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Farmville 2 for Android review


Farmville has always been a massive success. It was one of the original Facebook games that took the world by storm and has earned millions upon millions of fans as well as detractors. Farmville 2 came and only helped bolster the aging franchise. Now, we have Farmville 2 for Android. How does it stack up against current Android games and how does it stack up against the desktop version? In this review, we’ll find out. If you’d rather watch than read, the video is posted above.


Farmville 2 for Android

If you’ve played Farmville before, this will all seem familiar.

Game play

If you’ve played Farmville before there is going to be very little about this game that you don’t already know. The basic game play elements remain pretty much the same. You plant crops, feed animals, build things, craft and sell items, expand your farm, complete missions, and all that jazz just like you would on the desktop variant of Farmville 2. There are a few things that you can do that you can’t do in the desktop version, like foraging for items, but even those things follow a familiar pattern in mechanics.

There are a few differences. You cannot set down plots of dirt and plant whatever you want. Now each plot of dirt can only grow one kind of crop at a time and you must build various plots in order to get various crops. That may seem restrictive but Zynga makes up for it by removing other restrictions. Insofar as I can tell, water appears to be infinite and you no longer need energy to craft items.

The game connects to both Facebook and Google+ and it also has Google Play Games achievements if you’re into using those. It features the similar mechanic of asking friends for various items in-game so make sure you know someone else who is playing, otherwise some of the missions will start to get really hard to complete. There are also in-app purchases that can get you coins, keys, and speed grow stuff should you want those but you can get along just fine without them.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this game is the connectivity. You can connect this new farm of yours to your existing Farmville 2 account on Facebook if you have one. It’s a little bit of a pain to get it connected sometimes but once you do, you can ship items between farms and that was actually kinda cool.

One fun thing I did was ship water to my desktop farm because water is severely limited there. You can only ship from farm to farm a couple of times a day so if you do intend on enjoying this game play mechanic, make sure you take full advantage. Otherwise you’ll have to wait hours for your next delivery.


Farmville 2 for Android

The graphics are crisp and clean. The controls are easy and organized.

Design

The design is nothing special for an Android title but it isn’t bad either. It’s essentially the same graphics as the desktop variant but they are sharp and colorful which is a plus. The screen is laid out in a manner that is easy to understand and getting to the various parts of the game isn’t difficult or confusing at all which is also a big plus.

Like all Farmville games, the longer you play the more cramped your farm gets and even after just a few hours I found myself re-arranging items on my farm so I didn’t accidentally click the wrong thing. I suppose that’s unavoidable after a point and thus will be something everyone has to deal with eventually.

Overall, the design is fairly good. The controls are designed in a manner that makes sense and the interface is easy to move around. You can’t really ask for much more than that.


Farmville 2 for Android

Water is infinite. Really.

The good

Okay so here’s what we liked.

  • The ability to ship to your desktop farm is awesome. Especially since the mobile app gives you unlimited water and things that usually take hours to make, like flour, can be accomplished fairly quickly on the mobile game. People who play both versions will definitely find this feature extremely useful. Oh, and you can ship items from the desktop version to the mobile version too, so it does work both ways.
  • The mechanics and controls are simple to understand and easy to use. Things do pretty much what you expect them to do and work how you expect them to work.
  • The graphics are sharp and colorful. One of the hallmarks of the Farmville series is having a game that’s fun to look at and the mobile version is no exception.
  • It has Google Play Games services, cloud saving, and social media connectivity with Facebook and Google+. These are all good things.
  • Lastly, it doesn’t have the restrictions that other games in this category have. You’re not bottlenecked by energy or water. I played this game for several hours without being required to stop. There are in app purchases but if you use your resources wisely they’re almost entirely unnecessary.

The bad

And here’s the bad.

  • You probably should have all your other apps closed out before playing this game. I had a bunch of apps running in the background before attempting my first time and it kind of lagged a little bit on my Note 3. I can see people who multitask heavily having performance issues and people who have older phones may also have performance issues.
  • This is a Farmville game and, thus, uses the same Farmville mechanics. This means there will come a point where you realize that all you’re really doing is watering plants, harvesting plants, making things out of plants, etc. The repetitive nature of the title is definitely one of its biggest weaknesses.
  • You will need to have friends on Facebook to unlock the full potential of this game. Like all Farmville games, Zynga really promotes the social gaming aspect of their titles and if you don’t use Facebook or have Facebook friends who play, you may end up getting stuck at some parts of the game. You can buy your way passed them using items provided in game or buy your way passed them using real money and I feel like people are not going to like that second option.

Farmville 2 for Android

Final thoughts

Overall, I was surprisingly impressed with Farmville 2. The mechanics are friendly and familiar, if a bit repetitive but frankly if you are interested in this game you know that already. The integration with the desktop variant brings an element of uniqueness that you simply don’t see in similar titles and I liked that a whole bunch.

That said, if you don’t have friends who play this game and you don’t play the desktop variant, the mobile game will feel a little lacking. Farmville 2 on mobile is supposed to be played with Farmville 2 on desktop and with other people who play both games.

So if you fall into that category, you should enjoy this game quite a bit because it complements the experience you’re already having. If you don’t, you may still enjoy this game but not as much and for not as long. If you didn’t like Farmville before watching this video, you’re not going to like it now and you probably shouldn’t play it at all. In any case, it is free to play so there’s no harm in at least trying it out for yourself. If you’re interested, click the button below to get started!
Get it on Google Play

Android Authority

Bose SoundTrue Review

While Bose originally made a name for itself with compact full stereo systems, it was only natural that as the company grew, so would its line of products. Now, if you can listen to music through it, there’s a fairly good chance that Bose makes it – Bluetooth speakers, in-ear headphones, over-ear headphones, you name it. While Bose is still most popular for its larger speaker systems, the company seems to be committing to its push into other areas by launching its newly branded SoundTrue headphones.

The Bose SoundTrue headphones are available in both around-ear and on-ear styles, depending on your preference. For noise isolation, the around-ear models are definitely the way to go, so that’s what we’re looking at today. Do these headphones hold up to Bose’s standard of high-quality sound?

Watch the video or head over to Sound Guys to read the article.









Android Authority

auki for iPhone review: iOS 7 quick reply the way Apple should do it

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Skullcandy Crusher Review

Bass. How low can you go? Sure, this might be a Public Enemy lyric, but it’s also a question that a lot of people find themselves asking when looking for headphones. Though it’s easier these days to find headphones with vision-blurring low end, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Skullcandy, a Utah-based company that has been making a serious name for itself in headphones over the last 10 years, has a novel solution to that problem. The Skullcandy Crusher headphones feature a slider on the left cup that allows you to adjust the amount of bass you hear. This slider also adjusts how much bass you feel.

While this is definitely an interesting idea, whether or not it’s a good idea is an entirely different matter. For the verdict, check out the video or read the article over at Sound Guys.









Android Authority

Display guru pens glowing review of the Galaxy S5’s screen

Samsung Galaxy S5 Hands on MWC 2014-1160012

We’ve often featured Raymond Soneira’s Technology Shoot-Outs analyses on Android Authority, and for good reason. Head of DisplayMate Inc., Soneira is one of the few display experts that regularly takes the time to look at major new devices and offer reviews based on actual measurements. In a world of vague comparisons, Soneira’s work is an oasis on objectivity.

The latest device to go through Raymond Soneira’s lab is the Galaxy S5. Samsung’s latest flagship features a 5.1-inch AMOLED display of Full HD resolution, and it’s easy to think that the differences between the S5 and the 5-inch Full HD Galaxy S4 are minimal. But things are not quite so.

According to Soneira, the Galaxy S5’s display is the best display DisplayMate ever tested. Not only is the Galaxy S5 a marked improvement over the Galaxy S4 in almost all aspects, but it’s also better than the Note 3, another device that gained Soneira’s praises.

Highest Brightness, Lowest Reflectance, Highest Contrast Rating in Ambient Light and Highest Color Accuracy

The Galaxy S5 sets several records when it comes to displays, including Highest Brightness, Lowest Reflectance, Highest Contrast Rating in Ambient Light and Highest Color Accuracy. That last point in particular is important, as color accuracy has long been the weakness of AMOLED screens, and the Galaxy S line in particular. In Cinema Mode (one of the color presets that users can pick from), the S5 features the most accurate colors of any smartphone or tablet that DisplayMate measured.

Samsung Galaxy S5 hands on color size vs all -1160811

In terms of brightness, the Galaxy S5’s screen is 22 percent brighter than the S4, while using the same power. Factoring in display size, the S5’s screen is an impressive 27 percent more efficient than the S4, which should improve battery life.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S5 triumphs in battery life tests

The S5 is even brighter than the Note 3, the previous record-holder. With Auto-brightness turned on, the device can output a whopping 698 cd/m2, six percent better than the Note 3. Further helping usage in bright ambient light is the very low reflectance. In other words, the Galaxy S5’s should stay visible even in direct sunlight.

Soneira concludes that, with the Galaxy S5, AMOLED is on par or better than LCD in every aspect, a big change compared to the early days of the technology, when the technology consistently came last in display comparisons.

For more details on Soneira’s results and methodology head over to the Shoot-Out over at DisplayMate.


    








Android Authority

Jabra ROX Review

Bluetooth has come a long way when it comes to sound quality, and that is a fantastic thing. Gone are the days of hissy, strangled sound or dealing with unwieldy cables snagging everywhere you go. While Bluetooth earbuds and headphones are getting better, there are still a lot of variables that can make or break a good pair.

While Jabra is starting to gain recognition, they aren’t widely regarded as one of the top players in the field, like Jaybird for example. Still, when the company came along with the Jabra ROX, we were interested: metal construction, Dolby Digital Plus sound? Sounds good. But do they sound good?

To find out, either check out the video review above, or head over to Sound Guys to read the full review of the Jabra ROX.

If you love audio, then be sure to subscribe to the new Sound Guys YouTube Channel to get all the latest reviews.


    








Android Authority

Recommended Reading

Opera Max App Review


Opera Max has been around in beta form for a while and it’s now about to see its official release. It’s from the makers of the popular Opera Browser and they’re known for coming out with some pretty good applications. Is this app worth your time? In this review, we’ll find out. As usual, you can read it below or watch it above.


Opera Max

Functionality

Okay so what does Opera Max actually do? It is a standalone application that routes your internet traffic through its servers and compresses the data before it gets sent to your phone. This sounds complicated but it really isn’t. When browsing the web, you are essentially just downloading a bunch of stuff. Videos, images, advertisements, webpages, etc are all downloaded to your device using your data connection and then displayed for you.

What Opera Max does is it takes all that stuff and makes it smaller before sending it to your device. That means you use less of your data to get essentially the same content. This may not sound like a big deal but when you’re on a 1GB/month data plan, anything that helps stretch that data further is something that could be useful and in this case, it’s Opera Max.

Along with the data compression service, Opera Max lets you see what apps are using data and when. There are time stamps to show when apps use data so you know if something is borrowing your data connection when you’re not using it. There is also a function to block apps from using data so ones that update frequently –we’re looking at your Facebook- can be kept under control.

That’s really it folks. You install it, open it, and enable it and it pretty much takes care of everything else. It should be noted that it cannot save you data on encrypted apps because encrypted data is not routed through Opera servers. That stuff gets sent straight to your device.


Opera Max 2

How can I use this?

So how can you use this? It’s very simple, really. This is a classic “fire and forget” application so there’s really not much for you to do. You enable Opera Max and it essentially just works in the background to save you data. You can then use the app to block access from apps that you don’t want using your data all the time and overall it gives you more control over your own data usage.

As we noted earlier, it does not work on encrypted apps. So in order to get the full benefit of Opera Max, you may have to relegate a lot of your activity to your browser. This means using the browser for things like YouTube, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, and others that the app itself may not fully support. That way the data can be compressed and you can start using less data on more stuff.


Opera Max 3

The good

Okay so here’s what we liked.

  • It’s a really good idea for an app. We still live in a world where many carriers restrict how much data you can use and sometimes a couple of GB per month won’t cut it and for many, Opera Max can help.
  • We really liked the Block Apps feature. Even if it can’t save you data on encrypted apps, it can still prevent them from accessing the internet without your permission and this alone can save you hundreds of MB per month. Especially from social media apps that like to update constantly.
  • For the most part, it’s fairly easy to use. You open the app, you enable it, and then you go about your business as usual. There are no overcomplicated set up processes.
  • Lastly, we liked the level of information it gives you. You can see exactly which apps use what data and when. This can be a real eye opener for people because a lot of apps use more data that they would initially think or use a lot of data in the background without their knowledge. Even if you don’t engage in Opera Max’s data saving services, it’s still pretty nifty to see what is using your connection.

The bad

And here’s what we didn’t like so much.

  • It doesn’t support IPv6 and this can be a real bummer. When it detects that you have that, it suggests that you simply change your APN settings. For some this won’t be a big deal but for many this is a complicated task. You can still use the other features of the app, but you won’t get any data savings until they either support IPv6 or you decide to go through with learning how to change your APN.
  • There isn’t a readily available list of popular apps that are encrypted and even the screenshots are a little ambiguous. So figuring out when and how to save data can be a bit of a pain. In that same vein, most savings take place in the mobile web browser and not as much in applications so many may be turned off by the prospect of using their mobile browser instead of applications for more things.
  • Since the app is essentially a VPN service, you may experience slower web browsing depending on things like your distance from the nearest server. Also, because it does compress data, you may also notice some lower quality images and video.

Opera Max 4

Final thoughts

Overall, Opera Max is a solid app. It has its problems but none of them are bad enough to decrease the overall value. If used properly, this app can save you a lot of data. If you’re on a limited data plan and are on a carrier than uses overage charges, this app may very well actually save you money and that’s never a bad thing.

Even without the data saving mechanism, the app is still pretty useful. Being able to block apps from using your data alone makes it worth checking out because we all use apps that use our data religiously for updates. Best of all, it’s free to use so there’s really no reason not to check it out. Use the button below to get started.
Get it on Google Play


    








Android Authority

Newsbeat review – Android Authority


Newsbeat is a new app that is really truly different. It’s a news aggregator like your standard news app or RSS app but instead of just delivering news for you to read, Newsbeat will read you the news. If you’re like me and read articles pretty much all day, being able to listen to it for once instead of reading sounds like a great idea. In this review, we’ll see just how good it is. As usual you can watch it above if you don’t want to read it.


newsbeat review 1

Functionality

Okay so what does this app do? It’s a news aggregator not unlike RSS. You tell it your interests and what publications you like and it will fetch news from sources that report on that kind of news. What’s interesting is that while you get the option to read the articles, you also get the option to listen to them. That’s right; this app will read the news to you in a news radio style format so you don’t have to read it.

The voices aren’t perfect but they are pretty good. They even have voice inflections to make them sound real. Some who have used the app already have stated preference between the male and female voice, but frankly both are about equal. There is still that robotic tone every now and then, especially when they try to pronounce difficult words or people’s names but they do well at sounding real enough to where it isn’t distracting when listening to the news.

The app goes the whole nine yards to make it sound like a radio show. When you open the app, it’ll greet you by name if you have your name entered into the app. It’ll give you your local traffic rundown sometimes which I thought was a nice touch. It then proceeds to read the news articles back to back until there are none left. When it reads articles, it’ll state the source and the author in a manner you’d expect a radio host to do.

Of course, you do still have the option to read the news. You can pause at any time and scroll through articles on your own if you prefer. The only real issue we found was a lack of sources. It seems to take more from local publications and worldwide news sources so you don’t get too many options when it comes to where it reads the news from.


newsbeat 2

Design

The design is pretty decent. It’s not overly colorful but it is easy to navigate so no one should have any problems figuring out where to go. There is a hamburger menu on the left side where you can check out the app preferences or get to the news. Articles have two interfaces. You can look at them one at a time or use a second interface to swipe through them if you prefer. It was a little laggy here and there but not so much to make the app unpleasant.

Once the voices start to read the news, there will be a notification that pops up. You can swipe it away without interrupting the voices but it apparently comes back after a short time which can get annoying if you’re OCD about keeping your notification drawer cleared out. In the notification there are skip buttons as well as a pause and play button so you can skip news or pause it if need be.


Newsbeat review 3

The good

  • This app is just a great idea. Reading article after article can be tedious and trying to keep up with the news all day that way can be tiring and frustrating. With this, you turn it on, connect some headphones or a speaker if need be, and let some robot people read you the news. It is much less stressful on your eyes too since you don’t have to stare at a little screen to read it if you don’t want to.
  • The voices are actually really good. As mentioned there are moments where they sound blatantly robotic and you never shake the knowledge that they are fake voices but they read the news so you don’t have to and they do it pretty well. This includes small things like pronunciation that a lot of robot voices screw up.
  • The app strings together the intro when you open the app, the local news, and each story in the flavor of a radio show. This includes short music bursts between stories and specific phrasing that you’d hear in a radio show. The male and female voices also interchange occasionally giving the illusion of multiple hosts. These aesthetics are purely atmospheric and not really functional, but it makes the whole thing sound coherent and it makes the experience more enjoyable.
  • Lastly, the app content is fairly customizable. While the sources are lacking, you still get to choose what topics you see. If you have no interest in, say, politics, then it won’t read you any political news.

The bad

  • This app seriously needs more sources. We assume they’ll be adding more as time goes but for the time being there aren’t all that many places to draw news from. So don’t expect to be able to follow your favorite blogs like Android Authority just yet.
  • While the topics are fairly customizable, they aren’t totally customizable. For instance, I like hockey but I dislike pretty much every other sport. I can have the app deliver sports news, but not specifically hockey news. So it’ll read me a bunch of football free agent signings that I don’t care about before it’ll read me the Columbus Blue Jackets game recap. That’s just one example, there are plenty of others.
  • The playback controls, notifications, etc are a little wonky sometimes. Clearing out a notification usually results in it coming back a few minutes later and the app has started reading articles before on its own when a story hits the news feed. It’s not terrible but some more control over the controls would be nice.

Newsbeat review 4

Final thoughts

If you’re into RSS and reading the news, this app presents a unique premise that is difficult to pass up. It’s not difficult to read while on a subway or a train but if you’re driving or walking it’s probably more convenient to listen to the news rather than try to read it and this app shines in those kinds of situations.

We wish there were more sources. That’s about the only weakness that Newsbeat has and unfortunately it’s a pretty bad one to have. We’re sure they’ll add more eventually but until then you’re stuck with the biggest dogs in media who don’t already do the best reporting on things. Even so, the app is wonderfully done and we recommend you give it a shot if only to see if you like it.


    








Android Authority

Link Bubble Review – Android Authority


Link Bubble is a new application from Chris Lacy, the developer behind Action Launcher. In this truly unique app, you load links in the background and only bring them forward when you want them. In this review, we’ll take a look at the finer points of Link Bubble and determine just how good it is. If you want to watch it instead of read it, the video is embedded above.


Link Bubble review

Functionality

So what does Link Bubble actually do? It’s a floating window web browser that opens links in the background so you don’t lose your spot in whatever it is that you’re doing. This can be helpful for a number of reasons especially if you surf the web fairly frequently. What happens is you find a link, then you click on it, and Link Bubble will have a little floating icon that lets you know when the target is finished loading.

There are two ways to use this app. You can have the auto-open enabled which will pop the website up as soon as it has loaded. Or you can go into the settings, disable the auto-open, and then the site will load in the background and you can deal with it as you please. The developer recently updated the app to make this easier and the option to change this is now labeled better.

Other than the main function, you can share links to practically anywhere. In the top left is your main sharing service which can be changed in the settings to whatever you want. In the top right is the full list of places to share if you’re sharing elsewhere. If you want to close a page, you literally fling it toward the bottom of your screen to close it. If you want to close all of your bubbles, you manually drag one bubble to the bottom and wait for it to say “close all” and then let go.

Overall, it’s a fairly easy and simple app to use. Once you get the flinging bubbles thing down, controlling everything is practically second nature and you can go on with your business while Link Bubble takes care of links in the background. If you’re a fan of measuring stats, there is even a function that will show you how much time you’ve saved by not waiting for websites to load.


Link Bubble review 2

Design

Link Bubble’s design is very minimal. When you’re not using it, it’s like it’s not even there and when you are using it, it’s just a floating window with a couple of floating icons. Everything is organized in a manner that makes sense. It takes a second to logically explain why there are two share buttons but really that’s just so you can expedite sharing to the service you regularly use, which we ended up finding quite useful.

The big design elements are the controls. Flinging the bubbles around to make them do your bidding seems a little off putting at first because you’re not usually used to flinging anything on an Android phone. However –like we stated earlier- once you get used to it, you can fly through your open tabs. It does not take long to get used to.


Link Bubble review 3

The good

Okay so here’s what we liked.

  • This is truly unlike anything I’ve ever used before. If I were asked if there apps that could perform the same functionality, I would draw a blank. It’s technically a web browser, but the way it operates is unlike any other browser.
  • For people who browse on a frequent basis, opening up a lot of links at once and dealing with them later is infinitely preferable to opening a link, then going back to the app, then opening another link, et cetera. It really does save you a lot of time.
  • So far we’ve seen virtually no incompatibilities. It opened pretty much all of the content we asked it to without too much of a problem. I’m sure there are some sites or video streaming formats the app doesn’t support, but I couldn’t find them.
  • You can customize the share buttons to whatever you want them to be. So if you’re a Twitter person, you can make your quick share to Twitter or if you’re a Google+ fan, you can change it to Google+. This was a nice add on.
  • Perhaps my favorite part of the app is how browser loading times don’t matter. If it takes 15 seconds to load a web page, so be it. You’re not sitting there waiting for it. You can go do your own thing until it’s done.

The bad

And here’s what we didn’t like so much

  • There is a wide, gaping chasm between the paid and free version. I’m not complaining about prices or anything because the price is very reasonable, but you can’t really experience the brilliance of this app on the free version. Arguably its best feature is the ability to open an assemblage of links, let them load in the background, and then browse through them at your leisure. The free version limits you to a single tab so users of the free version won’t get that experience.
  • We did run into some occasional lag and a force close or two. It’s a new release so it’s not a big deal and we’re sure future stability and performance improvements will rectify these issues, but they are there nevertheless.

Link Bubble review 4

Final thoughts

Overall, this is an amazing app. When you fork in the .99 for the paid version, you will literally cut the time you spend staring at a blank web browser waiting for a page to load to almost zero. It makes surfing social media more enjoyable because in my experience, I found that I was clicking links I may not have otherwise clicked because I don’t have to wait around for them to open or worry about losing my place in the other app. So it’s allowed me to have a more rich experience on my device.
It did have a few very minor issues but most of those will likely be fixed in coming releases. Between the moment I started reviewing this app and the moment I released this video, there have already been two updates and that’s encouraging. At the very least, you should try the free version. It doesn’t give you the full experience but it gives you an idea of what you’re in for and what you’re in for is pretty awesome. Click the button below to get started!
Get it on Google Play


    








Android Authority

Pebble Steel Review

Wearable technology has slowly been picking up the pace over the past year or so, and the growth and popularity should grow exponentially with Google’s announcement of Android Wear, along with a bunch of hardware partners that plan on releasing smartwatches and other wearable tech this year.

Original Pebble

Original Pebble

But before there was Android Wear, there were still some really good smartwatch options available, one of the most popular of which was the Pebble smartwatch. While the original version was pretty great, especially following the highly-anticipated software update, the follow up seems to be even better. Here’s our detailed review of the Pebble Steel!

pebble steel aa-20140321-012-3

Before we get started, I have to mention that while I’ve had the Pebble Steel for some time now, I’ve been using the original Pebble smartwatch since Christmas, so even though this is a Pebble Steel review, I will be covering the new version somewhat in comparison to the original, before diving into the identical software experience of both. Let’s get started.

Design

pebble steel aa-20140321-039-10

Having extra functionality in a watch is something that is almost unanimously desired, but it has proved to be quite difficult to put it all together in a watch that rivals, or is even aesthetically similar to, a “normal” timepiece, which is one of the biggest hurdles smartwatches face. A case in point is the original Pebble smartwatch, that looked pretty simplistic, and didn’t try too hard to hide the fact that it was piece of technology going on your wrist, which for a lot of people was a little too far from the standard, and something only geeks would be completely okay with.

<a rel=pebble steel aa-20140321-032-8″ src=”http://cdn03.androidauthority.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/pebble-steel-aa-20140321-032-8-710×399.jpg” width=”710″ />

This is where the second iteration of the Pebble smartwatch, the Pebble Steel, comes in. Attempting to bridge the gap a little, the Pebble has moved into a more familiar watch territory, with a metal or matte black construction as opposed to the plastic build from before, that can be outfitted with a metal or leather band. Both bands look quite nice and are easy to change up, but other than the available options, you won’t be able to use your own watch bands as it doesn’t take the standard measurement band like the original Pebble did. This level of customization has been sacrificed in the transition, but the trade off is a new look that works incredibly well, and is more along the lines of a regular watch.

pebble steel aa-20140321-019-5

The body of the watch face itself has a more decisive look to it with its rigid lines and extra thickness, and isn’t too large for small wrists, or look out of place on a large one. Because of the better build material all around, the buttons have a much better feel than before, with more of a click to them, compared to the soft squishiness of the original. The only problem I have with the design of the Pebble Steel is the large logo on the front of the watch. While you don’t have the luxury of having the branding within the watch face with a smartwatch, the large size of the Pebble branding is definitely in your face, and I feel, somewhat unnecessary.

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The final gripe in terms of design is with regards to the charger. Granted, it won’t be a big deal if you’ve just picked up the smartwatch, but if you’re switching over from the original, you’ll find that the charger has been changed. While the new charger has a stronger magnet and seems to stay on better than the one before, it’s just a bit of bummer that I couldn’t ostensibly have an extra charger when getting the next iteration. Thankfully, battery life on the Pebble Steel is quite good, and you aren’t continuously bombarded with notifications, you can easily push the battery life to around five days.

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Overall, the Pebble Steel is a proper update to the original, with a design more akin to a conventional watch, that should please and attract a lot more users. Metal or leather bands on the metal or matte black body help give a little room to experiment with the look, while also not being completely out of place with a more formal attire. That being said, if metal watches aren’t your style, and you’re look for more versatility, the comparatively cheaper original Pebble smartwatch may be more along the lines of what you need.

Software

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Whether you’re rocking the original Pebble or have just picked up the latest Pebble Steel, as far as the software is concerned, the Pebble ecosystem is very reliable, allowing for the same overall experience regardless of which iteration of the device you’re using. In the transition to the Pebble Steel, the operating system has been updated to version 2.0, which introduced the ability to check our notifications history, along with a new Android app that quite literally consolidates the entire software experience. Earlier, you were able to install your applications only by scouring a number of different sources and installing a bunch of different companion apps for each and every one. Now, almost every Pebble app and watch face is now available from just the single Pebble app.

If you’ve missed our feature focus on the new Pebble app, you can check out the app in action in the video below. Keep in mind that at the time of the video, the app was still a beta release, and the experience is a lot smoother and faster now.

The best thing about the new app is the consolidation of all your Pebble apps. Especially when coming from an earlier model of the smartwatch, signing into the app allows you to easily grab all of the apps you were using before and automatically load them into your smartwatch. With the ever growing list of available watch faces and applications, searching for just what you’re looking for is never too difficult.

Gallery

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Final Thoughts

Since getting the original Pebble, there has been one particular benefit that it hasn’t failed to provide. When set up with a third party notification application, or the built-in one that is available with version 2.0, you’ll find yourself not needing to look at your phone as often as before. The growing problem of people being glued to their phone all the time is helped by the ability to receive notifications on your smartwatch. You can glance at a notification on the Pebble, and if it’s not important, you can always get back to it later. This also saves you the trouble of having to pull out your phone every time it goes off.

Of course, third party applications do have their own advantages. You can quickly find places to eat nearby using Yelp, keep yourself focused and productive using a Pomodoro app, and even read your notes using Evernote. But ultimately, what the Pebble does best is easily bring your immediate information to your wrist, so that you don’t have to go searching for it.

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While the Pebble Steel brings a more conventional style to the ecosystem, ultimately it is a smartwatch that sets out to perform at least one great function, notification consolidation, and does it very successfully. While other smartwatches might simply be trying too hard to replace your smartphone, or at least parts of the smartphone experience, the Pebble compliments the device instead. You might still need your phone nearby to get the most out of the Pebble, but it’s benefit is undeniable.

Watch wearers understand the feeling of something being missing when they don’t have their watch on, and that’s exactly how you’ll start feeling about the Pebble whenever your phone has to go without it.


    








Android Authority