We’ve just taken a look at LG’s new wearable, the LG Watch Urbane LTE. It’s very similar on the surface to the LG Watch Urbane, but with one big difference: it’s based on the LG Wearable Platform and not Android Wear. To see just how different this device is, read on for our hands-on LG Watch Urbane LTE review.
Release date and price
The LG Watch Urbane LTE release date will occur first in South Korea, with global markets to be announced if interest in the device for other markets is significant enough. Carriers are yet to decide on a launch date even in South Korea, just like the LG Watch Urbane LTE price, which hasn’t been finalized by the Korean carriers that will stock it.
Design and build quality
The LG Watch Urbane LTE is a polished stainless steel smartwatch with a heavy-duty rubber strap and IP67 certification against water and dust. It’s what LG is calling a smartpiece, because it’s classically styled, but it is a pretty chunky affair and not for the faint of heart. This is not a watch for the slim wristed or weak armed; it’s significantly larger and heavier than the LG G Watch R, although it is a little thinner.
On the front, it’s the same display as that found on the G Watch R, but the bezels have shrunk a little. On the right-hand side we now find three hardware buttons which perform different functions: the top brings up Quick Settings, the middle an app switcher and the bottom can be long-pressed to send out an emergency call to a pre-selected phone number.
There are also a few pinhole mics and on the back there’s a heart rate sensor and pogo pins for the charging dock, which is basically the same as the magnetized G Watch R cradle. Sadly, no Qi wireless charging for this device.
The same 1.3-inch P-OLED display from the G Watch R appears on the LG Watch Urbane LTE with 320 x 320 pixel resolution and 245 pixels per inch. There’s nothing much to say that you wouldn’t already know, but the colors are nice and saturated and contrast ratios are solid.
Outdoor visibility will take a minor hit compared to a backlit LCD however. Nevertheless, the battery saving benefits of an OLED display make up for this and the brightness gets right up there, so at the very least its visibility will be no worse than the G Watch R. The LG Watch Urbane LTE also has an always-on mode so a dimmed watch face is always visible, but is light on energy consumption.
The bezels around the Watch Urbane LTE are less pronounced than on the G Watch R and the navigation of the interface is a little more intuitive. Certainly much easier to figure out that the first time you use Android Wear, but more on that later.
Interestingly, the possibility exists on a hardware level for iOS integration so the LG Watch Urbane LTE could support iPhones, but right now, the LG Wearable Platform only works with Android devices. If Apple opens up the back-end of their apps then you might just have an alternative to the Apple Watch in future, but don’t expect Apple to rush out and open the doors to competition.
But because LG has stepped away from the limitations of Android Wear, it has managed to introduce a bunch of cool new features to its platform that you won’t find anywhere else, like NFC (including NFC payments), Push-To-Talk (PTT) so you can use your watch like a walkie-talkie and the best of all: LTE connectivity.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE is a completely standalone device that can access the internet without a paired smartphone and deliver its own messages and notifications from LG’s suite of proprietary apps (accessible through a watch manager app in the Google Play Store), although it can also be synced to show notifications from your phone like a regular smartwatch.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE can make and receive calls and texts independently of a smartphone through a separate phone number (and plan) to your phone. Just how all this works together is a little confusing, what with calls and texts from two different numbers, but we’ll bring you more on the practical considerations when we test the watch fully.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE uses a proprietary operating system creatively called LG Wearable Platform that is based on code from WebOS. WebOS originally came from Palm devices but LG now uses it to power smart TVs. LG is quick to point out that so much has been tweaked that they decided to give it a new name and that its premier wearable strategy is still with Android Wear.
The top button on the watch launches a two-screened Quick Settings menu, where you’ve got access to small buttons to toggle WiFi on and off, Bluetooth, GPS and more, as you can see in the screenshots below. There’s also a battery saving mode that is great for a smartwatch.
The middle button brings up an app drawer, where LG’s apps for the platform appear in a circular formation. It’s a very intuitive way to access and swipe through apps and it’s something sorely lacking in Android Wear. LG is considering opening up the LG Wearable Platform SDK for third-party developers, but right now it only supports those apps in LG’s custom app store.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE features 1 GB of RAM, double the amount compared to other smartwatches of the last year or so. Everything else is relatively similar: Snapdragon 400 clocked at 1.2 GHz and 4 GB of on-board storage. The interface seemed perfectly responsive and quick during my time with it, and that extra RAM will certainly help things in the performance stakes.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE has a class-leading 700 mAh battery: double that of its competitors. LG claims the device will easily get you through a day making use of all of its features and up to 30 hours on a single charge. We’ll bring you more on battery life when we have the device in for full testing.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE is striking for several reasons: its chunky classic styling, its standalone capabilities and its brand new wearable interface. Whether the world outside South Korea will see the watch is something we’re looking forward to finding out, but its clear that this is not a smartwatch for everyone.
Having said that, the Watch Urbane LTE offers far more functionality than any other device on the market: it is quite simply the blueprint for what could easily be described as the next generation of smartwatches.