Sunday, April 8, 2012

G-Shock #16: G-Shock GB-6900 Bluetooth LE

In fall 2011 Casio announced that they were working on a Bluetooth G-Shock model. When the first pictures showed up, I was quite happy to see the watch was based on the DW-6900 base. Although the shape is that of a basic DW-6900, the GB-6900 is a watch with a lot of technology under the hood.
The GB-6900 communicates with Bluetooth 4.0 with a mobile phone and uses special Low Energy technology. The concept of bluetooth watches is not new, but until now, you had to charge such a watch daily. The GB-6900 has been designed to work approximately 2 years on a battery, while using bluetooth approximately 12 hours a day. As energy source Casio uses the CR2032 battery. It’s quite unusual that Casio uses this battery to power a watch, but also understandable, because, although it’s Bluetooth LE, it still consumes quite a lot more energy than a regular watch.
GB-6900 at Baselworld 2012. Credits to WUS member TorrentMT from Switzerland.
As soon as I heard of a Bluetooth model coming out, I was curious. The first rumors were heard at the end of the summer of 2011. It was expected to be released at the end of 2011, but the floods in Thailand seem to have delayed the production. The GB-6900 was presented at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) early January 2012 in Las Vegas. Also was this watch shown in March 2012 at Baselworld 2012, probably the most important watch show in the world.
For people who had paid attention on CES 2011, they would have noticed Casio showed there an early prototype of this watch, which looks pretty close to a naked DW-6900 (a DW-6900 without bezel). There was no mentioning that it would be a G-Shock though.
Luckily the GB-6900 was finally released March 16 2012 in three versions (as you can see above). The basic model is glossy black, but a limited number of white and red models was released. While the black and white model have a regular display, the red version has a negative display. To me, the red version appeals the best. As some of you readers probably know, the color blue does not have much affection by me. If there is a chance to get another color, I mostly try to get that one. Well, the basic black model is not blue, but the blue lettering is a thorn in my eye. I am aware that most people like blue though. On the red and the white model only the light button has a blue 3D G. Well, people should see somehow it got bluetooth, I’ll guess.
Just before the release I asked Katsu-san (Higuchi-inc, Oita, Japan) if the red model was already available. He responded to me that the red version was very rare and it might be possible he cold not get it. Well, if Katsu-san writes me this, it must be real limited, as he helped me with other limited models in the past. For instance he was only able to get only one DW-5025 Team Tough version, 2008. I was frankly a bit surprised the red version was limited like this. This might also be the case with the white model. On the other hand, the demand of this model is probably not very high, as it is at the moment only available for a handful of Medias smart phones (Medias is a trademark by NEC Casio Mobile, a joint venture between NEC, Casio and Hitatchi). I hope the GB-6900 will work with other brand phones too, as NEC is not active on the European market.
My GB-6900-4JF came surprisingly fast through the customs with no charge.The watch comes in an unusual box. Well, unusual? It is the type of box that is normally used for overseas models. Not a real point to worry about. All that counts is what is in it.
On YouTube there is an very interesting interview with Michael Princiotto, Marketing Manager for Time piece Division of Casio America. He demonstrates how this watch works on a Medias smartphone and tells the current and future possibilities with this watch. Unfortunately the watch does not work with my iPhone 4. Well, I found out the iPhone 4 only has Bluetooth 2.1 on board, so if the iPhone 4S or it’s successor will work with this watch, I still have to wait another year, before I can buy a new iPhone via my provider. I recently compared it with a Belgian comic I saw many years ago in a youth program, saying he had a nice motor helmet. Now he only needs a motorcycle.
If it would work with my phone, it could show me incoming calls (with the name of the caller of course), incoming text messages, incoming e-mail (which is in Japan about the same as every mobile phone as an e-mail address). Also you can find your phone if you have lost it in the house somewhere. It will make a loud sound, even if the phone is in silence mode. Also the watch can warn you if the phone is further than 2 meters from the watch, warning you that you might forget your watch on a table in the restaurant for example. Interesting thing I found is that Casio is even working on a remote control of your MP3 playing device of your phone.
The NEC Medias smartphone run Android, but Android seems not necessary to make the watch work together with the phone. If I understand correctly, a software upgrade of the phone is needed. How things will work out, we still have to learn more about that. fact is that there are rumors that this watch will be released this summer both in the US and Europe. This means, will this watch be a success, that there should be popular phones that work with this GB-6900 watch. Although nothing has been confirmed, there have been rumors that Casio was even talking with Apple. I hope they will work something out, but knowing Apple can be very stubborn with these kind of things, I feel a bit sceptic about this. If this technology works with some popular phones in the future, it might be a beginning of a new range of wrist wear in the future. Let’s hope that the development of Bluetooth 4.0 LE would not just stop here.
The GB-6900 comes with the 3210 module. The manual is in Japanese, but it seems that the GB-6900 will be visible as W3210. As I can’t test this, I will only will try to describe the functions of the watch. It’s pretty well possible that I skip some functionality, as I only have a Japanese manual and there is still no English manual available on-line.
The first mode you enter when leaving the Timekeeping Mode is the World Time 100 mode. Yes, you read it well, the World Time function holds 100 world cities in 35 timezones! Most modern G-Shocks with a World Time function have 48 cities on 31 timezones. I have heard people complain that the unusual Timezone of Venezuela never was taken up in the World Time function, but I am glad to announce Caracas is one of the cities taken up in this new World Time 100 function.
The GB-6900 has 5 separate alarms on board. They can be set to a Daily Alarm or a 1 Time Alarm. This 1 Time alarm can be very handy, for instance if you have to wake up very early for a flight once and you don’t want to wake up the next day at such a time.
Next to the Alarm Mode you’ll find a 24 hour Stopwatch Mode and a 24 Hour Countdown Timer mode. As this watch has a special Tap function, to turn off your ringtone, I am a bit disappointed you can’t turn off the alarm by tapping the display. It seems the TAP icon will only appear if your phone is ringing. You can only turn the alarm off by pushing a button, but it would probably have been possible to implement this function that when an alarms sounds, the TAP icon would appear too.
Before you return to Timekeeping Mode, you first find a Set-up screen. In this mode you can toggle on and off the notifications of your phone. You can be notified discreet by choosing the vibration alarm instead of the beep.
The Bluetooth function can be turned on by press and holding the upper right button. The Bluetooth icon will appear in the upper right display.
Surprisingly, the GB-6900 uses the dual LED illuminator. Secretly I am a fan of the good old EL Backlight, but I can understand Casio completely that they use the energy friendly illumination. The LEDs light up the display pretty neat. Default the LED light is set to an illumination of 1.5 seconds (LT1), but it can be set to a 3 second illumination (LT3).
The glossy red straps and bezel look good in this model and seem t be in good harmony with the negative display. The straps and bezel are actually identical to the DW-6900CB-4 of the Crazy Colors series of 2010. Frankly I cannot see if the bezel of the white version was used before.
On the back of the watch there are a lot of ID data. There are license numbers for Euroe and the US. Also there are two long strings of characters behind an R and a T icon. I do not know what it is. It might be a personal identification number, so the watch can be recognized by a device, while another GB-6900 doesn’t do that, though I’m not sure. It would be great if it is a kind of serial number.
My conclusion is that this is a remarkable G-Shock model. I wish I could show you how it works properly, but even without the Bluetooth it is a pretty well equipped watch. The World Time 100 with 100 world cities is amazing and finally Casio made a new model with a vibrating alarm. I rather would have seen the energy consumptive EL backlight, but the LED backlight does not look bad either. As Bluetooth is normally pretty energy consumptive, I think an expected 2 year battery life on a CR-2032 is amazing. The recommended retail price of this watch is in Japan 18000 yen, but you can find them a little cheaper. I believe I paid around 15000 yen for this one, but don’t pin me down for the price. I have seen that a few people outside Japan already have bought a GB-6900, and now complain that it won’t work with their smartphone. Well, my seller already pointed me to the page of Casio and telling me it will at the moment only work with only a small selection of Japanese smartphones. Claiming that you only have an “expensive cheap looking watch” might be a bit to easy to say. A little research on internet for information about this watch would have let you know much more and you will find answers of many of your questions (viva Google Translate!). For the amount of technology housed in this watch, I must say the price of this G-Shock is very fair. If I’m informed right, this model is scheduled for the US and Europe this summer. I guess that the selection of smartphones working with this watch will be expanded. Prices should be around €180/$180. Probably then the red and white version will be easier to get also.

1 comment:

dorkinaut23 said...

Nice review. I look forward to this watch coming to the USA. I'll have to purchase my 1st SmartPhone then. I'm still using an old-fashioned "dumb" phone cell-phone, which will be easy to part with.