The somewhat sleepy smartwatch market just got a jolt with the first live appearance of LG's G Watch. Set to go on sale July 7th for $229, the G Watch will be one of the first Android Wear devices to hit the market. Sporting a 1.65-inch IPS display, LG's wearable is made from a single piece of forged steel and comes with a built-in heart rate monitor. But is that enough?
We spent some hands-on time with a retail demo of the LG G Watch and were impressed with the overall look and feel. However, the device may be overshadowed by Samsung's cheaper Gear live (which also has a heart rate monitor built in) and Motorola's even sleeker Moto 360.
Measuring 1.8 x 1.5 x 0.39 inches and weighing 1.3 ounces, the G Watch is roughly on par with the Pebble Watch, which measures 2 x 1.2 x 0.4 inches and weighs 1.3 ounces. Samsung’s Gear Live is larger and heavier at 2.2 x 1.5 x 0.35 inches and 2.1 ounces.
The G Watch’s industrial design is at once simple and handsome. Available in Titan Black and White Gold, the watch’s steel frame gives it a solid feel, while its plastic backing sits comfortably on the wrist. The G Watch’s 22nm strap is made of a soft plastic that LG says is easily cleanable. One rep told us that they wrote on a white G Watch’s strap and wiped away the ink without issue.
Unlike the Gear 2 or Pebble Watch, the G Watch has no physical buttons. Instead, you interact with the device using its touch screen and motion controls. Wisely, LG has also made the G Watch both dust and water-resistant. In fact, the watch can survive in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
Sporting a 1.65-inch, 280 x 280 LCD, the G Watch offered colorful images and sharp text. During our brief time with the G Watch, we noted that its viewing angles were a bit shallow. Viewing the screen at an angle caused its screen to look far dimmer than when viewed head-on. Samsung's Gear Live watch has a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display, which has a sharper 320 x 320-pixel resolution and promises wider viewing angles.
One of the big questions about the G Watch is why it comes with a rectangular display, rather than the slick circular one found on Motorola’s Moto 360 . LG says it chose the rectangular design because it allows for a greater viewing area than a circular screen. However, Motorola told us that its circular screen can display more information than a comparably sized rectangular screen.
LG was only able to show us a retail demo of the G Watch’s interface, so we weren’t able to glean much about the UI from our time with it. What we did learn is that the card-style of Android Wear is fairly intuitive.
There’s no switching back and forth between home screens, like the Gear 2. Instead, you simply swipe up or down to see different cards ranging from Hangouts and notes to the weather and a pedometer. Swiping from right to left lets you view additional information about each card.
Voice control has a major role in Android Wear, as it allows users to respond to messages, take notes and perform basic Web searches. Speaking of which, when you perform a search on the G Watch, you’ll receive a list of basic results. Tapping a link opens it in a new Chrome tab on your paired device.
When not in use, the G Watch's display is dimmed and only shows the time. Move your wrist a certain way, though, and the display comes to life quickly, showing you a bright watch face. We're curious as to whether this function will be too sensitive
As with all Android Wear devices, the G Watch is controlled via Bluetooth 4.0 and the Android Wear smartphone app. Unfortunately, like the G Watch's overall UI, we couldn't get a look at the G Watch app. LG did, however, tell us that users will be able to change several of the watch's settings from within the app.
The smartwatch market is still very much in its infancy, so there could be room for LG to make some waves. However, at $229, the G Watch is pricier than the $199 Samsung Gear Live, and it lacks a heart rate monitor. We also prefer the circular design of the Moto 360. We'll have to see if reviewing this device makes us feel better about its chances.