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It’s 2013 and the wearables are blowing up! Last year, in 2012, the smart watch market was practically Sony’s watch and a few other smaller companies like Meta watch. Pebble, which holds the the title for largest kickstarter project, is probably the most successful at the smart watch till now. It’s a barebones and simply device that’s a companion to your iPhone or Android.

It’s simple and delivers notifications, while running a handful of apps. There’s probably only one problem with it, which is also why I haven’t picked one up yet, the design. The original Pebble had a colorful and sporty plastic design with a rubber band that could be swapped with any 22mm standard band around but it just wasn’t as watch-like as other watches from companies like Casio for $100-$200. And this is where the Pebble Steel comes in.

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The Pebble Steel has, as you might’ve guessed, an all steel/metal design that’s on par with many non-smart watches in the price range. The whole enclosure is machined CNC milled stainless steel and the Steel comes with two bands out of the box. A professional metal band and a more casual leather band that can be swapped out with each other as needed. The ‘teeth’ that hold the bands in are proprietary and can’t be swapped out with the standard 22mm bands like the original. Pebble released the 3D-printable dimensions online so it shouldn’t be too long before you see other options made available. Pebble has managed to make the watch even thinner than the original, at 10.5mm, while being a heavier, at 99g, for obvious reasons. The front is now covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, which Pebble said will be upgraded to GG3 when available. The side has the standard 3 Pebble buttons with a new magnetic connector because it wasn’t possible to pit the old sort of curved one on the Steel. The front also has a tricolor notification LED next to the display.

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The specs of the Pebble Steel are largely the same. There’s still a 144 x 168 eInk display, which is the optimum choice for battery life, with an LED backlight behind it which still comes off as a little blue. It’s all run by a super low power ARM processor and 128KB of RAM which sounds like a joke in 2014 but gets the job done. There’s an 3-axis accelerometer with gesture detection and a magnetometer and ambient light sensor. The whole watch is waterproofed to 5ATM which is neat. It’s got the vibration motor for notifications and connects to your phone over Bluetooth 2.1 or Bluetooth LE 4.0, if it’s supported like on the iPhone and a few Android phones. The internal memory has been increased from 4MB to 8MB, a smart choice considering the new Pebble App Store.

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Pebble App/Store on iPhone

The Pebble Steel brings with it the OS 2.0 update to Pebble which introduces an official Pebble App Store that’s already got 6000 registered developers and growing. The big name apps now are ESPN, Pandora, GoPro, Yelp, Foursquare and Mercedes. There should be plenty more watch faces and apps coming out, and even games now that someone figured out how to run a 30fps game on an eInk screen. The 2.0 update also plugs the Pebble into the slew of iOS 7 smart watch notification APIs that make the whole thing work more seamlessly over the Bluetooth 4.0 LE connection.

The Pebble Steel launched on Jan 28th starting at $250 alongside the original Pebble which is still $150, as cheaper option. There are stainless steel silver and black options, with metal and leather bands in the box. The black one is coated using Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) so there’s no scuff gate issues like the infamous slate iPhone 5. The Pebble Steel looks very promising and if you’re planning on dropping a $150 on a Pebble, put in the extra $100 for a much better experience.

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