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G Watch REVIEW: A Smartwatch Worth Buying?

There are plenty of smartwatch options on the market right now, but I’d argue there aren’t many that nail each one of my needs. Either a watch fails to impress with its design, it doesn’t have quite enough battery life, there aren’t any apps or the price is too high.

That’s why I was super excited when Google first introduced Android Wear. It looked like a platform that could potentially address a lot of my concerns, particularly on the software side.

I couldn’t really contain my excitement, and when the first watches went on sale back in June, I quickly pre-ordered the LG G Watch.

If you read our site frequently, you probably know by now that I went into the purchase blind. I didn’t know which was the better choice: the G Watch or the Gear Live, but I picked the G Watch simply because it had a larger battery on paper.

I’ve now been using it for about a week and a half, and I’ve gathered more than just a few words on the device. Can it meet every one of my pain points? Let’s find out.

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LG G Watch Video Review

Hardware

The G Watch packs impressive hardware for its size. In fact, the Snapdragon 400 processor is more powerful than some entry-level smartphones on the market. The design itself is non-impressive and boring, however.

The rectangular 1.65-inch watchface has a low-resolution 280 x 280-pixel display. That means text looks pixelated and, in general, the screen just looks cheap. I understand LG needs to make some sacrifices to keep the device somewhat affordable, especially with the hardware under the hood, but this is too low-end looking for my tastes. The rubber band is comfortable, though again cheap looking and thankfully it can easily be swapped for a different band.

Under the hood you’ll find the aforementioned 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, a 400mAh battery, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. That seems to be powerful enough for the few apps that are already available, and I didn’t ever experience any stuttering or freezing.

Of note: there aren’t any buttons on the G Watch, save for a small reset switch on the underside. That means you can’t turn it off/on easily with a button, and instead need to rely on the software settings menu. It also means the only way to power it up is to drop it on its charging cradle, which seems like a silly overlook on LG’s part. I get it: the idea is to have an always-on watch, but when you need to charge the G Watch as often as you do, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Software

I’m not going to shy away from it: Android Wear is terrible right now. I’ve already written an opinion piece on it, but here’s the gist: the applications don’t have any sort of uniformity. It might be easy to use AllTheCooks to send recipes to your wrist, for example, but then another app like Lyft requires you to use your voice — and there’s no immediate information on how to use it or what the commands are. Worse, if Lyft isn’t available in your area the app just crashes providing no explanation as to why.

There’s also not an easy-to-reach launcher, unless you install third-party software. You’ll have to either dig through menus or try to launch an app using your voice-only, which isn’t always easy depending on your environment. The G Watch doesn’t help, particularly outside where the screen isn’t visible at all.

LG doesn’t offer too much customization on the G Watch, Google isn’t allowing hardware partners to tamper too much. There are a few unique watch faces to choose from, but none particularly struck my fancy and I’m looking forward to the new watchfaces developers release with the new APIs.

I like that Android Wear relies on a user’s voice when it works — the idea is novel and seemingly futuristic, but it doesn’t always work. I expected, perhaps wrongly, to have full-fledged Android apps on my wrist, but instead most just tap into the Android apps that are running on your smartphone. What’s the point of that Snapdragon 400 processor, then? Perhaps it’s just a sign that better things are coming.

For now, there’s just too much swiping and not enough useful applications to take advantage of Android Wear. I know that will change with time, and so I’m not drawing any final conclusions other than to warn our readers that it’s just not worth the money as of today.

Battery Life

I used the G Watch for about a week and a half and I haven’t had any issues with a dead battery on the nights where I remember to charge it. If you juice it up every night, you’re going to end up with a dead smartwatch sometime in the morning, if it hasn’t already died. Thankfully, popping it into the charger is a cinch, thanks to embedded batteries.

The battery life was really upsetting, even though LG doesn’t promise anything more for its smartwatch. The Pebble smartwatch gets more than just a couple of days of battery life, as do Samsung’s latest crop of smartwatch devices. Most consumers want a device that runs for more than just a day on a charge, that’s a fact published in a recent Nielsen survey, so I’m still scratching my head why both LG and Samsung released these new devices with such short life spans.

If you want a watch that lasts, avoid the G Watch and the Gear Live. Neither will get you through two full days.

DON’T BUY

The LG G Watch is a $229 product that doesn’t deliver enough, even with the potential of Android Wear yet to be realized.

I know it’s still very early for Android Wear. As our gaming editor Joey Davidson told me, reviewing these products now is like reviewing a roller coaster right after you strap in — before you even climb to the crest and before the ride has even started.

Davidson is right, especially with Android Wear, since its potential is yet to be fully realized. We’re still in the very early days of the smartwatch operating system, and there are millions of bright developers out there who can take the platform and really change the way we think of smartwatches and what we can do with them.

That said, the LG G Watch is a $229 product that doesn’t deliver enough, even with the potential of Android Wear yet to be realized. Its display can’t be viewed in most bright outdoor conditions, it feels and looks cheap, and the battery life isn’t good. This thing could be running a fully polished version of Android Wear, complete with millions of apps, and I’d still have a hard time recommending it.

Sit it out and wait for newer Android Wear devices to hit the market.

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Looks Cheap
  • Poor Display
  • Bad Battery Life

PROS

  • One of the first Android Wear Devices

Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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