LG G Watch review

{ 13 comments }

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Before the holidays Verizon was nice enough to send me the LG G Android Wear-based watch to test drive. It seems like I’m always excited about wrist worn gadgets until I actually strap them to my wrist. Once I do, I quickly tire of them. I was hoping the LG G Watch would buck that trend. After all, I love Android and I love gadgets. But like always, my darn wrist let me down. There’s also the fact that I still don’t see the point of a smartwatch in the first place. Am I alone in this thinking?

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

Hardware specifications

Processor: 1.2GHZ Snapdragon 400 CPU, 4GB storage, 512MB Memory
OS: Android Wear
Display: 1.65″ LCD (280×280) 240 ppi, Gorilla Glass 3
Bluetooth 4.0
Sensors: 9-Axis, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Compass, Altimeter
Battery : 400mAh
Dimensions: 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95mm
Weight: 63g
IP67 certified

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Package contents

LG G Watch
Charging dock
AC adapter
USB cable
Quick start guide

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The watch itself is nice enough. I think it looks more stylish than the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch I reviewed last year, but it’s still a chunky rectangle. I do think that round smartwatches look the best. Unlike the Galaxy Gear, the LG G Watch can be used with any Android phone running Android 4.3 and later. The watch runs a custom version of Android and has been designed to perform as an extension to your Android smartphone. Since it relies so heavily on that connection for functionality, you can’t do much with it as a stand alone watch other than check the time, use a stopwatch and see how many steps you’ve walked for the day. The whole purpose of Android Wear watches is that they act as a second screen which mirrors your phone’s notifications. Alarms, calendar events, new emails, tweets, text messages, facebook posts or anything else that you have setup to alert you in the notification bar of your phone will also show up on the watch. The idea is that you don’t have to take your smartphone out of your pocket or bag to see new notifications, read your text messages, etc. You just look at the watch.

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The same goes for incoming calls. You’ll be able to see who is calling on the watch’s screen and can answer or dismiss the call with a text message. However, you can’t actually talk to someone through the watch when you use it to answer a call, you have to pull out your phone for that.

I should also mention that the display is not easy to read in direct sunlight.

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The always on display shows the time (it is a watch after all), but you have to either touch the watch face or tilt the watch to “wake” it up so that you can interact with it. The main screen shows the current time and if you swipe down it will show the date, battery level, and mute / unmute toggle. If you press and hold on the screen you’ll be able to access different clock faces stored on the watch. When a notification pops up on the screen, you can swipe to the right to dismiss it or swipe to the left for options to act on the notification such as opening the corresponding app on your phone. Double tapping the screen will launch Google Voice search or you can just say “Ok Google” any time the watch is awake to ask it questions or give it tasks.

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There are quite a few apps that you can install directly on the watch that will allow you to play games, see a calendar, use a calculator, use a compass and lots more. Like all apps, some are good and some are junk. Beware that you use your phone to download the Android Wear apps which install on the phone and then are pushed to the watch. That means each app uses a little bit of storage on your phone as well as the watch.

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There are some cool apps, but the small watch screen makes it a little difficult to see some elements depending on how the app has been designed. Also navigating to the list of installed apps on the watch requires you to double tap the display, scroll down to the start button and then scroll to find the specific app. I think I’d rather just use my phone 🙂

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The watch comes with a magnetic charging dock that is pretty cool because you don’t have to fool around with plugging a cable into the watch itself.

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The dock has five pins that match up with five contacts on the back of the watch. Using the included micro USB cable and AC adapter gives you an easy way to charge the watch. I found that the LG G Watch would last about two days per charge, which isn’t bad at all.

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The LG G Watch uses a standard 22mm (0.86 inch) strap so you can easily customize it. That’s a good thing because the plastic strap that comes with it is a magnet for lint, dust and dead skin. Yuck! No matter how many times I wiped it down, it would still have stuff stuck to it.

The watch is water and dust resistant. It is completely protected against dust and is able to withstand water immersion of between 15cm and 1m for 30 minutes.

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As you can see, my wrist isn’t built for this smartwatche because my wrist is small and the watch is bulky. Watches tend to make my wrist sore relatively quickly. I have this issue with almost any wrist worn gadget though, so it’s not just smartwatches that bother me.

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Being able to see notifications on my wrist, controlling music on my phone, asking google how many calories are in an apple and seeing who was calling me all without looking at my phone didn’t really flip my gadget trigger. The most fun I had with the LG G watch was making different watch faces for it using the WatchMaker Watch Face app. This app installs on your phone and gives you an easy drag and drop interface for arranging different elements. You can then send the faces to the watch. I spent more time playing with that app than I spent reading notifications on the watch.

I tried to like the LG G Watch. I do think it’s a decent entry level Android Wear watch and I had fun trying it out. But it wasn’t useful enough for me to want to continue using and wearing it. I know there’s a good sized market for Android Wear watches, but I don’t fit it. My phone is always either in my hand, next to me on my desk, or in my pocket. I don’t need to buy an extra device to show me all the same info that I can see on my phone and I definitely don’t want another device that I have to charge. I don’t know if I’m in the minority or the majority with this opinion though.

Source: The loaner sample for this review was provided by Verizon Wireless. Please visit their site for more info.

 

Product Information

Price:$229.99
Manufacturer:LG
Retailer:Verizon Wireless
Requirements:
  • Compatible with Android 4.3 and later versions
Pros:
  • Shows all your phone's notifications on your wrist
  • Always on display
  • Easy to customize watch face and watch bands
  • Decent battery life
Cons:
  • Doesn't do anything your phone can't already do
  • Screen tough to read outdoors
Posted in: Android, Reviews, Watches and Clocks
{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Richard January 14, 2015, 10:58 am

    I also agree that smart watches do not flip my gadget trigger. Once in a blue moon I am waiting on a text, email or phone call and want immediate notification. But that is so rare and at such times my phone is with me anyway. Do I really need it on my wrist, where every notification I stop and check who it is from and what it is about. Not for me.

    The pedometer and the fitness stuff is probably better handled with a dedicated fitness tracker or band, though it would be nice if one of those had an always on clock so that I could ditch my watch also.

    So for me, “somesmart” would be good, but until the day of a Star Trek communicator with a neural-brain interface, then no to the smartwatch.

    Thanks for the review, as always super practical, but thorough. Not sure I know of a site that reviews quite like The Gadgeteer.

    • Julie Strietelmeier January 14, 2015, 11:28 am

      @Richard thanks for your comments! You reminded me that I should have talked in more detail about the pedometer feature. I wear a cheapo pedometer for my day job (we earn points for money and insurance incentives) and the LG G Watch step numbers were off considerably from the standalone pedometer.

  • Greg Carter January 14, 2015, 11:01 am

    Julie, you are not alone! I say this from the perspective of someone who recently cleared my wrist of my analog watch. I decided that I could pull my phone from my pocket if I didn’t happen to be within sight of the zillion appliances in the house that show the time. Now that I’ve converted, I’ll need strong incentives to put something back on my wrist again.

    That said, I really liked the “smartwatch” that I wore before smartphones (and actual smartwatches) existed. It was the Timex DataLink Model 100, which I had maybe 15 years ago. It used an optical sensor to sync with my Outlook calendar so it could remind me of appointments, and I think it also stored phone numbers. It was an “Ironman,” so I could use it for running and swimming. No phone, internet or health links, but I’m not fully convinced that I want those, anyway. At some point its linkage application wasn’t supported any longer, but I still have the watch in the back of my desk drawer for nostalgic purposes.

    • Julie Strietelmeier January 14, 2015, 11:29 am

      @Greg I haven’t worn a wrist watch in over a decade. That’s probably why I find wrist worn gadgets to be less than comfortable – I’m just not used to them anymore…

  • Sandee Cohen January 14, 2015, 11:19 am

    One word I can think of: scratches. I have scratched the crystals on too many conventional watches to remember. Simply by my arm brushing against a wall.

    I wouldn’t want something like this ruined by that. And so there goes another layer of plastic or skin or something.

    It’s too much. I enjoy the small footprint and durability of my FitBit Flex. I would like one of the ones that also tells the time, but I can deal with pulling out my phone, asking Siri what time it is, asking a friend, or looking at the clocks, computers, or microwave/cable box/keurig time displays all over the house.

    • Julie Strietelmeier January 14, 2015, 11:30 am

      @Sandee the LG G Watch face is made of Gorilla glass. I didn’t baby it while I was testing it and it doesn’t show any wear.

  • Rob Tillotson January 14, 2015, 11:20 am

    I also have a G Watch and I rather like Android Wear in general. The only real issue I’ve had is that sometimes when you give a voice command, it will just spin for a bit and then say it is disconnected. This isn’t a G Watch thing, it seems to be a general issue with Android Wear and may be related to the phone OS and Bluetooth as well.

    While Android Wear is fairly well thought out and generally works well, I do recommend adding a launcher app such as Wear Mini Launcher. While launching apps by voice seems like a good idea, it ends up being kind of a pain sometimes… not only is there a recognition delay, but if you don’t call it by the correct name or there is a recognition error, you’ll get a search result instead, or it will decide to start some app on your phone instead of the watch.

    Yeah, I don’t really *need* a smartwatch either, and I keep my phone close at hand all the time anyway. I use reply-by-voice occasionally in the car, and the music controls as well. Mostly it’s just a little convenience and I could probably live without it… but where’s the fun in that?

    Other neat apps:

    – Pujie Black watchface (supports 5.0 watch face API; pretty, customizable modern face that doesn’t try to duplicate a traditional design, but still looks like a watch)
    – Music Boss (enhanced media control app, make sure to get the Wear version as there is also one for Pebble)
    – Wear Apps Tracker (gives a notification any time an app on the watch is installed/removed/updated, useful because this normally happens in the background and you may not even realize that a phone app you just installed has a Wear component to it)
    – Evernote for Wear
    – Bearing (neat “point your finger” compass app)

    Phone apps can also have a wear app component that is installed in the background, and you might never even know it unless you looked at the list of apps on the watch. Some good ones I’ve tried:

    – Google Maps
    – Google Keep (can assign to “take a note” voice command)
    – Pandora
    – IFTTT (trigger recipes from watch)
    – Trigger (this is a NFC automation app but you can trigger actions from the watch too)
    – Wink (home automation hub, trigger shortcuts from the watch)

    Also, with Google Play Music you can sync music onto the watch storage, pair a bluetooth headset directly with the watch and use it as a music player even without being in range of the phone. Apparently people asked for that, though I’m not sure how useful it is with only a couple of GB of storage available…

    • Julie Strietelmeier January 14, 2015, 11:36 am

      @Rob thanks for elaborating on the different apps that are available. I only installed a handful just to test out the process. I agree about needing a launcher because I did notice some issues with using my voice to do certain tasks. I didn’t have the disconnected issue that you mentioned, but I did have several recognition issues. I use Ok Google at least once a day with my phone to make calls and it works correctly 99% of the time. The LG G watch Ok google recognition wasn’t nearly as good. Maybe because I felt I had to bring it up to my mouth when I spoke to it like Dick Tracy 😉

      • Philippe Radley January 14, 2015, 2:32 pm

        I am an old man and wear a watch out of habit, though I realize that my ever-present phone could also tell me the time. I have no use for a smartwatch, and at my age (79) would find it hard to deal with a screen so small. I did, however, want to tell you that I know someone well who has told me what a benefit a smartwatch is, my doctor: for him, his hands constantly occupied, it is easier to glance at a watch to see notifications, rather than to have to reach into his pocket. I have no such need.

        • Julie Strietelmeier January 14, 2015, 5:00 pm

          @Phillippe Yes, it occurred to me that these types of watches are perfect for people that for one reason or another are not able to access their phones during the day but have them close enough in proximity for a smartwatch to show them notifications.

  • Lynn Lopez January 14, 2015, 2:43 pm

    Hi Julie, I personally wear a Pepple smartwatch. I got it when they dropped to $99 and came in the color green. Yea, I love green. Anyway, I was a lot like you and did not see a real need for it, but I could not pass up $99. Unlike all of the other watches the Pebble uses the e-ink type of screen so I can easily read it anywhere, plus I only have to charge it about once a week.

    Here is why I like the watch. I put my phone on silent at work. Nothing annoys me more in the cube farm when I hear someone else’s phone going off ringing or vibrating. I know when someone is calling, get a text message or any of my apps send me a notification. Here is the thing I really like. I get a notification for a meeting and I immediately snooze it using calendar snooze on my phone to remind me 5 min before the meeting. When it goes off again it reminds me and I don’t forget to go to my meeting. When I snooze normally I often miss the reminder and the meeting.

    I am also a big weather nerd and having forecast and current conditions so readily available is awesome. It is also nice to get notified of severe weather alerts.

    I do not see myself going to a more expensive watch until they make them easily readable outside and not need a charge every day. Until then, I will stick with my nice cheap and very usable pebble watch.

  • Alex January 16, 2015, 6:44 am

    I had an original Pebble and now a Pebble Steel, and I picked up an LG G Watch for cheap a couple weeks ago – curiosity, curiosity… I think smartwatches are a tough sell for a younger generation that has never worn a watch at all. I have always worn one so having one that does tricks is a no brainer. I cannot decide if I like my Pebble more than the LG. Both are fun in their own ways, but with both, I like the fact that the phone just doesn’t see the light of day most of the time. If you surrender to it and just let it feed you passive information as it is designed to do, wearing a smartwatch can be pretty liberating.

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