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LG G Watch R hands-on: A smartwatch in the form of a standard watch

LG's latest smartwatch looks like a regular watch at first and second glance. It's powered by Android Wear and connects to your Android smartphone.
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LG G Watch and LG G Watch R retail packaging

Motorola announced the Moto 360 back in June at Google I/O. Prior to its release, LG announced the LG G Watch R and it looked like Motorola may have lost the circular Android Wear edge. After using the LG G Watch R for a week, I don't think Motorola has anything to worry about.

LG's first Android Wear device was the LG G Watch, which took a fairly basic approach to Android Wear with a simple rubber band and a chunky square watch face. It is a decent smartwatch, but overpriced at $229. Also, with the second generation of Android Wear supporting heart rate monitoring, offline music, and more, I don't see any reason to pick one of these up.

LG's second Android Wear entry LG G Watch R offers improvements over the G Watch, but it's still a bit of a tough sell at $299.

Hardware

The LG G Watch R looks like a standard watch and that alone may have customers picking it up. On the other hand, I like having discussions with people about the devices I use so something more unique, like the Moto 360, appeals to me.

The LG G Watch R has a thick bezel around the display with incremental time lines every five minutes and 15, 30, and 45 stamped around it. The bezel does not rotate like standard watches that have such bezels and the backwards 30 bothers me.

There is a crown on the right side that takes the watch out of standby and also lets you access the settings with a press and hold.

The plastic OLED display looks fantastic and I really like the way that the standby screen shows me a minimized watch face that is perfectly usable for telling the time. Unliked the Moto 360, the display is set down in the bezel a bit so it has some protection from bumps too. The display is vibrant and clear. It is also a complete circle where the Moto 360 has a "flat tire" at the bottom for sensors.

A heart rate monitor is placed at the center of the back with the charging dock connectors on the left side. It accurately monitored my heart rate throughout the day and with its waterproof rating the LG G Watch R could be used for exercise. A special, custom charging dock is provided with power provided via microUSB.

The included leather strap is a bit stiff out of the box, but has already started to contour and fit better after a week. The LG G Watch R uses standard 22 mm band posts so you can swap out your own band as you like.

It weighs about the same as the Moto 360 and sits well on my wrist. I found it comfortable to wear and think it is an attractive watch for the most part.

Software

The LG G Watch R runs Android Wear and that experience is the same on all of these Android Wear watches. LG has quite a few functional and attractive watch face options, but unlike the Moto 360 there is no Android companion app that lets you customize the watch face.

Android Wear does a good job with notifications, voice control, and the Google Now experience, but there are a few issues with this software. I have yet to find a way to acknowledge all Google Now cards at once and when I ignore the watch for a while and come back to it I tire of all the swiping to clear out the queue.

Unlike the Microsoft Band (see my first impressions of it), after you dismiss a notification there is no way to see it again on the watch.

Final thoughts on the LG G Watch R

If you want an Android Wear smartwatch that looks like a regular watch, then the LG G Watch R is a great option. It feels great on the wrist, has a crisp and clear display, has battery life that will get you through at least one full day, and provides a solid Android Wear experience.

The $299 price is tough to swallow, but if you look at standard watches then it doesn't seem as bad. However, standard watches don't die after a day and battery life is one area where Android Wear suffers across the board.

I personally prefer the Moto 360 for the following reasons:

  • Standard wireless charging: The LG G Watch R requires a proprietary dock so if it dies on you without this available you are out of luck. The Moto 360 uses the Qi standard so as long as you have wireless docks around you can charge it up.
  • Moto Connect app: The Connect Android smartphone app lets you customize watch faces, enter your health profile, and find your watch on a map. The standard Android Wear app is available for the LG G Watch R.
  • Full screen experience: The Moto 360 display goes all the way out to the edge of the watch and looks fantastic. While the LG G Watch R has a full round display, I don't like how it sets back in the watch and has a thick bezel around it.
  • Leather band: The leather band on the Moto 360 feels fantastic right out of the box. The LG G Watch R is stiff and not as distinct.

 

Buying a watch is an even more personal experience than buying a smartphone so everyone's opinions about them are different. Again, if you want an Android Wear watch that looks like a standard watch, then you may find the LG G Watch R to be perfect for you.

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LG G Watch R and LG G Watch

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Back of the LG G Watch, with dock

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Back of the LG G Watch R and dock

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LG G Watch R leather band

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LG G Watch R crown

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Front of the LG G Watch R

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LG G Watch R and LG G Watch

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LG G Watch R and Moto 360

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LG G Watch R on top of the Moto 360

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Back of the LG G Watch R and Moto 360

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Back of the LG G Watch, LG G Watch R, and Moto 360

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LG G Watch, LG G Watch R, and Moto 360

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