Android Wear is finally here. After an announcement that surprised us all earlier this year, the new OS has hit our wrists shortly after Google I/O. Two models were available, and in this review we’ll be taking a look at LG’s offering in the Android Wear space, the LG G Watch.
The design of the LG G Watch is understated and minimal. With just a square display surrounded by a sizeable bezel, the G Watch isn’t going to turn any heads. For me personally, it’s caught my eye, but it’s not for those looking for something that will stand out from the crowd. It’s really in the little things where I think the LG G Watch excels. It’s got a comfortable, easy to use wristband that’s interchangeable with an 22mm watch band. Out of the box I had no real complaints about the watch band itself. It was comfortable even with long periods of use. Coming in with a 1.65” inch IPS display, the watch fits comfortably. The screen itself was plenty bright for my use cases which was mainly indoors at my home or in an office. For the times I was outside, upping the brightness levels just a bit made things easily visible. It was only in direct sunlight where things became problematic, but hey, we’ve got another hand for a reason and can easily just cup the screen to make it visible.
The design as I said is understated, but still looks great. You likely won’t see anyone complaining that it looks ugly (unless they are wearing a Rolex or something). The build quality was great with no real complaints. Everything was put together well with no creaky plastic. The top of the watch simply holds the screen and bezels, the sides carrying nothing except the watch bands, and the bottom some regulatory info, logos, and the charging pins. Interestingly LG choose to not include any kind of button on the device likely to improve the appearance and ensure that it could take a dip in the pool. To turn on the watch you actually have to place it in the charging cradle which could be a pain if you happen to forget your charger or turn it off by mistake, but odds are you won’t have an issue with that. As for the actual charging cradle, you have a magnetic connection to the watch which thereby gets a charge via microUSB on the cradle. While it’s not the Qi wireless charging many of us were hoping for, it’s not the worst option out there. The touch screen was very responsive always knowing when I was using, but that’s pretty much expected now. The G Watch is IP67 rated for water and dust resistance, but I never really put that one to the test. I did have to make a couple runs in the rain, and the watch survived.
Overall I feel that the hardware on the LG G Watch is great. It’s well designed and everything does what it says. It’s a solid foundation, only complemented by the software on board.
The software on the LG G Watch isn’t a forked version of Android, a custom built OS, or one that’s built just to get away from Android. It’s Android Wear. Android Wear was custom built by Google not as a phone on your wrist, but an extension of the device in your pocket. I won’t go to in depth on Android Wear in this review as a full review of Android Wear itself is currently available here on our website. However I will talk about how it performs on the G Watch.
I didn’t have any major problems, just the ones you would expect from a first generation operating system. The design was clean, easy to understand, and just made sense. Android Wear focuses around two things. Voice and glanceable information. Voice input on the LG G Watch definitely works, but it’s not something I’m always going to use. Sometimes it’s just inconvenient to talk to my watch and other times it makes for some pretty interesting typos. To summarize that, I wouldn’t put the watch down until after you’ve seen what it’s going to send. If you were planning to use the watch to send out an email or long text, I’d avoid that if it’s longer than a sentence or two. Not only will the watch misunderstand you about half the time and you’ll have to start all over, but sometimes it just decides to cut out once you’ve reached a certain length. I wouldn’t recommend using the voice function for more than a quick response.
The responsiveness of Android Wear on the G Watch was great. I didn’t have many issues except for a force close from time to time and maybe a watch face going blank from time to time. Some issues were from the OS itself, but most were issues with third-party apps I was using.
Notifications were a pleasure with Android Wear. They flawlessly mirrored what I see on my Android device, just a lot more pleasurable to look at. Each notification has its own card just like the Google Now cards. They all carry a logo showing what app they are from along with a blurred background appropriate to the notification. For example, Google+ notifications generally pull the users profile photo as the background, and then simply a red background for multiple notifications. Hangouts responds the same way. Weather forecasts pull an appropriate image to match the current weather and time of day.
- Battery Life – One of the questions I was asked most about the G Watch was the battery life. Personally my day starts at about 7:30AM when I leave my house for work. It’s then that I take the G Watch off the charger. I use it throughout my day for checking my notifications, the weather, and answering a phone call from time to time. About 9PM I take it off and put it on the charger where it generally has a 35% charge. There’s pretty much no getting around it, you’re not gonna get more than a days use out of the G Watch unless you turn a few things off. I got a little under 2 days by disabling the always on screen.
- Price – At $229 the G Watch can be considered a little pricey. It’s not for everyone. Only those who are complete tech nerds (like me) or someone who actually has a use for the G Watch would want to spend that price on the device. I would say the average person has a little time to wait before picking up an Android Wear device as there are already rumors of sub-$100 Android Wear devices in the works.
The LG G Watch is one of only two Android Wear devices on the market. The Gear Live puts up stiff competition with it’s different design, heart rate monitor, and lower price point, but I still feel that the LG G Watch is the best one you can buy, for now. With other options from HTC and ASUS possibly coming in the future, it’ll be interesting to see how they differ. However many are still looking forward to the Moto 360 which will definitely top the G Watch and Gear Live in every aspect but one, price. If you aren’t waiting for the 360 and have a budget around $230, I’d definitely recommend the G Watch. It’s definitely got room to improve, but it’s a solid option for your hard earned cash.