Android Wear is here: LG’s G Watch reviewed

It’s a first generation product, though, and as such, you can expect first generation problems — teething issues, really — because no first-gen product nails it out of the gate, and most don’t even get it perfect two or three times after that.

The LG G Watch is no different in this regard, feeling little more like a second screen for your phone that really doesn’t command much or offer great battery life, even if it is a taste of what technology will be like in the future.

We need to tackle this issue of what it does first, because while we’ve already told you what it does, the problem with the G Watch is also what it doesn’t do.

For instance, while you can speak to it, you can’t say much. You can tell it to take a note, send a message over SMS, tell you what your agenda is for the day, and send an email to a friend.

But even though you can tell it this through voice, you can’t ask it when the next 333 is leaving on Elizabeth St, even though it will automatically tell you this if you take this route.

Even asking it to go to the about section of the phone yields some problems, searching “about” rather than going to the phone’s “about” section, and that’s where you realise what Android Wear really is right now, and that is a second screen not really for your phone, but rather for your notifications menu on your phone.

Any notification that normally makes its way to your drop-down menu system will pop up there, extending that notification to another place, albeit a more convenient one located on your arm.

For instance, if a security program says a new program is a risk and that notification pops up on your phone, it too pops up on your watch.

If you’re listening to Pandora, you’ll see a screen of the album art with the track name and artist, and a pause button, with the next screen you swipe over will let you fast forward through it.

If you get a Facebook notification, it pops up with a picture from that person, and if it’s a few emails, it’s a small list of those.

That is the same set of things that your regular Android notification bar gets, and outside of as few apps for a compass, step monitoring, and a world clock, the G Watch is basically just that notification bar, with a bit of voice control thrown in for good measure.

Compatibility is another sour point, and while this is more a Google issue, it’s one that will have some people scratching their heads.

Unfortunately, iPhone and Windows Phone owners can’t see what the fuss is about, with the one software requirement for Google Android Wear watches being that the device it connects to has to be running Android, and a recent version at that, specifically 4.3 or higher, which means the most recent version of Jelly Bean (4.3), KitKat (4.4), or anything higher than that later on (Android L, etc).

That’s a similar issue to Samsung’s Gear watches, though not quite as restrictive, as while Samsung’s smartwatches require a Samsung phone with access to Samsung Apps, Android Wear only asks for Android phones in general.

In comparison, the Pebble smartwatches work across iOS and Android, with some Windows Phone also sort of working thanks to some neat programming by people not at Pebble.

As we said, however, this lack of cross-platform connectivity for LG’s G Watch isn’t technically an LG problem, but it’s still a tad frustrating all the same.

The competition, from left to right: Samsung's Gear 2 Neo, the LG G Watch, and then the original Pebble.

Also frustrating is the battery, and this is probably the really critically weak part of the package, which for us managed a little over a day, provided you’re totally fine with it cutting power near the end of the work day.

Use it less than we did — which would be hard, since we tried not to use it and still found the same amount of battery life — and you might get that full two days, but we’d recommend charging it nightly.

It’s a first generation product, that said, so we can’t say we’re terribly shocked, but when other smartwatches are netting at least two days, a total usage of one and a bit isn’t really what you want to be seeing. As a comparison, Samsung’s Tizen-powered Gear 2 Neo smartwatch pulls in around four days, and yet asks for the same price.

That said, Samsung’s Gear 2 Neo isn’t powered by Google’s Android Wear, and isn’t even compatible with it, so can’t technically be compared directly to LG’s G Watch, but it does show a staggering difference in the technology and software, and we’re not sure we appreciate this low battery life from LG. Not at all.


LG’s first watch is better built and more colourful than you might expect out of a company that only recently flirted with the idea of a wristband that did similar things, a product that came to be known as the LifeBand.

Compared against that product, the G Watch is a shining beacon of excellence, and thanks to a comfier fit, a better screen, more responsive touch, and the fact that the Android-powered watch does practically everything the LifeBand does — tells time, controls music, and tells you how many steps you’ve taken daily — we’d recommend this over the LifeBand if you had to choose between the two.

But as a smartwatch by itself?

As a smartwatch, it’s hard to recommend the LG G Watch to all but the early adopters who can’t live without the next thing from Google, and hey, if there are Apple fanboys, there surely are Google ones that fit into this category.

That said, with compatibility only extending into the Android camp — and the recent Android camp at that — we’d probably hold off until LG refines the formula and personalises the G Watch to be something more capable.

This could happen with firmware changes, and it could happen with a new version, but we’re hoping for a simple patch or two, because that could really bring this device to life.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Nice colour screen; Easy to setup; Google does a decent job of translating your voice commands;
Google may do a decent job of translating voice commands, but there aren't many voice commands for it to translate (yet); Heavier than it looks; Battery isn't great; Doesn't do enough, not yet anyway; Not compatible with anything outside of Android (won't work with Apple iOS or Microsoft's Windows Phone operating systems);