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Citizen Proximity Watch for Discreet iPhone Notifications

This has been the year of connected watches—time pieces that work with your smartphone to provide notification and other features. Major watch brands are even getting into the act and Citizen is no exception.

The Citizen Proximity with Eco-Drive takes a characteristic analog chronograph design and brings it into the 21st century with Bluetooth communication. By pairing the Proximity with an iPhone (requires iPhone 4S or iPhone 5), this watch is able to discreetly notify you of events that occur on your smartphone. When you receive a call, email or calendar reminder, you can glance at this watch to know which kind it is rather than pull out your phone.

Now, this functionality is not new. There are other smart watches such as the Pebble and the Cookoo. However, the Proximity is clever in the way it indicates the type of notification. Rather than using a computer-like display or lighted indicators, the Proximity uses the second hand to point to labels printed on the upper-left side of the watch’s bezel. For example, when the watch vibrates and the second hand points to the MAIL label, then “you’ve got mail”.

The second hand indicates the type of notification on your iPhone (Credit: Citizen Watch Company of America)

Looking at the labels on the bezel, you may be wondering what the LL indicator is for. That acronym stands for “Lost Link”. In other words, the Proximity will warn you when it is no longer in Bluetooth range of your phone. When does that happen? Usually, it is when you leave your iPhone on a bar stool.

Another clever design feature of this particular smart watch is that as long as you have it paired with your phone, you never have to adjust the watch’s time. The Proximity will adjust itself to match the time on your iPhone. This is particularly convenient if you travel a lot and keep crossing time zones. When your iPhone receives a time update from a cell tower, the watch will adjust accordingly.

One of my favorite features of this watch, as compared to others that work with smartphones, is the Eco-Drive that powers it. Citizen’s Eco-Drive recharges the watch via solar power (from the sun or indoor lighting). I don’t know about you, but I welcome the freedom of having one fewer thing that needs my recurring intervention to be recharged.

So, is this is the perfectly-designed smart watch? It gets pretty close. The overall analog chronograph look (with green or blue lettering and accents), discreet notification mechanism, auto time adjustment, dual time zone support, lost link alert and solar charging are winners, for sure. However, there are two issues to be aware of.

First, the watch only uses Bluetooth 4. This is good because it uses less power to maintain a link with your smartphone than earlier versions of Bluetooth. The downside is that only the most recent versions of the iPhone, namely the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, support Bluetooth 4. So, if you have an iPhone 4 or older and are not planning to upgrade, this watch will not work for you.

Second, the app for sending the notifications and current time to your phone is only available for Apple’s iOS. So, if you have a smartphone that is powered by Android, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III, or Windows, this watch will not work for you at this time. Hopefully, Citizen will either make apps for other phone operating systems or release developer tools so that the community can make them.

Once Android support is available, I may have to add the Proximity to my watch collection. I think I’ll take a blue one.

Do you have or want a smart watch to accompany your smartphone? Which one?

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