LG Watch Urbane review

LG Watch Urbane review

LG brings the bling to Android Wear but is it enough?
LG Watch Urbane review

Android Wear needs to catch a break. Something to bring it out of a smartwatch sales slump. Something to match the desirability of the Apple Watch. Something to give its wearable tech platform that eureka moment.

LG reckons the Watch Urbane is it. The third Google-powered smartwatch in 12 months from the Korean company is essentially a prettified G Watch R and that's no bad thing.

It's also the first smartwatch to officially get the latest Android Wear update though it has already been caught up.

Essential reading: Best smartwatch 2015 round-up

The $349 Urbane might fool your friends into thinking it's a watch ten times the price but is it enough of a leap in both form and function to cement Android Wear's position as the only platform wearable tech needs? Not quite.

Read on to find out why not...

LG Watch Urbane: Design

Whether you get the silver or gold finished stainless steel Watch Urbane, one thing is for sure. It's shiny shiny. There's no missing it. The full round, now smaller but still sizeable bezel is seriously eye- and light-catching.

Read this: A straight up guide to the Apple Watch for women

In fact, it's bordering on bling. Unlike the more premium-looking, understated Watch Urbane LTE with its classic watch shape and extra physical buttons, the Watch Urbane looks much more fashion and attention seeking.

What's great though is that we now have plenty of variety in terms of Android Wear aesthetics. Sporty Sony SmartWatch 3. Subtle Asus ZenWatch. Or this bold, brash LG Watch Urbane. None are exactly exquisitely made but the classy and compact Huawei Watch is on the way as is the Moto 360 2.

Back to the Urbane. It's a well made, solid slab of smartwatch - those lugs especially add to the size on the wrist and, while at 10.9mm it's no chunkier than other smartwatches, the size does add to this feeling of wearing a huge wearable for women.

That said, our editor-in-chief Paul Lamkin got on well with the Urbane, so this could ultimately come down to the size of your wrists. And its IP67 water and dust resistant which is handy and surprising for a 'style' watch like this one.

As for the strap, the brown leather option here with stitching detail is an improvement on the G Watch R but it's seriously stiff until worn in and still feels a little cheap next to what you'd get with a classic timepiece. We've had the Mondaine Smart Helvetica strapped on at the same time and the leather is a world apart. The good news is that it can be swapped out to improve the overall look and feel of the watch.

We might have fooled some onlookers who told us it looked like a Hublot, but the Watch Urbane is expensive for an Android Wear watch and it doesn't always feel it. Those lugs don't curve around the wrist and not everyone will like the fact that the screen is inset a little, making swiping through Cards a bit trickier.

Put it this way, no-one is going to swoon over the Watch Urbane but it'll look good with a suit and that might be exactly what you're looking for.

LG Watch Urbane: Screen and battery life

As we mentioned, the Urbane is a re-styled G Watch R which benefits from new features in the Android Wear update. That means that everything we liked about LG's second smartwatch stays the same.

Hands on: LG Watch Urbane LTE review

It's the same clear, sharp 1.3-inch circular P-OLED which is easy to read indoors and out. We wish it had an ambient light sensor to automatically take care of brightness - this seems an annoying omission on a so-called premium watch.

We are also getting used to larger smartwatch screens - the Sony's SW3's 1.6-inch display for instance packaged into tidy designs. Still, Android Wear hasn't changed too much and it still largely just displays one Card at a time so the Urbane's screen does this job well.

Battery life is at the top end of what to expect from Android Wear - the 410mAh battery has given us at least a day and a half of normal Watch Urbane use with the always-on screen on. That is, when we weren't hammering it trying out features and using voice commands much more than any normal person would.

If you want to stretch it to two days, you're best to turn the always-on screen function off. For now, two days is the best you can expect for wearables with this kind of all-singing, all-dancing screen and software.

The charging puck is neat enough and it charges quickly but we'd still prefer either a Micro USB port hidden on the inside of the smartwatch like the SmartWatch 3 or a bundled, wireless charging dock like the Moto 360.

LG Watch Urbane: Features

There's big changes for Android Wear and for a full rundown, check out our updated Android Wear review. It might be the same specs as the G Watch R but the combination of the new styling and the updated OS does make this feel like a completely fresh experience.

The basics of Android Wear are the same - a series of traditional looking, round digital watch faces to choose from and Cards with notifications popping up onscreen with a vibration. Plus extras such as offline music playback and find my phone.

The biggest new feature is the ability of some smartwatches - the Urbane, SmartWatch 3 and others but not the G Watch R - to connect to your smartphone remotely over Wi-Fi. This one-ups the Apple Watch which can only connect to your phone when they are both connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

This is useful, for instance, for connecting to your office's network but in practice you need your phone to connect to new secured networks, say your local coffee shop. And we never felt comfortable leaving our phone at home - Android Wear was never meant to replace it. Still, in big homes and offices it will be handy, not to mention being able to turn Bluetooth off on your phone if you're worried about draining that device's battery.

Navigating around Android Wear has been cleaned up with easier access to apps (press the side button or tap once on the watch face), a list of contacts and some quick settings, essentially providing what third party apps popped up with after the launch last year.

It's actually now quicker to jump into apps on the Urbane than the Apple Watch as you get the app name too but, of course, Apple has essentially already overtaken Android Wear in terms of big names and creative titles.

If you got excited about LG's confusing Call app, just remember the Urbane has a mic for voice controls and (mostly accurate) dictation but not a speaker so it's just a pretty dialler.

There's also now the option to draw emojis onto the smartwatch touchscreen in messages, an attempt to rival Apple's Digital Touch shenanigans. It might sound silly but if you can stand to use emojis, they make sense as a form of on-the-go communication suited to a watch.

Showdown: Android Wear v Apple Watch

Neither Android Wear nor Watch OS has really cracked how to make using smartwatches a seamless part of our lives. This update really helps things along and the Watch Urbane's Snapdragon 400 processor keeps things zipping along but there's still some way to go.

LG Watch Urbane: Fitness

Fitness types might not gravitate to the Watch Urbane but it's worth assessing how it performs as a sports smartwatch.

First up, there's an optical heart rate sensor on the back which can give you an on the spot reading via the LG Pulse app as well as continuous tracking.

We went for a run with the Watch Urbane and while it wasn't exactly comfortable, it gave readings within 5bpm of the very accurate Wahoo Tickr X chest strap. Whether that's good enough for you depends on how seriously you take your stats in training.

There is of course Google Fit integration - this works without wearables on Android phones and has a decent number of partners now. But it is really lagging behind the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone in terms of what you get out of the app. Apart from a few graphs for active time and steps, there not much data or insights to motivate you.

The IP67 rating means it can be immersed in water down to 1m so showerproof, essentially, but you'll no doubt be wearing it with a leather strap so that defeats the point. There's no built-in GPS either so for accurately tracking runs, you'll need another sports watch or tracker.

So if you're looking for something with the features and platform that the Garmin Vivoactive offers but with stylish looks, the Watch Urbane isn't quite it.


LG Watch Urbane
By LG
The Watch Urbane does a nice job of looking like a traditional wristwatch and it follows the G Watch R in bringing solid performance and battery life to Android Wear. Still, it's expensive now with Android Wear prices tumbling in recent months. And it falls just short of being either so beautifully crafted we have to have it or so genuinely useful that it blows its direct competition out of the water. We've seen a lot of smartwatch attempts from LG and this is a huge improvement over 2014's boring square G Watch. If you're more interested in a slightly flashy, tech companion than tracking health and fitness, the Watch Urbane makes sense. But only if you're willing to splash out on the style.

Hit
  • Good battery life
  • Style will suit some
  • New Android Wear updates
  • Great display
Miss
  • Expensive
  • No GPS for sports
  • Feels big on smaller wrists
  • Leather strap feels cheap

8 Comments

  • Disapponted says:

    Extremely disappointing.

    The LG Urbane watch is far from the device it appeared to be in commercials and reviews.

    The first place to fail is configurability. You are assumed to be living in an English speaking country and read everything in Fahrenheit and mph. U.K., USA, Canada etc is all the same.

    You may speak German and read temperatures in Celcius and speeds in km/h, but only if you speak and read German. The is no detailed configuration possibilities whatsoever.

    This is a no-go. Last LG product to me - ant second hand buyer?

    • HarryJang1 says:

      I'd buy it if you name the price on eBay 

    • DanB says:

      Hmm. Canadian here, and I'm getting Celsius + kilometres in English on my very recently acquired LG G Watch Urbane. I assume it simply mirrors your Android phone's settings.

  • giftandcurse521 says:

    can you now respond to text or notifications from the watch

    • LGuser says:

      Yes, you can, just swipe to the right and you can reply to the message by speaking it to your watch. Only problem is that it is sending the message direct to sender, so if there is a type error in the text you can not change it before sending...

  • mr_magookw says:

    can I take phone calls and talk from the watch ? as well can I read my whatsapp msgs

  • ExpatsMortgages says:

    What a great looking piece of equipment. I hope it functions as it looks as i want one

  • Ralph64 says:

    Had this device for about a week now and one thing is for sure - there ain't nothing "just do this or that " with it at all. It's terrible unstable and 9 times out of 10 it doesn't work at all. Sometimes voice command work in one function but not in another. Find my phone doesn't work at all. Every now and then the software just crash. I hade a Pebble before and part from being ugly and poor build quality it worked all the time. To bad because I really love the look of the LG Watch Urbane

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