The LG G Watch is the most simplistic and minimal of the newly unveiled Android Wear watches, it is basically just a small black metal and glass box with a dark grey rubbery strap (a white and gold combination is also available). There are no buttons, no dials, no clips, sockets or anything really.There are three design features around the phone that need mentioning.Firstly the microphone is under the screen in the middle, this is used for voice commands and needs to be either near to your face if you’re in a noisy room or not so close if your in total silence. Sat in my office all alone at 4.50pm I could rest my arm on my desk and calmly ask the watch questions about the weather.Secondly the strap on the phone is removable, it features standard 22mm spring pins which with the right tools can be easily removed and replaced. Having been a Pebble Steel owner for the last few months I decided to get a metal strap and also another rubber style on in case the original one broke. The options here are endless you could have a different colored strap for every day of the week.Thirdly the five pins on the back are used to charge the watch, which you’ll be doing a lot and after a few days the whole regular charging thing starts to become a bit annoying, a Qi solution would have been preferable but at least it doesn’t with a weird clip bracket like the Samsung Gear Live does. The charging dock itself has a micro USB connector on it.Here are some shots of my LG G Watch, please note that the strap is a replacement strap. I typically changed the original strap and couldn’t remove this new strap without a proper tool. So you’ll just have to imagine how it looks with a dark grey rubber strap.
The LG G Watch (and all other Android Wear watches) pairs with a simple app companion that lives on your phone. It connects easily via Bluetooth, one watch at a time. From there, you can check available compatible apps on Google Play, adjust alarms, watch faces, and a few other settings, and mute notifications. By default, whatever apps ping notifications to your phone also send cards to Android Wear. Turning them off one by one is the way to fine-tune your watch’s pings.
An Android Wear device connects to your phone or tablet using Bluetooth, that device will need to have the Android Wear app installed on it. That app deals with syncing of apps to the watch, fiddling with settings governing dimming of the watch screen and also muting different app notifications.Finding apps to use on your watch is a bit of nightmare at the moment, from within the Android Wear app there is a compatible apps link which takes you to the Google Play Store and shows you a handful of dull apps that won’t really highlight quite what the watch is capable of.Searching for Android Wear in the Play Store brings up a whole load of compatible apps, such as calendars, calculators, watchfaces, note taking apps, volume controls for your phone, some more calculators, camera remote controls, basic games, flashlights, apps to find your watch, web browsers, app launchers to run on the watch, file managers, phone dialer and then a whole load of apps that run on a phone and have an element that runs on the watch like Google Keep. What an Android Wear device is capable of is down to the imagination of the people who have faith and invest in it at this early stage of the process and also the imagination of developers making apps to run on it.There are third party Android Wear app stores, that basically just link you back to the Play Store to install them. It’s a similar situation to what Google have created with tablets and their Chromecast, whereby finding suitable apps is a pain in the behind. Hopefully Google will improve the Android Wear section of the Play Store.
Living with the G Watch
Using the G Watch on a daily basis feels exactly like the Samsung Gear Live: it’s like a super-powered Pebble watch, or a Google Now watch. Android Wear is supposed to send context-specific messages throughout the day, automatically. I gave it a try, and after a few days it started hitting a certain odd rhythm. Weather in both New Jersey and New York City, where I work, were delivered to the display. Emails popped up as quick thumbnails, which I could respond to using my voice to transcribe. If it misunderstood me, I’d have a second or two to cancel, or the message would send as is.Google Hangouts, to my surprise, came through intact: work-related chats popped up, and I could respond with voice-to-text. Incoming phone calls can be answered or dismissed with preset messages, but you’ll need to grab your phone to actually talk; the G Watch can’t make phone calls.I started getting train times for the train I normally take, but also bus times for stations I passed on my train ride, which was odd. Maybe I’m not used to training Google Now to work for me, but Google Now’s odd habits also feel like they need pruning or evolving to work perfectly on a wearable.The G Watch was quick to recognize and transcribe most things I said to it. But I felt like I needed to speak to do most things, and that didn’t always work well in public.
Scrolling down to other features, settings, or connected apps was awkward. And swiping and interacting with cards could get confusing: sometimes I ended up swiping away cards I meant to keep, but once cards are gone they’re gone for good. Unless they come back later, which they often did. But it’s out of your control. Cards pop up when they pop up, in an often odd order. Facebook and Twitter send compressed notifications, requiring me to open my Android phone for more details.
Voice recognition on the G Watch is a weird thing. It has several functions, mainly it is used for the “OK Google” command, it is used for attempting to get the watch to run Wear apps. A command such as below will take a note and add it to Google Keep. “OK Google, take note, buy extra milk this week” Which is quite handy, there are voice commands for setting alarm, reminders, navigation and also running the third party apps. Which is where the fun starts. If you say the following to the watch: “OK Google, Open Compass” It opens up the compass app. But if you install some other apps on the watch getting them to open with voice commands isn’t possible. The main way I opened up apps was using an app called “Wear Mini Launcher” which basically gives you an app drawer which is only a quick swipe away.The next thing that voice is used for with the watch is for doing web searches, even this is compromised though. A quick command as follows soon gets complicated. “OK Google, where is Girona?” As the results are basically a web page which you need to open on your phone. Yet a question about tomorrows weather or how old your favorite pop-star is and you’ll get the answer you want. It’s all about being realistic with what you search for really.Voice recognition works OK in a quiet room and I didn’t have to move the watch up to my face, but if there is background noise you may need to move it a bit closer.
The LG G Watch, just like the Samsung Gear Live, has poor battery life. How poor? It only lasts a day. It has a 400mAh battery, a little better than the Samsung Gear Live’s 300mAh battery. But it still means recharging every night. That’s not helpful if you’re planning on using the watch to wake you up with an alarm, or like wearing a watch at night.That daylong battery life is with all functions running, and the screen display set toward the higher end, with a nearly always-on screen. By default, Android Wear dims the smartwatch display down to a low-power black-and-white screen after a few seconds: watch faces transform to cool, basic designs, and notifications turn to plain text. Lifting your arm or tapping the screen brings back full color and brightness. This also depletes battery life, of course. You can choose to keep the display completely dark after a few seconds instead, and light it up by tapping, or triggering the accelerometer by lifting your arm to look at the screen. That will get you more juice, but it also defeats some of the purpose of Android Wear as an always-on watch.At least LG included an easy-to-use, flat magnetic charge dock for easy charging on a desk or night table.
For an overall experience, the LG G Watch is very good in giving the users an experience of how smartly one can get things done with a wrist watch, thanks to the Android OS, but the watch fails to impress with two important aspects – Design and battery life. The display is brilliant with color output, viewing angles but under bright sunlight, it fails to put out the content well.