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LG G Watch R

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating star
Where to Buy

What's Hot: Good looking, colorful and bright P-OLED display, better than average battery life.

What's Not: Android Wear is still a work in progress with a UI that can be challenging if you don't want to speak to your watch.


Reviewed January 5, 2015 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

LG G Watch R

Some day we'll laugh at articles that laud the amazing long battery life of watches like the LG G Watch R and Sony Smartwatch 3. Two whole days on a charge--woohoo! Indeed, that is better than current Samsung and Moto smartwatches that average a day of use, so us techies get a little jazzed by two day battery life. Still, before smartwatches became a thing, everyone wanted and expected five days or a week on a charge. Pebble comes close, and nothing else does.

Though the $299 LG G Watch R is one of the best Android Wear watches we've reviewed, like all Android Wear watches it's much better once you seriously temper your expectations. There's nothing wrong with the G Watch R's hardware or design--that stuff is tops, albeit oversized. It's the OS itself and the idea of Android Wear that leaves me wanting: it presents the smartwatch as a second screen for your Android phone. Problem 1: lots of folks don't use Android phones (yes, if they use iOS they can jump on the Apple Watch in February 2015 or use the Pebble Steel now). Problem 2: is a second screen for your phone really worth $300? Or $250 like the Moto 360 or even $199 like the stylish Asus Zenwatch? That depends on your disposable income and lust for wearable tech, but even the most enthusiastic techie has a little internal gremlin that says "you could just take your phone out of your pocket". There are those who'd argue that our information and social networking obsessions will only escalate when Facebook and CNN are just a wrist away. Android Wear is about "timely" (that's Google's pun, don't blame me) information and not much else. That is changing quickly though, and in the past few months Google Play's Android Wear section has a selection of apps that do more than just notify you of email, texts, stocks and the weather. There's Evernote, calculators and rudimentary games. The watch has a pedometer and a reasonably accurate heart rate monitor for the health conscious, and a vibration motor for alerts but no speaker.

LG G Watch R

But let's look at the G Watch R itself: it's a good looking watch with a round face that looks like a men's diver watch. It's worlds better looking than the LG G Watch (no R) that looked no better than a $25 Timex. With the R, LG saw the light and made something that actually looked like a watch and had some class. It's a similar yet different esthetic from the also round Moto 360, which is more understated and minimalist. The metal bezel is raised above the 1.3" P-OLED display to protect it, but it's also a style element in black metal with increments marked at the quarter hour and hour. It looks great if you use one of the many analog watch faces LG provides. It makes little sense if you opt for digital faces. The band is black leather, and if you like you can interchange it with any 22mm band. The black stainless steel casing is robust yet it's not chunkier than a men's sport or diver watch. The watch is water resistant down to 1 meter, but obviously the leather band isn't. Even though it's actually 1.6mm thinner than the Moto 360 it grated against my wrist and hand bones more than the Moto thanks to the traditional protruding strap mounts. If you're a 6 foot tall guy you probably won't have that problem since these watches are designed for you fellas and not a slim gal like me. At 2.18 ounces, the LG isn't heavy, though it outweighs the 1.73 ounce Moto 360. As smartwatches go, the LG G Watch R has quality and class written all over it, even if the look is more sport than work.

LG G Watch R

The 1.3", 320 x 320 P-OLED (plastic OLED, a flexible display tech) touch screen is a high point: it has AMOLED's saturated colors, infinite contrast and rich blacks, and it uses less power than LCDs. There's no ambient light sensor like the Moto 360, but I found the middle brightness setting fine for outdoor use. Since there's no ambient light sensor taking up space, the watch face doesn't have the flat tire look of the Moto 360. Even better, the watch sleep screen is bright and detailed enough to easily see, unlike some smartwatches that blank the screen or use a view that's too dim to be useful. Thus the LG G Watch R succeeds at its prime directive: to be a watch that's always displaying the time. You can disable the sleep screen watch face, but I don't think most folks will want to since it doesn't tank battery life as with the Moto 360. Should you find the sleep screen too bright in a movie theatre, you can easily "mute" the display by placing your palm over it until it shuts off. The "awake" watch face is only on for a few seconds, and you'll turn it on by moving your wrist toward your face in the traditional motion for checking the time. Alternatively you can use the button on the watch's side or tap the face. You can't control backlight duration, though we found the 2-3 seconds long enough for a glance at information. It did make filming our video review nearly impossible! When you touch or swipe on the watch face, backlighting stays on, for the same 2-3 seconds.

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LG G Watch R Video Review


LG G Watch R

On the software side, Android Wear pipes notifications from your Android 4.3 or higher smartphone via Bluetooth to the watch: calendar items, Google Now cards, texts, emails and app notifications. You can control which notifications are sent to the watch using the Android Wear app on your phone. You'll be able to swipe-scroll through a text or email and read it on your watch, while more involved things like a news app's feed update might require you to open the app on the phone (there's an "open on phone" option for most notifications if you swipe left). There are no icon palettes replete with apps, rather everything is done by swiping up on new notifications and swiping left on the home screen (watch face) to see more persistent info like current weather and stocks. If you install a smartwatch app (using the Android Wear app on your phone), you'll launch it either using voice command or tapping on the watch face to bring up a scrollable list of actions. This is no different than any other Android Wear watch; when you pick one you're mostly making the decision based on hardware since the OS and user interface are identical (Google doesn't allow customization of the UI). Honestly, I think app icons are much more intuitive, an established UI convention Samsung's Tizen OS smartwatches and the Apple Watch use.

Yes, you can install Android Wear apps, and the list is small but growing quickly. There are a few games, none of which is currently very good. Evernote has an app, but it's not really useful or usable except for to-do lists. There are compasses, but the LG has a built-in compass face that works nicely, and you can use the watch to hail a cab. In a year, I suspect the app selection will be truly worthwhile, but I'd still like to see Google make it easier to get to apps without having to speak to the watch, Dick Tracy style. For now, the LG G Watch R, like other Android Wear watches is really a wrist-borne vehicle for Google Now cards and notifications. That's what it does best, though even those need fine-tuning--for example, once you look at a notification it's gone. You'll need to go back to your phone if you want to refer to that item again. As a work in progress, the LG G Watch R is one of the better looking watches on the market, with better than average 2 day battery life and the time is always easy to see. This Android Wear 5 smartwatch will evolve as OS updates arrive and with new apps on the Play Store. Is it worth the investment now? If you're always on the go and don't want to constantly pull out your Android phone, then yes. Otherwise, I'd wait.

Price: $299


Related Reviews:

Apple Watch Review

Apple Watch Series 2 Review

Garmin Fenix 3 Review

Moto 360 Review

Asus ZenWatch Review

Samsung Gear S Review

Samsung Gear 2 Review


LG G Watch R


LG G Watch R

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Display: 1.3" P-OLED touch screen, 320 x 320.

Battery: 410 mAh Lithium Ion.

CPU, RAM and Storage: 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad core CPU, 512 megs RAM and 4 gigs storage.

Connectivity: Bluetooth.

OS: Android Wear.

In the box: watch, charging cradle and charger.


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