|+ Crisp, clear screen||- Can’t read full long messages|
|+ User-friendly software||- Can’t read multiple messages|
|+ Shows the time constantly||- Battery life short|
- No auto screen brightness
"The LG G Watch is a step in the right direction for the smartwatch. It's a pity that the battery life isn't better."
Smartwatches haven’t taken off the way everyone had hoped, despite Samsung’s best efforts with its Gear devices. Here comes Google to try its hand, with its Android wear OS – and joint efforts with Motorola, Samsung and LG.
The first devices to come out of this joint partnership are the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. We’ve put the LG G Watch (£159) through its paces….
At first glance we weren’t impressed. This is a big, square, plastic thing. It has a matte finish on the edges, is glossy on the front, and boasts a rubber strap (black) that looks just like the one on the Sony SmartWatch 2. You can also get the strap in white, and of course you can swap it for any other 22m strap of your choice. Personally we’d rather have seen a leather version.
It’s not awful, it is just rather bland. There’s no design flair and it looks like a pretend watch that someone might use in a low-budget TV ad if they didn’t want to splash out for the real thing. The other smartwatches we have seen have all had square screens, but Android Wear can work just as well on a round display and we understand LG is working on one of theseas well. Perhaps they should have concentrated on that rather than this square jobbie.
Moving on from how it looks, the G Watch does prove comfortable to wear and is light, too. It didn’t feel any different from wearing an ordinary watch, which is good. The Samsung Gear 2 feels like you’re wielding some sort of sci-fi gadget on your arm, which makes you rather self-conscious. Because the G Watch continuously shows the time, rather than lighting up when you move, it does make it less noticeable in use.
But don’t be fooled – this is still a big watch. It measures 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95mm, and though the thickness is about the same as most other watches, the case size could put off a lot of potential buyers. But, just like big smartphones, you do eventually get used to it after a few days of use.
To charge the G Watch you have to place it on the dock (which is included). The dock is then plugged into a computer using a microUSB cable or into the mains. The watch is kept in place by magnets. However, the battery life is disappointing (you’ll need to charge it each day) so you’ll likely want to take the charger with you when you go out.
The screen is a tiny 1.6ins and boasts a 280 x 280 resolution. Small when compared with smartphones, but it is very easy to read – clear and sharp. You can opt for one of six brightness levels. We found four was good – but it’s a terrible shame there is no ambient light sensor to up the brightness when you go out in the sun.
If you’ve used Google Now before on a Google Android smartphone, then the Android Wear OS will be familiar territory. You get all your info on a set of cards – including new texts, weather, calendar events, Twitter and so on.
You’ll see the contact or app name pop up on the watch face; you have 20 to play with and can buy more from the Play store. To wake up the device, tap the screen, then an upward swipe will show the notification – a swipe to the right will get rid of it. Getting notifications straight to your arm is great and it’s easy to check things quickly and see if you need to take action on it – but there’s a problem. You only see Facebook messages and short texts in their entirety – anything more than a few words and you get a ‘…’. That means it needs to be opened on a phone.
Fair enough, we don’t expect to be able to see the full text of Shakespeare’s plays on a smartwatch, but surely a long text is not too difficult? It means you read part of a message on the watch, and then need to reach for a phone to read the rest of it – so what’s the point of the watch? And if you have a number of messages from Facebook, you’ll only be able to see two or three words of each – rather useless.
There are a number of Android Wear apps that run in conjunction with their smartphone counterparts. You can even play games – they are very simple, obviously. For instance Birdie Wear, which is a copy of the immensely popular Flappy Bird, can be played on the small display.
An interesting app we tried is AllTheCooks. This is a social app that gets its users to share their recipes. You choose a recipe on your phone, and then tell it you have the correct ingredients. The steps are then accessible on your G Watch. We found the instructions simple to read even on that small display. If there is a cooking time, you can tap at the number on the screen and a timer starts running. This is starting to give you ideas about what a wrist-worn device can be useful for, outside of the fitness arena.
Then of course there’s the battery life. A full day is what you’ll get, but there’s no hope of stretching it beyond that. Average or light use will get you that full day, but if you wanted to run a recipe, for instance, and get your usual social media and mail notifications it wouldn’t last that long. It’s a definite area where improvement needs to be made for smartwatches to become more viable.
The LG G Watch is definitely a step in the right direction for the smartwatch. Its uses have been pared down – unlike Samsung’s devices, which try to do everything. We neither need to take calls or take snaps on a watch, and Google has recognised this.
What it does do is keep checking for notifications, so you are always up to date on email and social media. It’s a watch – so it always tells you the time (something the Samsung Gear 2 could learn from), it’s easy to glance at to check notifications – and of course there is the fitness tracking facility as well.
It’s a pity there is no ambient light sensor to increase screen brightness in sunlight – and of course having that display bright all day would kill an already disappointing battery life.
So, how has Google done on its first outing? Well, the LG G watch is better than any of Samsung’s attempts so far, and it is cheaper. But there are too many issues as yet for it to be a universally popular smartwatch.
Nevertheless, the smartwatch is making good progress. If you’re an early adopter and want to replace an old model, this will do the job, but we’d be tempted to wait for the next generation.
Dimensions: 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95mm
Weight: 63 grams
Screen size: 1.65-inch LCD IPS
Screen Resolution: 280 x 280 display resolution
Pixels Per Inch (PPI): 240 ppi
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 400 processor
On-board Memory: 4GB
Operating system: Android Wear
3G / 4G LTE: No/No
Bluetooth / NFC: Yes/No
Battery capacity: 400mAh
Dust and Water Resistant (IP67): Yes
Colours: White Gold/ Black Titan
Launch Date: Out Now
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