watches on a daily basis do not merely wear them for function. The watch is an accessory, like a piece of jewelry, and is an extension of the wardrobe. I was all but laughed off this site for suggesting such a thing, and then I read this article and now I laugh because I knew it had to happen.

Tech sites like this one must pump up the Pebble, because they know that unless they do the Pebble won't last. Now that Samsung has entered the smartwatch wars, soon to be followed by the likes of Apple, and other big name OEM's, then companies like Pebble will not be able to compete.

I couldn't agree more with the first part of your post. When I keep seeing posts overselling the pebble or other inferior products from AC and other tech blogs, I get highly suspicious of the back room deals that take place. I mean after all, news is a business and we would be foolish to be blind at some of the gate-keeping that's going on here, but at the same time it makes it hard for to me respect tech experts that put their own agenda before the best product wins rationale.

To be clear, I own a pebble and it's not a terrible smart watch by any means. However let us be real, it does have its place and that is not at the top of the smart watch food chain.

Maybe I am just becoming more sensitive to it, but it seems like readers are calling AC on their BS a lot more as of late.

"When I keep seeing posts overselling the pebble or other inferior products from AC and other tech blogs, I get highly suspicious of the back room deals that take place."

That's as silly as it is insulting — and flat-out not true. "Back-room deals"? (We use hyphens around here, by the way.) Like, with cigars and envelopes of cash? We get paid the same here no matter what we write. In fact, we spent thousands (and thousands) of dollars on our "Wrist First" piece in December. Way more than it should have cost to do it, actually. But it's a story we wanted to tell, and we wanted to try to tell it in that manner. So we ponied up.

And, by the way, that trip was three more days away from my wife and daughters on the back end of the Thanksgiving holiday that I might otherwise have preferred to spend with them. So you'll forgive me when I tell you that not only are you completely wrong in your unfounded assertion, but that you maybe owe an apology or two as well.

You got the Gear for $200? At that price, I'd probably recommend it over Pebble, too. And I completely agree that it's got a better build quality than Pebble. In fact, I said as much way back in October.

I'm mostly in love with the look of the Gear. The brushed metal with exposed screws looks as sophisticated as ever. It makes the Pebble — which costs half as much as the Gear — well, look like a cheaper plastic watch.

"Like a cheaper plastic watch." Funny how folks didn't bother noting that here.

And I completely agree that the Pebble gets some love because it's the underdog. Everyone loves an underdog. Except for those rooting for Goliath.

"I laugh because the big push on the new Pebble is it's made of "metal", the Gear is made of metal and no one seemed to mention that as a positive feature of the Gear"

Actually, I did mention that. In October. And numerous times since then.

But you're right in that one of the best features of Pebble is that it's cross platform (and works on not just one manufacturer's phone on Android). That's a big feature, IMHO.

You don't need to defend yourself Phil. As an owner of both watches and user of both I'd say the Pebble definitely has some advantages over the Gear. I hardly use the camera in the gear or the speaker. Oh I have high hopes and planned projects to utilize both but do I? I do not. What do I miss the most on my gear? Seeing the time when I look at it(without enabling the battery killing motion turn on sensor) and needing to press a button. To me that is the 1 single feature a "watch" must possess. Otherwise you're wearing a PDA on your wrist and not a true "watch".

That is where the Pebble beats most other smart "watches". Because they are in fact not a "watch" at all. And that is exactly what we are expecting. Well I am anyway. If the next Gear(2) puts the speaker in the main unit, possibly ditches the camera or at least put it on the main unit and incorporates some kind of "Active Display" where you can leave the display on without using much juice and also being able to use any watch band then the Gear will own all. Until then it's too clumsy right now IMHO.

It still seems like Apple and Google are going to come out with something more functional and long term. I feel like Pebble will die off as soon as they join the game.

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So for $100 all you get is a metal band and casing? No bigger battery? No extra features? Pass...

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I still really wish they had made this into a modular watch, like the iPad Nano before it. Make the basic hardware, (the unit itself) but let us pick from case designs, colors, bands and band types. Black comes enclosed with it, anything else is $25/$50/$75 more, depending on materials. Done.

The design is problematic if you want to switch straps. Instead of two lugs theres now four.

Good luck finding a replacement strap that isn't overpriced and specifically made for the pebble steel body.

The point of the Pebble if function. One major plus is using while working out, running, cycling, etc. I like being able to swap from a rubber strap to a leather or nato.

There's a reason why 'fitness' watches all use rubber/silicone straps. Nobody wants to run with a steel bracelet. Sweat on the leather strap from frequent work outs will destory it within a month.

I've seen the Galaxy Gear being priced anyhwere from 199-250 when it's on sale. I don't see how the Pebble Steel is worth 250 when you can get a Gear for the same price or less.

I think I am going purchase one of these pebbles
Even tho I am really not much of a watch person.

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It seems like every other article I see is about the Pebble. As a Galaxy Gear owner, I just don't get the hype. If the only thing you can bash about the Gear is that I have to charge it everyday, then is that really an argument. I charge my tablet and phone everyday so I don't see it being a big deal.

Articles in the past few days from AC and Smart watch Fans
Which doesn't include the Pebble watch documentary that was done on

• Poll: Which Pebble Steel do you like best?

• Enter to win a Pebble Steel

• Pebble Steel first look: Our FAVORITE smartwatch, sophisticated

• In pictures: Pebble Steel gallery

• Watch the Pebble #CESlive announcement at 11 a.m. PST!

• Hands-on with the Pebble Steel and new partner apps [video]

• Pebble Steel hands-on photo gallery

• Pebble Steel official photo gallery

• Official Pebble Steel videos

• Pebble announces the Pebble Steel in Black Matte and Brushed Stainless

• Interview with Pebble CEO, Eric Migicovsky

• Getting started with the Pebble on Android

• Interview with Pebble Product Evangelist, Myriam Joire

• Interview with Pebble Developer Evangelist, Cherie Williams

• Wrist-First: This is Pebble

• How to change the watch strap on your Pebble

This looks very, very nice.

I have not worn a watch in several years but I will one day get a smartwatch.

Once all of you guys test them out for me.

I will be waiting for the 4-5th Generation of smart watches.

By that time, battery will have improved, there will be a much better selection, there will be an onslaught of new features, the prices will have come down considerably, more apps.

At the pace mobile technology is moving, it should not be more than 2-3 years before we are at the stage of 4th-5th Gen Smart Watches.

I can't wait to own the Smart Watch of 2017. Should be pretty sweet!