Wearable

LG G Watch R: The Most Discreet Smartwatch

I have been waiting for the right time over the past year to get a smartwatch. My last experience with the Sony SmartWatch 2 and Samsung Galaxy Gear has been tempting to say the least, but they still lack the pull factor. First, they are relatively expensive. Second, they don’t look exactly attractive. Months later, Samsung launched several smartwatches, but they can only work on Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Eventually, I spent below US$50 to get a China ZGPax S28 Watch Phone that does the job pretty well – until Android 5.0 Lollipop update broke the BTNotification app.

As if destined, I managed to request successfully for a review unit of the LG G Watch R, a product that I have been eyeing since the launch last year.

The S$398 package comes with the watch, a charging dock, USB cable, and AC charger. The strap is made of genuine leather but the quality feels thin and plasticky. You would want to swap them out with another strap, which I did, just to keep the original in good condition since this is a review unit, and also because my existing watch straps are already seasoned hence I feel more comfortable wearing them.

Once you have swapped to your favourite watch band (using a spring bar tool which you can order easily from online shops like Qoo10), you wear the watch like any other timepiece you have. This is really the top reason to get the LG G Watch R instead of other Android Wear smartwatches. The round watch face certainly makes custom watch face designs easily look good. But instead of the thin silver-metal frame Moto 360, the Watch R looks more sporty.

The LG G Watch R comes with additional hardware that might interest you. The heart-rate monitor reads your heart rate in seconds, the altimeter measures the height or depth of your position on Earth. The watch is rated IP67. The watch frame is black-coated metal, but the marked bezel and crown is plastic, and so is the rear face.

If you have used an Android Wear, then the Watch R user interface will hardly surprise you. For new users, the on-screen tutorial will get you up to speed within moments. In fact, you probably figured out most of the features within an hour. Swipe right to dismiss notification, swipe left for more options to the notification, swipe up for next notification. On the standby watchface screen, tap to select actions or apps, tap-hold to change watchface, swipe down for status. If you need to do anything, just say “OK Google”. Voice recognition is amazing. There are no on-screen keypads or keyboards. Everything is done via voice, or by pre-canned messages.

The Google-supported Android Wear app running on your smartphone does not offer any elaborate functions compared to other proprietary smartwatches and companion apps. The app can only let you change the watch face and set up a few watch behaviours. It cannot, for instance, manage the watch apps, or set clock functions. So if I want to set alarm on the Watch R, I have to do it from the watch. This is just one of the few limitations of Android Wear. But you can get third party alarm apps to let you manage alarm from your phone.

The Watch R uses P-OLED display, which produces warmer white. During low-power display mode, the watch face is bright, perhaps too bright for dark environments. There is no option for auto brightness.

For my kind of usage, the Watch R lasts me about 1.5 days. It would last over 2 work days if I were to turn it off after I return home from work, 3+ work days if notifications are infrequent (e.g. weekends). Charging the Watch R takes longer that I would have preferred, about 90 minutes from 10%. In contrast, the Sony SmartWatch 3 delivers full charge in about an hour. Both watches have similar battery capacity. Charging with a higher-rated power adapter offers no speed advantage.

While the watch-like design makes it less gadget-looking, the round display screen poses minor limitations. The amount of information appearing on the screen is lesser than on a standard square screen, so you would require more scrolling to read the full text. On third party apps, the corner details will be cut out.

There are occasional hiccups when using the Watch R. The connection with the smartphone may not work, which sometimes requires a reboot from either devices to fix it. Also, if you have read my other review about Android Wear in general, there are not many functions on the watch to call it “smart”. It is more like an extension, a companion.

Conclusion

Despite the limited functions and apps currently available on the Android Wear devices, the watch-like design of the LG G Watch R may well be the biggest draw and the only reason to allow yourself to wear a gadget on your wrist. At least when the watch is idle from notification or any gadgetry action, it remains inconspicuous and provides the same aesthetic and functional value of a timepiece. It’s available for sale in Singapore with 1-year warranty at recommended retail price of S$398.

Spec

  • Display: 1.3-inch Full Circle P-OLED
  • Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 400, 1.2GHz
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Memory: 4GB eMMC / 512MB RAM
  • Battery: 410mAh
  • Size: 46.4 x 53.6 x 9.7 mm (Bezel Ring included 11.1mm)
  • Weight: 62g
  • Sensor: 9-Axis (Gyro, Accelerometer, Compass), PPG(Hear rate monitor), Barometer
  • Waterproof Rating: IP67

Reviewed by Chester Tan (http://musicphotolife.com/)
Rating: 4 of 5

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