Fitness wearables are big business in 2014, and LG’s first attempt tries to blend activity tracker with smart watch. Does it work, or could you do better with something else?
A first for the brand, the LG wearable is about tracking your health and activities, while still giving you some control from your phone. That’s different to other bands, which are predominantly all about health and only health.
To help with this complete wearable picture, there’s a one line OLED single colour display, running a resolution of 128×32, and supporting touch gestures in the form of swipes from left to right, making it a wearable companion gadget you can control and look up independently from your smartphone.
A button can also be found next to the screen, used for changing the mode on the band, complete with a small colour changing LED ring around it, which will change to different colours depending on the mode you’re in or where you are in your goal.
Underneath the screen are similar sensors to other fitness wearables, including a three axis accelerometer and altimeter. No support for heart-rate tracking is built into LG’s Lifeband, but it is compatible with heart-rate monitoring earphones, none of which were available in Australia at the time of publishing the review.
Synchronisation of the band happens through Bluetooth 4.0 LE, with apps available on iOS for Apple iPhone and iPad, and Google Android for any Android smartphone or tablet.
Charging the band is handled through a proprietary charger, taking its power through the standard microUSB charge port used across smartphones, tablets, and Bluetooth headsets.
Two sizes of the LG Lifeband are available, with medium (M) and large (L) offered in store, but no way of changing the band to support different wrist sizes when you get home. The retail packages include a plastic wrist cut-out to help you work out which size you should purchase2.5
Pick up the LG Lifeband and you’ll be treated to a design a little different from the rest. It’s thick, large, and can’t be adjusted, pushed onto your wrist and barely holding on. Two sizes are made — M and L — and if you don’t fit any of these, you can’t tighten the band at all, or even loosen it.
Aesthetically, it’s an interesting looker, with a lot of black and a simple ovular line that makes it almost look like a bracelet from the future, but we’re a little hesitant with this one, as it can’t be tightened. There’s a basic one colour OLED touchscreen on the top, and a button next to it, with a colour changing LED ring which will change based on what’s happening at the time.
Charging the gadget is easy enough, with a proprietary lightweight dongle that takes its charge from a microUSB cable. The band fits into the dock easily enough, but because it’s so much lighter than the Lifeband, can be dislodged all too easily, so when charging it, try not to nudge it, otherwise it’s likely to fall out.
Setting up the Lifeband is a little hit and miss, like the dock, starting a trend with the Lifeband we hope goes away.
With iOS and Android support on the Lifeband, you’ll be looking for the wearable in setup over Bluetooth, but we’re a little surprised there’s no Near-Field Communication here. Sadly, you can’t rub one of LG’s Android phones (or any other Android phone) and the Lifeband together to get them working together, and you may find the setup stalls a bit as the two gadgets look for each other.
We found it worked after a few minutes of getting the app to look for the band, but it’s not always easy, and some smartphones may be faster than others to connect. Just make sure it’s a relatively up-to-date smartphone, otherwise it won’t work at all, thanks to the reliance on Bluetooth LE, a part of the Bluetooth 4.0 specification though not included on all devices.
Once the gadget is connected, you’ll need to sign in (or register) to an LG account, letting you track and store information about how many calories you’re burning through, footsteps taken, and distance travelled.
Using the Lifeband is relatively easy, and for the most part, it will do the work for you, with you merely pressing the one button on the device to scroll through modes. There are three modes specifically, and we’ll go through them individually.
First is the fitness mode, which is the obvious one. In this mode, you’ll see calories lost today, distance travelled, footsteps taken, and an option to start an activity, which when pressed, triggers a timer to track what you’re doing for blocks at a time, providing this information to the app later on.
Seeing all these modes happens by swiping, so when you’re in the fitness mode, you just swipe from left to right to jump through them.