Hands-on with the new LG Watch Urbane LTE smartwatch
After the LG Watch R, I didn’t think LG could get smartwatch design wrong like it did with the first G Watch. Then I picked up the new Watch Urbane LTE, the first smartwatch to pack 4G LTE connectivity and it all came crumbling down. While it might free you up from having to carry your smartphone and let you make calls from your wrist, the look and the software are major drawbacks.
Unlike the LG Watch Urbane, this is a chunky beast. It’s got the thickest bezel I’ve seen on a smartwatch so far. It’s massive even compared to the Samsung Gear S which, like the Urbane LTE, packs a nano-SIM card slot but only for 3G. The strap is a rugged plastic one with the same clasp mechanism as Samsung’s smartwatches, so it’s definitely not going to budge at least, but it’s just so big.
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The saving grace could be LG’s decision to drop Android Wear for the webOS-based operating system that’s also appeared in LG Smart TVs and first popped up at the Audi stand at CES back in January. It’s currently only built to be friendly with Android smartphones. An LG spokesperson tell me that it’s not ruling out other platforms, but couldn’t specify which one. There’s some elements of Google’s smartwatch operating system like holding down on the screen to change watch faces, but this is a whole new ball game for the Urbane LTE.
For starters, there’s three physical buttons on the right of the bezel, which act a little like the virtual buttons at the bottom of a phone. The top one launches a series of settings to turn on features like NFC to make wireless payments or pairing with Bluetooth 4.0. The bottom lets you return to the previous screen and the larger central one opens the app drawer. Here you’ll find a swirling interface where you can swipe on the vibrant, P-OLED, 320 x 320 display and find a whole host of features.
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There’s smartphone-like features like messages, calendar, email plus LG Health to pull in data from the built-in optical heart rate sensor. A walkie talkie feature lets you speak to multiple users as long as they are also wearing an Urbane LTE, plus it also provides real-time translation. Additionally, you can track multiple activities like running, cycling, trekking and golf. You can still pair it to your phone if you want to use features like the music controller.
The problem here is that playing around with the interface is fiddly. You have to swipe through to browse but it’s too easy to accidently select when you don’t want to do. The software runs smoothly on the Urbane LTE, but it lacks intuitiveness and Android Wear does a slightly better job of getting you to the things you need quickly.
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My key problem with smart watches right now is battery life. Nothing really lasts more than a day or two and sadly that doesn’t change with the Urbane LTE. It packs a big 700mAh, but when you are essentially powering a smartphone on your wrist, you are going to get the same battery as the G Watch R or maybe even less.
I just can’t see the LG Watch Urbane LTE setting the world on fire. Like the Gear S, it just doesn’t feel like the way to go with smartwatches. It’s a chunky thing, even for a regular sports watch wearer, and that’s a big problem. The saving grace could be the operating system, but that still needs work.
LG hasn’t spoken of official UK pricing or a release date, but I’m not convinced there will be people rushing out to the shops to buy one like they will for an Apple Watch.