LG G Watch R review: The future on my wrist

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Two weeks on and sending a text to someone by talking into my phone hasn’t got tired.

I still get a kick out of it, actually, and it’s something that I love about my LG G Watch R smart watch. It’s something that impresses people, too, which is a nice bonus.

I wasn’t planning on buying a smart watch: It was something that was on my “It would be nice to have” lists but wasn’t a necessity. I had other things that were more important. But when I saw a near-new LG Smart Watch come up for sale on TradeMe then a Buy Me price appear, I just had to have it, despite internally debating with myself on whether I should buy it or not.

A few clicks later and it was mine.

I can’t say I’ve regretted it, either. I feel like I’m living in the future being able to do things like send texts and emails, start up external apps on my phone like Strava and search for directions.

The design

Why did I pick an LG G Watch R? (I’m still not sure about the name, though). Well, I wanted a smart watch that looked like a normal watch and not some techno-gadget from the future.

And LG’s latest smart watch looks like a normal watch, and I like that about it. I also don’t mind the size of it, either. I’ve read complaints about its large bezel and size but as someone who has worn Casio G-Shock watches since  I don’t  know when I find the size perfect for my wrists – and I don’t have massive wrists.

I like the fact that the glass itself is recessed below the bezel, too: It offers protection from some knocks, although I wear it to my part-time job which is physical and I did wonder whether I could damage it. People at work that have seen it have mentioned that it looks like a watch and not a piece of tech. That’s something  that I wanted from a smart watch: Something that does the things a smart watch does but looks like a standard timepiece. It helps that it has a leather strap not a plastic strap.

Heart rate: The heart rate sensor is in the middle of the backplate. The five brass charging pins are to the left.

Heart rate: The heart rate sensor is in the middle of the backplate. The five brass charging pins are to the left.

This watch looks classy and expensive, so LG have nailed the design perfectly. Interestingly, there is a heart rate monitor sensor on the underside of the watch and you can use your voice to get the watch to take your heart rate. It’s a cool feature after exercise but I found that it works better with the sensor up against the underside of your wrist.

The watch came with a cradle that you put it into to charge it (there are five pins on the underside) that match the pins on the charger. Like my smart phone, I tended to charge it every night – it’s just a routine that I’ve got into – but I could probably get away with charging it every two days.

The software

Like other Android-based smart watches, LG’s Watch R uses Android Wear to run apps. It needs some fine tuning but overall, the experience has been positive so far.

During the initial set up process you choose your language and connect it to your phone via bluetooth, meaning it has access to stored contacts.

There aren’t a lot of useful apps for the watch yet but I’m sure over time that will improve. Let’s face it: Smart watches aren’t a necessity so developers are probably still working out how popular they are and what to build for them.

I haven’t installed any third-party apps yet.  I’ve just stuck with what was pre-installed on the watch and I’ve mainly used my smart watch to send texts to friends and family and do things like find out what the weather’s like where I am, how far it is to somewhere I’m going and start up apps like third-party app Strava when I’m bike riding or going for a run.

These are all things that I could start with my phone but it’s just so much easier to talk to my watch and do it. Sending texts is as easy as saying “Ok, Google”then dictating your message. I found that if you pause too long between words the watch will thing you’ve finished and send the message to the recipient.

In the beginning I send quite a few half-written texts because I’d paused too long while thinking what to say. I’ve also learned that I have to say “fullstop”, “question mark” and “comma”if I want to insert those punctuation devices into a text. I have to say, though, I’m impressed with Google’s voice recognition software as many devices just can’t seem to pick up the New Zealand accents peculiarities.

As a test, I wanted to see how the watch would handle me sending a text message to my daughter Siobhan,  a name that has caused teachers consternation so I guessed it would do the same for a smart watch. I was wrong: I expected the watch to throw up all variations of her name when I dictated a message to her but no, it got her name right first time.

Every now and then, though, it would have trouble understanding what I’d said and I noted that when there was a lot of background noise it would take a while to respond to my commands, but overall, the voice recognition worked really well.

It had a few missteps, though: Once the voice recognition activated when I coughed while driving in the car.

Sapphire and world clock Two of the pre-installed watch faces on the LG G Watch R.

Sapphire and world clock Two of the pre-installed watch faces on the LG G Watch R.

IMAG0301The watch comes pre-loaded with quite a few watch faces, which you can change by pressing and holding the screen then scrolling through until you find the watch face you like. There’s a good selection of pre-installed ones including one with a world clock, a moon face, a hiking one with a compass and a classic watch face. You can download more faces from the Google Play Store (some are free, some cost a dollar or two).

Niggles

There isn’t a lot I dislike about the LG G Watch R but for some reason, every three days or so, the Watch R decides to loose the bluetooth connection with my phone and no matter how many times I tried to re-connect it, it refused to play ball. It meant that I had to reset my watch, meaning I had to go through the whole pairing/tutorial process again. That was frustrating to say the least.

Also, I quickly learned that to keep the phone connected to my phone I had to have it with me: A couple of times at the start I left my phone in, say, the kitchen then went to my bedroom, suddenly realising bluetooth doesn’t stretch that far.

What that means is that I’m still dependent on having my phone with me at all  times: Were not at the stage where I can leave my phone in the car, nip into the supermarket and still have connectivity through my watch.I still need to use my phone to respond to social media and the like.

The navigation using the watch isn’t that great: It misunderstood the street near my house several times so I gave up. I think if all you want is the nearest petrol station or restaurant then you’ll be fine but if you want the strangely spelt street near your house, you might be out of luck. It seems to be able to find directions to the nearest petrol station if you ask for directions to the nearest gas station.!

The price is also a little off putting. I wouldn’t have paid $479 (I think that’s what the LG G Watch R retails for in NZ) for it. I’m just lucky I found a cheap one ($200 does seem cheap) on an auction website. If I change anything, I might look at replacing the watch strap, but because it uses a standard watch size that should be easy. I hear LG does a sports model that is rubbery not leather.

The verdict

I’m loving my LG G Watch R and what it can do and I really think I’ve checked my phone a lot less since I’ve had it. Now, if I get a notification or an alert I just quickly glance at my watch and if it’s important I go to my phone but if it’s unimportant I disregard it.

It’s meant I spend less time looking at my phone and more time aware of what’s going on. Android Wear is a work-in-progress and I’m sure it’ll improve over time as will the number of must-have apps for the watch.

I have to say, though, the biggest thing I like is that  LG’s latest smart watch looks like, well, a smart timepiece not a futuristic wrist computer. I like that.

A smart watch isn’t a necessity – I know that – so I can’t recommend you rush out and buy one, but it is pretty cool having one where you can dictate messages to it and it’ll send them to people. I’m sure over time the functionality will improve, too.

But right now, I’ve got some Minority Report shit happening on my wrist.

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