Running with the LG Watch Sport: Accuracy, simplicity, and safety for a few hours

The LG Watch Sport is the first Android Wear 2.0 device to launch with LTE support and this big beast of a smartwatch is clearly focused on the fitness market.

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Google

The LG Watch Sport is clearly focused on the fitness market and for the past week I have taken one out for several runs as I pound the pavement during my marathon training regime. The LG Watch Sport is the first Android Wear 2.0 device that was also designed in partnership with Google.

ZDNet's Jason Cipriani took a look at the LG Watch Sport in his full review, but I wanted to test one out primarily for running, daily activity tracking, and other fitness activities. There are some great aspects of this smartwatch, but other areas that disappointed me and left me with the same conclusion that Jason made that the Samsung Gear S3 may still be the best smartwatch for Android phone users.

Accuracy

One of the first things I do when I test out a new GPS watch is strap on one or more other GPS-enabled devices to test the accuracy and functionality during my runs. The Garmin Fenix 3 HR currently serves as my benchmark device, although the Apple Watch Series 2 matches the Fenix 3 HR.

I installed the Runkeeper app on the LG Watch Sport and discovered that this watch tracks well with the Garmin, even better than the Gear S3 has over the past couple months.

It's frustrating when a GPS watch gives you wildly different results, but I'm seeing something like a 500 feet difference over five miles here. Pace, heart rate, and calories burned are also measured and seem to track well. I don't train to a heart rate so wrist-mounted wearables are fine for me to see trends and view average rates.

Simplicity

I tested the preview version of Android Wear 2.0 on the Huawei Watch, but find the final release and optimized rotating crown of the LG Watch Sport to offer a much better experience. Google Assistant is also proving to be extremely accurate and useful on the LG Watch Sport.

I originally only planned to use the LG Watch Sport to track my running, but found the new Google Fit Workout app to be a great way to enhance my activities. The push-up, situp, and squat challenges are awesome and using the Seven stand-alone app is helping me complete body weight workouts to supplement my running and tone me up a bit.

Pressing the top right button on the watch to launch the Google Fit Workout app emphasizes that Google and LG want you to use this watch for fitness tracking. The entire experience is simple and effective.

Safety

The only reason I choose to run with my phone is when I plan to capture photos. I do this a lot when I am traveling for business, but prefer to run without a phone at home. However, I am also getting older and like the peace of mind that a LTE-enabled watch provides as I run all over the city.

The LG Watch Sport is sold by AT&T and Verizon, but all of them are SIM-unlocked. LG sent me an eval unit with an AT&T SIM inside, but it was not activated for service. I used the handy tool included in the box and popped in my T-Mobile SIM.

After a restart, T-Mobile service appeared and the watch has performed just fine with T-Mobile. I have been making calls and sending text messages, thanks in large part to the simplicity of Google Assistant. It would be great to have a series of button presses or a shortcut to contact your emergency list, similar to what Samsung provides on the Gear S3, but you can press and hold the rotating crown and have Google Assistant contact someone.

I do not advise that you keep LTE on all the time though as battery life becomes atrocious. I resorted to just turning it on when I ran for safety reasons.

Other thoughts on using the LG Watch Sport

Battery life: The first day I went running with the LG Watch Sport, I saw a battery consumption rate of about 0.85 percent per minute. During daily wear, I was seeing a low battery warning after just nine hours with a dead watch after 10.5 hours. This was with LTE, WiFi, and NFC all toggled off. This is terrible battery life and with this experience I would never advice anyone to buy the watch. I knew something must be wrong or else everyone at LG and Google were testing in an unrealistic manner.

After the watch died, I put it on the terribly designed wireless charging stand and let it recharge overnight. The next day I saw amazing battery life with 70 percent left after 10 hours of standard smartwatch use with no LTE, WiFi, or NFC. With a run, I saw a battery consumption rate of about 0.55 percent per minute. Since that day when the battery fully died, the LG Watch Sport has performed well and gotten me through a day of typical usage. Enabling LTE still kills it quickly though so that only goes on when I run.

Size: I have fairly big wrists and am comfortable wearing big watches as you can see by my daily wear of the massive Garmin Fenix 3 HR. The LG Watch Sport has about the same thickness, but a smaller overall diameter so the size didn't bother me. However, this is definitely not a petite watch and is quite a bit thicker than my Samsung Gear S3.

Design and looks: It's hard to tell from photos, but the LG Watch Sport is impressively well made with a 316L stainless steel body and large, easy-to-use buttons. The TPU strap is rigid and my best fit seems to fall just between a couple notches so it's a bit too tight or too loose, depending on which hole I go with at the time.

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