Casio G-Shock GB-6900AA review

Casio has taken a leap into the world of the smart watch with its new Bluetooth range of G-Shock watches. Coupling the company's expertise in building desirable tech-filled time pieces with the email and messaging capabilities of the iPhone, the GB-6900aa promises to be a wrist-mounted extension to your smartphone.

Available in a wide range of colours and shipping with most of the normal G-Shock functions, such as alarm and stopwatch, the watch promises a lot: but does it deliver?

Design

The GB-6900aa or just the 6900 for convenience, is a very sturdily put-together piece of kit. Like nearly every watch in the G-Shock range, it is waterproof down to 200 metres as well as being shock resistant. You get a lot of the chunky look that most G-Shock watches bring, although we didn't feel it too fat and hefty on our wrists. In fact, the 6900 is a very comfy watch.

The real design letdown for us has to come in the choice of finishes, although this is a personal opinion. The inside of the watch strap is matte and the outside of the watch is gloss with a slight sparkle effect to it. The black and white versions look slightly more expensive than the brown and blue, but none has quite the excitement of the rest of the G-Shock range.

The button layout is easy enough to use when it's strapped to your wrist. The big "G" button to turn on the backlight works well and the four buttons on each side for controlling the watch do the job. Irritatingly the backlight doesn't turn on anywhere near long enough for us, forcing us to constantly re-press it.

As for the watch face itself, it's split into three. The main display shows time and date, the one to the top left which settings you have active and the one to the top right how strong the Bluetooth signal is.

On the brown version of the watch, the text which explains each button is difficult to read being black against brown. Naturally your muscle memory will stop it becoming an issue, but those with bad eyesight might want to consider a different colour.

Ultimately, this is a good-looking piece of kit and will keep any gadget fan happy, while being stylish enough to keep the fashionista satisfied too.

Technology

The key to the whole 6900 experience is in its Bluetooth functionality. The watch can pair with your iPhone and then alert you to various events. For the most part, it's great, but there are a few minor niggles which we hope would be ironed out with future generations.

The first is that the watch will always disconnect and play up when you close down the Casio app on your iPhone. This happens even if it is connected via Bluetooth, so you must leave the app open at all times - it should appear in your app drawer.  

Then there is the app itself, which is basic to say the least. Open it up and tap "discover" and you are treated to a nice grammatical error. "Searching for the watches" it will read, which just cheapens the whole experience. Once connected, there are a few sliders and options, but really it does nothing other than keep the watch hooked up to your iPhone.

The watch can alert you to an incoming call or email, help you find the phone or alert you when you walk away from your handset. On the incoming call front, the watch performs its duties admirably, even given you a choice of vibration and how often it will vibrate. The same applies to email, provided you have your iPhone set-up to fetch or push mail.

When walking away from your phone, the 6900 will vibrate. The problem is, it only vibrates once, and if you aren't concentrating you'll easily miss the warning.

There is a button on the watch which when held will make your iPhone emit a sound so you can find it. The problem is, if the Bluetooth connection has dropped out, it's useless. So you have the ability to locate the iPhone only if you haven't walked particularly far away.

Finally, you have the auto iPhone time-match function and the rather clever ability to re-connect via Bluetooth when it detects movement. This means it doesn't use Bluetooth, and thus valuable power, when it's sitting on your bedside table.

It all works really well, despite a slight tendency for connection to drop out at strange moments. We should note that the watch is compatible only with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 and not any Android phones, which is a shame and seems really rather silly.

Verdict

Here is the problem with the 6900: it has all the makings of a great smart watch - G-Shock is a great brand and has put together some quality, extremely desirable timepieces - the problem is that this isn't one of them, in terms of looks at least.

We wish Casio had gone for one of its more elaborate designs with the 6900, just to keep up with the high-tech side of things and its Bluetooth functionality. Then again, it might have saved money as the watch is priced very reasonably.

Then there are the smart functions themselves. Devices like the Pebble or even the Nike Fuel Band in some respects quite easily put them to shame, and can pair with both the iPhone and Android. Casio has been making watches for a long time and should be leading the way here.

In the end though, this is a great first attempt from Casio to do something genuinely fresh and new with its G-Shock brand. The foundations have been laid, but we say hold out until the next generation arrives, as we imagine this will be a G-Shock that everyone wants.