Android Wear is now amongst us. The first two devices rocking Google's smartwatch OS are available on the Google Play store and it's the cheaper of the two that we're focusing on here – the LG G Watch.
At £159, LG's debut Android Wear smartphone comes in just £10 cheaper than Samsung's Gear Live and for that meagre saving you make a couple of sacrifices. Read on to see if the small saving is worth the compromise.
LG G Watch: Design and build
At Wareable we're obviously excited by the wearable tech revolution and it's a given that Android Wear is going to be an incredibly important driver for the emerging smartwatch genre.
But that doesn't mean that we're going to be viewing exciting new flagship products with rose tinted smartglasses. So if we think something looks a bit naff, we're going to tell you straight. You can see where we're going with this, right?
Yep, the LG G Watch looks pretty naff. With its dull, heavy-set bezel design and chunky frame, it sits atop your wrist like an obelisk of mass produced plastic, and one glance is enough to decide we're certainly not dealing with the best looking smartwatch on the market. In terms of size it's a smidgen thicker than Samsung's Gear Live: weighing in at 63g, it's 4g heavier than its Korean compatriot.
Negatives aside, the G Watch is certainly well-built, with the smooth polished plastic edges merging seamlessly with the display and the rubber strap sits comfortably on the wrist. The strap on the LG is the standard 22mm watch one, meaning that you can customise to your heart's content – a nice touch given that the only two colour options officially available are black and white/gold.
Unlike the Gear Live, there are no physical buttons on the LG G Watch – in fact the only physical input is the reset button on the back, which you'll need a pin or pen-nib to operate. You'll also need to use this button to turn the watch back on if you've chosen to power it down (or the battery has died). We know that Android Wear is supposed to be an always-on experience but having to locate fiddle around with an awkward button like this isn't a great user experience.
LG G Watch: Fitness tracking
There's no heart rate monitor on the LG G Watch, which means the only fitness aspect on board is the standard Android Wear step counter; which is nowhere near as accurate as a dedicated activity tracker such as the Misfit Shine or the Jawbone UP24.
The G Watch is IP67 certified meaning it's dust and water resistant. That's resistant, not proof – so no swimming or bathing with your new smartwatch strapped on, although it should be alright in the shower.
It packs a 9-axis sensor containing an accelerometer, a compass and a gyro. There's no built in GPS so navigation is powered by your smartphone. We found that it often took a while for the LG G Watch to realise what direction we were facing and the turn-by-turn instructions often came late.
LG G Watch: Display
The display on the LG G watch is a 1.65-inch, 280 x 280 IPS LCD one. That's 240ppi, and not as strong as the offering from Samsung (320 x 320, 1.63-inch, Super AMOLED) although you'd be hard pushed to really decipher a noticeable difference when looking at the two side by side.
Text on the display looks crisp enough although the colours do look a bit faded and washed out – especially in direct sunlight where the display really struggles.
Also, prepare yourself for having one of the grubbiest looking watches in your gang after some heavy usage – the LG G Watch display picks up fingerprints and smudges like nobody's business.
One thing the G Watch does beat the Gear Live on is the amount of watch faces to choose from. We counted 25 on our G Watch, almost double what Samsung's smartwatch has on offer.
LG G Watch: Hardware
Hardware-wise you won't find a lot of differences, if any, between the two Korean Android Wear debutants. The LG G Watch, like the Gear Live, is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, backed up with 512MB of RAM.
That's the sort of processing power you'd expect from a very low-end smartphone nowadays but it seems to be plenty of grunt for a seamless Android Wear experience. We experienced no lag when flicking through notifications and we didn't find an Android Wear compatible app that caused it any bother.
There's 4GB of storage on board, which doesn't sound much, but you're hardly likely to fill it as most apps are predominantly run via your smartphone with only small files directly installed onto your smartwatch.
LG G Watch: Android Wear features
For a full breakdown of Android Wear check out our comprehensive Android Wear guide – but we can hardly review a device without telling you what it does. And what it does is Android Wear.
Notifications and updates are a big part of the Android Wear experience and, on the LG G Watch, you'll get notified about incoming texts, WhatsApp messages, tweets, Facebook updates, emails and more. You can manage your notification settings through the companion app or on the device itself. We had our G Watch paired with a Samsung Galaxy S5 (Android Wear is manufacturer agnostic, meaning it works on all Android mobile devices) and the notifications were presented quickly and accurately.
Your smartphone-delivered updates are presented in card style, with notifications from the same app nicely stacked. You simply swipe up and down to go through them and left and right for more information, to open up the relevant app on your smartphone, or to delete the stack. Again, this was a seamless affair on the LG G Watch, we had no issues with the swipe gestures at all.
Google Now powers Android Wear's other notification aspects and you've used the service on an Android smartphone, you already know what to expect: traffic updates, sports scores, meeting reminders, weather forecasts and so on. At the moment, in this first version of Android Wear, these notification updates can seem a little random but this is not an issue unique to the G Watch – the same randomness of updates is also something we noticed on the Gear Live as well.
LG G Watch: Voice commands
A massive part of the Android Wear experience is driven by you saying, “Ok Google," followed by an instruction. “Remind me….take a note….send a text….navigate to," and so on.
With the G Watch we found the voice recognition to be pretty much on the money every time, with only the odd mistake. However, we did find that it's best to use full words rather than hyphenated ones.
With no physical button on the G Watch, the method to activate the display and effectively get your smartwatch to listen to you is to lift your arm as if you were looking at the time. This was fairly hit and miss with the G Watch, however: we often had to make a much more elaborated movement to get the screen to light up.
LG G Watch: Battery life
The LG G Watch packs a 400mAh battery, which is not very much at all – although it does beat the Gear Live by 100mAh. You can expect a maximum life cycle of around 36 hours although even moderate usage will mean you'll be charging your new smartwatch up every night.
Charging is done with the use of a magnetic adaptor that marries up to the watch's pogo pins, which is powered by a Micro USB port. While it's not ideal for you to have to carry round yet another charging accessory for your ever growing tech arsenal, we have to say that LG's smartwatch approach is favourable to Samsung's fiddly attachment.
Your best bet is to leave your magnetic charger on your bedside table and simply lay the G Watch on top of it when it's time for bed.
- Decent price
- Voice command work well
- Feels comfortable
- Early adopter geek points
- Uninspiring design
- Bad battery life
- No heart rate monitor
- Washed out display