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My LG G Watch Review

nickdalzell

Extreme Android User
Jun 17, 2011
6,610
2,109
Owensboro, KY
IF anyone knows me here in the forums, they know i tend to be quite opinionated and review tons of products i have bought and later tested out. sometimes out of interest, others to find out what's so dang good about them. I've tested the Nexus 7, Nexus 10, various Galaxy products, and even smartwatches. I've been excited about having a Wear product for a long time, mainly for the truely touchless controls and the annoyance at having to promptly wipe off the Gear 2's screen due to smudges because the voice actions it has requires side-swiping to the icon itself, or smudging the bezel with a double-tap to its only button, which, much like the infamous Navi Key that Nokia phones once had, has not yet made its mind up what action it is supposed to do. it's either an exit key, back key, reboot or power key, or sleep/wake key. that said, it's impossible to simply send a voice command to that watch without making marks on it. the UX of the Android Wear UI is also beautiful given screenshots, but as Google is too-often vague and hardly offers even the most basic instructions and hides many things for us to discover by accident, much like an easter egg, their design language is often a test of one's patience, and tolerance of learning curves.

OK, now that that's out of the way, as i type this the only Android Wear watch just became available at Best Buy here in town, about 5 months late after launch. i live in Owensboro, KY, aka 'redneckville' so any new tech often comes late (such as the LG G Watch i'm reviewing) or not at all due to the mass technophobia here (such as wireless charging mats, you won't find those anywhere in town. in fact the Best Buy even went so far as to bluntly tell me they 'never caught on') you also won't find any NFC tags because no one even knows exactly what NFC is. even QR codes have finally vanished from view around here, often derided as the 'return of CueCAT' and it could also have more to do with the most commonly seen smartphone being the 3-year-old iPhone 3GS, which never had NFC.

I got this watch not too long ago, merely hours ago. the demo was nothing more than a static 'dummy' so it offered no demo of the software or any specs, me thinks Google intended that on purpose. as stated in the preface, Google tends to turn you loose and expect you to find things by accident usually via some undisclosed hidden gesture. so finding something as vital as the 'system options/settings' is akin to discovering an Easter Egg in a video game. they literally, when i paired this watch, and after a very limited demo on how to swipe away cards (are you getting the feeling of WebOS's return yet?) said 'enjoy' with a large blue checkmark. after that it just had a dynamically updating wallpaper and clock with the hint 'OK Google' showing next to it. there was no other elements. i had installed some watchfaces from Play Store (which is the only app store it supports, you can try sideloading them as APKs found online and it will not work. so i'm stuck with buggy Play again.) but i had literally no idea where they were. down-swiping only triggered voice actions, same as the 'OK Google' command, and swiping downa again went back to home, or the clock and Chromecast-like updating wallpaper. side-swiping did nothing as no cards were showing to dismiss, and trying to further swipe down past the voice actions prompt only showed a sample of things you could say (and limited at that).

the only way to find the installed faces was to google it on my tablet and find the uber-hidden easter egg which is a very non-informative 'start' button (Windows hello!). but you know what? the only things listed were 'Fit' which is a pedometer, settings, which only gives you airplane mode, mute and power off, and nothing else. where was my watch face?

just in frustration angry tapping my watch screen eventually (Accidentally) triggered the selection of watch faces and boy were there tons. most preinstalled but my installed ones were there. don't ask how to change it later as i still am not sure what exactly i did. Google, please send us a manual or allow us a real tour and stop with the Easter Egg nonsense.

in normal use there are no cards (why?) even if they display on Google Now on the phone. it seems the version of Now on the watch isn't taking info from the app on the phone you pair it with, but is a standalone version that merely uses your phone as its internet connection. in essense, any of your Google Now history won't display and your watch has its own version that learns your habits eventually on its own, from scratch. so eventually your commute and weather cards will show, but expect the display to mainly be nothing more than scrolling wallpaper and a clock for the most part, with only the clock showing when in low-power mode. to use the thing and actually see the weather, which i'd prefer front and center (maybe there's an app for that?) at all times next to the clock, is to ask it 'how's the weather?'. you can ask 'check weather' or 'what's the weather' but none of the latter will pull up the weather and only offer you a search that requires you to open on phone. it's extremely picky on the command being exact and 100%, so it literally must be 'how's the weather' to display a weather card. Google, again, did not mention this. in fact no known voice commands were even given during the initial setup.

The watch seems reliable and the battery life is fair, not great but again the screen never sleeps. expect a day of use and then having to charge it. there are no buttons on the G Watch so if your battery does run out, you have to connect it to a charging cradle to get the thing to power back on. the LG-double-knock won't do anything. so don't try hitting power off in the settings menu while away from the cradle unless you want to wear a brick the rest of the day.

that brings me to the other gripe. the proprietary cradle. i would have expected Google to offer a standard MicroUSB port over copying Samsung on this, especially since Google is against everything Samsung believes in these days. so if you lose the cradle, your watch becomes a brick. there are no spares being sold in our Best Buy at the moment.

there's another confusing issue. if for any reason it cannot connect to Google's servers, which is often where i live being without reliable connectivity and especially to Google, it doesnt' really give you much other than a 'disconnected' message. and only when you do a search. most would mistake that for losing their bluetooth connection to their phone and not a message of Google unavailability. it won't say 'can't reach Google' or anything, it just says 'disconnected'. it's up to you, again, to determine what actually disconnected, the watch from your phone or your phone to Google?

the voice recognition is excellent, but you have to be perfectly exact. it offers no variation the way S-Voice does. S-Voice can still perform with more than one command even if it's not perfectly dictated. example, if it thinks your command to 'open Play Music' is 'Open Playback More' it still opens Google Play Music. if also will allow you to open that app by a different command such as 'Open Google Music' or 'Open Google Play Music'. the G Watch allows for zero mistakes. if it thinks you said 'Open Play Moves' it just defaults to a search and offers to open that on your phone. it has to be 100% exact. and without a list of supported commands this might become infuriating. i wanted to, for example, launch Play Music and start playback. all it could do was launch the app and do nothing after. the only way to get it to start playback by voice was to install a music remote app and that at least offers a card that gives you play/pause and skip buttons. again, Google i expected this basic feature built-in. those of you who expect to launch playback of a specific song will be disappointed. all it can do right now is start playback.

Most of these complaints are due to the learning curve and the need to discover easter eggs of features. i later found out by accident that if you swipe to the right (opposite of the dismiss) on the commute card will give you a GPS map and navigation options. again, discovered by accident. i would rather know ahead of time. so until i learn and find these easter eggs it will be a rocky start.
 
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A bit of an update to this review. ...

After a few days the watch has gotten my pattern down and now shows weather info both in low power mode as well as normal view all the time, instead of relying entirely on voice commands.

It has about two days of battery life, as so far I've left it off the cradle all weekend. The voice actions no longer give me 'disconnected' anymore, so this could simply have been my watch 'learning' my pattern. After two days it's been excellent and extremely reliable. I have not had to navigate it's confusing interface outside of dismissing cards.

There are no known lists of voice commands so I had to try some out to find them. So far you can call contacts from the watch and have them piped to a Bluetooth headset and send and receive texts through the watch with extremely accurate recognition. Those with Samsung devices or a fondness for TouchWiz will be happy to know these functions also work with the stock messaging and contacts apps with no need to rely on Hangouts or the Nexus dialer.

While the watch is very cheap looking and appears to copy the Pebble line of watches and would seem unlikely to do well under fire will be very surprised to know this watch is actually better made than the Samsung Gear 2. It shares the same IP67 rating but despite oil, gasoline, and bumps into concrete, there isn't one scratch on it. So far I must admit I'm impressed.

bottom line, don't judge the device based on one or two days use. The UI and software are extremely hit and miss until it learns your daily routine. It takes a week for it to become fully useful. After that, trust me you wouldn't want another smart watch. I do miss the camera but it's a small price to pay.
 
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It's cheaper than the Gear 2 and works more consistently so I'd say it's worth every penny. Sometimes voice commands act up and default to a search but it just got a system update so that might have reset the learning but it's come back to working quite well. I like it. It might not look as pretty but it does work, and that's important. I lack vanity so I don't really care if it looks nice other than taking care of it.

The Gear two never could get the weather to properly update and tended to get stuck. There were zero touch less controls. I love not having to smudge the screen since the G watch is able to be used completely hands free. It does have a touchscreen but it is rarely used as I despise fingerprints.

EDIT:

Another update, a system update has installed on my G Watch bringing the version of Wear to 4.4W1, so there are a few changes i've noticed. one being the voice command to show the weather has changed. you can no longer get it to display with the 'How's the Weather' command, as that now just offers to search via the app on the phone, so the new command is 'Show me today's weather' and that brings your card back. using 'Go Go Gadget' no longer works, it will also default to a standard search request. other than that, i've noticed no changes.

There is one other that is a nice welcome. if you launch 'Fit' on the watch, you got the option of disabling the annoying repeating 'steps count card' that seems adamant about showing no matter how often you dismiss it. you can still ask it 'show me my steps' so you won't lose pedometer function.
 
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