Hands on with LG G Watch, an unapologetically simple Android Wear smartwatch

g watch steps
Credit: Image: Jon Phillips

LG’s G Watch may have a more simple industrial design than the Android Wear watches from Samsung and Motorola, but with a user experience so emphatically focused on the Android Wear OS itself, fashion aesthetics may not matter quite so much.

Indeed, as we learned Wednesday during the Google I/O keynote, Android Wear is all about serving snippets of contextual information that respond to external signals like your schedule, your location, the weather, and other data points you deem interesting. The system doesn’t boast a traditional home screen like you’d find on a phone or tablet. Instead, Google’s new wearable OS serves notifications and Google Now alerts on cards that take over the watch face.

g watch get dinner image: Jon Phillips

Thanks to a built-in microphone, you can reply to Hangouts messaging with voice replies.

Information slips in. Information slips out. And everything you would otherwise see on your phone has been reformatted and reconsidered for teeny-tiny watch displays. During my hands-on G Watch demo, I could only play with the watch set to “retail mode.” Actual functions were turned off, but the experience demonstrated how Android Wear can be used for voice-controlled text messaging, checking the weather, and seeing one’s step counts.

Swiping through the home screen cards, I found everything about the UI to be fluid and natural. Some of fonts erred a bit too small for my eyes, but in general LG and Google have done a good job in surfacing the info that matters most.

g watch reply Image: Jon Phillips

The Android Wear UI was fast and fluid on the demo unit I played with. But remember: It wasn't actually running full Android Wear apps. 

At 63 grams, the G Watch felt just as light on my wrist as my everyday analog watch, and its overall dimensions didn’t overwhelm my anatomy. The G Watch’s 1.65-inch, 280x280 IPS display promises always-on performance. The display is fairly bright, but not as brilliant as the saturated tones of the Super AMOLED displays on Samsung devices.

As you can see from my photos, the G Watch is just a simple slab of metal with slightly rounded-off edges. It comes in two colors—“black titan” and “white gold”—and LG says the case is forged from a single block of stainless steel.

g watch profile image: Jon Phillips

The G watch is 10 mm thick. Put it on, and it basically feels like you're wearing a normal wristwatch.

A 400 mAh battery is rated for 36 hours of use. That’s not great battery life, and the G Watch doesn’t directly accept a standard USB cable for charging. Instead you lay the watch on a separate charging cradle. It’s an approach that limits you to proprietary charging hardware, but at least you don’t have to fiddle with a tiny insertion point every time you need to charge.

g watch frank lee Image: Jon Phillips

LG's Frank Lee demos an actual working G Watch, showing off how voice commands work. Notice how he's cheekily unbuttoned his cuff to show off the watch.

Other internal components include a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 4GB of storage (for all your new Android Wear apps), and a 9-axis sensor that features an accelerometer, gyroscope and compass.

LG confirmed that the step counts you see in the image at the top of this article orginate directly from the G Watch itself—the wearable doesn’t need to pull them from a phone or, say, LG’s Lifeband Touch activity tracker.

The G Watch will go on sale in the Google Play store today for $229, and should ship to early buyers on July 7. It may not be the most glamorous Android Wear hardware announced today, but its design in inoffensive—and, remember, Android Wear is the star of this show. 

This story, "Hands on with LG G Watch, an unapologetically simple Android Wear smartwatch" was originally published by TechHive.

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