I am not a typical watch guy but I like the concept of Smartwatch. I like the extras the Smartwatch offers other than timekeeping. For time keeping, I have my phone in any case. A reason why I proudly wore Casio F-91W digital watch during my school days. After I became a tech writer, I had a chance to try out many Smartwatches and fitness bands and they always kept me curious. When Pebble smashed its way into recognition with it’s hugely successful kickstarter campaign back in 2012, it aroused my interest but it took four more years for me to really try their device for a fairly extended time to form any sort of opinion with Pebble Time Steel. So unlike many other articles you might find on internet, I would not be comparing it with other Pebble devices that came before it but stick faithfully to my observations about the Time Steel.
Key features of Pebble Time Steel
- 1.25-inch display size
- 144×168 pixels
- Colour ePaper display
- 10.5mm-thick marine-grade stainless-steel watch case
- 22mm removable straps
- Pebble OS
- Android and iOS support
- Cortex M4 CPU
- Bluetooth 4.0
- silver/grey/gold watch case options
- Water-resistant to 5 ATM (50m)
Display & Design
Smartwatches have evolved in design considerably and some of them have a classic watch looks with the Huawei Smartwatch being my favorite when it comes to design. Pebble Time Steel on other hand has a very muted design language. Surprisingly when I wore it for the first time, the immediate comment on the design came from my 67-year old mother who quipped the design is brilliant. I found her observations odd but I think it also offers a consumer insight. People love simple design and even if it looks chunky as in this case.
Pebble Time Steel has a steel watch cace available in three colors – silver / grey / gold. It is also available in choice of leather and steel straps. Steel would be a no-nonsense solid, premium strap I would have preferred but I received the leather stuff. The straps are 22mm types and you can replace it with any similar bands you find in market.
Also steel straps won’t get soggy like leather ones when you get drenched in water, after all the Pebble Time Steel is water resistant up to 30 meters and you can be afford to shower, rain or swim wearing it. Another reason to opt for the steel band.
The watch case is clunky metal made of military grade stainless steel and measures 10.5mm in thickness. The bezels are really prominent but I found it kind of nice for a change. The corners are rounded and the watch screams minimalist in design.
Coming to the display, it has a 1.25-inch screen size with an always on color e-Paper display sporting a 144×168 pixels resolution. While the world is increasingly familiar with touch screens, you might feel a bit odd with the non-touch screen of the Pebble Time Steel but does that hamper the user experience? I will talk about that in a while. The display is not the eye-popping types we have got used in many of the Smartphones these days but when under direct sunlight it surprises with its very clear legibility. It wins hands down for outdoor readability. The always-on display also means your time is just a glance away every time.
In the absence of the touch screen, the navigation buttons steer your way around. On the right side there are three metal buttons and on the left side there is a single button. The right also houses a microphone.
The buttons are very neatly laid, raised and are easier to click.
The back side has the proprietary charging pins and you can use the magnetic charger supplied with the Time to power up. It also means your Time would be dead if you are not having your charger around but a good news is the battery life we will talk about soon.
Getting started with the Pebble is pretty straight forward. It pairs with Android or iPhone via bluetooth via their app. You need to install the app and get the watch paired with your Smartphone. Here on wards, its a easy cruise. You can customize the watch face, nothing very fancy but there are couple of interesting ones.
The app gives you the control over various settings – health, app notifications and app sync. They are neatly laid out in tabs. You can also install third party apps available by going to to the app tab and clicking the add icon at the bottom corner.
What I really liked about Pebble Time steel is that it works on the background and is not intrusive. It is there but does not compel our attention unnecessarily. Touch screens tend to make us fiddle around the screen more often, we don’t have that distractions here. We access the screen only when need arises – check time, check notifications we allowed to be displayed. Period. Of course there are few more information to be scrolled on the time line like weather but you indulge only when you really ought to and we do it less due to the button navigation.
But you need to get used to few things. First, there are several pressings of buttons to get into desired settings or even scrolling through texts. Second, the texts looks retro like back into a time machine.
Long pressing the center button list many options beginning with settings at the top, and scrolling down shows weather, music control, notifications, alarm, send texts, timer, stop watch etc. There is a microphone and you can dictate messages and send as SMS. It did work well for my heavy South Indian accent.
The fitness tracking along with the sleep tracker works decently well for regular users, though if you are a hardcore fitness enthusiasts and need a very accurate steps counter, you might be
Battery life: A week and maybe a little more
Pebble claims that the Time Steel has 10-day battery life. With my usage, I got a little more than a full week, which is still a decent life compared to many other Smartwatches available now. Even when the battery almost died out, it hinges on the last drop and displays just the time for another 12 hours or so till it finally sleeps. Only hitch, if you are traveling for more than a week, don’t forget to carry their charging cable.
My final thoughts..
Is the Pebble the right Smartwatch for you? Should you buy it? Let me answer myself first. It’s funny that I sort of like the non-intrusive behavior of the Pebble Time, so there is no denying I liked it the time I was wearing it but having said that I like over the top gadgets, brighter display and of course touch screens, so I may not put my money if am buying now considering there are other options in the market when it comes to aesthetics and functionality catering to my taste. That’s my needs and you might be different. If you are someone who wants a Smartwatch to work silently along side, distract you less, Pebble Time Steel might hit upon you. Some pebbles on the shore are not for everyone but there are some who like to pick them.