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Review: Pebble Time Steel Is a Sensible Smartwatch for Everyone

Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 

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For many geeks, the Pebble was the first smartwatch we owned back in 2014, but can the top-end Pebble Time Steel (Rs. 15,999) compete and compare favorably to the might of Apple and Google in 2016? We went wrists-on to find out!

Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 
Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch. (Photo: The Quint/@2shar)
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Snapshot

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life with always-on screen
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Ease of use and operation
  • Premium design Sensible pricing

Cons:

  • Could do with better quality apps
  • Lacks the vibrant touchscreens of its rivals
  • Excessive bezels
  • Lacks true fitness features
Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 
Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch. (Photo: The Quint/@2shar)
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What’s Good?

The Pebble Time Steel design is divisive, at best. It’s undeniable that the watch is built solidly and looks like it can take a licking and keep on ticking, plus while it may look thick and bulky from the side, it sits very comfortably on the wrist and doesn’t dominate smaller wrists like some of its rivals.

The materials and the finish lend it a premium feel as well. That said, the actual screen itself is a tiny 1.25-inch across and the big black screen bezels and the surrounding metal bezel just feel like there’s such a lot of wasted space.

Oh, and then there’s that gold/red version, which I can’t say I liked, nor did anybody I asked…fortunately there are black and silver variants available.

Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 
Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch. (Photo: The Quint/@2shar)

The other interesting bit is that the Time Steel lacks a touchscreen, and relies completely on the side buttons for navigation and actions – the left is a back button which also illuminates the backlight, the up/down buttons on the right scroll through the notification/calendar timeline and the central button jumps to your apps and settings.

Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 
Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch. (Photo: The Quint/@2shar)

The button scheme, in my experience, works better (and faster) in the longer term than swiping across touch displays, more so when you quickly want to get something done. In terms of navigation mechanisms, it’s right up there with the Gear S2.

The Time Steel uses a full-color e-paper display instead of a standard LCD screen – sort of like a Kindle’s display but in color - which not only avoids issues of readability in bright sunlight but also blesses the Steel with an always on-display, much like a regular watch. It’s not particularly high-resolution, and Pebble makes up for it with a playful yet dare I say over simplistic UI that works well.

The big benefit is its battery life that is simply leagues above anything that the competition can offer.

Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 
Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch. (Photo: The Quint/@2shar)

In use, the Time Steel may seem a little light on features – your choice of apps is limited compared to Android Wear/Apple Watch, for instance – but the end product works really well and its simplicity is key.

It connects quickly to Android/iOS over Bluetooth, gives you access to all your notifications, send texts and control music playback, and does basic motion tracking as well.

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What’s Bad?

So it’s missing the vibrant, touchscreen LCDs and apps that its rivals tout, but that’s a clear tradeoff in approach that Pebble has taken over the years for the benefits in ease of use and battery life.

What I found more puzzling is that while the watch itself is water-proof to up to 30 meters, the leather strap will be worse off if you take it for a dip, and Pebble hasn’t yet started offering the steel bands as an option.

Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 
Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch. (Photo: The Quint/@2shar)

There is a pedometer to count your steps, but it lacks a heart-rate sensor for true fitness use, something that the latest lineup of Pebble watches, launched 2 days ago, have added.

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Why Buy It?

It’s reliable, a bit geeky and has a legendary battery life – everything we’ve come to expect from a Pebble…yet it isn’t your typical smartwatch and its slightly dull color e-paper screen means it isn’t for everyone, especially those taken in by the glitzy Apple and Huawei Watches.

Pebble is finally here in India and we take a closer look at it. 
Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch. (Photo: The Quint/@2shar)

If it’s a sensible smartwatch you seek that does its job quietly, the Time Steel comes highly recommended.

(Tushar Kanwar is a technology columnist and commentator and has been contributing for the past 15 years to India’s leading newspapers and magazines. He can be reached on Twitter: @2shar.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Review   Wearable Tech   Huawei Watch 

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