G, Its An LG Watch
As mentioned, a host of manufacturers are looking at releasing Android Wear smartwatches, and as such, we can expect a number of different takes as far as design elements go. Already, we have a couple with a square face, with an upcoming device being rounded. But with the LG G Watch, the company has decided to go the utilitarian route, with a design aesthetic that many will actually consider to be too simple.
G, it’s an LG Watch
Featuring a completely bare look, with no logos or buttons anywhere, this watch depends entirely on touch inputs and voice commands. Even when you run out of battery, the device automatically turns back on once it has been charged enough.
In a world where the smartwatch is ubiquitous, the LG G Watch is like a Swatch, something that is easily customizable, but otherwise does its core function very well, and often in an unassuming fashion. If nothing else, consistently doing successful voice commands to my G Watch blows my mind every time.
Priced at 159 it's the asking price that puts the LG G Watch within reach of many. For those fans of technology, and fans of Android, this is a great entry point to a new world of Android Wear smartwatches.
But is this the smartwatch experience we've been waiting for? Not quite. It feels like the first step, and as much as we love the simple interaction with Android Wear, it's too dependant on voice for our needs. We're still waiting for something to really leap out to define it as that much better than the competition because, as it is right now, it feels as though we've already been here before with other platforms.
The G Watch has some hardware issues too. The screen's visibility in daylight is poor and, unlike Pebble, the battery life is irksome. Those are two challenges that need to be overcome before these types of smartwatches will really have wider appeal.
Following in the footsteps of the Sony Smartwatch, various Samsung Gear and Pebble devices, LG relies on Android Wear to bring a new generation of wearable to your wrist; extending your smartphone's reach beyond your pocket and keeping you in touch without the need to constantly check your handset.
But is there anything that really shines about the LG G Watch with Android Wear or does the Google system fall into as many pitfalls as some of its competitors? Is this - finally - the smartwatch experience we've all been waiting for?
The G Watch is also IP67 certified, meaning you don't have to worry about getting it wet. As a result, there are no exposed ports - so you'll find pogo pins on the rear for charging. LG has opted for a magnetic charging plate that the watch sits on, keeping that clean aesthetic in check whether on the wrist or off.
It's simple enough to use and the charger connects to microUSB, however, it really does need a flat surface to sit on, as it doesn't clip to the watch in any way like the Samsung Gear 2 charger. If you're thinking of charging the watch hanging out of the USB port of your laptop on the train, then you need to think again.
Overall the design is rather safe. If being unkind, you could say that there's nothing really distinctive about it: it's a generic-looking smartwatch. But at the same time it's not ugly and is comfortable to wear.
We found the touch response to be nice and slick. You can smoothly flick through the different elements of Android Wear and navigate around the watch with no sign of lag. But this is a smartwatch interface and it has been designed to be simple, so that's what we'd expect.
The internal storage isn't something that you have access too. Perhaps that will change in the future, with options to move content to your watch for offline use, but primarily that storage is there to look after the watch platform, additions that any apps need, and store the data the watch gathers.
Some of that data will come from the 9-axis sensor that gives you gyro, accelerometer and compass functions - in other words this acts as a step counter. This is one of the (currently) standalone functions of the Android Wear, as it saves this data in the Fit app and this is restricted to the watch only - there's no crossover into wider access on your Android device. At least not yet.
The accelerometer is also responsible for waking the display when you move the watch to look at it. The LG G Watch display has an "always on" state, meaning you can read the details all the time, although it does dim to save battery.
Physically moving the watch will restore brightness to the face, so the flick of a wrist will make it easier to read - although it's a little slow to react sometimes. That's a double-edged sword: as we found with the Samsung Gear 2, if it's too quick to react, so it flashes the screen on all the time like a wrist beacon. But if it's too slow, it seems like it's not ready when you want it. Right now the G Watch feels like it needs to speed up a bit and develop a more accurate response.
Android Wear doesn't fill your watch with apps from the off, instead it acts as a companion, giving you basic functions such as the time, stopwatch, alarms and the step counter. It pulls across notifications from your Android device and this is elevated beyond just the core apps - it will include third-party applications too - but the level of interaction available varies.
However, there are good control elements. For example you can play music on your phone and you'll get controls on your watch. That might be through Play Music, Spotify or Amazon MP3 (the apps we tested) and all are controllable via the G Watch during playback.
You also get navigation extended to the watch. This is really handy, because you can glance to get walking directions, rather than having to hoist your phone out of your pocket. Even better, if you're wearing headphones, you'll still be able to hear the directions, which is great for walking to meetings in a strange part of town. The display is a little small, though, and although we found it ok for walking, there's not really enough information for other situations. When driving there's little wider context to the directions so it's easy to take a wrong turn - not that we would advise looking at a non-fixed screen in the car.
There's a mic on the G Watch, but no speaker. That might kill Dick Tracy fantasies dead, as you can't take calls on your watch, but we don't really mind: that isn't really practical, or something we want to do, as we found with the Samsung Gear 2 Neo.
Where it gets really useful is those times when you can't dig into your pocket to retrieve your phone. Both hands full of shopping bags, we were able to tell the watch to send a message, then we could read the reply, which really proved its worth.
The app support is a little on the low side at the moment. In some cases you don't get many options on the watch before you're prompted to open the app on your phone. But that will change, over time, as developers embrace this fledgling platform.
I have used the LG G Watch for quite some times now and, despite its very masculine look, I enjoyed wearing and using it, thanks to its gorgeous display. Some people may prefer the Moto 360 for its thinner design, while others would enjoy the masculine, vintage sportwatch, however I will not debate about taste. Read the full review to learn how the LG G Watch R holds up against our expectations.
The key feature in the LG G Watch R is definitively the display. LG claims that its team had to work for 2 years to be able to develop a 1.3-inch full circle P-OLED display (that uses 100% of its surface unlike other competitive round watches), because the rounded shape produces much more waste of OLED material than a rectangular one, or a circular one made of several pieces of OLED material. The design team had to work on the costs to be able to deliver. I did not get the description of what exactly needed to be done on that side, but this could probably be the topic of a whole other article, if LG wanted to disclose its industrial secrets.
The image quality is truly amazing, so far, it is the best I have seen on a smart watch. Due to the absence of ambient light sensor, the screen brightness has to be set manually. Some people have complained that the super bright display is still visible in the dark, even set at the lowest brightness. The P-OLED display consumes less on a dark background than regular LCDs, that is the reason why the default chronograph clock face in the demo software features a black background, which is necessary knowing that Android Wear requires the display to be always on.
The Plastic OLED display delivers high brightness, and a crisp and clear image quality. Sometimes I found the display too bright, and for more discretion I sat the brightness level at 1 instead of the default 4.I tested the viewing angle and even when watching the face at almost 180 degrees, I could clearly see the numbers and read the time perfectly (see photo below).
The new LG smart watch is quite large, and as it was discussed during our meeting, it is not really targeted to the female audience. Actually, as you can see in the photos, the G Watch R looks like a regular vintage sport watch for men. Despite its large width (46.4mm) the device feels very light on the wrist, and it is very comfortable to wear.
We do not expect smart watches to be super computers, however we do expect a decent responsiveness of the touch user interface. Overall the touch display is highly responsive and the audio command work fairly well, despite a few glitches probably related to my foreign accent. The LG G watch R is slightly more responsive than the Moto 360 on the paper and in the real world.
All smart watches powered by Android Wear offer similar features that I tried briefly to make sure they were working. I have made a brief list below, you will have a longer description in our Samsung Gear Live review.
The always-on display is a great feature of Android Wear, since there is no need to push a button to read the time unlike the early smart watches from 2 years ago. When the LG G Watch R display is dimmed you can still see the two legs in white on the black background and read the time. As I wrote in the first paragraph, the OLED technology consumes less power than LCD when displaying black pixels.