Posted by Jim Martin 31 July 2013
Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity smart watch review: A traditional watch made smart
- Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity smart watch review
- Reviewed on: 31 July 13
- RRP: £169 inc. VAT
Wearable tech is all the rage these days, with Google Glass and the Pebble smart watch attracting a serious amount of attention. But while all eyes are on Apple to launch the iWatch, Citizen is quietly going in an entirely different direction.
The watch manufacturer is well-known for its stylish timepieces and has clearly decided that what people want is not a smartphone shrunk to wrist size, but a traditional watch that's 'smart'. See also Sony intros SmartWatch 2 with bigger screen and slimmer design.
Enter the Eco-Drive Proximity, a hefty black beast of a watch with built-in Bluetooth. It can alert you to an incoming phone call or email, an upcoming calendar appointment and it can sync the time and date with your iPhone. Visit: Apple iWatch, Samsung Galaxy Smart Watch, Google Nexus Smart Watch rumour round-up.
Because it's a traditional analogue watch, there's no display to tell you who's calling or the subject of an email. Instead, the Proximity vibrates and the second hand points at the MAIL or CALL labels so you know what's happening. You dismiss the second hand so it can return to its usual day job by holding the upper or lower button for a couple of seconds.
If the smart features seem rather basic to you, we'd have to agree. And although you'll know the instant someone is calling you, the minimum polling interval for emails is 5 minutes, so you'll probably hear or feel your phone well before the Proximity alerts you.
Another issue is that, because it requires Bluetooth 4.0, it only works with the iPhone 4S or 5. Android users are currently out of luck as there's no Android app.
Pairing the watch with an iPhone requires the free Citizen Proximity app, which is really just a few toggle switches. Once you've established a connection, it can last for up to six hours, after which it automatically disconnects.
We found that the connection wasn't that reliable and it wasn't always simple to reconnect. In theory you need only press the top button on the watch, but more often than not, this didn't work.
The app doesn't talk to the built-in iOS Mail app, so you have to enter the details for all your email accounts for which you want alerts. You can enable or disable individual accounts, and choose whether or not you want alerts for phone calls and meetings.
Oddly, there's no alert for text messages, and since there's no label on the dial, we highly doubt that Citizen will (or can) add this feature later.
Citizen Proximity review: watch features
As a watch the Proximity is complicated to use. There are three sub-dials which are impossible to understand without reading the manual. In fact, we had to refer to the manual for everything, not just the smart features.
You get a 60-minute chronograph, a second time zone and a perpetual calendar. It's also water-resistant to 100m and, because it's an Eco-drive, is solar powered and therefore won't need a new battery.
Assuming that you don't spend your days in dimly lit rooms, the Proximity shouldn't run out of power. This is one reason why low-energy Bluetooth is needed. Using the sub-dial at 2 o'clock you can check power reserves - they were always high during our testing.
The bottom sub-dial indicates the mode, which you'll have to learn from the manual as the labels are indecipherable. Confusingly, the battery meter doubles as the Bluetooth signal monitor, so you first have to check the mode in case you interpret the wrong meaning. The DTC mode turns Bluetooth off, so you can take the watch on an aeroplane.
In terms of construction, the Proximity has a stainless steel body and a leather strap with a nylon backing. There's a choice of two colours, either the black and green here, or a black, blue and silver version.
Citizen Proximity review: verdict
By smart watch standards, £400 is pretty pricey but with the Proximity you're getting something that wouldn't look out of place on James Bond's wrist.
Style isn't everything, though, and we're not convinced that the Proximity's smart features are enough to persuade anyone to buy it.
Yes, if you're the kind of person who keeps their iPhone in a bag and constantly misses calls, it could be exactly what you need. Getting email alerts a few minutes after messages arrive may or may not be useful to you, and the lack of SMS alerts is disappointing.
It's also a shame that there's no way to change the vibrate alert - you get the same vibration for all alerts. If you could customise them to differentiate between a call and an email or - better still - different email accounts, that could make the Proximity a lot more useful.
The bottom line is that the Proximity feels like a first-generation product. It will be interesting to see if Citizen or other watch manufacturers can take this kind of smart watch and turn it into something genuinely useful, but along with most others, our eyes are still watching to see what Apple can conjure up.