The LG Watch Style carries Google's smartwatch future on its shoulders. Along with the beefy LG Watch Sport, it heralds the arrival of Android Wear 2.0, Google's shot at matching – and hopefully surpassing – the experience of the Apple Watch Series 2 and Samsung Gear S3.
LG has been there from the start of the Android Wear story, and was along with Samsung, the original hardware partner. Now LG is back, chosen by Google to lead its next charge.
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Unlike the Watch Sport, the LG Watch Style, as the name suggests, puts the emphasis firmly on looks. It's one of the sleekest Android Wear watches but that comes at an expense. Additional fitness features like a heart rate monitor or built-in GPS have been axed, along with NFC (so no Android Pay) and LTE support.
You're getting a streamlined experience. But is it all style and no substance? We've been living with the Watch Style to find out if LG is onto another smartwatch winner.
LG Watch Style: Design
The Style is a bit of a departure from the old LG Watch Urbane's big, brash, shiny look. LG has stuck with the round watch approach and built one of the lightest and thinnest Android Wear smartwatches, with the case slimmed to just 10.79mm. That's thanks largely to the lack of additional sensors on board and one of the smallest batteries ever packed into a Android Wear watch.
The matted stainless steel finish on the casing and smaller frame means it's nowhere near as eye-catching as previous LG iterations, but it's still one of the best-looking we've had the pleasure of using. Suited for those with slimmer wrists, it's available in silver, titanium and rose gold.
Our appreciation for the new stylish direction also extends to the watch bands. The Watch Style uses an 18mm strap, which you can quickly swap out to change up your look, and comes with the new Android Wear Mode bands. We managed to try out a couple of the leather options and it definitely helps add a touch of elegance to the proceedings.
Despite its slender frame, there's still room for a microphone and it's IP67 dust and water resistant so it's safe enough for a shower but we wouldn't recommend taking it for a swim.
LG Watch Style: Screen
Android Wear watches on the whole have delivered in the display department and it's no different with the Style. There's a fully round display, so no black flat tyre here. There is a slim bezel that surrounds the screen but it's far less noticeable than seeing a big black bar eating up the bottom of the screen.
It's packing a 1.2-inch, 360 x 360 resolution P-OLED display so it's by no means class leading in size or quality, but it's well proportioned to that small watch body and provides bright, vibrant surroundings for all that Android Wear 2.0 has to offer.
If there's one niggling gripe we do have it's that it can be a big of a haven for fingerprint smudges. Granted, all smartwatches encounter that problem but it's definitely something we've noticed more using the Style.
LG Watch Style: Crown
A twisting crown you say? Yes, LG has followed in Apple's footsteps and decided to take the age-old watch feature and give it a modern twist.
It signals a move from Google and Android Wear to embrace all that is good about the traditional timepiece and that includes taking elements like the crown and making it do more in a sophisticated way.
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On the Style, the uses for the crown are pretty basic but nonetheless still useful and compliments touchscreen navigation. You can push the crown in to launch the app drawer and twist to rotate to scroll through apps, notifications or feeds of information. It can also quickly launch Google Assistant (more on that later) and does have some integration with native apps like Google Maps so you can zoom in and out of locations.
It's really now over to app developers to help make more use of it. While it still doesn't feel as intuitive or as slick as Samsung's rotating bezel on the Gear S3, it's definitely a step in the right direction for LG and Android Wear on the whole to embrace traditional watch features instead of try to ditch them in favour of voice and touchscreen controls.
LG Watch Style: Android Wear 2.0
The software glue that holds everything together is of course Android Wear 2.0. If you want a breakdown of exactly what the OS update has to offer, have a read of our Android Wear 2.0 guide. Bottom line, it aims to offer a better overall smartwatch experience including helping your smartwatch function as a standalone device.
That's good news for iOS users of course, because now it'll do more than soak up phone notifications. We weren't able to put the Style through its paces with an iPhone as the software update is not ready just yet, but we were able to pair it with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Google Pixel Xl and we can safely say that the Android Wear experience has greatly improved. It's still not perfect, but things feel more complete. The more time you spend with it, the more you begin to appreciate those changes.
Google's 'Material design' – essentially the look and feel of the software – is well suited to the Style's circular surroundings and the crown is definitely a good addition as far as navigating the OS is concerned.
Everything feels familiar but the changes with the way notifications are delivered and handled feel more natural. The ease in which you can select and customise watch faces are better executed, too.
The Apple-style complications that let you add small live widgets into watch faces might not be new to the smartwatch world, but the ability to add weather information or Google Fit goal progress further emphasises that decision to enhance existing watch features. There's a good collection of watch faces as well and scope to make your own with software like Facer also supported.
There are some new Wear 2.0 features that impress more than others. While the Sport is the more fitness-focused of the LG duo, you do still get to reap the benefits of Google's improved Fit app, which is now broken out into separate daily activity monitoring and sports tracking. You might want to swap in a silicon band before you hit the gym with it, but it serves up good, albeit basic information during a workout session.
But not everything is such a triumph. Typing on the smarter keyboard is unsurprisingly hit and miss in such cramped surroundings. Google Assistant integration still pushes you to Wikipedia pages in response to most questions and doesn't deliver natural two-way conversation.
The mic picking up the voice recognition isn't great, although the smart learning onboard does a good job of filling in the gaps where it's struggled to pick up a full sentence. While we're not entirely disappointed that it's missed out on the Sport's fitness hardware, we are surprised to see that NFC doesn't make the cut. That means no Android Pay for the Style, a decision we think LG will come to regret.
What's more concerning though is the sluggish performance we've experienced while using the Style. It's powered by a 1.1GHz Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor with 512MB of RAM with the latter pretty much the norm for Android Wear watches. App launching and data syncing is by no means speedy. We hope that might just be down to some final quirks with the developer version of Android Wear 2.0 we were using.
LG Watch Style: Apps
The Style comes with a pretty standard collection of native apps already preloaded onto the watch. We're talking the likes of Google Translate, Contacts, Reminders and even a torch mode.
While the jury is still out on the value of fully fledged smartwatch apps, we were able to try out a small selection optimised for Android Wear 2.0, namely The Weather Channel, Lifesum and Foursquare. Some add support for the new complications while the new Nest app uses the rotating side button for thermostat temperature control. There's nothing mind-blowing to report just yet, but it's promising to see some big names already willing to tap into LG's hardware as well as Google's improved software.
Android Wear 2.0 of course also brings a dedicated Google Play Store so you can download apps directly from the watch. That makes the addition of built-in Wi-Fi support all the more useful so you can browse the more streamlined Play Store without your smartphone.
LG Watch Style: Battery life and charging
While Android Wear heralds the software changes, there's some familiar smartwatch problems you'll still face with the Style unfortunately, and one of those is battery life.
Beneath that plastic rear casing lies a 240mAh battery, which is one of the smallest to crop up inside an Android Wear watch. That should max out at around two days of smartwatch time, but in reality with key features in regular use it's more like a day. That's what we found with the screen on near maximum brightness, having the watch display in always-on mode along with a steady stream of notifications.
There are ways to improve battery like switching off the always-on screen option, reducing brightness and turning off features like the Wi-Fi. But that always feels self-defeating.
A battery saving mode jumps into action when you're down to around 15% turning off the ambient display and Wi-Fi but it doesn't give you much time to use some of the more power sapping features before you're reaching for the circular charging cradle. It takes around an hour and a half to get from 0-100% so it's not exactly a rapidly charging watch either.
- Slim, minimalist design
- Great addition of rotating crown
- Sharp, vibrant display
- No NFC for Android Pay
- Battery life is not great
- Sluggish performance