Last year, Casio G-Shock dipped a toe into the smartwatch arena with two Bluetooth models, the GB-5600AA and GB-6900AA ($199), that communicated with your smartphone and offered some limited notification features when an e-mail or call came in.
The new GB-6900B, modeled after the "classic" G-Shock DW-6900, and the larger GB-X6900B, up the Bluetooth ante a bit, with a version 2.0 "engine" that adds "two-way" communications with a smartphone. That allows you to program your G-Shock's buttons to operate smartphone applications such as music playback. You can also use your smartphone to set an alarm, world times, and the countdown timers, on your watch via a free app. The same e-mail and call-notification features remain.
In advance of Casio's 30th anniversary G-Shock event in New York on Wednesday, I had a chance to play around with the new Bluetooth watches along with not quite final versions of some of the other just-announced G-Shock watches, including the new $130 XL 6900 (a 10 percent larger version of the DW-6900) and the company's new high-end metal MT-G Metal Twisted timepieces, which start at $900 and go up to $1,100, depending on the finish (the base model is stainless steel, and the two higher-end versions are black ion).
It's good that the new Bluetooth watches offer some additional functionality, and I can see some value in being able to control music playback on your phone remotely (currently, the watches work with the iPhone 4S/5 and the Galaxy S4, but hopefully more devices will be supported before launch this fall), but I asked Casio execs when we'd see the more health-oriented style features found in all the movement-tracking, calorie-burn-counting devices flooding the market. After all, the G-Shock brand seems well-suited for such a device.
It's certainly something the company's looking at, the execs said, but it remains a challenge to add such features while making sure the watch delivers good battery life without having to be frequently recharged (the new Bluetooth watches are rated for two years of battery life using a standard watch battery).
In other words, the G-Shock DW-6900 and GB-X6900B are first and foremost tough watches that are slightly enhanced to interact with certain smartphones. I don't know how smart that makes them, but I'll have to play around with them some more before I give a final verdict.
Look for new G-Shock watches to hit stores this fall, with the Bluetooth and XL 6900 models arriving in October and the higher-end MT-G shipping November. Another model, the $300 GW9400 Rangeman (part of the Master of G collection), which features an altimeter, temperature/atmospheric pressure gauge, and compass, is also set to ship in November and is the first G-Shock with Shock Resistant Triple Sensor technology.