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Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 09:51 pm PT (12:51 am ET)

Hands-on impressions with Pebble's high-end Steel smartwatch

Over one year after the original Pebble shipped, the eponymous smartwatch firm is out with a second version of its device that melds the same smartphone-connected platform with looks more fitting of a traditional timepiece.

Pebble Steel


In January, AppleInsider was able to take a hands-on look at the second-generation Pebble, dubbed the Pebble Steel, and came away impressed with the device's fit and finish. With an example finally in-hand, we can say that it is the best implementation of a "dressy" smartwatch to date.

Pebble Steel is one of the first devices in the sector to successfully move away from unconventional designs that made the term "smartwatch" synonymous with "geeky." The new wearable uses the same hardware as the original Pebble and runs the same updated Pebble 2.0 OS with app store access, but puts the high-tech package in a case you can wear with a tailored suit.

Pebble Steel


The Steel is also the first in what appears to be a trend in the sector. Upcoming products from smartwatch makers, like a collaborative effort from Meta and Frank Nuovo, boast fashion-forward designs in an effort to make the devices more palatable to the mainstream consumer.

As mentioned above, the Pebble Steel features the same internals as the original version, with a few exceptions in new button actuators and a redesigned charging port. The Steel also features a new tri-color LED, which indicates system notifications and charging status. This is especially helpful, since the old Pebble and original Pebble OS made it difficult to tell when battery life was nearing its end.

Pebble Steel


Exterior enhancements, however, are what sets the Steel apart from other smartwatch offerings. True to its name, the latest Pebble uses a stainless steel tonneau case, Gorilla Glass 2 and a proprietary lug shape that accepts either a leather strap or stainless bracelet. Both strap options are included in the box.

Aside from being less prone to scratches, the Gorilla Glass makes a significant difference in clarity. Compared to the plastic used to cover the original Pebble's screen, the Steel is far more transparent. The bottom chin of the screen has "Pebble" silkscreened on it. Originally, we thought this would bother us, but it turns out that the graphic is almost imperceptible.

Pebble Steel


What does bother us are the details. The stainless steel bracelet is made of folded links like those made in the 1960s and 1970s. The assembled watch with band is light and feels good on the wrist. However, there is a serious lack of heft that some may equate to cheapness.

The bezel surrounding the display has a sharp edge, not so sharp as to cut ourselves, but enough for it to feel like running a finger over a knife-edge sideways to judge the sharpness of the blade.

Despite these minor drawbacks, we feel like Pebble is just coming into its own.