CASIO Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10 Exclusive Hands-On (VIDEO; GALLERY)
Exclusive Access is Exclusive!
Location, location, location! As has long been the AkihabaraNews advantage, we are boots on the ground: based in and operating from Tokyo for over 13 years. Probably like...95% of the press conferences and product launches we attend are a sea of Japanese journalists surrounding our tiny island of foreign reporters, and that’s always been our edge. Of course, online tech reporting has changed drastically in recent years, and really anyone on planet earth with internet access can “scoop” a new Japanese product launch.
That being said, and even though CASIO unveiled their new Android Wear-powered smartwatch at CES, no other foreign language media outlet can get the kind of one-on-one, hands-on demo from a project engineer that AkihabaraNews received last week at CASIO’s Tokyo headquarters. Here’s what we learned:
Why is CASIO Launching a Smartwatch Now?
Consumers (and tech writers) are easily excited by flashy new products that do flashy new things, which is often justified. The thing about smartwatches that many are reluctant to admit, however, is that while they’re wholly unprecedented technological marvels, they’re also solutions in need of of a problem - a problem that their necessary accessory, the smartphone, can’t already solve.
On CASIO and the Apple Watch
CASIO was of course hip to that fact, so even with 40+ years of semi-smart-watchmaking experience (e.g., 1983's Databank CD-40 calculator watch, and 1999's GPS-enabled PRO TREK SATELLITE NAVI, among many others), and even with a chorus of tech writers and market specialists egging them on and publicly wondering why one of the world's techiest watchmakers hadn't entered the fray, they felt it was best to wait.
More plainly, rather than jump on the bandwagon and push out a product with no clear purpose, which they easily could have done, CASIO felt it vital to offer a device with clear, well-defined utility that would appeal to and actually serve a well-defined consumer base. Well, they've found their angle, the wait is over, and we've finally met the CASIO WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch.
Inline Gallery Below
Pushing Hard Toward the Outdoors
CASIO’s first proper smartwatch of course has access to all Android Wear apps and does what any other like device on the market can do. What prominently sets this watch apart is the built-in, specialized functionality delivered by an array of environmental sensors and custom apps, coupled with a rugged durability unique among such devices. Users aren’t expected to be careful and cautious - in fact, CASIO’s created (what is, we’re pretty sure) the world’s first smartwatch built to U.S. Military MIL-STD-810 survivability standards. Even the mic, nestled just below the face and above the band, is waterproof to 50m.
For those who know CASIO, this makes perfect sense. Though outdoor gear has long been a focus, as we saw last month with the launch of the EX-FR100 Outdoor Recorder (an action cam this watch can control - see below) and earlier this year with a fishing trip/media junket centered around the PRO TREK 3500 watch, CASIO seems to be doubling-down on the take-your-tech-outside marketing line. With a feature set that really only distinguishes itself from the competition when users get up and get out of the house, the Smart Outdoor Watch lands comfortably in that evolution. Here’s how:
CASIO’s identified a set of environmental variables universally important to outdoor enthusiasts, and to display that information in real-time, one simply taps the dedicated “TOOL” button (nice when wearing gloves). These can be reordered and selectively included.
This baseline of functionality, drawing from both watch sensors and smartphone connectivity, clearly goes far beyond CASIO’s long-running G-SHOCK and PRO TREK outdoor-use watch lines, but it also goes far beyond what any other smartwatch can do right out of the box.
Further focusing the Smart Outdoor Watch’s specialized feature set, CASIO’s created three “ACTIVITY” apps that collate and analyze measurements to generate continuously updating displays specifically relevant to the following outdoor pursuits:
Complementing the ACTIVITY apps, CASIO also developed a dedicated app that reminds users to take specific action while immersed in the above ACTIVITYs, e.g., if you’ve been biking or hiking for a good solid hour, MOMENT SETTER can remind you to stop and hydrate, go home before sunset, or in the case of barometric pressure, fish harder!
One technically could use any number of smartwatch/app combinations from the Android or watchOS stable to analyze and track outdoor activities, but if you dropped your ZenWatch in the mud from a decent height or cycled a few hours through a healthy rainstorm with your Apple Watch, you’d quite likely brick one expensive piece of tech. Resistance to the elements coupled with a difficult to bruise design makes it clear that survivability is the Smart Outdoor Watch’s killer feature.
The Smart Outdoor Watch also ships with set of proprietary, customizable CASIO watch faces capable of displaying current environmental conditions (or not - you can mix and match), dual-time, calendar, altitude, etc.
For those considering a smartwatch buy, second only to defining its fundamental utility are concerns about limited battery life. CASIO’s offering will get you about 24 hours under normal use conditions, but there is also a simple Timepiece mode, powered by a discrete monochrome layer, that will continually display a high-contrast watch face for up to a month; mixing it up will likely extend time between charges.
In Sum, and the Bigger Future Picture (we’re hoping for)
While CASIO’s aiming at a niche consumer base, to the point about articulating a meaningful reason to own a smartwatch, that niche consumer base unambiguously exists, and is sizeable at that. On the other hand, while this is a handsome device for its intended purpose, unless outdoor-chic is your thing it’s not exactly a dainty fashion piece. With large enough wrists, one probably could pull of professionalism with the black model, but it’s still rugged-looking and bulky by smartwatch standards (though well within the traditional CASIO size statement).
As for wearability, we had less than an hour with the Smart Outdoor Watch, but in that time it felt...good. As points of comparison, their business-focused, all metal EDIFICE EQB-500 weighs in at 199g, the burly GPW-1000 flagship G-SHOCK weighs in at a healthy 126g, and surprisingly, the Smart Outdoor Watch is comparably light at only 93g. Also, though it pretty much goes without saying when we’re talking CASIO watches, the band made for a comfortable wear, with just the right balance of stiffness and flexibility.
Naturally, we’re hoping for more models. CASIO does make techy fashion watches that are useful in novel ways yet still professional and fashionable. There are plenty of G-SHOCK models that can match a business suit, and CASIO’s semi-smart, Bluetooth- and app-enabled EDIFICE line is designed specifically to do just that. For now, CASIO isn’t saying anything public about projects beyond the inaugural outdoor focus, but there’s a strong likelihood that’ll happen. With what is a globally recognized, tech-driven watchmaking legacy, we’d guess that consumers concerned less about the outdoor stuff and more about smartwatching for smartwatching’s sake would appreciate something more mainstream. We’d love to see smart versions of these:
CASIO G-SHOCK GPW-1000 and EDIFICE EQB-500
Finally, Our One-Item Feature Wish List:
We were very impressed by the Smart Outdoor Watch’s seamless ability to connect and control CASIO’s EX-FR100 Outdoor Recorder, but for now, it’s only that camera. We really hope they extend this functionality to all their Bluetooth/Wi-Fi compatible cameras, and perhaps even cameras from other makers. It’s a great selling point, and everyone we’ve shared this photo with totally lit up at the possibility:
Unaltered photo - it really does that!
Okay, that’s it for now. We want to thank to Mr. Imamura and Ms. Matsumura at CASIO for taking the time to give AkihabaraNews a personal hands-on with the Smart Outdoor Watch. We anticipate publishing a full review in early to mid-March - see you then!
CASIO Smart Outdoor Watch Vital Specs:
- Water Resistance: 50 meters
- Environmental Durability: MIL-STD-810 U.S. military standards
- Touchscreen Display: 1.32-inch dual layer; 320×300px Color TFT LCD and monochrome LCD
- Sensors: Barometer, accelerometer, gyrometer, magnetic compass
- Microphone: Yes
- Vibrating Alerts: Yes
- Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1; Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n)
- Physical Buttons: TOOL, Power, APP
- Battery & Charging: Lithium-ion; magnetic charging terminal; charge time approximately 2 hours
- Battery Life: Smartwatch mode under normal use: more than 1 day (varies); Timepiece mode: more than 1 month (varies)
- Size: H 61.7h × W 56.4 × D1 5.7mm
- Weight: 93g (including watchband)
- OS: Android Wear
- Smartphone Requirements: Android 4.3 or later; iPhone 5 or later running iOS 8.2 or later (some features limited)
- 2016 Release: March in Japan; April in the U.S.
- Price: ~¥70,000 in Japan; ~$500.00 in the U.S.
Full Promo Video:
More Fun from CASIO:
There’s nothing quite like a CASIO press junket. Just look at all the fun we’ve had: