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LG's New Watch Leaves Smartphones Behind

LG is on a smartwatch mission: leave your phone behind. The Korean tech giant has unveiled the LG Watch Urbane 2nd edition, which boasts an improved display and battery, and is the first Android Wear watch to sport standalone cellular connectivity.

The refreshed Watch Urbane features a 1.38-inch, 480 x 480-pixel P-OLED display, which LG claims is the sharpest screen on any current smartwatch. LG's newest wearable has the same silver, rounded watch face and right-facing crown button as its predecessor, but there are now two additional buttons on the side that let you pull up your contacts or open LG Health with a quick tap.

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While the first Urbane was largely dependent on your phone, the new watch can connect to 2G and 3G networks even when your handset is at home. You can make calls, track your fitness (complete with GPS) and more on the go. Now that Google has made Android Wear available on iOS, the new watch with work with both Android handsets and iPhones, though LG says that cellular features "will vary" between the two platforms.

At press briefing in New York City, we got a chance to go hands-on with LG's upcoming Android Wear smartwatch, which felt like much more than a simple refresh. The case is made out of 316L stainless steel -- the same kind Omega uses in its watches -- to ensure a super strong body that will also won't irritate the skin like lesser quality metals might.

The 4GB of storage lets you play music directly from the watch, but in the event your library is feeling stale, you can also stream music wirelessly using a 3G connection. To prevent any reception woes, LG has also embedded an antenna inside the Elastomer band, although that makes switching out bands a much trickier proposition.

LG says that because the Urbane 2nd edition has its own SIM card, the watch will also have it's own phone number, so others can call it directly.  The company is also working with the major North America carriers to allow calls to be forwarded to the watch from your smartphone. 

Around back, there's a plate that can be removed to access the nano SIM card slot. The plate also features cut outs to allow the light from the heart rate sensor to peak out. Like the original Urbane, the 2nd edition also features an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, meaning it should withstand submersion in water up to 1 meter.

On the inside, the Watch Urbane 2 is powered by a 1.2-GHz Qualcomm MSM8x26 processor with 768MB of RAM and 4GB of eMMC storage. The watch now sports a beefier 570-mAh battery, and retains the original Urbane's heart rate monitor and accelerometer for those who want to track their activity. Unfortunately, the watches LG had on hand at the event were powered down, so we weren't able to check out the big 480 x 480 screen.

The original LG Watch Urbane is currently our overall favorite Android Wear watch, thanks to its attractive design, bright display and handy gesture controls, and the 2nd edition looks like a significant improvement on the original.  LG has yet to announce pricing and availability, but we look forward to spending more time with the Urbane's successor in our full review.