Smartwatches are hot news again. It might have taken the entry of Apple to the segment to really ramp up the excitement, but there’s no question that the release of the Apple Watch has helped raise interest again in Android Wear. LG launching their Urbane models just as the rival offering comes to market may be planned or it may be a coincidence, but never has Google’s alternative been better placed to offer a desirable alternative.
Prior to the release of the Urbane, there was very clearly one Android Wear watch to buy if you wanted the best possible hardware – the G Watch R, also from LG. While quite large by virtue of its bezel, the stunning P-OLED (plastic OLED) screen and Snapdragon 400 internals gave a great user experience. This was in stark contrast to the Moto 360, which had a larger but inferior screen and a badly out-of-date processor that led to disappointing performance and terrible battery life.
The Android Wear version of the Urbane – which is in reality a dressed up version of the G Watch R – is available in two finishes, silver or rose gold. Confusingly, there is also a LTE enabled version of the Urbane which doesn’t run Android Wear at all, but LG’s own OS instead.
Both the silver and gold versions have a genuine leather strap, black with contrasting white stitching on the silver and brown with cream stitching on the gold. The straps feel a little stiff straight out of the box, but seem to be of good quality. One big benefit of the Urbane (as with LG’s previous Android Wear efforts) is that they support standard 22mm straps.
The big selling point of the Urbane is that it has an all metal body. The button on the right of the device is now more pronounced and the bezel around the screen, while no thinner than on the G Watch R, is now flatter which does make it feel smaller and also makes the fantastic screen ‘pop’ even more than it did before. It’s almost cliché, but the Urbane really is the first Android Wear watch which could pass for a piece of high quality jewellery, particularly when paired with the right strap.
After powering on the watch the changes are immediately apparent – the new version of Wear feels like it has the look and functionality that should have always been there. It’s brighter, clearer, slicker and simply more intuitive and easy to use. See our Android Wear 5.1 feature for the full low-down on the improvements.
A couple of unique LG experiences have also made it on to the Urbane. While some are not that useful (a torch app to turn the screen white and bright – really?) others, such as the inexplicably Urbane-only LG Call app, are excellent additions. Also preinstalled is LG Pulse, which uses the heart rate sensor on the back of the device to measure your pulse not just as a one off, but continuously – great for when you’re doing a workout.
The biggest problem the Urbane has in the market is not whether it is a great device, but whether it is worth the considerable price premium over it’s G Watch R sibling. The internals are identical, the software will be identical in due course and so the price premium is purely for aesthetics. There’s no question that the watch is better looking, but how much you are willing to pay for aesthetics is completely up to you.