Editor’s Note: LG did not provide this watch for a review. We saw it, thought it actually looked like a real watch, and wanted to take it for a spin. To test its full capabilities, it had to be worn and used to the point of it being non-returnable. Thus… you get a chance to win a lightly used model. See the end of the post for your chance to win it.
“Fashion is temporary and expensive. Style is timeless and affordable.” Those words are printed right there. Right THERE — at the top of the page. Every page, actually, as long as you’re reading this on your laptop and not your phone.
I can’t stop thinking about those words as I stare at the glowing face of the LG Watch Urbane on my wrist. Can those words apply to the ever-growing offerings of smartwatches?
Timeless? Well, the current models shouldn’t be totally out-of-date for a few years, right? I’ve got a buddy with a Pebble Steel. Assuming he bought it on day one (he didn’t), that’s been like 18 months of use (so less in reality). Timelessness might still be a stretch.
Sure looks like a watch. Smart or otherwise.
Affordability then! You can get a Moto 360 for $150. Or an Asus Zenwatch for $130. Or the new Pebble Time for $200. A couple hundred buck is affordable for many of us. But it’s not nearly as affordable a trusty Seiko 5. The LG Watch Urbane is ~$300.
Fine, it’s fashionable. Well, most smartwatches are utilitarian rectangles. The new Pebble Time is basically a toy. The Moto 360 is at least round. But it looks like a hockey puck strapped on your wrist with an incomplete screen. Judged against the rest of the field, the LG Watch Urbane is gorgeous. But it’s not gorgeous. It’s bulbous just like all the rest.
But I like it.
Here’s the thing: Smartwatches are stupid. Smartphones are stupid. Twitter is stupid. So is Facebook, Snapchat, Vine, whatever. But they’re all fun too. There’s this balance of absolute idiocy and legitimate utility in so many things. Smartwaches are the same.
45.5 mm in diameter, and 52 mm (!) from top to bottom. It overwhelms smaller wrists.
So what can it do? The simplest way to imagine it is that an Android Wear watch is Google Now strapped to your wrist. You get the information Google thinks you need when Google thinks you need it. Weather in the morning, stock performance throughout the day, reminders of events saved in your calendar, and always the time. It is still a watch. Plus it does all the fitness tracker stuff a FitBit does. And the LG Watch Urbane will check your pulse too.
But the real power comes if you’re willing to talk to the thing.
If you dismiss the weather notification and want it back, all you need to do is say: “OK, Google. Show me the weather.” Boom. Weather. “What’s the weather in Paris?” will tell you, well, what the weather in Paris is. It’s a little weird. Here’s a list of a few commands to try. The greater question to ask though is: “Are you going to be a guy that talks to his watch?” And if so, how do you look in a yellow Fedora?
One of the many face styles you can switch to on the Urbane.
If you’re stuck in a conference room most days and you don’t want to be one of those guys constantly fondling his phone, a smartwatch makes sense. Something happens. Notification. Glance. Decision. Done. Others around you get the buzz or the beep, they plunge into their pockets or grab their phones off the table. Turn them on. Unlock. Swipe. Swipe. I guess I’ll check Clash of Clans. Anybody new on Tinder? Head down. Gone. Never done. Sucked into the blackhole.
Or maybe you’re in a classroom or you do a lot of job training or you just want to glance at things between appointments without pulling out your phone. The smartwatch makes sense. It makes things better. It makes it easier to ignore the phone and the distraction it contains.
Personally, I hate it when people pull out their phones and balance them on the bar or on the table we’re eating at. They may not mean to communicate this, but the message I receive is: “I can’t wait to be distracted from you.” The smartwatch avoids that.
And so I explain that to my wife. I had been in an all-day training session and was falling in love with the LG Urbane. “See — I’m not looking at my phone,” I brag. We were at a restaurant together. I was staring at my wrist.
“You’re looking at your wrist just as much — if not more,” she replied. “You’re still distracted.”
“Did I tell you I can use it to check my heart rate?” I replied.
I’m not sure what she replied, but I was at 77 beats per minute.
Your watch now boots up. And can crash.
tl;dr – LG Watch Urbane Review:
- Smartwatches are kinda ugly and expensive, but the LG Watch Urbane isn’t that expensive and isn’t that ugly.
- It can really help you stay informed in work/school settings where staring at your phone is a faux pas.
- The heart rate monitor is cool. The strap is just OK.
- You can replace the LG’s strap with any 22mm strap with spring bars, and you will probably want to replace the strap. Just don’t get a NATO strap — it’ll cover the heart-rate sensor.
- Depending on how you cross your arms, you will likely confuse the touchscreen with your opposite forearm when wearing short sleeves. It’s annoying and I warned you.
- Battery life is either impressive or dreadful depending on your expectations. Mine always lasted over a day. And it charged quickly. I was impressed.
- It is big. If your OCBDs are tight around the wrist, this watch will not fit underneath.
Should you get one? Maybe. The Sony Smartwatch 3 may make sense if you want to use it more for activity tracking. That watch has a built-in GPS that’ll track your running routes. No heart-rate monitor though. The Asus Zenwatch makes sense if you want to save some money and not lose too much style. The Moto 360 is a much cheaper round option — just realize it’s big going in.
But you don’t need to decide — you can win THIS watch.
Enter here to win the gently used LG Watch Urbane shown above. Deadline for entry is 12:59 PM ET on 8/12/15.
UPDATE: Congrats to K. Mulgrew who won the drawing for the LG Watch Urbane!
Paul manages the technical guts of Dappered.com and Dappered Threads and writes the very occasional technology post. He recently launched Hacker Casual, a fashion blog for the jeans and hoodie crowd. He does not have big wrists.