Casio announced this week that its G-Shock watch with low-power Bluetooth 4.0 is shipping out to U.S. retailers now, after a delay of a year or more owing to a number of issues, including flooding in Thailand. As far as smart watches go, the Casio is a little barebones: it syncs with iPhone to provide alerts for inbound emails and phone calls, and also helps you find misplaced devices by activating their ring and vibrate functions.
The minimal features may seem a little paltry when you hold the Casio G-Shock up to standards set by smart watches like the MetaWatch Strata or the Pebble, which both offer plenty of added features via apps. But Casio’s implementation actually has a lot going for it. First of all, since it’s only using Bluetooth 4.0 and doing relatively little in terms of back-and-forth communication and transfer of data, Casio says battery life will still be at around two years, given 12 hours of Bluetooth connectivity per day.
But energy efficiency isn’t the only advantage. Casio’s smart features are well-chosen: email and call notices are practical, as are locating features, and a function that alerts a user when the phone gets out of range of the watch. It also adjusts time zones automatically based on location information fed by the iPhone. Additional features that the MetaWatch Strata provides, including weather, stocks, calendar info and more just ends up being hard to read on a tiny screen, and frustrating to sync and maintain. Plus transferring all that info means battery on both the phone and watch end of the equation suffers.
A kitchen sink approach to wearable computing just seems premature to me, after some experience using the MetaWatch for a little while now. Casio’s strategy of introducing a few logical features and seeing how things go, without sacrificing the things that make watches useful to begin with (i.e., a battery that doesn’t need charging every few days), seems like the way to go for now.
Casio’s Bluetooth G-Shock comes in black, gray blue, brown and white, offers 200M water resistance and shock protection, and has a number of other standard watch features including alarms, stopwatch, a countdown timer and more. Those features are smarter on a watch than many of the so-called “smart” features being pushed by others. The watch sells for $180, and is available through select U.S. retailers including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and more, and online at G-Shock’s website. Note that since it uses Bluetooth 4.0, only iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 owners need apply.