As for the LG G Watch, Android 4.3+ phone connectedness, impressive voice recognition, water- and dust-resistance and solid build quality are its highlights.
Note: Just want an overview? Check out the Quick Facts (next section)and the rating (at the bottom of the page). But if you want to explore the nitty-gritty, here’s the in-depth (but succinct) LG smartwatch review. We’re also working on a candid video review of the LG G watch, which will be added here in a few days, so be sure to come back.
Under the hood, the G Watch is pretty much the same experience as the Gear Live – with an inferior display and without the heart-rate monitor.
Read our Gear Live Review
Interestingly, the LG G costs $30 more than the Gear Live, but if you live in the UK, it’s £10 cheaper.
Does the watch justify the extra $30? Well, for some people it might – we’ll divulge the reason shortly.
Quick facts about the LG smartwatch
- Display : 1.65 inch IPS LCD (280×280 pixels)
- Compatible with : Android 4.3 or higher
- Battery: 400 mAh (~24 hours)
- Operating system : Android Wear
- Chipset : Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 400 processor
- Memory : 4GB eMMC / 512MB RAM
- Dimensions/Weight : 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95mm/ 63g
- Connectivity : Bluetooth 4.0
- Sensors : 9-Axis (Gyro / Accelerometer / Compass)
- Colors : White Gold/ Black Titan
- Strap : Standard 22 mm strap
Detailed Review of LG Smartwatch
While the Gear Live has a button that lets you turn the watch on/off and switch between the screen modes, the G Watch has no buttons other than the reset button at the back. The touchscreen and Google’s voice control are the two methods to interact with the watch.
Not button? Then how do you turn the device on or off?
Well, to turn off, you need to go to the Settings menu, and to turn on, you’ll need to mount the watch on the charging dock. So, if you accidentally turn the watch off when you don’t have the dock handy… tough luck!
If you use the watch as a sheer extension of you smartphone, then it’s fairly simple as all notifications will appear as cards on the screen. Each card has the basic info about the alert. You can tap to read more or swipe away to discard the notification as well as occasionally swipe to reply, for example in case of a text message or email. But things get complicated when you want to make use of the advanced features, as you’ve to deal with menus buried under several layers.
Unfortunately, navigating around isn’t very easy, or at least it feels a little less hassle-free after having used Android and Tizen-based smartwatches.
Usually, the home screen displays the date and time. Swipe down and you’ll see the battery meter and an option to mute/unmute the watch. A long press lets you choose from different watch faces, and a single tap or saying “OK Google” fires up the Google voice mode.
Guess what, Android Wear lacks the back button… bummer!
The only way to go back is by swiping away a card, but then you will end up on the home screen and will have to make your way form there again.
To avoid indulging in endless tapping and swiping, you can give voice commands. Just say “Okay Google” and you can tell the watch to do stuff, or even ask questions.
Google’s voice control is fairly accurate. In fact, it’s the best we’ve seen in smartwatches, but might not be the ideal way of interacting with the watch for everyone, especially in crowded surroundings.
The voice control has its downsides as well. Firstly, unlike Apple’s Siri, you can’t edit your dictation. Once you stop speaking, the watch leaves you with two options: send or cancel. Secondly, some words would trip it up (your/you’re was a classic one for example), and noisy settings are often too much for Google to comprehend.
Contacts is another area where speech recognition falters, especially if you’ve several similar contact names or variations of the same name – but this problem exists even with Siri. So sending a quick text that seems pretty straightforward, might sometimes became a frustrating ordeal.
Voice control is compatible with just a few built-in apps. You can dictate reply to a Gmail message, but the same isn’t possible if the email was received via Android’s default email app.
Another annoying thing with the G Watch is that it can be a little sluggish when processing speech to text. It took well over five seconds whenever we dictated long texts.
Unfortunately, you can neither customize the notifications nor view notification history – an option available in the Pebble as well as Samsung Gear 2. You can only mute apps via the app on your phone.
So the interface is currently a mixed bag.
The Gear Live and the G Watch have the specs of a mid-range smartphone. The G Watch comes with a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 512 MB RAM and 4 GB of internal storage. It connects to any smartphone running Android 4.3 (or higher) via Bluetooth 4.0.
The Watch failed to break any new grounds in terms of design, and that’s probably the biggest moan against it.
While Motorola came up with a compelling round, or at least semi-round design, iTime is supposed to feature a curved sapphire screen, and other manufacturers are striving for unique designs, LG was rather contented with a run-of-the-mill design.
In fact, its non-descript, black rectangular face reminds me of the Sony Smartwatch 2. On the plus, the watch looks sturdy and is comfortable to wear. It also looks smaller and is lighter than most smartwatches
The cheap-looking grey strap, however, is a dust magnet. Luckily, you can change it with any standard 22mm band.
The display is the most important part of a wearable device, but the always-on IPS LCD display of the G Watch isn’t something to die for.
The G Watch has a slightly bigger display than the Live’s display (1.65 in vs 1.63 in), thus offers more tapable area, but its resolution 280×280-pixel is much lower than 320×320-pixel resolution of the Gear Live. Interestingly, the difference of 80 pixels looks bigger on paper, but having used both watches side by side, let me assure you the difference is nominal.
Both watches offer equally poor visibility in sunlight, even when brightness is set to maximum i.e. level six. I’d to cup my hand around the watch face to read the text.
Charging and battery life
Pump the brightness to maximum, flirt with different apps, play a couple of games, and the watch won’t see out a full day. Moderate usage with low brightness would let the watch stay alive for nearly two days.
Charging the G Watch is easier than charging the Gear Live because of its better magnetic charging dock – still you need the proprietary dock, which is far from being an ideal solution.
The relatively easier charging mechanism coupled with longer battery life is the reason we said earlier that the G Watch can be a better option for some people.
Compatibility and connectivity
Just like the Gear Live, the G Watch can be paired via Bluetooth with any smartphone running Android 4.3 or higher. So, yes it offers wider compatibility than Samsung Gear watches.
Dust and water resistance
The watch is rated IP67. It means the it’s dust-proof, and is protected against the effect of immersion up to 1m below the surface of water.
However, you shouldn’t test the limits of such an expensive gadget, a walk in the rain or occasional splash isn’t going to do any harm though.
All notifications from your smartphone can be pushed to the G Watch, but only few offer interactive capability.
In other words, you’ll get notifications from all the third-party apps, but won’t be able to do much beyond viewing the notification, as you’ll be presented with the “Open on Phone” option.
To read, compose and respond to texts, you must use Google’s Hangouts app as the default SMS client. The notifications appear in the form of a card that shows you the new message. You can swipe left to view the entire thread, and swiping sideways again will allow you to respond to the text.
But G Watch isn’t all about notifications, there are some other features which can be pretty handy.
The G Watch comes with a built-in pedometer. A card in the main stream displays the number of steps you’ve walked, while swiping left pops up history (total steps taken during the last seven days and steps taken per day) and settings.
While the Gear Live also comes with a heart-rate monitor, the G Watch only has a pedometer as far as its fitness tracking goes. The pedometer isn’t one hundred percent accurate, and it does nothing besides counting steps – if you want more details about your run, you’ll have to install a third-party apps.
It’s a simple menu that lets you control music being played on your cell phone.
A nice touch here is that the music player card’s background changes according to the album art. Tapping the card is a play/pause trigger. Swipe sideways and you’ll be presented with the next/previous controls.
Another Google application baked into both the Gear Live and the LG G smartwatch is the Google Maps.
When you start navigation on your smartphone, the directions and other info automatically appears on the watch. Swiping sideways gives you an idea of how long your journey will take and estimated time of arrival.
Other notable features of the G Watch include an always-on display, Google Now, and hands-free call management. You can reject a call and send stock responses, but since there is no speaker, you can’t actually communicate from your wrist. To enjoy hands-free calling, you need headphones/headset, as the watch let’s you accept incoming calls.
It’s the 3rd-party apps that make a phone a smartphone, and it’s the 3rd-party apps that will make a watch a smartwatch.
Considering the tech giants behind Android Wear, rest assured it’ll attract the attention of the topnotch app developers.
Although the developers were given access to the SDK just a few weeks ago, at the time of writing this review, there are already 37 apps in Google Play store for Android Wear devices. Not to mention Google is only approving well-established apps.
Unfortunately, there are only a few games for the G Watch. The ones that are available can be played on the G Watch in silent mode – because it doesn’t have a speaker… remember? So playing games isn’t something you’d really enjoy on it.
Let’s talk about some apps that really show promise:
Tinder’s app lets you swipe pictures just like you can do on your smartphone. DuoLingo lets you learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English from your wrist. Eat24 lets you order food from over 25,000 restaurants in 1000+ cities. Lyft can arrange car service for you. Runtastic works with the pedometer to offer all the details about your run. Thompson Reuters Eikon displays latest business headlines and stock details on your wrist.
LG G Watch vs Samsung Gear Live
In case you’re stuck at choosing one of the two Android Wear watches, here’s a quick comparison of the two:
The most notable difference between the two watches is that the Live has 1.63 inch 320 x 220 pixel super AMOLED display as opposed to the 1.65 inch 280 x 280 pixel LCD display on the G watch. The G Watch on the other hand is more convenient to charge and has a longer battery life.
A sharper screen, the heart rate monitor and a lower price give the Gear Live a slight edge.
By the way of software, Android Wear is far from being perfect at the moment – though it’s a pretty decent start.
As for the design and hardware, the G Watch lacks the “wow factor”, but unlike most smartwatches, which make you look like a future-douche or a dumb Power Ranger, it makes you look like a human being.
So the LG smartwatch has its ups and downs, but it surely is one of the best smartwatches out there. Having said that, we don’t think the G Watch qualifies as a must-have gadget. Unless you’ve a special thing for wearable devices or LG’s products in particular. It’s not a bad idea to wait for the more promising upcoming watches such as the Moto 360 and the alleged Apple smartwatch.
That concludes our review. How was your experience with LG’s first smartwatch? Share your thoughts and rate the watch by using the widget below.
LG G Smartwatch
Design & display5/10
Compatibility and connectivity6/10
Features and apps8/10
- Large (1.65 inch) screen
- Solid build yet lightweight
- Dust and water resistant
- Easier to charge and longer battery life than Gear Live
- Replaceable strap
- Generic, run-of-the-mill design
- Poor visibility in sunlight
- Short battery life
- No power button
- No auto-brightness