Hands on with the LG G Watch R

lg g watch r topEven though there’s plenty of people out there giddy with excitement and anticipation due to tomorrow’s Apple announcement we must remember others have wearables out right now. LG is already on their second Android Wear smartwatch – the LG G Watch R.

LG was one of the first manufacturers to release an Android Wear smartwatch, the G Watch, but it didn’t seem to do awfully well.

Perhaps it was the plain, almost inconspicuous design, or plastic construction that didn’t have people forking out their hard-earned? Maybe it was the juice-guzzling LCD display? Whatever it was, it seems that potential buyers were more inclined to head over to Motorola and their Moto 360 which is indeed a looker.

Whilst at the IFA show in Berlin I was able to strap on the R (for round?) version and see how LG’s second smartwatch handles, first hand.

Looks like a watch

The first thing that struck is that it does look like a watch. An obvious statement? Well, what I mean is that the G Watch R is equipped with a circular screen, an analogue watch face and diving-style timer markings around the outer edge. It doesn’t look like something from the future. In today’s parlance I guess it could almost be classed as retro and/or vintage ~shudder~.

lg g watch r trioIt also feels like a decent piece of wristwear thanks to the premium feel offered by the metal chassis and leather strap.

The watch will ship with a black calfskin strap but LG appeared to be displaying a range of straps on their IFA stand. Word is that, at present, LG will not be offering alternatives to the black band, which is a shame. If you do want to customise your LG G Watch R then you’ll be glad to know that it will take any standard 22mm watch strap or bracelet.

Face / screen

I was impressed by the vibrant colours being kicked out by the G Watch R’s 320 x 320 resolution OLED display. Not only that but the viewing angles and black depth are also worthy of note.

The LG-designed analogue watch faces look crisp and fantastic with neat touches such as the second hand ticking away. If you’re more into digital then there’s Google’s own designs still look good.

The G Watch R trumps the Moto 360 as it is the first smartwatch to launch with a completely circular screen. It does lose the ambient light sensor due to this which means no auto dimming of the screen. All-in-all though, the round display is definitely a major improvement over the boxy G Watch. I do like the way LG have used the diver-style timer markings to stealthy cover the screen bezel 😉

Battery life

The OLED panel obviously helps with longevity and using a black watch face also helps as the black pixels are effectively switched off. There’s also a button where you’d normally find the crown on a ‘real’ analogue watch which can switch the screen on and off to make the battery last even longer.

lg g watch r cradleThis all adds up to the smatwatch lasting for up to two days on a single charge. It’s probably still a good idea to have the charging cradle next to your bed. The G Watch R is equipped with proprietary charging pins on the underside of the watch so you just have to place the watch on top of its dock. It looks neat enough but, without the option of a microUSB port, it does mean you will have to bring the dock with you if you plan on not coming home for a night or two.

Android wear

As with the first G Watch, the G Watch R runs the Android Wear operating system (OS). One benefit of using this OS is that it supports round screens right out of the box. The one minor drawback is that it’s still the new kid on the block and only has a few apps built for it. Looking at how Android developed, however, I can’t see this being the case for very long.

You get the usual notifications on screen which means you don’t have to keep whipping your phone out and, thanks to Google’s voice recognition, you can even ask your watch questions and give it vocal commands – if you don’t mind looking like a complete loon shouting at your wrist.

lg g watch r backLG has managed to find room inside the G Watch R for a heart rate monitor, eating you track your pulse when working out as well as counting steps using the accelerometer.

UK release date and price

The LG G Watch R should be going on sale later this year, although there’s no official word on exact date or price. As the Moto 360, the only other circular smartwatch currently available, costs £200 with it’s battery-sapping LED screen, I’d not expect the LG wearable to cost more than £250.

Time to see what Apple has in store tomorrow.