LG G Watch Detailed Review With Video
First Smart Watch Powered by Android Wear
LG and Google have been working closely together during the past few months to build the new smart watch on top of Google’s new wearable device software platform, Android Wear. In addition to the recently-announced Moto 360 and Samsung Gear Live, LG’s smart watch is one of the first wearable devices running Google’s new Android Wear platform. Android Wear is an app development platform designed specifically for wearable devices like smart watches and fitness trackers. This is actually the two companies’ fourth collaboration together, following their work on the Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and the LG G-Pad Google Play edition.
Google is also working with Qualcomm and other leading hardware partners to bring more Android Wear-based devices to market.
The G Watch is a companion device for Android phones, not a full-featured smart phone on your wrist. It tethers with any Android 4.3+ smartphone – including LG’s own, of course.
The G Watch has the following specs:
- always-on display
- a 1.65 inch display with 280×280 resolution at 240 ppi
- 512MB RAM
- 4GB in storage
- 400mAh battery with a life of ~3 days, about the same as the Samsung Gear 2.
- IP67 water and dust resistant
We know a lot about the features of LG’s G Watch, simply because we know it is powered by Android Wear.
Perhaps the coolest thing about Android Wear-based smart watches is their full integration with Google Now. You can say “Ok Google” to activate a wide range of features without having to pull your phone out. For example, you can ask questions like how many calories are in an avocado; what time your flight leaves; and the score of the football game. You can also say “Ok Google” to get stuff done like sending a text, setting a reminder or taking a note.
As the video below illustrates, the G Watch offers contextually-aware alerts, personalized notifications and integration with Google web services.
From early reports, Android Wear on the G Watch works very well, although most early owners report a limited number of applications. But that is bound to improve, soon.
In order to use Wear, you’ll need a smartphone running Android 4.3 or better and the latest Google Play Services 5.0 app.
In the user interface, the default screen has a small clock in the top left corner with notifications listed below. There is a wide variety of watch faces available. To change your watch face, just press and hold the clock face and the options will be presented in a menu that scrolls side-to-side.
The watch’s start screen displays Google Now cards of various types, ordered in priority for you (according to Google anyway). The cards can be scrolled vertically. To delete a card, just swipe to the right. To initiate an action, swipe it to the left.
The LG supports sophisticated voice control by way of its integration with Google Now. The range of the microphone is about a foot (30 cm). To function, the watch needs to be paired with a smartphone and have an internet connection available to it (like Siri).
In practice, most voice commands work well. Like other technologies of its class, Google Now has issues decoding strange names and will not transcribe bad language, replacing letters with asterisks. If you’d like to skip the voice command option, there is a scrollable menu with options for recording a voice note, setting reminders or accessing device settings. The settings menu lets you adjust the screen’s brightness turn the vibration mode off for events.
Android Wear seems to run really well. Scrolling and navigation is fast and smooth. There have been no crashes, either. The UI is simple and easy to navigate, too.
So far, the app selection for Android Wear is limited to about 50 apps, and is growing quickly.
Right now, the G Watch comes with flight booking apps for Delta and American, a restaurant finder, fitness apps with a built-in pedometer, and a language tutoring app that educates you on a single foreign word per day.
But with Google actively courting hundreds of thousands of existing Android developers to build new Wear apps, we expect hundreds or thousands of apps will be released in the next year or so.
The G Watch features a square face design with a metal casing. The watch comes in two colors, black and white-gold.
One of the G Watch’s major competitors, Motorola’s Moto 360, features a unique round display.
The other Android Wear-based device available now, Samsung’s Gear Live, is a stylistic clone of the G Watch.
We recently cruised through a few dozen detailed reviews that early owners of the G Watch have posted to sites like Amazon and the major Android forums and blogs.
Overall, everyone seems to appreciate the first effort and likes the Google Now features, but most want more value for the money. The always-on screen was a nagging issue for many people, too.
Here are the high and low points we’ve seen online so far:
+ Impressive, sharp color display. The colors look vivid, and text shows no signs of pixelation under normal conditions. Indoors, the screen gets more than bright enough to be readable– sometimes a little too bright. In sunlight, however, you can’t use the watch (more below).
+ Google Now on your wrist is both cool and pretty convenient. You can see the weather based on your current location, track a package and more. Getting that type of information on your wrist is handy.
+ Understated design. This one is a matter of taste. The G Watch swaps the Pebble’s plastic for metal and glass, but otherwise mimics its look and feel.
+ Intelligent, well-designed notifications. Best in class, which you’d expect from Google. For example, a missed notification may exit full screen mode, but will remain peeking out from the bottom of the watch face so you don’t miss it. Smart. Visually, the notifications look great, too. Much better than the Pebble.
+ Deep integration with existing Android apps. For example, a text messaging app will surface Reply, Mark as Read and Delete in the notification. It’s really easy to “Like” a Facebook notification. Some replies and actions can be issued using the G Watch’s built-in microphone, too.
+ Voice actions work well most of the time and are convenient (when it works). It can be handy to dictate a short response to incoming messages. Voice-to-text transcription is fairly accurate.
+ Responsive touch screen. Overall, works better than touch screens on other smart watches.
+ Vibration alert is just right. About the same as the Pebble: not too jolting, but always noticed,
+ Reliable Bluetooth tethering. No reports of dropped connections or of dropped pairings. Bluetooth is seamlessly reconnected. Pebble owners will appreciate this one.
+ Cool charging dock. The G Watch snaps in magnetically. Done.
+ It’s easy to quickly hide an alert. Such a simple idea, but so important for a public device like this. Tap your watch face and the alert/notification/message will instantly dim.
– One-day (or less) battery life. All of the reviewers have mentioned the G Watch’s short battery life. Charging every day mean you have to carry a charging cradle with you on overnight trips. The Pebble blows past this with a 5-7 day life (which I can attest to). The G’s battery takes a while to charge, too.
– Cannot read the screen in direct sunlight. Many owners stated that in bright sunlight, the G Watch’s display washed-out completely. Potential deal killer for many…
– The screen is always on – with no automatic brightness control. You’ll have to take the watch off if you go into a movie theater. If you want to adjust the brightness, you’ll have to dive into the menus every time. Big oversight, in our opinion.
– No physical buttons… means you’ll have to look at the watch to do anything with it. Want to change a music track on your bike? you’ll have to look at your watch. In contrast, the Pebble uses four physical control buttons that are intuitive to use without having to take your eye off the road.
– Music playback is immature. For example, if you stop a track, you have to listen again from the beginning.
– Voice recognition user interface is sloppy. And it won’t work if your web connection is dropped.
– Navigation can be confusing.
Where To Buy
The G Watch is available for sale now at Amazon, BestBuy and AT&T. First shipments began on July 7.
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