It was a year later and already Casio had renewed its Bluetooth smart watch products to a “second generation” with increased compatibility and useful functions. They bet heavily on certain standards becoming mainstream: Bluetooth 4.0, Android KitKat, third party app development and popularity of features such as music control and clock setting.
The price of the products appeared attractive. Since their Japanese market release in October 2013, the new line had begun to take hold but still not main-stream. Development with phones other than Apple’s iPhone, their own (NEC/Casio), Samsung Galaxy, Sharp, and Kyocera via apps continued but very slowly.
World-wide sales are not soaring – it is almost a non-starter, this watch line. And this is typical of the “smart-watch” category in general. The slow start is in part (IMHO) because of the consumer’s confusion: what is a smartwatch, what is it supposed to do, which features are important and why does it cost so much? (remember, most of the phones sold these days are part of a plan and require little or no initial investment – accessories, unlike plan phones, must be bought outright). Adding to the problem, second generation products are shipping while first gen stuff is still sitting on the shelf. Similarly, Samsung Gear Live, for instance, will be available in just a few days (July 2014) and it makes the Casio BT watches look like Korean war surplus. If you have not checked out the Amazon Fire phone, do it – you’ll be amazed at what a phone can do and be astounded at what a new player can bring to the game. It makes people wonder which way things will go, and so, no one wants to be an “early adopter” of the wrong tech.
I feel a pinch of pity for anyone trying to make up their mind right now.. LG with their new G Watch that you can command by voice thanks to Google Android Wear development, the very sexy, classic round watch styling of the Motorola Moto 360; Sony barging back in with a new model, the SmartWatch II that sports NFC; Amazon, hoping to re-direct the industry (and your cash) with their Fire Phone, and with rumors of Apple coming to the wearables market in a couple months with who knows what new features; or even last year’s hot ePaper Pebble is more than the average buyer can sort out – too many features to understand, too many different builder’s versions of what a smart watch is supposed to be. And this is not a product category that is driven by color (you know, to match those new Jordan hi-top kicks you just got), so Casio should not expect the world to pony up for this thinking-person’s-solution-product just because it is so popping neon yellow it makes your eyes involuntarily flutter or so jelly orange that people want to eat it.
We’ll wait for the Windows 8 version, thanks.
Quoting Rakesh Sharma in his recent post on Forbes.com, “In his book A Fine Line – How Design Strategies Are Shaping The Future Of Organizations, Hartmut Esslinger outlined a culture versus commodity argument inside organizations. ..products can either be cultural phenomenons which fulfill a unique space in the average consumer’s life or commodities which are imitative and offer value at a competing price point. ..wearable technology seems to be veering towards the latter paradigm without offering unique value propositions to consumers.” And his observation of the “wearable tech” segment is “Consider smart watches. They combine use cases for two devices: a phone and mechanical watches. However, their functionality is limited and dependent on smartphones. Without smartphones, the device becomes a fitness tracker, such as Fitbit. That might still be a useful, if existing smart watches had attractive designs. But, they don’t.” And here, with visions of the Sony watch, one of the dumbest looking things since the Captain Kirk’s wrist communicator (or his hair), I have to agree. It seems Mr. Esslinger can see into the future, while I’m still stumbling around in the past.
Anyway, back to the Casio storyline..
In the meantime (unveiled at CES in January 2014 and released in March), Casio surprisingly introduced a non-G-Shock Bluetooth watch, iPhone compatible only, aimed at the sports market that exceeds expectations with more useful features than their first smartwatch offerings: the Sports STB1000 and at a considerably lower price.
This is where I usually insert the boring list. I’ll save you from having to read here the usual stacked tome of unused features and benefits – go to Casio.com if you want to study minutiae.
One of the popular online Casino sellers had this to say about the watch..
“How long? How fast? Know just this and more with Casio’s latest sports watch, compatible with common mobile fitness apps and incorporating Bluetooth®v4.0 technology
“Casio builds on existing G-Shock features, utilizing wireless technology and expanding iPhone compatibility for improved functionality and an overall exhilarating experience. Operate with Abvio’s Runmeter, Walkmeter, Cyclemeter, or Wahoo Fitness to view data for your pace, distance, time, pulse, speed, or pedal rotations. Record up to 120 lap times to monitor your progress over time.
“Casio amps up the fun this time around. Connecting with the iPhone’s music player, this watch allows you to listen to your favorite workout jams without having to touch the display. Play, stop, or adjust the volume all from the watch’s body.”
This blogger would have had a few things to say to Casio had there been the opportunity, say, during the initial concept meetings. Such as..
“Dude, its an accessory – price it like one – make it a loss leader, try $69.”
“Dude, people who own almost buttonless devices don’t want to add five new buttons to the process, especially not confusing, hard to reach ones that mix redundant minor features with important ones.
“Dude, look at an iPhone? Do you see any weird industrial Japanese nubs, dents, fake bolt heads or a vast smear of features printed on the face? Cosmetically, these devices (iPhones and Casio wrist watches) are on opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum. Dude, clean that shit up!
A quick look at the user’s reviews / critiques on several sites points out the many shortcomings in the new product’s functionality, followed by this blogger’s comments.
“Cheap looking” – The shape, the materials used, the homely 20 year old design. Both colorways exagerate the unseemly toy-like appearance. And, jeez, the display technology is straight from the ’80s!
“Uncomfortable” – same old complaint: stiff resin band Will they never learn?
“Unreliable connection” – there are copious complaints about the Bluetooth connection dropping out during use. We expect rock-solid reliability these days – especially from companies like Apple and Casio. The Bluetooth 4.0 protocol has been around for years, so there is no excuse for its untrustworthy behavior in the field.
“Difficult to operate” – the conventional Casio buttons are confusing and small, hard to reach when using the device as intended. Running and cycling are inherently dangerous and require that the user be fully engaged in the exercise activity, not finding and depressing buttons in complicated sequences – safety first, kids.
“Dial too small” – if you have to wear bifocal glasses to read the details, you have the wrong gear on your head! The heart rate, distance, lap pace and average pace readings are microscopic. The LED dial does not always work well in all lighting situations and viewing angles.
You might be thinking this blog is a little hard on Casio. Is it fair that this blog post has just cost them 1,000 sales? My critics would say, “Here’s a rather amazing set of fashionable, inexpensive watches that do things that no other watches do, that promise long life and reliable service.” They would be right, but I think Casio can do better and this is my way of telling them so. This goes double since I am an avid bicyclist who could benefit from a good sports watch. Besides, with all the praise and good PR they have gotten from me for the last few years without ever acknowledging the hard work that goes into this, or inviting me to an event, or loaning me a watch for a hands on review, or giving me any help with press packs, or even a thank you for the coverage, I’m inclined to be a bit harsh when they screw up.
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