pebble steel 3qtr trio zoom

Pebble announces new smartwatch, app store as wearables competition mounts

LAS VEGAS—At a Consumer Electronics Show that’s about to be overwhelmed by smartwatches good and bad, sophisticated and atrocious, category pioneer Pebble is striking the first punch. On Monday the company announced Pebble Steel, a striking cosmetic upgrade to its previous smartwatch offering, which has begun looking somewhat anachronistic—and maybe even a bit hokey.

Indeed, wearable designers are finally catching on to the reality that mainstream consumers don’t want to look like total nerds.

pebble steel

Smartwatches are crawling out of the CES woodwork like so many seething insects, and it’s important for proud Pebble to show it’s still a boss in the wearables scene. The new design gives Pebble a more sophisticated, current aesthetic, and matches well with perhaps an even bigger announcement: Pebble is launching its own app store.

Calling it the “very first open platform for sharing apps optimized for wearables,” the new store is built directly into existing iOS and Android Pebble apps. It should be live by the end of January, and it will save Pebble users the hassle of finding compatible apps in disparate locations. 

pebble app store

The new Pebble app store essentially tells us that every hardware platform needs its own app store, and you can never go home again, sorry.

Pebble also announced three new software partners Monday. Pandora, ESPN, and Mercedes-Benz will be getting appy on the smartwatch platform that’s been so instrumental in generating buzz and interest around wearable tech.

Design for nerds and non-nerds alike

I’m a punishing critic of smartwatch aesthetics, and I dig what Pebble has done with the new Steel design, especially as it appears in the Black Matte version. In addition to the darker watch, there’s also a Brushed Stainless model. And how’s this for value: Both models come with two bands—one matching metal band, plus a leather strap.

The new watch is clad in Corning Gorilla Glass to protect Pebble’s existing e-paper display. The chassis is made of CNC-machined stainless steel, and an LED has been added to indicate charging status. You can purchase the new watch from getpebble.com for $250, and models will begin shipping on Jan. 28.

Stay tuned for my hands on with the new Pebble Steel. This is definitely one of the more important smartwatch announcements at this year’s CES.

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