Peb­ble Steel

Australian T3 - - RATED -

US $249,GETPEBLE.COM

The orig­i­nal smart­watch gets heav­ily into metal

One of the first out of the blocks in the smart­watch race, with a very suc­cess­ful crowd­fund­ing cam­paign, the Peb­ble was an ugly duck­ling, all brightly coloured plas­tic. The Peb­ble Steel, if not a swan, is at least rea­son­ably chic, in an ’80s-retro, stain­less-steel kind of way, with wa­ter­proof, Go­rilla Glass screen pro­tec­tion and a leather or metal strap.

The finest fea­ture from the orig­i­nal Peb­ble is still present: a 1.26-inch e-ink dis­play, which is easy to read in di­rect sun­light and uses less power than the LCD and OLED dis­plays on the other watches on test, so you get up to a week of full use of all the Steel’s fea­tures.

It con­nects to An­droid and iOS de­vices via Blue­tooth 4.0, au­to­mat­i­cally re­lay­ing caller ID, texts and no­ti­fi­ca­tions from your phone, as well as con­trol­ling what­ever au­dio is play­ing. There’s no new in­ter­face, voice-con­trol mic or even a touch­screen, though, so nav­i­gat­ing menus by but­tons can still feel cum­ber­some.

Apps and watch faces are in­stalled via the Peb­ble app on your phone and there are more than ever to choose from – over 3,000 and count­ing – thanks to an open plat­form that’s now pay­ing off. Big names on board in­clude Run­keeper, Foursquare and Ever­note, as well as plucky bed­room-dev ef­forts such as Flap­pyBird “homage”, TinyBird. Qual­ity is far from A-grade across the board, but there’s more to keep you amused here than on any other watch. The main prob­lem is that the Peb­ble holds a max­i­mum of just eight apps at a time, and a lot of the most pop­u­lar ones also re­quire com­pan­ion smart­phone apps, some of which you have to pay for.

Putting aside that and the fact this is not so much an up­grade as a re­skin­ning, this is an at­trac­tive smart­watch in more ways than one. Again, it’s far from per­fect, but it is the best you can get right now, es­pe­cially for own­ers of smart­phones that aren’t made by Sam­sung. Love Huge ar­ray of apps. Stylish watch and strap. E-ink dis­play is easy to read, even in sun­light Hate Only space for eight apps at a time. But­tons are awk­ward. No touch­screen or voice con­trol T3 Says The best smart­watch around with hordes of open-source apps but needs re­fin­ing

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