LG Watch Urbane review: All that glitters is not rose gold
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(Pocket-lint) - LG launched the Watch Urbane to the world, saying it was time to step forward with luxury accessories that people would really want to wear.
Presented in stainless steel or rose gold, the LG Watch Urbane looks to take a more traditional approach to this very modern of gadgets. Even the somewhat obscure name points at refinement.
But LG's efforts might be slightly misplaced. Spare us a few minutes as we tell you the tale of the LG Watch Urbane.
The Watch Urbane is all about a new design for a higher level of sophistication, as this is essentially the same device we saw previously in the LG G Watch R.
There's now a quality leather strap, neatly stitched down the edges. The 22mm size is entirely conventional, so you'll easily be able to switch it out if you fancy a change. It's nice and comfortable too, although you'll want to give it a week or so to soften up before it sits comfortably around your wrist.
The watch itself sticks to that round face - and completely round, unlike the Moto 360 - giving it a more conventional look than some alternatives. It's then treated to metal bodywork, again reinforcing that traditional timepiece look.Pocket-lint
There's a button on the side to give it watch-like looks. This either wakes the display (short press) or enters the menu (long press). It looks right, but in the time we've been wearing the Watch Urbane we haven't actually used it, because it isn't necessary.
At first glance, the Urbane looks like good quality - that was our first impression. But all that glitters is not rose gold (or stainless steel). Although the dial itself is a fairly regular size for a watch, the rest of the body bulks things up a little too much and it's a little bland in design. It measures 45.5mm wide, by 11mm thick.
But when talking about size, it's not the the thickness or the diameter that bothers us, it's the lugs to which the strap attaches. These make the Watch Urbane wider than it should be, at 52.2mm, which is wider than a conventional mechanical watch and almost wider than our wrist.
We have watches the with the same diameter face, with tapered lugs that fit much better and we can't help feeling that LG designed a watch that looked good on the bedside table, rather than a watch that wears well. Size is subjective - it will fit some with no complaints at all - but that's not the only shortcoming of the design.Pocket-lint
Despite the play to the urbane, the luxury pitch talking about sophistication and branding it as a "smartpiece", the thing we like the least about the LG Watch Urbane is its plastic back. That's the part that touches your skin, sounds hollow when you tap it and it really does take the shine off that glossy exterior.
Let's put this in context: the LG Watch Urbane costs £259, only £40 less than the Apple Watch Sport. In terms of materials and build quality we think LG has set the price too high, especially when the Asus ZenWatch offers refinement and sophistication for £199, some £60 less.
There isn't a huge degree of differentiation in Android smartwatch hardware. As we said, the Watch Urbane is basically the G Watch R in a new coat, and the star of the show is the round watch face.
There's a 1.3-inch 320 x 320 pixel (245ppi) P-OLED display which is actually round, meaning the Watch Urbane wins points against many smartwatch rivals, although the same is true of the LG G Watch R. It responds well to touch, has the brightness to be visible in sunny conditions and avoids the Moto 360's annoying flat tyre looks.Pocket-lint
As previously, you get always-on options, with LG's watchfaces converting to slightly simpler, static versions, losing the second hand for example, to save on battery life.
Powering the Urbane is 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 512MB RAM. There's 4GB of storage, which is standard for Android Wear devices at present, meaning you can transfer some music to the device for playback via Bluetooth headphones if you wish.
There's no GPS on board, so this watch doesn't work independently as a sports tracker like the Sony SmartWatch 3, but it does have a plenty of other sensors, so it can track motion, pressure change and even has a compass. On the rear is an optical heart-rate sensor which works well enough if the watch is on tightly. And we do mean tight.
It also features Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth, meaning that you can connect independently to Wi-Fi networks thanks to the latest Android Wear software it debuts.
We've been waiting for Android Wear to take some big steps forward and now it feels like it's getting there. The LG Watch Urbane introduced Android Wear 5.1, and this iteration is much more mature than it was previously.
The big change that comes with 5.1 is the core navigation. Previously it was a struggle to get to apps, but the latest update now gives you access directly to a list of apps, swiping across to contacts, before getting to the voice control screen that Android Wear used to use as its starting point.Pocket-lint
The motion sensors of the Watch Urbane are also put to good use, letting you flick through notifications with your wrist. At first we weren't convinced this was going to work, but it's actually very useful. A flick of the wrist towards you moves down the list, also moving notifications off the display. A flick up, or motion away from you, reverses the direction. This means you can effectively scroll through your notifications.
Yes, it's still a little annoying when Android Wear presents your notifications you get stacks of things you probably don't need - like the weather again, or all the appointments from your work Google calendar - so we still think there's needed refinement for control over what you see, but it's now easier to get through them when you've got your hands full.
We mentioned Wi-Fi before and this will allow you to connect to friendly networks. You can't input security details on the watch itself, meaning all the details need to be in your phone. But if your phone has Wi-Fi network credentials, then the watch will be able to connect to them independently.
Why would you want to do this? It means you can leave your phone somewhere and stay in the picture. This isn't quite an independent solution, but if your phone is upstairs and you're in your concrete basement connected to Wi-Fi, you'll still get notifications, even if your Bluetooth connection is severed.
READ: Android Wear 5.1 review: One small step for Android Wear...Best smartwatch 2022: Top Android and iPhone wearables for every budget By Conor Allison · 29 December 2021
We've broken down the new Android Wear 5.1 additions in a separate feature, but suffice to say, the experience is now much more refined than it was before. Bear in mind, however, that these features will roll-out to other Android Wear devices, so the Watch Urbane won't be unique in these regards in the near future.
LG software additions
LG has added some of its own watch faces. There's a selection that match the traditional ambitions of the Urbane - there's the chronometer, for example, as well as plenty of others that look good.
There's a hiking watch face that will show you steps, altitude and a compass. We used this on a jaunt up Snowdon in north Wales, and it recorded the summit at 1041m, a little lower than the 1085m recorded height, but close enough to be useful.Pocket-lint
There are two other LG additions. The LG Pulse app does exactly what you expect it to. It records your pulse and keeps a log. But we've struggled to find a use for it given that Google Fit also offers fitness functions.
Then there's LG Call. This duplicates some of Android Wear's built-in functions (allowing you to access recent calls or call your Android favourites), but it also includes a dialer, so you can initiate calls to new numbers. It's useful to a point: the calls you make need to be taken on your phone, as you can't use the Watch Urbane for calls in the same way you can the Apple Watch with a speaker (you probably wouldn't want to either). That means the use cases are potentially limited, but there may be the off chance you're connected to a Bluetooth headset and want to dial a number without getting your phone out.
If you're looking for a step-change in battery life from the smartwatch norm of one day, then you'll be very much disappointed. The LG Watch Urbane's battery performance is very much as it was in the G Watch R, and how it is on other competitor devices.Pocket-lint
With a 410mAh capacity battery, this is still a device that you'll want to set on the charger every night. In our testing, we've had a few alerts on long days that the battery was running out, but typically we've made it through a busy day and home in time to get it charged.
The charger is a magnetic plate that the watch sits on, charging via the contact pins on the rear. This connects to a standard Micro-USB, so on your travels you only need to take the base with you and you can stick to using your regular phone charger cable.Verdict
The LG Watch Urbane sets the bar high, but misses the mark. It's the most expensive Android Wear device, but not the best quality smartwatch out there. If it was late 2014 then we might feel differently, but the market has moved forward.
We also think it's £50 too expensive. It's too much more than it's sophisticated rival, the Asus ZenWatch, and doesn't have the quality of build or design to sit so close to the Apple Watch Sport in price. They may be different platforms for different users, but that's likely to be the standard for price comparison.
There's a whole lot that's positive about the LG Watch Urbane however. It does give you a more sophisticated look and, if it fits, it's a more elegant look than some of the toy-like rivals. Then you have the latest Android Wear 5.1 software offering, battery life that matches its rivals, and there's a proper round display too.
If you're in the market for an Android Wear device, we'd urge you to try the Watch Urbane before you buy. It's a device with great potential, but the design isn't quite as sophisticated as the price might make you think.Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 19 May 2015.