Casio G-Shock GBA-800 Unboxing and Initial Review (GBA-800-9AER)
At CES 2018, Casio introduced two new G-Shock watches to its ever growing collection of tough timepieces. Known as the GBA-800 and GPR-B1000, both devices connect to the G-Shock Connected app to help track different metrics and information.
The relevant watch to this review is from G-Shock’s new G-Squad series, the GBA-800 — a hybrid fitness watch that you can adds a little bit of fitness tech to G-Shock’s already iconic style. It comes in six different colour models – and of course the poster child for the series is the almost day-glo yellow (or is it green) model.
Using a built-in accelerometer the watch measures your daily steps along with your walking or running pace, the amount of steps you’ve taken will be displayed on the watch, both as a figure and a graphic.
So to wet your appetite here are a few of the promo shots released for the watch…
Previous Casio G-Shock ‘Smart’ Watch Attempts :
Having been using my Apple Watch now for quite a while I had grown to like its activity tracking and heart rate monitoring – to be fair though I rarely used any of the other apps. The only thing that had me constantly wearing the Apple Watch was to keep a track of those little rings and trying everyday to get them closed. Such an target is clearly no bad thing, which is easily evidenced by the number of people wearing some form of ‘fitness watch’ or band. However my epic collection of G-Shocks just sat unused. That is a bad thing.
The news of the release of this ‘fitness tracking’ G-Shock had me firmly back on the G-Shock train and if by some twist of fate it became available to the UK public just before my birthday. No better reason to get one then!
However on reading into it a little more the watch itself was definitely lacking in features.
For some reason G-Shock has stayed somewhat back in the shadows as far as smart technology goes. I have their bluetooth ‘music’ watch – a GBA-400, and honestly have never once used it to control music. The app was clunky and of course the watch looked great (if you like G-Shocks), but it is definitely a case of form over function.
Another earlier attempt at the smart watch market by Casio gave us a G-Shock that had text / email alerts. Nothing groundbreaking, but this was a good few years ago and gave the loyal G-Shock market a ‘smart’ option.
The watch market has taken an obvious turn towards ‘smart’ features and fitness tracking and that has left G-Shock fans shouting for a ‘smart’ watch. The GBA-800 is G-Shock’s reply.
Casio G-Shock GBA-800 :
From my early research it seemed that the GBA-800 was a G-Shock with a pedometer. And that is still pretty much my impression, but it is a decent pedometer. The branding touts many features :
To be honest though – take that ‘Bluetooth Equipped’ feature away and you have every other G-Shock on the planet. So it is all about the G-Shock and that bluetooth pedometer.
The ‘Bluetooth Equipped’ refers to the fact that the watch can connect to the ‘G-Shock Connected’ App – available for iOS and Android. (Note though that this is a different app than that used for the GBA-400 ‘Music’ watch.) The watch itself isn’t permanently connected to the app and you must sync it manually to transfer the data from the watch to the phone. This is a minor issue as syncing is a 2 second button push and the data transfers over exceptionally quickly. It also makes sense as the watch is not chargeable so battery life needs to be exceptional. For non solar G-Shocks I expect to get around 2 years out of a battery. Obviously with this model having been just released it is too early to comment on its specific battery life but I expect it to have a similar life expectancy.
The G-Shock Connected App :
A simple AppStore or Play Store install and you are good to go.
From the app you are able to set most of the features of the watch. You can set a Timer, use the Stop Watch, Choose your City to reference in World Time, set up alarms (up to 5) and of course track your steps.
As you can see from the ‘Step Tracker’ page of the app you can see you previous week’s activity. The default is set for 10,000 steps and the closer you get to the line on the date the closer you are to that magical 10,00 figure. Get into the yellow section of the graph and you have exceeded your target. You can then click on any specific day and get a more detailed breakdown for that day including a map (with a 3D option). This view is good for seeing when you were most active but I question the usability of the map. It takes your location data from your phone so may be useful if you carry you phone with you and want to plot a run or something. However if for example you work 20 miles away from where you live, the map will show two activity hotspots 20 miles apart, if your local park is another few miles away and you go for a run the map just gets another activity hotspot and it all just starts to get cluttered. If you carry your phone you’d be better just using Nike Run or similar to properly track your running routes. If you don’t then the watch will still keep a good count of your steps and is meant to analyse intensity too, so should determine the difference between a bimble, a walk and a run.
The big question that comes with step trackers and fitness trackers is accuracy – so how does this one measure up? Now without actually counting your steps one by one and comparing it to the the fitness tracker readout it is pretty hard to determine accuracy. So for this I used three trackers in total. The G-Shock GBA-800, a FitBit Alta HR, and the iPhone X. Basically I woke up, got int he car, drove to the mountains and went for a trek for a few hours. The G-Shock was on my left wrist, the FitBit on my right (dominant hand) and the iPhone was in my pocket. A few things need to be noted, the iPhone was also being used for Spotify and as a camera so some ‘steps’ will have been missed whilst snapping photos or jogging through playlists etc. The results were as follows :
G-Shock GBA-800 : 12,164 Steps
FitBit Alta HR : 12k Steps
FitBit Alta HR Tracking : 12,711 Steps
Apple iPhone Tracking : 11,984 Steps
You can see that between the three trackers over a pretty long trek there is less than a 5% difference. Unless you are pretty hardcore into your step tracking I believe that that sort of variance is totally acceptable, the big question is which one is the most accurate? That I can not answer.
In summary – I am absolutely back on the G-Shocks. This GBA-800 is a solid addition to the line up and brings in some welcome ‘smarter’ features. There is a long way to go before G-Shock are at proper ‘smart watch’ levels but they are definitely moving towards having more features in their series. The new Rangeman (announced at CES 2018 – and currently on pre-order) is showing further potential as it has GPS tracking, mapping and is rechargeable, which is further evidence of the brand getting smarter.
Then there is always the argument that G-Shock are not a ‘smart’ watch and there is still a place in the market for non-smart watches. I agree with this, but for me personally having worn a smart watch for so long at the moment it is what I am looking for in a daily wearer.
So how then does the G-Shock fit in? That is where my FitBit comes into play. Liking the fitness tracking, heart rate monitoring and sleep monitoring of the Apple Watch these were all features I did not want to leave behind. The solution I have at this moment is a FitBit Alta HR. It does the heart rate, work rate and sleep monitoring side of things however there is still one big issue. No Apple Health integration. The FitBit App is good, very user friendly, loads of information, works well, but it does not integrate with Apple Health. I get that these companies are fighting of the same piece of the fitness tracking pie but having an all in one hub such as Apple Health should not stop that competition from happening. There are some partial workarounds available using IFTTT but it’s not 100% and was almost enough for me to return the FitBit. The same goes for the G-Shock, why they have opted to not integrate with Apple Health confuses me. Simply having its tracker replace the built in one of the iPhone and you have your walking and running stats right there in the Health hub. Maybe it is something that will arrive in a future update and who knows maybe even FitBit may decide to play nice in the future too? Until then I am patiently waiting on the G-Shock with heart rate monitoring built in!