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New Gadget: LG Watch R

As you may know I'm eyeing the smart watch market for some time now and I finally decided to buy one.

My LG Watch R arrived yesterday, so there isn't that much insight to share. But I'll do it anyway ;-)


Looks and Hardware

The Watch in dimmed mode

I used to wear a G-Shock MTG900 for several years until I lost it on our US vacation two years ago. So I'm used to a largish, heavy watch.

The LG R is still a bit larger, though much lighter. Official weight is 62g while my G-Shock was 132g. However I decided to replace the original leather band against a metal band which bring the weight up to 112g. I'm thinking about replacing the band against something lighter again.

I wore the G-Shock mostly as a fashion accessory because really it couldn't do more than just displaying the time ;-). The LG watch can do more and still looks very watch like and nice.

It also features the best battery life of the available smart watches currently and should hopefully bring me through a day of use without problems. Coming from a solar powered watch to one that maybe goes for 1.5 days is a big difference. But in the end, I'm not wearing the watch at night. And when I charge my phone why not charge the watch as well?

The charger is very nice. The previous (square) LG watch came with a clip on charger that easily broke. The LG Watch R has a magnetic charging cradle that is easily snapped on the back of the watch. Works totally fine and there's virtually no wear on any part.

Also nice about the LG Watch R: thanks to the bigger battery, the display is always on. Other smart watches switch off the display and only show the time when you turn your wrist. The LG just switches the display and the watch face into dimmed mode. Not all information is shown anymore and the display is only updated every minute, but you can still glance at the time without moving you wrist. Just like a “normal” watch.

Android Wear

The watch is powered by Android Wear (currently at version 5.0.1). Setting it up and pairing it with my Sony Z3 compact worked just fine, even though it's still running KitKat.

Notifications arrive nearly instantly on my watch and everything works fine so far. However there are still many ways this could be improved.

Some apps just make it hard to use their notifications on the watch.

For example Google+ truncates the messages for no reason. I can scroll through the first part of the message just fine, but to read the rest I have to open it on my phone. Why?

Then there's Swarm. What am I supposed to do with this notification?

I see that two friends checked in nearby, but I can't see where. And there's no way to expand this message. BTW. it's different when there's only one Swarm notification. Then I can see details, like it or add a comment. But that seems not to work when there are two.

Most of my notifications come from Whatsapp, which has a decent Android Wear integration. However to reply to a message you can either talk to your watch and hope voice recognition understands you (hint: it never does) or open the app on your phone again. I would love to have a way to simply select from a list of standard replies instead. Because most of the time all that is required is a quick “okay”, “I love you” or “:-)”.

Update: turns out there are auto-replies in Whatsapp. Simply hit reply and scroll down when the “speak now” mic comes up. Unfortunately it seems these auto-replies can't be customized, yet.

I'd also like to have a way to make notification font sizes smaller. The LG watch's display is awesome and my eyes work just fine at an arm's length, so smaller a font would convey more information faster.

Watchface

The cool thing about a smart watch is that it can look whatever you want it to look. All you need is a watch face app like Facer or WatchMaker. Hundreds of watch faces can then be downloaded from facerepo.com or you can make your own.

For now I decided to adjust the Novi Blue face by adding a weather icon, switching it to 24h mode and darkening the colors in dim mode.

There are some settings in Watchmaker I found useful in addition to the watch face itself:

  • Settings → Keep Watch Awake: I increased the time the watch stays lit from the default 5 to 7 seconds, to have a little more time to look at stuff
  • Settings → Card Settings: here I set some option to make my watch face work better with notifications
    • Large Cards: disable
    • Show Unread Card Count: enable
    • Adapt Watch: Unchanged

After settings these options you might need to resend your watch face to the watch.

Apps

So far I tried a couple of apps:

  • Google Music - allows you to remotely control the music playback on your phone (next, prev, volume)
  • WatchMaker - used to create or load your own watchfaces. I picked this one because it can read Facer and WatchMaker files
  • Google Fit - counts your steps
  • HeartSync - allows you to schedule automatic heart rate measurements and store the results in Google Fit
  • Wear Apps Tracker - displays a notification when a new app was synced to your watch
  • Wear Aware - buzzes an alarm on your watch when you leave the range of your phone
  • Wear Mini Launcher - to start apps on your watch without talking to it
  • Kiwi for Android Wear - a way to control your phone through gestures, unfortunately it doesn't work with Google Music on KitKat. But Lollipop will arrive next month on my phone :-)
Tags:
smartwatch, gadget, review, android, wear, lgwatchr
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Posted on Friday, January the 9th 2015 (3 years ago).

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