I've always been baffled at the lack of coverage Casio's Bluetooth watches have gotten in F17. I realize G-Shock makes a lot of cool stuff, but as far as looking towards the future, "Smart watches" are the next logical extension in the continued existence of watches. Like many other members though, I much prefer my smart watch to be an actual watch instead of a tiny computer. With the release of the second-generation bluetooth watches (GB6900B, GBX6900B, GB5600B) with two way controls, Casio has gotten closer to getting things right. They're not perfect but they're a good start. I'll be dividing this review into three sections: the watch itself, the app (from an iOS standoint) and the bluetooth connectivity.
I've got fairly large wrists, so I decided to spring for the large-case GBX6900. Based off of the new GDX6900 large-case version of the classic GD/GW6900 watches, the GBX shares the case shape with the GDX but not the screen layout. Instead of the three dials at the top, there's a "dot matrix" display in the upper right for text display and a oval-ish eye on the top left with segmented second markers and a Bluetooth-on indictator in the center.
Judged just on the watches features alone, the GBX6900 is a winner. The hit list is here for a modern digital watch: it's got a super-bright LED backlight, which is pretty great. Selectable duration in 1.5 or 3 second intervals, as well as auto-illumination that shuts off after 6 hours. One annoying flaw: I've noticed the LED backlight "flickers" whenever Bluetooth is turned on, regardless if it's actually connected to the phone or not. Other owners have noticed this as well so it's not unusual, but considering the huge LiIon battery this thing comes with, it should have enough voltage to run both smoothly at the same time. Bluetooth off, no flicker, super visible. I won't cry myself to sleep over this - I set it to 1.5 seconds LT on with Bluetooth off at night. I don't want it buzzing or whatever when I'm sleeping anyway. Just odd.
The watch has a tap function that allows you to shut an alarm or notification off by tapping the screen twice in rapid succession. It has a built-in Vibration alarm like the GD350 or the old Silencer models with selectable vibration types through the app (see below.) There are five alarms (one "snooze") plus the hourly time signal, which interestingly can be set to either off, 1-Time, or Daily.
World time has 100 City Codes (35 time zones + UTC) with selectable DST. The countdown timer has a 99:99.99 capacity that is settable to the second(!). Although I never use the stopwatch (or at least hardly ever) it has a 1,000hr 1/100th stopwatch with split, cumulative and ET. The current time is visible with the ALM, STW, CTRL, and TMR modes, but not in WT.
As far as time keeping goes (and let's remember, this is a watch!) the GBX6900 differs from other G-Shocks in that's it's neither stand-alone (manual) or atomic: the time can be set automatically off of "carrier time." This is the time & date info that your cell phone carrier sends to your phone. It's not perfect but it's close enough, and it automatically syncs the time every time you connect ("pair") the watch to your phone. Using Emerald Time (an app which determines the most possibly accurate time by averaging time dating from four different carrier towers), the carrier time in my area runs +.508 to +.604 seconds fast. I'm a mechanic not a pilot or train conductor, so I can live with that! It's very convenient too. Without sync the watch is rated at +/- 15s per month, the standard for Casio Quartz it seems.
The last mode is "SETUP" which gives you basic info - the Bluetooth address, number of phones connected, watch model, etc.
As far as the form factor goes, it's your typical resin band with a single prong buckle and a single rubber keeper. I keep wanting to get a watch with a dual prong and it keeps not happening, harrumph! I'm not a stickler for dimensions but if you are, here they are for reference: 57.5 x 53.9 x 20.4mm / 82g as per the casio site. It's a plate-type caseback with four screws, and a whole lot more markings than your usual caseback due to the Bluetooth connectivity. It also labels the buttons for reference with "music control."
Ok, the other half of this is the application itself, which isn't as much of a home-run as the watch. It's called G-SHOCK+ and is available for free on the iOS (Apple) and Google Play (Android) markets. Casio lists the compatible watches as the Apple iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, and 5C as well as newer iPads and iPods with Bluetooth 4.0. Your device has to be Bluetooth 4.0 compatible to work with the watch, as low-power BT4.0 is what enables these watches to have 2 year battery life. It's also compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note3, and of course the Casio G'z0ne Commander 4G LTE Android phone, of which I've never seen in my life. YMMV.
I have the app installed on my Apple iPhone 4S 16GB. Let's dig in and see what we have.
This is the settings screen, where you can set up your various email accounts, phone and watch settings, etc.
From this page you can change various things on the watch itself. ALM, TMR, WT100, etc.
The "other" page lets you set things easily from the phone you'd otherwise need to scroll through the setup menu on the watch. 12/24hr, button tone, beep or vibrating alm/sig, A.EL on/off, light duration, PS on/off. Once you hit done the watch will beep once to signify the setting changed and a confirmation page will appear on the phone. Super cool.
Alarm setting page with 5 alarms and hour signal, with the same done/beep/confirmation sequence. Super handy.
Setting for the timer, with hours/minutes/seconds.
Setting world time. You can arrange the cities alphabetically or by time zone. Again, so much easier than scrolling thru a hundred cities with the watch buttons!
The Music control page where you can setup up which buttons do what.
the app itself is well laid-out but not perfect; it's frozen a couple times on me now, and occasionally the phone will shut off the bluetooth link unexpectedly and need a reboot. That's an apple problem. The issue is with functionality of android vs iOS...
So here's the issue: the watch just doesn't do a whole lot on an iOS phone versus an Android phone. Namely, it won't get SMS (text messaging) notifications to the watch, which it will with Android. Neither platform works as well as it does with a Pebble, which you can actually read the whole text message on, but the tiny dot matrix display form factor limits that - still, one can assume that if Pebble can receive SMS and sender info from an iPhone, a Casio could too - it's not a problem with the iOS software, it's a problem with Casio being too lazy to do it. (Correct me if i'm wrong!)
Incoming call notification on iOS also lacks caller id (Android has it, but doesn't display names in your contacts just the phone number AFAIK), it just tells you you have a call incoming. Email alerts work fine; I have mine set up with my gmail account and it will display the sender address in the screen.
The watches can also do Facebook (Notifications/Messages/Friend Requests) - but again, no sender name displayed when you get a message, and it's on a 5-minute (shortest choice) push notification interval. Twitter - I don't use Twitter, no clue. Weibo - I don't even know what Weibo is, but Google tells me it's a Chinese micro-blogging site, so there's that.
The watch will do Calendar alerts and Reminders (on a day or at a location) on iOS, which I find handy- I like to set reminders 5 minutes after the end of work to remind me to get groceries, etc.
As far as controlling music, you can configured the various buttons to start/pause, skip, back, forward, volume up/down for the top left, top and bottom right buttons. It will start up and control the phone's built in music app - don't know what it does with Android as I haven't tried it, but it responds rather quickly. Sadly, I don't keep any music on my phone - i use Pandora - so this doesn't do me a lot of good, but if you keep music on your phone or Bluetooth iPod and like to jog this could be useful.
There's also Link Loss Alert (which notifies you when the bluetooth signal from the phone is lost) and Phone Finder. Phone Finder can be somewhat useful if you're scatter-brained like me, as it'll make your phone make a super-annoying loud noise when you hold down the bottom right button on the watch, but as the watch only has around a 2 meter range, it's got to be nearby.
OVERALL, these new Bluetooth V2.0 watches are a great step forward (even from the V1 Bluetooth watches) but they're not perfect. All I ask of a Bluetooth watch is that it's a good watch (check, the features on this one are great), it tells good time (close enough for government work, LOL), it looks good (duh, it's a G-Shock), it's tough (ditto), and that it notifies me of the basics: incoming call and name (yes, no), incoming text and name (no, no), incoming email and name (yes, yes.) The rest is just fluff to me: I don't need Facebook notifications on my wrist, they're annoying enough on my phone. I don't need music control but some do. With a bit of updating to the app for iOS this could be a killer product. Like I said before, it's not a limitation of Bluetooth or the iPhone as a pebble can read SMS off an iPhone fine via BT4.0, and the Android can at least get incoming SMS notification. Still, even if you don't have a compatible phone and will never even turn Bluetooth on, this is a great watch!
I THINK i've included everything in this review, but i'd be more than happy to answer any questions you folks have about this watch, or shoot more pictures of specific things. Thanks for reading!