Pebble virtually invented the smartwatch segment with its crowdfunded e-ink watch, now branded the Pebble Classic. But time moves on (sorry), and with tech heavyweights including Apple, Samsung and LG competing to create great watches for designers (opens in new tab) – with the Apple Watch featuring some of the best iPhone apps (opens in new tab) – Pebble had to up its game.
The result was the (also crowdfunded) Pebble Time, which added colour and a number of other improvements to the Classic's simple formula. Pebble then offered a more stylish alternative to the Time, creating the Pebble Time Steel, and it's that watch that piqued the interest of us at Creative Bloq. Could it provide the ideal combination of good design and useful features to help improve our productivity while still being something we'd like to wear on our wrists?
Well, after a month of testing out the Time Steel in a variety of challenging environments (the office, home, the car, home again… the list literally ends there) we can report that we love it.
Our supplied watch has a blood red strap and gold case, which initially raised so many eyebrows that it was like our office air conditioning started to suck instead of blow. But it grew on me – it's not a colour combination I'd choose personally, but that is the whole point of personalisation and Pebble offers plenty of options there.
If you're used to Pebble's previous watches, the first thing you'll notice is how grown-up it feels. It has a lovely metal case, and its colour e-ink screen – while not the last word in resolution – is clear and fun. It is chunky but light and comfortable on the wrist (and I have ludicrously skinny wrists).
That low resolution pays dividends when it comes to battery life, however. On my test, I only gave the battery a boost with the accompanying magnetic charge cable every seven days or so, and I could probably have eked out a day or so more at a push. That sort of longevity will have Apple Watch (opens in new tab) owners weeping into their pricey docks.
The Pebble does all the smartwatchy things you'd expect – it notifies you of your calls, messages and more, and there are calendar apps to remind you of deadlines and meetings so you can probably persuade your tax return that it's a productivity tool.
It is lacking apps compared to the Apple Watch and Android Wear-toting smartwatches, as you'd expect, and it has limited functionality if you don't pair it with a phone. But most people will not be buying a smartwatch as a standalone object, anyway.
More importantly, it has funky watch faces aplenty – my personal favourite was a cool '70s-style face with slick sliding numerals, which suited the gold bezel, but you're sure to find a face you like amongst the myriad available options that range from stylish to sci-fi, geeky to cheeky, and everything inbetween.
And that perhaps summarises the Pebble Time Steel best of all – while most other smartwatches take themselves very seriously, the Pebble is fun and yet it still offers much of the functionality of its (more expensive) rivals.