Pebble, the sleek smartwatch with an ePaper display that first shipped in 2013, has enjoyed a lot of hype at CES 2014. Pebble has a big fan base, with over 300,000 Pebbles purchased over the last year. The original Pebble has a sporty design with bands available in five different colors.
At CES 2014, Pebble jumped wrist-first into the luxury market, with its announcement of the premium Pebble Steel. The Steel, however, is basically just a design change, to woo consumers who want a connected timepiece, not just a watch.
Pebble Steel has a thinner, more traditional watch design. The face is Corning Gorilla Glass, while the bands are made of forged and CNC-machined stainless steel. There are two band options—brushed stainless or black matte. Both options ship with an additional black leather band.
Pebble Steel, like the original Pebble, is waterproof up to 50 meters and has a simple ePaper display. The battery life is about five days, rechargeable via USB. Steel added an RGB LED in the corner of the watch face to show battery life. Moving forward, the LED will be available to app developers for other types of notifications.
We were able to get our hands on Pebble Steel for a few minutes at the Mercedes-Benz booth. It's lighter than we anticipated, and much less bulky. As intended, it did look like a classic, premium watch. We were especially impressed with the sleekness of the black matte band.
Pebble had two other big announcements at CES 2014. The Pebble app store is slated to go live at the end of January 2014 to provide a centralized place for Pebblers to find and download apps and customized watch faces. In addition, Pebble has new partnerships with Pandora, ESPN, and Mercedes-Benz. These three powerhouses all have new apps for the Pebble. The connection to Mercedes-Benz is interesting—though we're not convinced the app has any functionality that you can't get from simply pressing a button or two on your dashboard. But by showcasing Pebble integration, Mercedes adds to its list of cutting-edge technology, and Pebble, along with its new premium Pebble Steel, has another inroad to the luxury market.
We're still not completely sold on Pebble—but for consumers who want to jump into the smartwatch market without compromising luxury, Pebble Steel fits that niche. And, thanks to the hype around it at CES this year, Pebble now has some good brand recognition too.