Casio WSD-F20 Android Wear smartwatch: Our first take

Casio's WSD-F20 packs GPS and Google Assistant, but it's still too pricey

Casio joined the Android Wear family last year with the WSD-F10, a smartwatch that distinguished itself with a focus on outdoor features. At CES 2017, the company unveiled the WSD-F20, which improves on its predecessor by adding GPS functionality.

The WSD-F20, a device under Casio’s Pro Trek lineup, will run Android Wear 2.0 — an upcoming revamp of the current smartwatch operating system. Its predecessor, the WSD-F10, will also receive the update when Google rolls it out sometime in spring 2017.

Casio only had units with a demo mode of Android Wear 2.0 in its CES suite — so while we can offer initial impressions on the hardware, we can’t quite assess the quality of the software. Let’s dive in.

A slightly-tweaked design

Casio has managed to make the WSD-F20 look even more rugged. While the new watch retains the flat-tire on the bottom of the circular watch, it also adds more text to the watch casing along with slight additional design tweaks — such as a protective bezel and varying button sizes.

The watch feels thick and bulky — it does measure 56.4mm after all — but if you’re used to G-Shock watches you won’t see much of a difference here. It’s a gram lighter than last year’s model, and unfortunately, the watch only comes in one size. It will undoubtedly look awkward on smaller-sized wrists.

The watch has the same 1.32-inch screen with a resolution of 300 x 320 pixels. It carries the same fantastic dual-layer display that lets you switch to a monochrome “Timepiece” mode that turns off Android Wear to save battery — it can tick on for a month in this mode.

The three buttons on the right side of the watch still let you access your preferred app, functions, and tools from Casio — like an altimeter, barometer, compass, and more. The buttons aren’t as clicky as I would have liked, but they do the job. The app shortcut button was one of my favorite features of the WSD-F10, and I’m glad to see it on the WSD-F20.

The strap is as easy as ever to buckle on and off, and it seems to be made of the same urethane resin with a rubber and silicone texture.

GPS and Android Wear 2.0

The newer model has many of the same features and functions of the WSD-F10, such as a built-in microphone, but it also packs a low-power GPS sensor, as well as support for online and offline color maps. It can also track more types of activities, like water sports.

Casio pulls its map data, which the company says is “richly designed and easy to read,” from Mapbox — a mapping platform used by apps like Foursquare, Pinterest, CNN, and Strava. You’ll be able to download color maps in advance, and the integrated GPS will track your location, even when offline. Casio says a new Location Memory app on the watch will let users customize their maps with markers and text.

Android Wear is sleek and minimal, whereas Casio’s overlay is in-your-face and bold.

Android Wear 2.0 is less confusing and more streamlined, and the Casio WSD-F20 will have the Google Assistant built into it just a button press away. You’ll be able to use the artificially-intelligent bot to run search queries, control your smart home, and more. We couldn’t play around with it much as it was only a demo, but we’ll take a full dive when we get a review unit.

It doesn’t look as though much has changed to Casio’s features on the watch, which include measurements for outdoor trekking, cycling, and fishing, as well as basic tools such as the compass and altimeter. If you use tools akin to what the WSD-F20 offers, this watch is for you.

One thing I mentioned in my review of the WSD-F10 is that Casio’s features and Android Wear look distinctly different — that hasn’t changed. It’s a little odd from a user-experience design standpoint. Android Wear is sleek and minimal, whereas Casio’s overlay is in-your-face and bold. It not necessarily a knock against the watch, but it’s worth a mention.

The smartwatch has an “anti-fouling coating” on the touchscreen, which helps reduce fingerprint stains. There are also two new watch faces — Location and Traveler. These make use of the new GPS and also allow users to launch apps from the watch face.

We’ll dive into how GPS and Android Wear work when we get a unit for review.

Conclusion

The WSD-F20 is meant for a niche demographic — people who like bulky watches that are loaded with tools they can use when outdoors. The two-day battery life is disappointing as there is zero improvement from last year’s model. It’s still higher than what most smartwatches offer, and the dual-layer display allows the Timekeeping Mode to keep the watch alive for a month. You can’t use Casio’s features in this mode, though.

The lack of a heart-rate monitor also seems like an oversight — if a company can fit it into a $200 ring, there’s no reason the WSD-F20 shouldn’t have one.

The watch is expensive at $500. It’s only worth the asking price if you use the Casio-specific tools. If not, you may as well purchase another Android Wear watch for a much lower price.

It only seems like Casio scratched off one “Low” from our original review of the WSD-F10, thanks to the addition of GPS. We’re not quite sold if GPS can make up for the rest of the watch’s faults.

The Casio WSD-F20 Pro Trek Smart comes in orange and black and will be available on April 21.

Highs

  • Android Wear 2.0 adds Assistant, streamlined interface
  • GPS functionality enhances watch experience
  • Dual-layer display is helpful to elongate battery life
  • Durable, water-resistant up to 50m

Lows

  • Expensive
  • Bulky and unattractive
  • Where’s the heart-rate monitor?
  • No improvement in battery life
  • Still maintains a flat edge on circular screen
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