How will anyone know you’re an early adopter when your LG G Watch R looks like a real watch? This is the very serious problem that
anyone buying LG’s latest Android Wear smartwatch will soon face.
Round face, metal build, leather strap, fake dial. It’s
not the first circular smartwatch, it was beaten to that crown by the Moto 360, but the G Watch R
certainly does the best job of any wearable yet of masquerading as classic wristwear.
Throw in the best hardware and battery life we’ve seen on an Android Wear device and the £225/$250 price tag starts to look good value for
money. But is LG’s second smartwatch of 2014 the tech timepiece Android
users have been waiting for? Read our review to find out.
LG G Watch R: Design and
This really does look and feel like a watch. A chunky, fairly
inexpensive, small-screened watch, but a watch nonetheless.
Rather than copy the sleek, minimalist, futuristic styling of
the Moto 360, LG’s gone sportier with the G Watch R, imitating details from
diver’s watches more than anything. The crown on the right hand side acts as
a power button, the black watch body is metal (apart from the plastic back) and
the fake dial, with minute indices and numbers adds to the look of a
Smartwatch showdown: Moto 360 v LG G Watch R
Stick one of LG’s lovely digital watch faces with Withings Activité-style fitness ‘chronographs’ and the transformation is complete. It’s
hard to believe that mere months separate this from LG’s first bland, square G Watch.
The basic leather strap lets it down. It feels much stiffer and
cheaper than the Moto 360’s leather straps does after the same amount of
wearing in so we’d recommend swapping out the band for something with more
detail and style. The watch itself isn’t customisable at all either, unlike the
Moto 360 and Gear Live which are available in different colours and finishes
and, of course, the not-yet-launched Apple Watch with its impressive range of
size, material and colour options.
It’s fairly chunky and sporty with big bezels and it’s only
available in black. So it’s no surprise that we doubt the G Watch R will be a
hit with women. It’s big but not sleek, watch-like, but not refined and the Moto
360 simply looks more unisex, especially the light grey model.
Then again, now that smartwatch design has matured slightly,
these things will come more down to personal preference. We’d definitely
recommend seeing a G Watch R up close as reactions can vary. As for Wareable,
we reckon that even though the Moto 360 is a more interesting design, the G
Watch R is the best-looking smartwatch around.
LG G Watch R: Display
We mentioned the big bezels as part of our little moan about
the overly masculine design. But it’s the bezels we have to thank for that
fully circular P-OLED display. Unlike the Moto 360, which houses its display
drivers in a small strip cutting off the bottom of the screen, the G Watch R is
the first completely round smartwatch screen.
At 1.3 inches, it’s slightly smaller than the Motorola’s big,
modern-looking display and as a result, you may find yourself swiping into the
fake dial as you move around Android Wear.
But it’s crisp to read at 320 x 320 and nice and bright in the
low power always-on screen mode – very handy for quick glances outdoors. And
seriously, everything looks better on this display. Blacks on the backgrounds
of watch faces are deeper (it being an OLED) so it blends in to the metal build
seamlessly and colours are more vibrant too.
There’s no auto brightness and diving into settings is a pain
but this is a small sore point on an otherwise terrific smartwatch screen.
LG G Watch R: Android
The screen is a first but the Android Wear experience on the G
Watch R is almost identical to the smartwatches we’ve tested so far.
Notifications from your smartphone pop up with small
vibrations, Google Now prompts appear with helpful location or calendar
information, steps are counted and added to Google Fit and hit-and-miss voice
controls join swiping around screens for accessing apps, searches and sending
messages. On-watch navigation can be accessed by voice or searching for a
location on your smartphone and your Google Calendar agenda will appear each
Essential reading: What is Android Wear?
At times you will love Android Wear – glancing at the watch to
see that it’s a boring work email and not an important Facebook message making
your phone buzz. At others, you’ll hate it – swiping through four sets of bus
times just to get a clean watch face, for example, or wishing you could scroll
through recent notifications.
The recent Android Wear update added support for GPS and
onboard music playback. GPS isn’t included on the G Watch R but it does have
4GB of storage. We were hoping for more of a software overhaul, though, because
Android Wear has the potential to be brilliant but it’s not quite there yet.
For now it’s this or Pebble’s basic but not flashy OS that works everytime, but
we have a feeling that the Apple Watch might just show Google up when it arrives in
Everything runs very nicely on the G Watch R, with a 1.2GHz
quad core Snapdragon 400 processor and 512MB of RAM inside, and the Bluetooth
connection with our Android device was nice and robust. It can run third party Android Wear apps, of course, and like the Moto 360 some text will cut off due
to the circular screen and lack of optimisation just yet. But we say it’s a
small price to pay for that incredible round display.
There’s also a heart rate monitor which is as accurate as
rivals, though not enough to be used as a medical device. It’s also only for
one-off readings whereas the Moto 360 provides good-looking graphics of your
heart activity across the week. Like we said, the G Watch R isn’t about extra
functionality, like the Sony SmartWatch 3, it’s about superior form.
LG G Watch R: Battery
In many ways, the G Watch R is the best bit of kit for showing
off Android Wear. Not only is the screen brilliant and the performance smooth
but with a better battery life than rivals like the Moto 360 and the Samsung Gear Live, you get more hours in the day to interact with it.
With a big (for a smartwatch) 410mAh battery, the G Watch R
easily makes it through a standard working day with juice to
spare. That’s in Android Wear’s always-on screen mode with the brightness set
around halfway. With light use or the always-on mode switched off, this becomes
more like a day and a half’s worth of use.
Must read: All you need to know about the Microsoft Band
So there’s still plenty of mid-week charging to be done unlike
say, the Pebble Steel. But this is not a smartwatch you’ll be wearing with a
blank screen halfway through after work drinks.
Charging is taken care of by one of those ugly cradles that
Samsung and LG are trying to force us into accepting. No, just no. It’s fairly
easy to set up: just set the G Watch R down to match up the pins and stick a
microUSB cable into the dock.
Still, this will never become a nightly ritual in the same way
that setting down a Moto 360 in its lovely wireless charging dock does. And the
G Watch R is chunky enough that we can’t help thinking LG, like Sony, should have
just included a Micro USB port to save us the hassle.
LG G Watch R: Release
date and price
At around £220 – £225, the G Watch R is placed firmly at the
pricey end of Android Wear. And so it should be.
If its sports watch looks appeal to you then let’s face it,
you’re probably a man with wrists that won’t look swamped by the admittedly
chunky build. The Moto 360 comes in cheaper for the leather banded model but
once you start considering the fully stainless steel options and adding in
extra watchbands, the two round smartwatches are a similar investment.
The G Watch R officially goes on sale later this month. It’s worth noting that if you prize being frugal over being
fashionable, LG’s first Wear device the G Watch is a bit of a bargain now at
£140 or less.
LG G Watch R: Final thoughts
The LG G Watch R outperforms the brilliant Moto 360 in almost
every way. The screen is the best we’ve seen on a 2014 smartwatch, the battery
life doesn’t come close to the Pebble but beats its Android Wear rivals. Even the
watch faces are awesome and we don’t take watch face criticism lightly.
Chances are you won’t get as attached to the G Watch R as you
might to the lovingly crafted, iconic Moto 360. But it does a better job at
disguising itself as a regular watch and though it’s not the most customisable,
the straps at least can be personalised to your taste.
We’d love to see LG – or others – take on other styles of
traditional watches now as this aesthetic won’t be for everyone. But as the
first truly circular smartwatch, the G Watch R doesn’t disappoint.
LG G Watch R
Sure, it’s pricey next to the first batch of Android Wear rivals this year. But the difference is this. Here is a smartwatch you’ll actually wear. You’ll forget that it’s on your wrist until it nudges you. The square smartwatches before it were just plain distracting in their sheer gadgetry by comparison. Pricey but boy, is it worth it. The G Watch R combines familiar watch design with excellent hardware and the promising Android Wear OS. This is no head-turner like the Moto 360 but it is a worthy accessory that you’ll wear everyday.
- A smartwatch that looks like a real watch
- Fully round screen, sharp too
- Performs better than the Moto 360
- (Relatively) expensive
- Designed for men
- Android Wear still grates
- Max day and a half battery life