LG Urbane Hands on review – Possibly the best Android Wear smartwatch

A perfect fit

This week we have been trialling the LG Urbane, my first fear was the smartwatch was going to be some monstrous hulking mass of tech and metal, however much to my surprise, my fears were unfounded, the watch is very comfortable, making sure the watch strap is tight enough, I barely notice I’m wearing it. I am definitely making this my primary go to watch…

 

How does it feel to wear..

Having worn a watch for years, the LG Urbane doesn’t feel out of place on my wrist at all, the other thing you immediately notice is the weight is very light for a watch, if you have worn a steel watch for any amount of time, you will appreciate how heavy these can be. However as I have been wearing a titanium watch, which is a lot lighter than steel, I was glad to find that the LG Urbane does not add any weight that would be uncomfortable and quickly forgot it was on my wrist.

Is it a good replacement?

This is an interesting question, and best answered if you are someone who likes wearing watches in the first place, if you simply can’t live without wearing a watch then the LG Urbane will right at home and it is definitely a good way to break into the smartwatch craze without feeling you are giving up the pleasure of wearing a watch.

If you however are just looking for the technical appeal of a smartwatch, then the LG Urbane is a great way to get into wearing watches, whilst having some of the newest forms of technology to boot. The LG Urbane finds itself in an unusual situation, where it is an emerging early adopter piece of technology, but at the same time in equal parts, an ubiquitous experience straight out of the box, allowing it to cater to both tech enthusiasts and more discerning every day consumers not wanting to stand out too much. Truly it allows it fade into the background and the pleasure of wearing a watch, but spring into the forefront of your day for the micro-moments when something needs your attention and then back again, waiting for its next duty.

This experience is largely down to the round face letting me forget that I am wearing a smartwatch, however the circular display is not without it’s drawbacks which are discussed below.

 

Smartwatch vs Activity tracker

This debate certainly deserves it’s own section, activity trackers have come along over the years, but so have smartwatches, being able to emulate most of the functions of popular trackers, in fact going full circle as the Fitbit Charge has done to tell the time, there is only limited space on your wrist and a smartwatch gives you far more bang for your buck than the best trackers. The LG Urbane really shines here, it is best parts smartwatch and best parts activity tracker… Having all the right sensors it is able to track your workouts, your heart rate and tell the time. It can handle everything you can expect to do and having full convergence more than justifies it’s price, with the LG Urbane you won’t need to worry about acitivy trackers.

Google Now and notifications

I have always been a firm believer of staying within one technology eco-system and this is where the Android system really does bear fruit. If you have been using Google and Gmail for a while you will be accustomed to the subtle but informative notifications Google Now starts to surface based on your online habits. These are now front and centre on your wrist and really do make sense of what Google was trying to achieve with Google Now. In fact after setting up my smartwatch its first task was to inform me that it had been delivered by Amazon.. How cute, a watch that is able to tell me of it’s own arrival….

If you have not paid alot of attention to Google Now, then spend some time looking into it, as it’s a product that constantly evolves to find more and more useful information to notify you about, from Twitter messages, RSS feeds, share prices or just the weather, there isn’t any limitation for the sort of information Google can find for you, which shows how limitless the Android Wear platform can be, extending it to be far far more than just mirroring your phone notifications.

 

OK Google Find me pizza!

The voice commands are pretty incredible, achieving a very high degree of accuracy, from finding things to search for, measuring your heart rate, starting music or more importantly transcribing a message back to a friend. All of these were done without any frustration and the watch quick to respond to me harping “Ok Google”, you definitely feel less ridiculous when the watch responds the first time.

 

Should you buy it?

If you’re looking for a new piece of technology to add to your mobile arsenal or purposefully dabble in the world of smartwatches then yes it is well worth the premium over other devices on aesthetics alone… At the end of the day the Urbane has been created for those of want the technology to blend into our daily lives and not just force us to make room for it or have to find a reason to use it.

Drawbacks

The LG Urbane is not perfect, but then no technology is, the only real criticism is the circular display will cut off a small amount of detail, however the point of buying the LG Urbane is that you want a circular design so that it resemables a regular watch, with this in mind the small amount of information loss at the sides is a small price to pay. At the end of the day the notifications are meant to give you a gist of what’s going on, to draw your attention to something of relevance, rather than being your primary way to consume it. So for this having a few missing characters can be forgiven, however as this is a software problem I expect this to improve in the future as circular displays become the mainstream.

No NFC or GPS, may be viewed by some as a real deal breaker, however these were purposely excluded by LG. GPS adds to the battery consumption, and doesn’t really add any useful functionality. As a device intended to replace a dress watch, you would not expose it to the hazards of bikes rides or general sporting use, so there isn’t any real use case for a GPS in every day use. NFC is only really useful for Google Wallet, however how useful is it to pay using your wrist and the added power draw of constantly having NFC enabled mitigates any real use it has. The LG Urbane does have a bigger brother featuring all of these missing features, however it does not run Android Wear, which severely limits its utility, without Google Now, the watch is just merely a glorified digital watch.

 

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