By necessity, we need to look at the two parts – hardware and software – which hopefully proves that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Software – needs to evolve but it will
In theory, Android Wear works with Android smart phones and relays information, notifications, and brings additional functionality to the smart watch.
In practice, it is a user interface relying heavily on Google Voice to do most things. “OK Google – date” returns the date. This is fun for a while but the range of commands is presently limited. I suspect that it will learn about your needs over time and improve this feature set.
Current inbuilt apps include weather; commute; next appointment; flights; call, text email and messages; navigation (turn by turn); music; reminders; calendar; and notes.
It also has a basic fitness app that records steps taken – it seems as accurate as any other pedometer.
Like Version 1 of any software, it is rough around the edges, does not always do what you expect it to and is not as polished as Samsung’s Gear 2 or Pebble’s interfaces. Google will be quick to respond and this operating system will receive many updates to improve functionality. As long as its hardware can handle the updates – and it should do so for some years - functionality will improve over time.
Another niggle is that it expects the user to action every notification before moving on to the next. In reality, I found myself pulling the phone out of my pocket and using it to do the hard yards. There is no history mode either – once a message is dismissed you cannot flip back to see what you did. The message remains on the phone.
Android Wear has been born. Its functional but nowhere near the OS it should be.
The Hardware – Model W100
It is a big, black, utilitarian, rectangular, box design – neither elegant nor svelte. But it works and seems to follow the trend that bigger is beautiful. The weight is OK. I think it is fine for a ‘bloke’s’ wrist and my wife thinks it is too big for a dainty girl’s wrist but felt it was nicer than Sony Smart Watch – no garish branding. It uses a standard 22mm watch strap and comes either in Black Titan or White Gold.
My gripe on smart watches is the need to recharge them – usually daily. The LG G has a 400mAh battery and yes – it needs to be charged every night in a special USB powered, magnetic docking cradle. It is not hard to do but the proprietary cradle can be lost – why it does not have a microUSB connector is beyond me.
Perhaps one reason is that it has IP67 dust and water resistance – but that does not mean you can swim with it. IP stands for ingress protection, the number six for completely dust tight, and seven for immersion in water up to one metre for up to 30 minutes. So you can accidently drop it in the toilet in the Sahara!
The touch screen is 42mm square (1.65”), 280 x 280 pixels, colour IPS LCD, covered with Gorilla Glass 3. The watch is 47 (H), 38 (W) and 10mm (D) and weights 63g. Screen colour is adequate but it does wash out in direct sunlight. You can adjust the brightness in six stages (each affecting battery life) - it not a major issue.
It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, 1.2GHz, processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It seems to be sufficient for all Android Wear apps – no noticeable lag.
It connects to Android Smartphones via Bluetooth 4.0 LE so the smartphone needs to run Android 4.3 or later. The watch has an Accelerometer, compass and gyro. It does not have a GPS receiver nor a pulse monitor but these are features on premium smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S5. Lack of GPS simply means that it uses the smart phone to provide turn by turn – sans voice – on the watch.
Sound – it relies on a Bluetooth headset. What we have not seen in Australia is its heart rate ear buds that cost nearly as much as the phone.
Its LG’s answer to the next generation wearable. It has had several attempts with its GD910, G3, and Lifeband. Bottom line - it is functional, software will improve over time, and it tells the time too! It is not a cult design – but its functional.
There will be inevitable comparisons with other smart watches – Samsung also has an Android Wear watch (just as big) and Motorola has the 360 coming soon. All will do pretty much the same thing.
It is made to a price – Mobile Zap has them for AU$229.49 plus freight but they have a British plug pack. Recommended retail is about $259.