Android Wear is here: LG’s G Watch reviewed

Wearables are set to be the new “big thing” in technology, and while we’ve seen models from Pebble and Samsung in the past, it’s time for LG to get its mitts wet, bringing the first Android Wear device to Australia in the form of the G Watch.

Features

LG’s first splash in the smartwatch category, the G Watch is a new example of second screen technology, sending notifications, music controls, and more to your wrist without you needing to take out and look at your phone, as pretty as it might be.

While it might be LG’s first smartwatch, it’s not a gadget LG has taken lightly on the specs, technically throwing in the technology from a recent smartphone or tablet into a gadget that goes on your wrist.

In fact, the chip alone is one such piece of technology that has appeared recently inside an LG tablet, found in both last year’s G Pad 8.3 and the upcoming G Pad 10.1.

That chip is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400, clocked at 1.2GHz and paired with 512MB RAM and working with 4GB internal storage for apps and the Android Wear operating system.

The watch relies on Bluetooth 4.0 LE, also known as Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Low Energy (if you break down the initialism), and all of this sits under a 1.65 inch IPS LCD screen showing a resolution of 280×280. With that resolution employed, the screen will show a pixel clarity of 240 pixels per inch.

A microphone is included on the watch as well, as is a nine-axis sensor catering to accelerometer, compass, and a gyroscope. The watch itself takes the standard 22mm watch strap. The G Watch is also IP67 certified for water and dust resistance.

The battery is rated for 400mAh and is charged through a non-standard charge port at the bottom of the watch consisting of five small gold circles that connect to a magnetic charge base, with that part accepting charge through a microUSB port.

Performance

The next big thing is here, at least that’s what we’re being told, and while smartwatches have been around for a couple of years, Google plans to take the world by storm with its Android Wear platform.

In Australia, that starts with LG’s G Watch, one of the first products that Google has made its Android Wear work for, and which borrows technology from the devices you currently carry around with you — smartphones and tablets — and makes them work for a new breed of device you’ll want to carry around with you even more.

That’s the theory, anyway, and the result is the G Watch, a slightly rectangular screen attached to a rubber strap, weighing a little over 60 grams (63g to be precise) and built for your wrist.

We’ve already gone through the specs, so let’s take a look at the design and build, which is reasonably plain, but no more so than Pebble’s own regular smartwatch, which we checked out last year. It’s a relatively simple looking block, but at least it won’t show itself off from a design point of view, letting the watchface do that for you.

In the hands and on the wrist, LG’s G Watch is a little heavier than you might expect, with that plastic and glass box feeling hefty when you pop it on and it flops over your wrist, but once it’s on, it’s comfortable, and certainly as comfy as other smartwatches we’ve worn.

Usability of the G Watch is handled totally through the touchscreen, and like you’ve probably come to expect from modern phones and tablets, is pretty much gesture driven. Swipe up to bring up notifications, browsing through them as you move up and down the list, throwing these messages away with a swipe from left to right, which like in Google’s Now throws the card away.

That’s part of Android Wear, mind you, with the Now card system employed from Google Now also used here, and once you’re done with something, you simply swipe it away.

These cards are based on notifications, and you’re going to get a lot of these throughout the course of your day, and that’s really what Android Wear and the G Watch will help you stay on top of, with the information sent to a 1.65 inch screen on your wrist so you don’t have to take out your phone.

Facebook comments? They’re here. Emails and Gmails? Here, too. Music controls are here too if you’re listening to music, and any other notification that’ll come through on your phone at the time.

They load on the square display, coming to life in colour with a bit of text on your watch and some vibrating haptic feedback, alerting you to what’s happening.

You can usually swipe to the right to see more options, with one almost always being to open the app on the phone, which will happen immediately, showing you those notifications even bigger, much like if you were selecting the notifications from the menu yourself.

You can also talk to your watch, starting it up by either saying “OK Google” as if you owned Google Glass or tapping on the top right to start the process, telling the watch to take a note, remind you of something, show you your steps (which are counted by the sensors), send an email or a text, navigate somewhere, set a timer, start the stopwatch, or set an alarm up.

Most of the time, the translation is good, even with this journalist’s hybrid Australian American accent (he’s an Aussie who grew up in Texas), and we found emails and texts were transcribed pretty well, with only a few errors. That said, we’re still talking to our watch, which feels a little wrong, and is one of the things we’ve tried to avoid doing with other smartwatches as the entire experience in public can make you feel a little awkward.

And when you’re done, you merely need to hold your palm over the watch and feel the vibration motor nudge you, telling you it’ll go to standby, showing only the time and the last notification.

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