From plastic to metal, the Pebble smartwatch grows up with the new “Pebble Steel” for 2014. Is the public ready to start wearing smartwatches? The industry feels that 2014 may just be the right time and more fashionable designs in the traditionally ho-hum-looking nerd watch department are going to start being released. Today, at the International CES in Las Vegas, Pebble announced version 2 of the Pebble smartwatch, aptly named Pebble Steel – will it “steal” the show? In addition to an upgraded design, Pebble flaunts its apps and range of upcoming features.
Pebble Steel appears positioned to answer the question, “Could you wear a smartwatch in a business or casual setting?” Because, let’s face it, until now you couldn’t wear a smartwatch on a date (well most dates). Using more expensive materials and a dressier appearance than the original, that answer is starting to look like “yes” (maybe). The Pebble Steel will come with two finishes including a brushed stainless and black matte case. Connected to the case will be a choice of matching brushed or black matte bracelet or a leather strap. While different on a lot of levels, the focus of the Pebble Steel’s appeal seems to be similar to that of the also new for 2014 Meta watch.
The original Pebble smartwatch used a 22mm lug width and accepted aftermarket straps and bracelets. The new Pebble Steel has a proprietary lug shape that requires a special bracelet or strap. While the images provided aren’t proof, it looks as if the display may be better in the Pebble Steel than in the original version. One of the big advantages the new Pebble has is that its crystal is now made of Gorilla Glass which is going to be much stronger than the previous material. It also uses a similar magnetic charging cable as the first Pebble watch, and is still water resistant to 50 meters. More than ever the Pebble looks like a “real watch” and less like a plastic toy that is actually quite useful.
The good news for developers and users is that the Pebble Steel runs the same recently updated software and has the same well-thought out controls as the existing Pebble. Plus, all the same apps still work. With the firmware update that occurred after aBlogToWatch last reviewed a Pebble smartwatch, notifications have become more reliable as well as managed from within the smartphone OS. The new features and improvements have made the Pebble perhaps the most user friendly smartwatch to-date.
In addition to the new Steel model watch, Pebble is introducing a Pebble appstore. The appstore has six categories of apps that include Daily, Tools & Utilities, Remotes, Notifications, Fitness, and Games. Daily apps include quick access to news, stocks, weather, and the sort of things you’d want to check frequently. Remotes control home appliances, car door locks, cameras and more. There’s a fitness category, utilities that include conversion apps, games, and notification apps that push customized notifications straight from apps and web services to the watch. Overall it looks like people with a Pebble have a lot more reason to play with and rely on their smartwatch than those with pieces from competitor brands.
Pebble is further highlighting many of the big name companies they have co-developed apps with. The names include Foursquare, ESPN, Yelp, GoPro, Pandora, iControl, and even Mercedes Benz. The apps allow the Pebble watch to interact with the devices or services. The latter is interesting, as the Mercedes apps allows you to do things like see the fuel level, find your car, or control the entertainment system of your Mercedes from your wrist.