LG Watch Style and Android Wear 2.0: First Impressions

Posted on February 14, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 18 Comments

LG Watch Style and Android Wear 2.0: First Impressions

While Android Wear hasn’t seen much success, Google is quietly pushing forward. And this week, you can buy the first Android Wear 2.0 devices, including the LG Watch Style, which Google co-designed.

I’ve actually owned a number of Android Wear devices over the past few years, but this is the first one since the second generation Moto 360 I picked up in late 2015. That Motorola has declined to even bother with Android Wear 2.0 is perhaps telling, and they’re not alone: Several device makers are suddenly taking a wait-and-see approach with Google’s poorly-performing wearable platform.

The thing is, I’ve long thought that Google was onto something. Sure, all smart watch-style wearables share the same issues, poor battery life and bulkiness being the big ones. But once you accept that and honestly compare Android Wear to, say, Apple Watch, the simplicity—and, dare I say, intuitiveness—of the Android Wear user experience becomes all the more obvious.

Not that it matters. There is no such thing as a successful Android Wear device. Just the promise.

So Google took its time with Android Wear 2.0. And like newer versions of the flagship Android OS, this system is only being dripped out into the world via a small selection of carefully curated devices that will best show off its new capabilities. In this case, the first two of those devices are the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport.

I’m reviewing the former, in part because its smaller and lighter and is, I think, the better alternative to Apple Watch, the stylish market leader. But both devices share some functionality, as you’d expect, as they are both based on Android Wear 2.0. So you get the ever-improving Google Assistant on both, activity tracking (which has emerged as the key reason to own such a device, go figure), and so on. But both are differentiated from each other as well.

The LG Watch Sport’s bigger body houses cellular connectivity so you can make phone calls, send text messages, and use connected apps, even when you’ve left your phone behind. It also includes a heart rate monitor, which missing from Style.

But I still find the LG Watch Style to be the more interesting wearable. It features a MODE leather strap, which means you can swap it out for any other MODE strap, a feature not available on Sport (which includes a non-removable strap). Google offers a wide variety of MODE straps in their online store, and this kind of personalization is important for the audience that might be interested in this kind of wearable. You can also choose based on usage. A silicon strap might be better for working out, for example, but you could get a leather strap for work or a night out.

So. The LG Watch Style.

It was “designed with our friends at Google,” as the box proudly declares. Which I suppose makes it like a Nexus device, as opposed to Google’s in-house Pixel efforts. The materials seem high quality, from the pretty metal body to the removable leather straps, which use a much more obvious (and easier to use) mechanism than does Apple Watch.

Speaking of which, the LG is comparable to the Apple Watch from a size and weight perspective. And it features a round watch face, which I prefer. And unlike the Moto 360 devices, there’s no “flat tire” effect, where the bottom portion of the face is not really a screen: The display covers the entire face of the device, and with Android Wear 2.0, the OS adapts nicely to this shape too.

Setup is simple enough: You’ll need the Android Wear app on your Android phone or iPhone, and a simple wizard will get you going. I synced the device with my iPhone, which isn’t actually a new feature, but it still seems a bit odd.

The user interface is simpler than before. You can choose from a variety of watch faces in the phone app or right on the device, and like Apple Watch these faces run the gamut from old-school watch-like designs to newer, more functional faces that provide real-time information related to your activity level, among other things.

Like Apple Watch, too, the LG picks up a new digital crown-like dial on the side. You press this button to view the apps list, which neatly curves around the side of the display now, matching the circular shape of the screen.

Or, from within any app, you can press it to return to the watch face, which acts as the home screen on these devices.

That dial works as a dial too. So while you can scroll through screens (like the apps list) using multitouch swipe gestures, you can also just turn the dial to do so. It’s very natural, but to actually select an item on-screen—like the currently selected app in the apps list—you actually do have to tap it on the screen.

So far, this seems like a very positive step forward. Android Wear 2.0 has a much more intuitive and obvious UI than Apple Watch, but the app story is unclear. That there is a Google Play Store right on the device itself, however, is very interesting.

I’ll use it for a while and report back later. The LG Watch Style costs $250, but it appears that some coming versions—rose gold, perhaps, it’s not currently available—will cost a bit more. The bulkier but more capable LG Watch Sport is $350.

 

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Comments (18)

18 responses to “LG Watch Style and Android Wear 2.0: First Impressions”

  1. Avatar

    10783

    Swipe type flexible in Android Wear https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bibimbi.keyboard

  2. Avatar

    5510

    Unlike the Microsoft Band, Android Wear is going nowhere and will continue to be developed. Paul's analysis of Android Wear is either purposely misleading or based on bad analysis of smartwatches. To be honest, usually I would say it's the latter, but in a review like this, it's both....definitely both.

    If the demand for Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatches are low, the problem is NOT the platform, it's the overall watch. If it's the overall watch, then you have to analyze what the problem with the watch is.

    A watch serves 2 primary purposes: 1. Tells time and 2. is a fashion accessory. As a fashion accessory, the styles aren't so great. As a matter of fact, the watches (minues the face) are plain looking like the Moto 360. The Moto 360 had a lot of problems, like the "flat tire." If sales for the Moto 360 were bad, then I'm not surprised because that flat tire, made the watch look extremely cheap.Out of all the smartwatches in the market, the Moto 360 was the plainest and blandest. Take it from me and not from some tech geek blogger. As an owner of an LG Watch R, two Hauwei watches, a Rolex Constellation, and an Omega Speedmaster,....trust me, in my profession, the look of success means alot.  I remember one tech geek blogger from Droid Life called the Moto 360 a watch James Bond would use. Seriously, Bond would never even look at a Moto 360. He would go straight to the Tag Heur, if he were forced to get a smartwatch.

    For Android Wear to do better in the market, a few things need to happen: 1. Partners need to collaborate with popular watch makers, like Movado, Armani, Prada, Ralph Lauren, etc... 2. Be displayed in a watch store with its branded family and not in a special section called Android Wear. 

    Here is one thing, Paul will never tell you. The luxury watchmaker Tag Heur,  declared their Android Wear Watch was a big success. Honestly, I am not surprised. It's truly the best looking smartwatch in the market. The Tag Heur Connected watch was so successful, not only have they made a 2nd generation, but they also made it available with different colors.

    Compare Android Wear to the failed Microsoft Band. The Band had no chance, because it looked to techy on the wrist. There was no fashion...no style to it.  Not just that, but the ecosystem was weak....absolutely weak.

    Smart Watches have a lot of promises. After all one would be foolish to think otherwise because a smartwatch is basically a computer on the wrist. However, that's just one side of the equation, which is the platform. When the other side of the equation (the look) get's better, the overall market health of the smartwatch will get better. 

  3. Avatar

    1517

    I picked up a Samsung Gear S3 Frontier in November and I think the rotating bezel is really the way to go for watch navigation. It also keeps your fingers nearer the screen for tapping. 

  4. Avatar

    5486

    I think my G Watch R is waiting on the update now. Looking forward to trying out Wear 2.0. I love my smartwatch, and when I'm not wearing it, it now feels weird. It's not an essential purchase, but once you have one, you wonder how you lived without it.

  5. Avatar

    2968

    My biggest gripe with android wear devices are the abysmal battery life concerns. The Microsoft Band 2 did a fantastic job of getting a full day and a half of battery with all sensors etc. It struck a nice balance, which judging from the reviews of these new android wear devices, they do not.

  6. Avatar

    591

    Just as Microsoft did not launch the Band as a Surface device, Google did not launch this version of Android Wear with a Pixel branded device.  That tells me they have little faith in the current generation and see a future model they can put 'their' (manufactured by a 3rd party) name on.  -- Though Apple has done this, I think it was premature as well -- I am sure they are moving forward.  But I will hold off from purchasing another wearable until the tech is really ready.

  7. Avatar

    9201

    That is one cheap ugly looking watch, I would never want to be seen wearing such tat.

    The Apple watch remains butt ugly too. The previous generation LG Wear watches looked much better quality.

  8. Avatar

    455

    Any chance this will work with Windows 10 Mobile?  I know, I know...stupid question.  I'm just still searching for a replacement for my Band and so far Garmin (because of the app) and Fitbit (because of it's lack of features on the watch itself) just haven't cut it.  This looks promising.

  9. Avatar

    412

    Thanks for the review. I've found Android Wear to be underrated, even if it seemed messy before. I am looking forward to the update to roll out on my LG Watch Urbane. 

  10. Avatar

    165

    Those pictures are.. not so good..

    Sorry Paul...

  11. Avatar

    5812

    I think the killer watch is the smaller watch that Paul purchased but they need to add NFC for Android Pay. If one of the vendors comes out with that combo more would buy that as the Sport is just to big and many don't want to pay a monthly fee for LTE with such a big watch. Less is more here and I mean less watch.

  12. Avatar

    319

    I bought the LG Watch Sport, and so far have been very happy with it. Battery life is not nearly as good as my old LG Watch Urbane, but there's LTE and a bunch of other stuff added which would explain that. Incidentally the Watch Sport can be had for $250 as well if you're willing to commit to 2 years with AT&T.

  13. Avatar

    123

    If they had released the Style with NFC, it would have been a buy. As it stands, neither provides the right set of functionality for me. Hopefully another manufacturer comes along and releases a device, I'd hate to see this category go away.

  14. Avatar

    3167

    The Google Play is now on the watch itself because there are supposedly apps that will live on the smartwatch, not just connected through the phone.

     

    I switched to Android from my 950 in January, and while there are UI things I absolutely hate, even beyond the bland icon based UI, and things I miss (panoramic gestures rather than strictly menu-driven, live tiles) I have gotten along fine. I got a Nexus 5 that my wife was given at her company (to remain nameless, but quite pertinent) and dusted off the LG Watch G she received the same way. As a Band 2 user, I was pleasantly surprised and gravely disappointed at the same time.

     

    1) The Band 2 is great at alerting me to incoming phone calls and messages. After 3-4 missed calls from my wife, I had to dig deeper and discovered that the Wearables app has a setting to stop the phone from vibrating if the watch is worn. So, fixed that. I thought. Had both the band on and the LG, and tested several calls. Consistently, the Band 2 buzzed me that I had an incoming call. The LG consistently reported to me after the fact that I had missed a call. Thanks for the tip, Android. I am thinking a more up-to-date device will do better and that 2.0 will solve this, however....

     

    2) The LG G will NOT get the 2.0 update, even though the software on my phone has already installed. So I am currently searching for one of the upcoming 2.0 devices to replace my freebie (to me) LG Watch G.

     

    I have seen good reviews on the Huawei Watch, and it seems another version may be on the way. I have seen reviews, and read yours on the LG Watch Style, and like the footprint, but want the heartrate monitor as well. It seems crippled compared to the Sport, and the sport is simply too much of a tank for me.

     

    And, we do know that likely MS will have a replacement...somewhere down the road. As a watch it is passable, but where it shines is on notifications and sensors and health. A shame discontinued, but that is how it is with me. I have 4 Zunes in a drawer as well.

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