LG's G Watch is serviceable, but not a standout
Buying a smartwatch means adding yet another gadget to the arsenal of devices you already use on a daily basis. But we should expect a well-designed smartwatch to make our hyperconnected lives more manageable by giving us access to a range of features and applications in a more readily accessible manner than smartphones, tablets or PCs do.
LG’s G Watch may not be as stylish as other entrants in the smartwatch market, but by pairing it with a mobile phone, I found that it does a serviceable job of offering alerts and app notifications, relieving me of, for example, having to call up email to see whether the full text of an incoming message needs to be read right away.
The G Watch, which runs Android Wear and is priced at US$299 in the U.S., is available for order in 27 different countries starting Tuesday, though actual shipping dates vary depending on the market (in the U.S., availability is set for July 11).
The watch is a squarish 37.9 millimeter-by-46.5 millimeter (about 1.5 inch by 1.8 inch) slab with a black screen—which could be considered either boring or nice and simple, depending on your taste.
Even though it’s fairly lightweight, weighing in at 63 grams (2.2 ounces), it felt a bit bulky, as if a 9.95 millimeter thick, flat battery pack was sitting on my wrist.
The colors available are “Black Titan” or “White Gold.” If you don’t like the feel of the rubber-based strap, it can be replaced with other standard 22-mm watch bands.
The watch runs on a 400mAh battery, which lasted a whole day for me. It would be great if battery life were longer but the G Watch has a nice charging solution: it snaps onto a magnetic cradle, which plugs into a wall socket with a microUSB cable.
The display stays always-on unless you power it off. Although G Watch’s 280 pixel by 280 pixel display is not up to the specs of rivals like the Samsung Gear Live, I didn’t find that too bothersome. That’s because, for how I used the watch, I didn’t really end up having to closely read the screen that often.
One of the main reasons I’d wear a smartwatch is to screen email. For example, when a new-email notification appears on the watch, I glance at a line of the email to see whether I need to read it right away. When I do end up reading the full text of the email, I do it on my phone.
Probably the top selling point of the G Watch is that it is one of the first entrants into the smartwatch market that takes advantage of the advanced functions of Android Wear, the new extension to Google’s mobile operating system that’s been customized for smaller screens. For example, you can use the “OK Google” command to access a voice-controlled intelligent assistant similar to Apple’s Siri.
However, if you’re thinking about buying a smartwatch, there are some caveats you should be aware of if you’re considering the G Watch. OK Google worked fairly well for simple requests such as asking what the weather will be or what time the next World Cup game starts. For some other tasks, though, it did not quite work. For example, when I tried to create and send email using voice commands, a pause or a stutter seemed to throw it off; often it sent messages before I was actually finished with them.
In addition, it didn’t recognize any foreign names on my contact list, and often misunderstood them.
If you don’t pair the G Watch with an Android-powered smartphone, it is essentially just another digital watch. It pairs with mobile phones via Bluetooth so if you want access to the full range of Android Wear features, you need to carry the paired mobile phone in your pocket, or leave it on the desk when you’re working. I found that if I left my paired mobile phone on a table in the living room, the watch lost connectivity when I walked into another room.
LG says the watch is waterproof, a claim I tested by running water on the watch for a few minutes. The watch survived but lost contact with the smartphone during the time it came into contact with water.
Ultimately, if you want a device that taps Android Wear’s basic voice control functions and its ability to serve app notifications and Google Now alerts, the G Watch does the job, and offers specs similar to those of the Samsung Gear. The G Watch’s design and feel may not be to everyone’s taste, though, and for the price, you might do better looking elsewhere, especially as more smartwatches come onto the market.