Quickie Review: LG G Watch R

Interest in wearable tech seems to petered out no thanks to too many project failures over at crowd funding sites (my kreyos…flopped badly) and that leads to a bit of weariness on the part of some consumers who just wanted a notification device, a watch and an activity tracker. Well, Google started the Android Wear OS and then various top electronics manufacturers decided to jump unto the wearable wagon. Samsung, LG, Sony, Asus and Moto all tried their best to capture the imagination of consumers with their early attempts but what makes them all look odd is the fact that either they look to outlandish, squarish or just plain boring. Of course the standard in which the others are looking at is the Pebble and then the Pebble steel which started off as square with e-ink.

The first commercially successful smartwatch with e-ink. At least it kinda look more neutral that you can wear for a lot of occasion. Still choosing the colour would determine how versatile the watch can be.
Much better than the Samsung Gear S but it is still square and can look out of place if one chooses the wrong colour.
LG G Watch 1st generation. Not much different from the Samsung too.
Sony Smartwatch 2. Starting to see a trend here yes?
Woah! That looked much better! At last a smart watch that don’t shout that it is a smartwatch! However it does look fragile, perhaps a bit more on the feminine side of things.
Round face Moto 360 and this started to look good! Well the way the watch is portrayed with its chin up is because there is this ugly black bar at the bottom of the watch face.

Then towards the end of the year, Asus’ Smartwatch caught my attention. Encased in rose gold and leather strap, it would be the perfect dress watch for dinner dates and work. I would love to get one of those but knowing myself, I am more of the casual, rough and tumble types and the Asus smartwatch can’t be anywhere that I want. Still I would want the casing and strap of the watch to look elegant when I am out for dinner or for more formal occasion. In short the Smartwatch can change the watch face to something that is more appropriate for the occasion and the whole watch would look right.

Then things started to get very interesting. The Moto G 360 is the second smartwatch that I have encountered that doesn’t look like a Smartwatch but it still lag that ruggedness I am looking for and yet it does feel that someone just smack an Olympic medallion unto the wrist. And then there’s something I feel is not right, there’s this small back bar at the bottom that just spoiled the whole look. Yes it is a light sensor to adjust the brightness of the screen but still I would endure a bit by not checking time in the middle of the bright afternoon sun. And the way it is designed, the watch strap can’t be changed that easily.

So I set my sight on something that is round and resembles luxury sports watches that would look great in any circumstances. The answer: LG G Watch R

Just see the possibilities below and the watch face combination with those nato nylon watch straps (dirt cheap in Qoo10 and comes in standard 22mm size) and my heart is sold!

So today (13 December 2014) Singtel started selling the LG G Watch R with 20 bucks discount at a price of S$378.00. Yes I agree still a bit pricey but it is still selling like hot cakes on Qoo10 at S$305+S$18 (courier). Yes, why don’t I get it on Qoo10 and saved that S$55?  For one there isn’t a warranty with the Korean set and even if the merchant is trusthworthy, it will take another week for it to arrive (still pretty fast compared to Taobao.com). But still, would how much would it cost to fix the watch if you send it to the local service centre? $50? And can you get a replacement? No, I don’t think so.

The box came like any Android mobile phone but the presentation. WOW!! At least there is some class to it.
Out of the box there was the usual USB charger and cable. Then there’s the cradle to charge the watch with.
So this is where the micro USB is plugged in.
The connector is designed this way is because it is IP67 which is dust and water resistant. I basically can swim with this watch if I want to. In the centre is the heart rate monitor.
The watch in dim mode to conserve energy so it can be always on for the quick glance of the time.

The beautiful thing about smartwatches is not just about notification but also the ability to activate the phone with voice commands and the fun part of changing the watch face. A quick hunt online led me to this download this app called facer into the smartphone (pay S$1.31 for the privilege of using it) and then using the smartphone browser and download watch faces at facerepo.com.

Very simply, run the facer app which is basically a watch face designer app and then it will sync the design into the watch (the watch and smartphone must be connected). However there isn’t much time to design a new watch face but you can download it at facerepo.com. So in the phone browser just click download and open the file with facer app and the design will be in the list of watch face to use.

To upload the watch face, just choose the watch face design you want and then poke the sync to watch button. If you happen to encounter a message to say the design is for Moto 360, just ignore and it will be just fine.

This is the end result. A watch face that looked like Bell&Ross watch. Hmmm..something’s amiss.
The end result: Bell&Ross watch face design with the nylon Nato watch strap in beige colour (around S$6 in Qoo10.sg). Totally love this! I still have other watch straps to go with other watch faces!

How about using the phone? Just go through the tutorial when the smartwatch first started and just do some practice and you will get the hang of things. I have sync the watch with Google Fit and would try it with a bike ride followed by a swim at Sengkang Swimming pool soon. With my short time with the watch, the activity tracker did work.

Then there’s this other app I have installed called Wear Aware -Phone Finder. What it does is to sound the alarm when the watch is too far away from the smartphone. Great for times when you left the phone behind. And if you have forgotten where you left the phone, just activate the app in the watch and the phone will sound the alarm for you to find it. To me, a must have app for Android Wear.

I have more or less tried the voice recognition software. I tried my best to use Singlish as much as possible and it works! Hmmm..have to think how to send text using whatsapp instead.

Further thoughts:

The LG G Watch R basically touched the G spot in terms of how a smart-watch should be like and make it easier for consumers to change straps and customise the watch. I agree this watch is more masculine with the pseudo diver watch bezel. If LG comes out with something that is more unisex by ditching the bezel design, perhaps it would have gotten more fans. And the price is still on the high side at S$378.00. With the same amount of money I could get a very nice stainless steel watch from Seiko or Citizen or a limited edition Casio Edifice. However, it was the versatility and expanded use of my smartphone’s functions and features that seals the deal.

Quite honestly, the traditional watch makers like Rolex, Tag Heuer, Omega, Seiko, Citizen should start thinking how they could integrate interaction between the watch and smartphone. As someone who appreciates the intricacies of watches, going fully digital will lose the beauty of such watches. However ignoring how people will be using their watches in the future would also be foolish too.

My vision would be to integrate the two. The physical watch hands will still be used but the watch face can be an OLED screen and can change the design as and when the user desires. The screen would be a notification screen too but the display design elements can be tweaked by the manufacturers to reflect the brand’s unique aesthetic qualities. Of all the brands, I would really look forward to Swatch or Casio doing such a watch and then allowing users to download Swatch’s uniquely designed watch face and allow users to change it. Perhaps Swatch could open an watch face shop for us to buy the design under Android Wear. Casio’s with its G Shock watches would look cool with the technology too! That would be really cool and save the environment too.

Do stay tune as I experiment more Android Wear apps with this watch.

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