LG Watch Sport for AT&T Review

Is the best of Android Wear good enough?

I’ve been a fan of the Android Wear platform since the first Moto 360. I’ve watched it grow and change, but I’ve also watched it become stagnant. There is no denying that Android Wear has been at a stand still for awhile now. All watches look pretty similar and the software has fallen behind the Apple Watch and Samsung’s Tizen watches.

Thankfully the LG Watch Sport and Android Wear 2.0 have arrived to revitalize the platform. Featuring new hardware and software features that change how you use or even interact with your watch. Let’s take a closer look.

Design

The first thing you’ll notice about the LG Watch Sport is the sheer size of it. This is one of the thickest watches on the market. Watches with LTE are never thin, but the LG Watch Sport still surpasses many of them. Compared to most LTE watches and especially the non-LTE ones this is a very chunky watch to have on your wrist. Thankfully it doesn’t feel as heavy as it looks.



LG Watch Sport on the left, Huawei Watch without LTE on right

The design itself is clean and simple, without many flourishes like hash marks around the dial or bezels along the edge. It is metal on the top while the bottom is plastic. Besides the thickness, what stands out most is the three button setup on the right side with the oversized crown. Here is one feature that makes the watch special and unique from other Android watches. This crown actually rotates and allows you to scroll the screen on your watch, set timers or alarms, and more.

This one change is long overdue and in itself makes me love this watch. By far this is what I will miss most when I have to send it back. Scrolling through the app drawer or notifications is a breeze. Not to mention when reading emails it helps keep your fat finger out of the way on a relatively small screen.

While I don’t care for how far it sticks out from the watch. I actually hated it in the first photos I saw of the watch. For a watch with “Sport” in the title, it’s annoying how the crown can be easily pressed while doing push ups. In the end, after using it I found it so useful that I didn’t focus on that as much. That being said if another manufacturer comes along and makes a rotating crown more flush with the body. It will make me very happy to not set off Assistant each time I exercise.

The other two buttons on the top and bottom can be customized to launch any apps on the watch. By default, the top one triggers Google Fit and the bottom will launch Android Pay. That’s right this watch actually features NFC for Android Pay.

The band on the LG Watch Sport also hides the LTE antenna, meaning you won’t be swapping out the bands, and that is a shame. The TPU band itself is a stiff and not all that comfortable. It took me a couple of days to get use to it, but it still cannot compare to the comfort of my Huawei Watch with its leather band. This type of durable band does line up with “sport” part of the name, however.

The bottom of the watch features a heart rate monitor with a removable back. Along with a tool included in the box, it allows you to swap the SIM inside.

The heart rate monitor does a decent job, but it’s hard to compare without the proper equipment. In my opinion, without it constantly taking measurements this is another feature that isn’t that useful in the long run. You’ll notice there are no charging pins on the back because the LG Watch Sport uses wireless charging.

Wireless charging is a fantastic feature that every smartwatch should adopt. The cradle is made of a light plastic and felt cheap to me, but it does at least use USB-C over the old micro USB standard. The cradle is also designed to take the watch with the buttons on the top or hidden inside of the cradle ─ a feature not essential, but shows attention to detail and is appreciated.

There is a speaker on the left side of the watch and it has decent sound for the size. Sure it’s not as high quality as the speaker in your phone. Yet it wasn’t meant to be. For listening to a little music here or there, and taking phone calls it gets the job done.

The screen is a high quality 1.38 inch round P-OLED panel with a resolution of 480×480. It looks fantastic and is plenty bright for outdoors. One of the best features is the ambient light sensor LG somehow found a way to place it behind the screen. Say goodbye to flat tires, this is how it is supposed to be done. Hopefully, this becomes a new standard, much like a rotating hardware button, and wireless charging.

The watch comes with an IP68 water and dust resistant rating. This means it will be fine if it gets splashed with a little water. However wearing this in the shower or going swimming with it, is not a great idea. It might survive being submerged in water but with a $350 watch, I would not want to risk it.

The pedometer is like most wrist-worn pedometers I’ve used. That is to say not very accurate, from Fitbit to the several watches I’ve tried. I’ve never had one that as consistently accurate as my Fitbit worn on the waist. One day it’s close and the next day it’s wildly off.

The haptic motor really stood out to me on this watch. A couple of the watches I’ve used in the past including my current Huawei Watch. Offer a very weak vibration and cause me to miss notifications. While the LG Watch Sport offers a stronger vibration and I was never worried about missing notifications.

Android Wear

The LG Watch Sport launched as the first official watch with the final version of Android Wear 2.0. There have been preview versions out for other watches, so it’s not entirely new to some. For most consumers, this will be the first time they see it. If you’ve been using Android Wear 1 this will be a big adjustment for you.

Many of the shortcuts and gestures have been changed. Along with the addition of the rotating crown and watch faces that feature complications. Android Wear 2.0 feels almost like a different platform and can take some getting use to. Android Wear 2.0 feels improved in many ways, but also like it was built specifically for this watch. It may not feel as cohesive on other devices.

While Android Wear 2.0 makes good use of the rotating crown. One big improvement would have been to allow one of the other buttons to act as a selection button. When scrolling through your notifications or the app drawer. It feels very inefficient to lift your finger to tap on the screen. Given the option, I would have gladly assigned one of the other buttons to use for selecting an app or notification. Keeping my finger to the side and out of the way of the screen.

Watchfaces have gotten a huge upgrade in Android Wear 2.0. They now allow for complications on the screen. These are usually added through a dial to show information from external sources. For instance you can show your steps from Google Fit, add a favorite contact, shortcuts for apps, battery level, date, upcoming calendar events, and more. The list goes on, and will only get longer as more developers add this function to their apps.

Speaking of apps you now install them directly from the Play Store on your watch, instead of on your phone and syncing with your watch. The watch itself is meant to be essentially a standalone device. Albeit with limited functionality at this point.

Using Android Pay on the watch was a fantastic experience. It was so easy to use and even though it’s been around with other watches before this one. This was my first experience using mobile payments on a watch and it blew me away. It gave me that taste of living in the future and is another one of those features that once you use it you just can’t go back. Android Pay does require you to setup a lock screen for security on the watch. Something most people most likely never use on their wearable.

See Also:

Explained: What's New in Android Wear 2.0?

Performance

Overall performance was smooth and I had no complaints the 1.1GHz Snapdragon chip with 768MB of RAM do a great job. Operating the watch was smooth and I really don’t demand too much from a smartwatch anyway.

LTE & Calls

Calls on the watch sounded good and the speaker was clear. Regardless I still don’t understand LTE on watches. I’m sure there are very fringe cases where it’s useful, such as a runner going out for a jog without a phone. Still, with all of the drawbacks like thicker watches, shorter battery life, built in bands, and a separate plan to pay for, I struggle to see where the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

LTE is just not useful nor necessary for a watch. As much as people growing up loved the Dick Tracy watch phone. It’s not practical to hold your wrist up talking on a speaker phone for everyone to hear. NFC on the other hand for mobile payments is very practical. I’d love to have a watch sans the LTE, but with NFC built in for payments.

Battery Life

I wish I could say the battery life was good. Sadly even with a 430mAh battery in this chunky watch, I could barely make it through a day. With LTE enabled I typically saw battery saver turn at 15% on by 9 PM or a couple hours earlier each evening. Then by the time I got into bed the watch was always below 10 percent. If I disabled LTE results were better ending the day in the 20 to 25% range. Still not good by any means as my Huawei Watch without LTE ends the day with 40% generally.

This is all without being a heavy user. I would consider myself more a light to moderate user of Android Wear. I don’t use it for calls, use it independent of my phone, or do much texting from it. Generally, I use it to check notifications, control media, or read occasional emails. Mainly all I want to know, is if the notification is worth taking out my phone? Yet it could still barely make it through most days.

Conclusion

The LG Watch Sport is an impressive combination of hardware and software. Besides the band, it feels and looks high quality and premium. The hardware brings new innovations to Android Wear featuring a rotating crown, NFC, and ambient sensor under the screen. While the software takes advantage of this new hardware becoming easier to use and more refined.

Despite all of the good, it’s still held back by its bulky size, subpar battery life, and nonreplaceable bands. All of which could be forgiven if the battery life hadn’t been so terrible. That might be too much for the hefty price tag of $350. Especially when there are other LTE watches on the market that supports mobile payments.

LG Watch Sport at AT&T LG Watch Sport at the Google Store
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