The arrival of the Apple Watch in 2015 heralded the start of a whole new generation of smartwatches that were more useful, feature packed, and intriguing than ever before. Apple's device put the concept of wearable technology center-stage, garnering lots of attention from the general public and mainstream media alike. But, I felt the Apple Watch wasn't really a good companion for adventure travelers, and shared my reasoning in an article on this very site. To me, the Watch was a bit too fragile, lacked some important features, and had sub-par battery life to be a truly great timepiece for those of us who routinely wandered far off the beaten path.
Fortunately, in the months that followed, a number of new options began to appear on the scene, the most intriguing of which was the Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch, a device powered by the Android Wear OS that promises to be exactly what the active outdoor enthusiast and adventure traveler has been waiting for. Recently, I've had the opportunity to put the WSD-F10 to the test, and came away quite impressed.
When compared to the Apple Watch, Casio's entry to the smartwatch market is considerably larger. But, that added bulk is put to good use, as the WSD-F10 is encased in a much more durable and rugged body than Apple's offering. In fact, while the Outdoor Watch is larger, I would say it is more on par in terms of size with something you'd find from Suunto or Garmin, two companies that are known for making watches designed specifically for the outdoors. On top of that, the WSD-F10 isn't as heavy as you would think at first glance, and it actually ends up resting very comfortably on your wrist.
Just how durable is Casio's device? Consider this – Apple is reluctant to make any statements at all regarding their watch's level of water resistance, even though it can easily survive a good dunking in water. On the other hand, the Outdoor Watch is completely waterproof down to 50 meters (165 ft) and meets the MIL-SPEC 810G guidelines for dust and drop protection too. That means that this was a watch conceived and built to survive in the outdoors – something that can be felt and seen in its overall build quality.
Another unique feature of the WSD-F10 is its dual screen technology. Casio has overlaid a monochrome LCD screen on top of a color LCD with the watch knowing exactly which one to use at any given time. Need to glance at the time and date? The monochrome display remains on at all times to provide that info, and looks sharp even in bright sunlight. On the other hand, if you receive a text message, app alert, or other data, the color LCD kicks-in to display that information in vivid fashion. This two-display approach allows the Outdoor Watch to be more efficient with its battery life too, extending it further than the Apple Watch.
Additionally, Casio's watch has an array of sensors onboard that can provide important information without the need of any installed Android apps. For instance, it comes equipped with an electronic compass, altimeter, and barometer, all of which can function independently of a smartphone. It also has built-in sunrise and sunset information based on your current locations, and will offer a graph of the tides as well. Of course, as with most smartwatches, it can also track your exercise and fitness levels too.
As with most other smartwatches, the WSD-F10 has the ability to customize its face, giving users the option to display exactly the right information they need a glance. For instance, when hiking in the backcountry or peak bagging in the mountains, you may want to be able to see the direction your heading, altitude, and current barometric readings. To do that, you can simply customize the face to give you that data when you need it. This is a great feature to have, and I hope future outdoor watches give us the same ability as well.
Those of us who are particularly active will find that this watch comes equipped with the ability to track our running, cycling, and hiking activities, and provide information about how far and fast we have traveled. It will also track the number of calories burned, amount of time worked out, and steps taken too, making it a good workout companion. Personally, I still feel like the Apple Watch has the edge in this department, but Casio's device does so many other things well that this is still a good fitness tracker in its own right.
The basic functionality of the WSD-F10 is impressive enough on its own, particularly when you throw in the ability to read text messages and alerts right on the screen. But, that functionality can be expanded even further through the use of Android apps. You'll find many of the major apps have Android Wear compatibility these days, allowing you to install the ones that make the most sense for you and access data from them directly from the smartwatch itself. This is true of things like Google Fit and RunKeeper, as well as more traditional apps like Google Maps, which can provide directions right on your wrist.
Believe it or not, the Outdoor Watch can actually be paired with an iPhone, although the level of functionality is somewhat limited. You won't have access to the full array of apps you would if you were using an Android phone for instance. This has more to do with Apple now allowing the WSD-F10 full access to the iOS operation system, as I'm sure Casio would love to be able to provide a full feature set for iPhone users as well. As it stands, you'll be able to get notifications and alerts, but little else, although the watch's full array of baked in features – including compass, altimeter, and so on – work just fine independently of the phone.
But, if you are an Android user who loves to travel and is active in the outdoors, the WSD-F10 is a great option. It offers so much functionality out of the box that it is already on par with most other outdoor watches, and when you add in all of the apps designed for Android Wear, it pretty much blows everything else away. Durable, rugged, and designed for adventure, this is the smartwatch that many of us have been waiting for, and it's been mostly worth the wait.
There are a couple of issues that Casio still has to deal with on this watch however. For instance, one area that most smartwatches could use improvement in is battery life, and the Outdoor Watch is no exception. Don't get me wrong, when compared to the Apple Watch, it does quite well, typically getting as much as three days of use out of a single charge, depending on you use it. But, if you ask the watch to track your movements in the backcountry, you're more likely to run into issues. Depending on your settings, and app usage, you could see battery life drop to as low as 20 hours.
That's still not terrible compared to some smartwatches when you consider the functionality that the WSD-F10 brings to the table, but it is far short of other outdoor watches, some of which can go for weeks without need a recharge, albeit with far less features and data. Still, I'd like to see future version of this timepiece come with a better battery, but the same can be said of my Apple Watch too.
In comparison to other outdoor watches, the WSD-F10 comes up short in another category too – lack of onboard GPS. When tethered to a smartphone it can overcome this challenge however, often making your forget that it doesn't have a global-positioning chip of its own. But, most of the watches from the aforementioned Suunto and Garmin both come with GPS onboard, so not having it here stands out as a bit of a problem. I'm sure some of you will write off the Outdoor Watch for not having this feature, which is understandable.
Just know that it can still use GPS provided it is connected to your mobile device.
There are also a few quirks with the way that Android Wear works, sometimes making things a bit more confusing than they need to be. I've even had the OS crash on me on one occasion, rebooting itself while I was interacting with an app. But, much of that comes down to Google continuing to refine the Android Wear experience, and since the watch can be updated with the latest versions of the OS, it will continue to improve over time too.
If you're in the market for a smartwatch to accompany you to the far flung corners of the globe, there really isn't any other real option. This is a great piece of kit that will likely get better as Android Wear evolves and more apps become available. All of that makes it very easy to recommend.
Find out more at Casio.com.