LG has been working for two years on the development of its circular LG G Watch R, it went on sale in the U.S. on November 14th and we saw it first at IFA when it was announced.
Touted as World’s first full circular Plastic OLED (P-OLED) display” that utilizes 100 percent of its watch face, the Android Wear powered device certainly features a gorgeous display enclosed in a typical rounded sport watch. Its closest competitor, the Moto 360 does not uses 100 percent of its watch face, as you can see on our photos in the review. Except a few hardware differences such as the presence of a heart rate sensor, all Android Wear smart watches deliver a similar experience, so for the $300 price range, the choice lies in the build quality, the battery life and the look and feel.
I have used the LG G Watch for quite some times now and, despite its very masculine look, I enjoyed wearing and using it, thanks to its gorgeous display. Some people may prefer the Moto 360 for its thinner design, while others would enjoy the masculine, vintage sportwatch, however I will not debate about taste. Read the full review to learn how the LG G Watch R holds up against our expectations.
- Product size 46.4 x 53.6 x 9.7 mm (1.57 x 2.30 x 0.49 in)
- Product weight 62 g
- Display Type 1.3″ full circle Plastic OLED (P-OLED)
- Resolution 320 x 320 pixels, (245 ppi)
- Diagonal 1.3-inch (circle)
- Processor 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 (APQ 8026)
- OS Android Wear
- Camera No
- Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0
- Internal storage 4GB eMMC
- RAM 512 MB
- Battery Capacity 410mAh
- Sensors: 9-Axis, (Gyro/ Accelerometer/ Compass), PPG (heart rate monitor), Barometer
- Dust and Water Resistance IP67
- Interchangeable strap
The key feature in the LG G Watch R is definitively the display. LG claims that its team had to work for 2 years to be able to develop a 1.3-inch full circle P-OLED display (that uses 100% of its surface unlike other competitive round watches), because the rounded shape produces much more waste of OLED material than a rectangular one, or a circular one made of several pieces of OLED material. The design team had to work on the costs to be able to deliver. I did not get the description of what exactly needed to be done on that side, but this could probably be the topic of a whole other article, if LG wanted to disclose its industrial secrets.
The image quality is truly amazing, so far, it is the best I have seen on a smart watch. Due to the absence of ambient light sensor, the screen brightness has to be set manually. Some people have complained that the super bright display is still visible in the dark, even set at the lowest brightness. The P-OLED display consumes less on a dark background than regular LCDs, that is the reason why the default chronograph clock face in the demo software features a black background, which is necessary knowing that Android Wear requires the display to be always on.
The Plastic OLED display delivers high brightness, and a crisp and clear image quality. Sometimes I found the display too bright, and for more discretion I sat the brightness level at 1 instead of the default 4.
I tested the viewing angle and even when watching the face at almost 180 degrees, I could clearly see the numbers and read the time perfectly (see photo below).
The new LG smart watch is quite large, and as it was discussed during our meeting, it is not really targeted to the female audience. Actually, as you can see in the photos, the G Watch R looks like a regular vintage sport watch for men. Despite its large width (46.4mm) the device feels very light on the wrist, and it is very comfortable to wear.
When asked about the large size, LG told us that 2 to 3 mm of additional space was necessary on both sides of the circular P-OLED screen in order to ensure water resistance.
The ring is made of aluminum and the chassis is made of stainless steel. The back is plastic. Out of the box, you will get a calfskin leather standard 22 mm band that can be easily replaced by the strap of your choice from various retailers. Despite the large face, the LG G Watch was comfortable to wear on my small wrist, and the calf skin leather band is very smooth.
Hardware and performance (very good)
On the hardware side, beside the display, nothing was too surprising: the system runs on a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 with 512 MB RAM and 4GB of internal storage. The Ingress Protection Rating is IP67, meaning the LG G Watch R is designed to run for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. This is a hardware platform very similar to what LG used at Google I/O 2014, except for the display type and form factor and the heart rate monitor.
We do not expect smart watches to be super computers, however we do expect a decent responsiveness of the touch user interface. Overall the touch display is highly responsive and the audio command work fairly well, despite a few glitches probably related to my foreign accent. The LG G watch R is slightly more responsive than the Moto 360 on the paper and in the real world.
Software – Android Wear
All the units we saw during the briefing were set in demo mode, so I was not able to try how Android Wear runs in the LG G Watch R. The main benefits of the Google wearable operating system are the accessibility to the Android notifications right on your wrist. In case that you are not familiar with the software, go to our review of the Samsung Gear Live or the LG G Watch to read a complete description of the majority of the Android Wear’s features.
All smart watches powered by Android Wear offer similar features that I tried briefly to make sure they were working. I have made a brief list below, you will have a longer description in our Samsung Gear Live review.
Display Always ON (excellent)
The always-on display is a great feature of Android Wear, since there is no need to push a button to read the time unlike the early smart watches from 2 years ago. When the LG G Watch R display is dimmed you can still see the two legs in white on the black background and read the time. As I wrote in the first paragraph, the OLED technology consumes less power than LCD when displaying black pixels.
Android Notifications (very good)
The Android notifications are automatically displayed directly on the watch without the need of any configuration except for the Bluetooth pairing of your smart watch with your Android phone.
Email notifications (less capabilities than the Gear 2 and the Samsung Gear S)
The email notifications do not include the capability of reading the complete email, but only the subject line, except for the Gmail application, unlike the Samsung Gear 2and the Samsung Gear S which are not operated by Android Wear.
Text notifications: The text notifications display the entire message like, unlike the regular email notification.
Call notifications (works well)
The call notification displays the caller identity and allows “pick up the phone” from the watch, but you need to get to your phone to have the conversation. For instance, the Samsung Gear 2 and the new Gear S allow user to have voice conversation directly from the watch. From my experience few people like that feature, notably when they are busy carrying grocery bags in their hands for example. However, most people do not feel comfortable talking to a device on their wrist.
Send a text, email, agenda, reminds me: you can dictate a text message or an email, however, when the recipient has more than one email address, you cannot use the voice command to select the address, you need to tap on it. Your appointments are displayed on the screen by default 15 minutes before they happen, if you set another time in your calendar, they will show up at that time. When you get the reminder to go to the meeting, it is possible to trigger the navigation app from there by tapping on the address. You can also dictate a reminder with the “remind me” feature.
Heart rate monitor
The previous LG G watch powered by Android Wear did not feature a heart rate monitor, unlike its first competitor the Samsung Gear Live. The heart rate monitor was not working very well on the Gear Live, many times it was unable to provide any results. I was happy to see that the LG G Watch R features a reliable heart rate sensor that worked every single time I tried it, even when my wrist was sweaty after my workout. Additionally, it is easy to launch the heart rate feature with a voice command, which is the most convenient way to do it while exercising.
Please note that when I write “reliable” it means that it returned a credible result each time I tried it. The result was comparable to the one I got on the Basis Peak, a smart watch dedicated to constantly monitor the heart rate. The LG G watch R returned a comparable (but different) result as the indoor bicycle I use at the gym. I have no way to accurately tell you which result was the most accurate though. That said, for non-professional athlete this is sufficient to get a good idea of your heart rate variations throughout your workout. If you want to monitor your heart rate longer than the minute allowed by the default function in Android Wear, you can download a third party app such as Cardiograph.
Pedometer and fitness
With Android Wear you can see your step counts directly from the watch without the need of a third party application. You can find various fitness applications in the Android Wear section of Google Play (accessible from “Browse Suggested app” in the Android Wear app), such as Runtastic,RunKeeper, Endomondo and more.
Voice commands (very good)
You can access all the features listed above using voice commands, and it is specifically practical while driving or while working out. I can say that it does not work 100% of the time when you have a foreign accent, however, it works pretty well the majority of the time, and as a user I highly appreciate this capability. When it comes to sending a text or a message to people in your contact book, those with foreign names will be hard to access to voice, probably because the system has not been trained to pronounce foreign names with an English accent, and that is true for any smart watch powered by Android Wear.
Applications (very good)
The number of applications for Android Wear has been increasing every day since the launch of the Wearable OS in may 2014.
You can get tons of great apps for Android Wear including Evernote, Lyft, and more. Once you have installed an Android Wear compatible app, you can access it from the “Start” menu in the feature menu that you access by saying “Ok Google” or by tapping on the home screen (then scroll down, “Start” is the last feature.
Battery and charger (very good for an OLED smart watch)
Battery Life (very good)
When it comes to Smart watches, battery life is one of the key features to get right to satisfy consumers. To date, most of the Smart watches that provide a color LCD display last one day on a single charge. Knowing that users want more, LG offers a slightly higher capacity than the competition with a 410 mAH battery. As required by Android Wear, the display is always on, however, it goes into dim mode pretty quickly on a dark background (power saver for OLED), and you can still read the time since the light gray clock legs are visible.
Compared to competitive watches that get only one day of battery life, the LG G watch R lasted on average more than a day up to a day and a half with moderate use. At some point, I could use moderately the device for about 7 hours with only 25% of charge.
Charging time (good)
The charger is a proprietary cradle, similar to the one (except for the rounded shape) of the LG G Watch. You can see the charging pins on the back of the device in the photo displayed in the Industrial Design paragraph. The charging time was quite fast, after 45 minutes the G Watch R was charged at 75%, then it took another 35 minutes to get to 100%. So it takes about 1 hour 20 to fully charge your watch (from 0%), previous generation models took 2 hours to charge.
The LG G Watch R full circular P-OLED delivers an impressive image quality with wide viewing angles. The traditional sport watch design is not really unique and its large size will certainly be a no-go for the majority of the female audience, but it is certainly appealing for the men who want a watch that “looks like a watch” (and not a geeky gadget).
A great product design with a full circle OLED display that delivers an impressive image quality. Good performance and relatively long battery life for a smart watch equipped with a high quality colored touch display. The somewhat reliable heart rate monitor combined with the voice commands will appeal to the fitness aficionados who want to wear a good looking watch with fitness tracking capabilities.
When will women get their model?
What need to be improved
A day and a half battery life is not really sufficient in term of absolute usage, although it is the best that was done in that category (smart watches with LCD touch displays). Android Wear should display the complete copy of each email which is not coming from Gmail.