Work on the G Watch R, says LG, began more than two years ago. This fully circular smartwatch may be running Android Wear and competing against the likes of the Moto 360 and Asus ZenWatch, but LG argues that it's the product of a long-term project rather than a kneejerk reaction. The 1.3-inch OLED screen on the G Watch is the first mass-produced round display of its kind, which is indeed the sort of innovation that takes years of planning to complete. LG has committed just as much time on the design, which has been inspired by the forms and styles of luxury cars, classical watches, and other jewelry. Set to launch in October, the G Watch R marks a legitimate step forward from the first generation of nondescript Android Wear devices.
LG has grown rather dismissive of its first Android Wear device, the G Watch. It's now described as a reference device for the platform, and the first chance for people to experience what Android on the wrist can be like. The future of LG's wearable efforts is very much centered on today's G Watch R, which the company says will cost more than the first-gen Wear watches. That increase in price is offset by the R's improved design. The new watch comes with a calfskin leather strap and a much more attractive stainless steel case. There's still a plastic shell on the underside and the dreaded need for a proprietary magnetic charging connector, but the look is much more refined.
It's also nice to see LG using a standard 22mm strap, allowing you to swap the G Watch R into and out of styles by just changing its band and matching it with a particular watch face. Like Asus and everyone else pushing the idea of stylish smartwatches, LG intends to make a wide variety of watch faces available and is considering providing its own-brand aftermarket straps as well. For now, the company seems content to let people figure out their own ornamentations.
Once on your wrist, the G Watch R will act pretty much like any other Android Wear watch. The minute indicators around its periphery are part of the metal case, however, and will clash if your preference is for a digital rather than analog watch face. They slope downward into the display, giving it a protective ridge around the sides. The inclusion of this bigger bezel has been a necessary concession to make the OLED display fit inside the case. Accommodating its contacts and making the whole thing waterproof, says LG, takes up an extra 2mm to 3mm around the edge. This is the other side of the Moto 360 coin: Motorola's smartwatch has negligible bezels but achieves that by leaving a small chunk of disused screen space at the bottom, which is where it fits the same components compelling LG to go bigger.
This is an issue for both devices because, frankly, they remain far too large to be considered proper watches. The original Pebble is quite long for a watch, but it looks perfectly compact when set alongside the G Watch R. At IFA, LG was specifically questioned about the apparent masculinity of the G Watch R and whether it couldn't have done more to appeal to a female consumer, to which the company responded that it needs more time to be able to produce devices with thinner bezels. So even after two years in development, the G Watch R remains a work in progress.
Inside its new watch, LG has a 410mAh battery, 512MB of RAM, and the same Qualcomm chip as on the original G Watch. There's also a built-in heart rate sensor and a barometer, plus the OLED display is efficient enough to be left in an always-on ambient mode when the watch is not in use. LG promises up to two days of typical use on a single charge. Unfortunately, there's no ambient light detector, so brightness adjustments will have to be done manually, and there's also no GPS chip integrated for anyone wishing to use the G Watch R to track their runs. A vibration motor for alerts and integrated microphone for voice commands complete the spec sheet.
On show at IFA today, LG demonstrated two slightly different variants of the G Watch R: one is the matte black model that will be hitting shops in October, and the other features a brushed steel look that's only for LG's internal use. You'll see both in the images below. The only difference is that the retail model has received a PVD coating, and the underlying steel shell and accompanying leather straps are the same on both.