LG G Watch: Android Wear Review

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Personally I am a huge fan of Android, I have been a user for some time and I have even developed several apps which are being used by more than 50,000 users total. It should come as no surprise that when Google first Announced Android Wear I was excited and when everybody at Google IO 2014 (which I didn’t win a ticket to!) received a device I was jealous. I finally got my hands on the LG G Watch, in my opinion the nicest looking of the first 3 Android Wear watches.

If you are new to the whole smart watch thing (and who really isn’t right now) you might be confused as you why you need another device on your wrist that communicates with the one in your pocket. Smart Watches are the next step for the technology you wear on your body. They give you quick access to notifications and search in a slightly less scary way than Google Glass. The watches allow you to have a hands free texting through voice commands, alerts, alarms, and apps all on your wrist.

Android Wear of course refers to devices you wear on your Body.

 

First Impressions

When I first opened the tiny box I was surprised at how sleek the design was. I went with the LG G Watch because it looked remotely similar to my Pebble Smart Watch which I have been wearing for about a year. The LG G watch is very different than the Pebble (the only other smart watch I have extensively used) in a variety of ways. The most noticeable difference between the LG G Watch and the Pebble was the lack of E-Ink screen.

The device is about as heavy as a standard watch and feels nice on your wrist. The set up process was quick and easy and I had notifications popping up on it in no time. I literally got notified that I was poked on Facebook on my Mac, Nexus 7 Tablet, S3 Phone, and Watch all at the same time. I was very aware of the notification.

The device and software are both nicely designed, I will go into more detail below.

 

 

Software

Android Wear is definitely a unique interface. If you hate Google Now’s card UI you won’t like Android Wear. The device feels like a fancy Google Now device that is strapped to your wrist. The flavour of Android running on the Wear devices is actually called Android Wear and where this device is different from other Android watches is in the UI. You can’t do things like pull down a notification bar or open a settings menu on the watch. All the settings are controlled from your phone through the Android Wear app.

You will have no traditional Andorid UI elements aside from the card style UI which is how data is displayed. You can use the full functionality of Google by saying “OK Google” and asking or telling it something. I found it super nice to be able to send a quick message to my girlfriend without using my phone and to set a reminder to bring a garbage bag with me when I leave for work in the morning because my truck is filthy.

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The watch will display all the notifications from your phone on it’s tiny display. This includes anything from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, really anything. Some apps however are more “Wear compatible” and allow you to read messages, emails, alerts, or interact with the app on your phone. If you use apps like Tinder, Hangouts, Wunderlist, or of course any Google app you will have the additional functionality.

There is no Play store on the device and you will need to download the apps on your smartphone. This of course means if you use Android Wear, you better own an Android smartphone.

Hardware

Hardware wise you shouldn’t expect too much from a watch. The device of course totally relies on your phone so the performance of your phone will reflect in the reliability of the device. I am running a Samsung Galaxy S3 which I have rooted and installed a custom Slim Kat (Kit Kat 4.4) on which has been mostly reliable for Bluetooth connectivity.

The device has a beautiful 1.65″ IPS LCD display which is both vibrant and totally impossible to see in directly sunlight. As for battery life, I have been using the watch for about 7 hours now and I went from 90% charge to about 78% with heavy usage. The watch does have a 400 mAh battery which is quite a lot when you consider it is a watch.

Feature Specification
Strap 22mm (0.86inch) Changeable Watch Strap
Screen 1.65” IPS LCD
Dimensions 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95 mm
Weight 63 g
Battery 400 mAh
Processor Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 400 processor with 1.2GHz CPU
Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy
Memory 4 GB internal storage with 512 MB RAM
Ports and Connectors Micro USB on Charging Cradle
Sensors 9 Axis (Accelerometer/Compass/Gyro)

Usability

Android Wear is a new form factor all together. This means that it had to be totally designed to be used in a way that made sense. I found that I really like the card UI of Google Now so it already made sense to me. The device is not hard to get set up and the total install and sync took less than 15 minutes. The UI is quick and easy to grasp. You swipe down from the time to view your notifications. You swipe the cards away when you are done with them like on Google Now. You can get the watch’s attention by saying “OK Google” at any point and ask it to do anything you would on your tablet or phone.

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This is a test notification showing a winter storm warning.

You can change the watch faces to one of a selection of faces, all of which I don’t like except the standard plain black with time and date on it (I’m boring?). Google will be releasing an API for developing custom watch faces soon.

Final Thoughts

Overall the device is pretty intense for a watch. With a $250 price tag you are looking at a fairly decently priced watch when you consider people will pay way more for a watch that just tells the time with moving parts (Yuck) because of a name brand. I love the feel of the device and the style of the UI.

I did find that the watch had a hard time understanding some of my commands. I asked it how to get home and instead of a small map it gave me instructions on buying a house. That mostly comes down to being in a noisy atmosphere though. As updates roll out the devices will likely get better.

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Syncing the watch with my phone

A couple things that can’t be fixed with updates but might be fixed with a screen protector. I went outside with Jeremy (The man with the plan) to see how the device faired in directly prairie sunlight. As you can imagine the device is literally unusable as a watch on a sunny day. This is something that I liked about the Pebble’s e-ink screen, it was visible in the sun. The tiny screen also attracts finger prints from across the room. If you need a new watch, Android Wear might be something that is worth your time. You can pick one up on the Google Play Store.

Pictures

Some pictures I took for you:

 I originally posted this on the Bold Apps Tech Blog!