Android Wear might have started as a respectable shirt, suit and shoes kind of wearable OS, but this year it looks set to morph into a rough and ready adventurers’ companion - one that’s happier out in the wind and rain, getting muddy and conquering the wilderness.
Just take one look at the Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 and you’ll get an idea why.
It’s Casio’s second attempt at a rugged smartwatch, only now it’s been upgraded with GPS, so you won’t get lost when you’re trying to bring out your inner Bear Grylls. Only without the urine drinking.
Oh, and it's the first watch to launch with Android Wear 2.0 - an update that's been a long time in the making.
I strapped one on this week at CES - the technology industry equivalent of a feeding frenzy at a watering hole on the African Savannah. I’m happy to report it came out unscathed - it’s built to take quite the beating.
TOUGH AS NAILS
Casio learned a lot from the original Smart Outdoor WSD-F10 - namely that big, black and bulky is exactly what you need to survive extreme weather conditions. This new watch follows suit, but manages to pack even more tech inside without growing any larger.
That’s a good thing, as this is one seriously chunky smartwatch. It looks massive on my chunky man wrists, so it’s going to look comical on anyone with smaller, daintier ones.
It’s still water-resistant down to 50m, so you can take it for a swim as well as wear it in the shower, and apparently Casio has built it to military standards - meaning it’ll take a beating should you drop it, or cover it in sand and mud. It should shrug off extreme hot and cold, too - handy if you were planning a desert or arctic trek in 2017, I guess.
The standard black watch has that classic G-Shock vibe, with chunky buttons around the edges and a thick rubber strap to keep it securely on your wrist. I’m a big fan of the orange version, though - it’s not quite as lurid as the Nixon Mission, but it’s still going to demand attention when you strap one on.
Built to last
Inside, the big new addition is GPS. It’s a low-power version that works with GLONASS and Michibiki satellites, so tracking should be absolutely pin-point accurate, and supports offline maps so you can keep exploring when you’re really out in the wilderness.
I loved the Location Memory mode, which lets you drop digital breadcrumbs as you explore by tapping one of the side buttons, and the built-in sensors now do a better job at activity tracking, recording things like maximum speed when you’re on the ski slopes.
There’s still an air pressure sensor, accelerometer, gyrometer and magnetic compass inside, which should mean all kinds of sports are covered, including trekking, water sports, winter sports and cycling. No built-in heart rate sensor though, which is a bit of a shame.
At least it won’t drain your battery life, though. Casio reckons the watch is good for a day’s battery with all the tech goodies switched on, or up to a month if you’re just using it in normal watch mode. When you do run out of juice, the neat matching magnetic charging point blends right in with the rest of the watch - no need to fiddle with a docking station.
The 1.32in, dual-layer LCD screen is a big part of that great battery life. It’s got a full-colour layer when you’re fully charged, but can switch to monochrome when you’re running low on power.
Casio Pro Trek Smart initial verdict
With Android Wear running the show, you should have a good idea of how the watch works - but Casio has still managed to add a few neat little extras into the mix.
The Moment Setter watch app can send custom reminders, like when the tide is out, or when the sun will rise and set, and the Tool app adds real-time alerts for when the air pressure changes. Basically everything a spur-of-the moment skiier, surfer or explorer could need.
There’s also a Casio Moment Link app, which shows the exact location of your other watch-wearing friends, and lets you stay in contact with text messages. It uses GPS, but only works with Android phones. iPhone owners, you’re out of luck - although the rest of the watch will play nicely with iOS.
A lot to like, then - I can’t wait to get one on my wrist for a longer test. The WSD-F20 is on track to launch in April for US$500 - the same price as the original F10. Hopefully we’ll have a full review a little closer to launch.