The next technological battle royale might take place on our wrists. While Google, Motorola, Samsung, and Apple are all likely to extend their mobile operating systems to watch faces in the coming years, none of those companies are watchmakers at heart. Casio, which has 40 years of experience in making digital watches, is approaching things from a different angle: Making traditional watches that interact with smartphones, rather than wrist-mounted minicomputers that act as a mobile device’s second screen.
In terms of physical design, the Casio OmniSync STB1000 wouldn’t look out of place 10 (or even 20) years ago. But it offers Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity that lets you pair it to an iPhone, and that’s where the futuristic factors come in. Text messages and incoming call alerts scroll across a small portion of the watch’s liquid-crystal display. It also doubles as a remote control for the iPhone’s music player, and you can dive into the watch’s complex settings via a Casio app for iOS rather than tapping endlessly on its side-mounted buttons.
There are advantages and disadvantages to Casio’s “watch-first” approach. First and foremost, this is a device that doesn’t need to be recharged on a daily basis or even on a monthly one. According to Casio, the OmniSync STB1000 runs on a standard watch battery for up to two years, taking advantage of Bluetooth 4.0’s low energy consumption and its less-fancy display. On the downside, its Dick Tracy factor isn’t so strong — again due to that monochrome display and the lack of a built-in microphone, camera, IR blaster, and all that jazz.
Casio has been making “pre-smartwatch smartwatches” for a few years now. The company introduced a Bluetooth-enabled model in its everything-proof G-Shock series; that one was compatible with both iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones. The STB1000 is quite a bit different: It’s a “runner’s watch” that lacks the ruggedized features of the G-Shock series, although it’s rated as water-resistant for anything other than scuba-diving and jet skiing. The smartphone compatibility is also more limited than those G-Shocks, as the STB1000 only interacts with the iPhone 4s or later.
However, this one is the first Casio watch that offers compatibility with apps beyond Casio’s own. The Casio Watch+ iOS app gives you an easier way to adjust the watch’s basic settings, set up the watch’s buttons for music-player control, and make your phone vibrate or ring so that you can find the damn thing. But the STB1000 also ties into various health and fitness products — Abvio’s Runmeter, Cyclemeter, and Walkmeter apps, as well as any Bluetooth 4.0-enabled heart monitor — to display real-time distance, speed, and heart-rate stats on the watch. It’s a bare-bones, monochrome graphical experience, but it’s built with no-nonsense runners and cyclists in mind.
It’s significantly cheaper than the first wave of fancier-screened smartwatches, too. The OmniSync STB1000 costs $100, and it’s available now.