Name: Pebble Steel
What it is: As Apple Watches are still being rolled out, I tested this Bluetooth 4.0 smart watch, which pairs with iPhones 5-6 (iOS 7 or later) and Android 4.0 or newer via a free Pebble app. Its 2-by-1.4-inch stainless-steel case frames an e-paper display that's visible in sunlight. It has a scratch-resistant coating, an LED backlight, a 3D accelerometer (to measure steps, for example), a compass and a light sensor. It comes with a black leather band and is water resistant to 164 feet. Pebble vibrates with notifications of calls, texts, emails, reminders and alarms you set. It displays a few lines of text so you can decide whether to pull out your phone. You can play tunes or accept calls, but you will need your phone handy to reply to messages or accept calls, because it lacks a speaker or microphone. One charge lasts up to a week. Pebble's App store offers thousands of watch faces and apps to track walks, runs, swims, etc.
The good: The watch's ability to work with either the Android or iPhone platform is a huge plus, although it's paired separately because Pebble apps are either Android or iOS. It's great not having to charge it every night. It's ideal for travel because you can stay on top of messages and emails without looking at your phone. When earbuds with a built-in microphone were connected to my phone, I could accept calls by pressing a button.
The bad: A rounded or smaller case for women with small wrists would help because the rectangular case spanned the width of my wrist.
Gardner is a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune.