LG Watch Urbane Review

Interface and functionality


The Watch Urbane comes out of the box with the latest Android Wear update on board, which puts it in a very advantageous position compared to older smartwatches — at least for a time. Indeed, even our still fresh resident LG Watch R is stuck with the older, more basic Android Wear version, and is therefore no match for the Urbane functionality-wise.

One of the many new additions is the ability to only receive priority notifications or none at all (a DND mode). Another handy feature allows you to tweak font size. Google has finally also realized that endless vertical lists of actions and apps just aren't cutting it anymore, so the main menu is now split in three horizontal 'tabs' that you slide through easily. The first one contains your apps, so you no longer have to hunt for them for what feels like eternity, while the second tab has your contacts. The last tab is dedicated to Google Now and the various actions it can perform.

We're also happy to say that we've noticed a healthy growth in the number of dedicated apps and apps that have some kind of Android Wear support baked in. This is especially noticeable with watch faces — the selection has grown tremendously in the past 6 months, though we'd obviously prefer that more of them were free of charge. We'd also appreciate a revamp of the stock Android watch faces, as most of them are just poorly designed and particularly unsuitable for smartwatches that try to look like normal timepieces.

But by far the coolest new feature of the Urbane is the ability to call people through it, making it an excellent choice in situations such as driving (where you have your phone paired with your car's infotainment system). Of course, the calls themselves are relegated to your smartphone, but the Watch will seamlessly download your recent and favorite contacts, and will even whip out a dialer in case you need one.

On a more negative note, Google's latest version of Android Wear on the Urbane is prone to crashes and slowdowns, and we found no obvious trigger for either. It's just something that we had to live with, annoying as it was. For example, on two occasions, we were greeted by an error message that claimed that Android Wear had stopped working, which resulted in a completely unresponsive device that couldn't be restarted unless you pressed and held the crown for about 10 seconds. LG and Google better iron these out, and quickly — smartwatches are already a hard enough sell.

Google Now and the beginning of the Wi-Fi era


If you've ever used, or at least seen an Android Wear smartwatch in action, then there should be no doubt in your mind — the entire premise of the platform is to give you convenient access to Google Now. The rest, at least originally, was just extra.

Google Now can do a ton of stuff — it can turn speech to text and send it off as a message or keep it as a note, it can set alarms, tell you the time and weather, initiate navigation, and pull out all kinds of information from the web in a succinct, easy-to-digest format. Until the Watch Urbane, however, all these queries had a pretty inefficient way of reaching the brain — your smartphone — and serving it all the way back to your smartwatch. Basically, you'd call upon Google Now, ask this or that, wait for your speech to be recognized after a trip to your phone, and then wait for the answer to populate on the tiny screen via Bluetooth after your phone had used its own Wi-Fi radio to ask Google's servers. With the Urbane, we finally have something far more robust.

Yep, LG's new smartwatch has a tiny Wi-Fi radio on board, allowing you to cut the middle man when you're connected to a local or public network. In essence, speech recognition and resulting answers are being handled by the watch itself, so you're cutting out Bluetooth out of the picture. This cuts the time needed to satisfy your query significantly, making Google Now a far more enjoyable piece of functionality.

Health and Fitness


A gyroscope, an accelerometer, a barometer, and even a heart rate monitor — these are the tiny sensors in the Watch Urbane that allow it to assume the role of a fitness and health tracker. It can count your steps, estimate altitude and how fast you're going, and even measure your heart beat. All of this is information that dedicated apps can make good use of to provide you with an overview of your workouts and suggest improvements.

But you don't need to depart the Google ecosystem unless you want to — the Android maker's Fit app, while bare bones, can keep track of your activities — over 50 different types, including wakeboarding, water polo, zumba, yoga, and many more. Unfortunately, this is still very much a manual process, and very far from a plug-and-play type deal, so if you're serious about your training, then look elsewhere.

Processor and memory


With the Urbane, LG is using the same processor and memory chip that it used with the Watch R. We're talking a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset with 512MB of RAM available. Like before, the configuration is capable of pushing the software at very agreeable speeds, save for the aforementioned, occasional slowdowns. If anything, we'd argue that the Urbane even feels somewhat more responsive than the Watch R, despite the identical hardware.

As for storage, there are 4 gigs available. In our experience over the past year, that has been more than sufficient.

Multimedia


You can't watch the last episde of Game of Thrones on the 1.3-inch display of the Watch Urbane, even if you were so (masochistically) inclined, so knock that silly thought out of your head. In fact, you can't even listen to music through it — it has a microphone, but no speaker.

Indeed, the only media purpose the Urbane can serve is to offer you quick access to playback controls — next, back, volume up, volume down. We've noticed that this is especially useful when behind the wheel, at least if you stream music from your phone to your car's system over Bluetooth and have no controls for it on the steering wheel. That way, you don't have to take your hands off at any time. Even better — apps like SoundCloud and Play Music push controls to your device, too.

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30 Comments

1. sgodsell

Posts: 7191; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Great design, and great specs. Password protected watch. Comes with WiFi. Better menu system. Great voice controls. Great ecosystem with endless watch faces. What's not to love about this watch.

3. sgodsell

Posts: 7191; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The DND mode has been their before the latest version of Android Wear. I should point out that the Urbane also has a compass, and it can also play music over Bluetooth speakers or headset, and you can install music directly on the watch. I have 225 songs installed on my Urbane.

7. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

I really can't stand when I take the time to READ a whole review & then there is no video review in the final page. The pictures are cool, but in 2015 we also need to see how the watch/device moves & performs. To not have a video at the end of a review is clumsy & not professional. Why release an uncompleted review. I don't have the time to come back to see when they have posted the video to complete it's review. PhoneArena.com please fix this. This happens way to often & not it's frankly getting annoying. If you guys are going to do something, please do it right. SMH

16. waddup121 unregistered

Get rekted Apple Watch.

2. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Got to love the variety and diversity in the Android wear ecosystem. The software is the the same but at least it is focused and easy to use. Hopefully with Android M they will introduce greater flexibility for the software as well.

4. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

the apple watch is slightly better when it comes to functionality but id get the watch urbane cause the apple watch is damn ugly.

18. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

One is for android, the other for ios, so I wouldn't even bother comparing them.

19. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

That might not be true pretty soon since google is working on a way to bring android wear to ios devices plus why wouldn't we compare them we compare android phones to iphones. and i own both ios and android devices so i should compare them.

5. maherk

Posts: 6769; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

What's the diameter of this watch?

6. kkmkk

Posts: 699; Member since: May 06, 2013

nah tha fruit watch is much better it even come with something innovative called lag !!

8. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

You have never used an Apple watch my friend.

30. tedkord

Posts: 17302; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Maybe he's just read the reviews. When an Apple sycophant like Gruber complains about lag on the iWatch, it's got to be bad.

9. Takeharu

Posts: 285; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

I like it how they made the score 0.1 lower than the Apple Watch just to clarify that they think the Apple Watch is superior in their opinion.

10. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

You caught that. Good. In case you're wondering why that is, and this is coming from someone who's been rocking a smartwatch since the Galaxy Gear, it has a ton to do with the fact that the software goes haywire at least a few times a day, not to mention that it also becomes completely unresponsive occasionally. What exactly is the cause of this is unclear, but it's a fact that I've observed over the length of the last two weeks. Another two weaknesses of the Urbane in comparison are the fact that it simply won't appeal to women — or give or take 50% of the world population — and Android Wear's still quite unsatisfying number of apps that actually live on your smartwatch and don't just serve as proxies that require you to constantly pull out your phone to do anything (ironically, this goes against the very premise of a smartwatch). Apple Watch isn't a whole lot better in this regard, but it is better, and the ecosystem is sure to be approached with more interest than Android Wear. Some of these are pretty 'global' issues or comparative weaknesses that we have to account into the score. The Urbane isn't just for you, it's supposed to be for the guy (certainly not gal) on your left, right, and behind you. In any case, Apple Watch vs Urbane isn't really a decision customers will be making, as you're either Android (like me) or you're iOS. For me, personally, the Urbane is the better buy since I trust that the software bugs will be ironed out promptly (and I'm patient enough) and I'm a guy, so I have no issues rocking it on my wrist. I also like its design better. Still, I can't deny that Apple's approach is more promising at this point — I've given Android Wear enough time to evolve and start offering functionality that transcends beyond notifications and is actually carried out by the watch itself, not my phone. That's still hardly the case.

14. Takeharu

Posts: 285; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

To be honest this watch won't appeal to a lot of guys either. In my opinion the Urbane looks awful! It's trying to be chic but it's overly glossy design just makes it look like a cheap knockoff watch. Not only that but for many guys it will be too big as well. I for example have very small (often smaller that women) wrists so the Urbane won't fit me either. And yet, I simply can't deny the fact that the Apple Watch offers more at this point in functionality. The Apple Watch is what Android Wear should've been functionality wise and that's a shame too considering many people that are willing to wear smartwatches to begin with are geeks and from what I see/read online most of those geeks use Android (me included). If the second generation Apple Watch looks better and works on Android (which it obviously won't) I could see myself purchasing it because as of now Android wear just doesn't do enough to qualify it's price.

26. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

yeah, this one look like cheap knockoff, their bezel is so plain, even the leather strap look bad.. (i dont like smartwatch design as general, but i like mechanical movement watch, but i guess next samsung's round smartwatch is worth to look at :P )

11. SamDH1

Posts: 419; Member since: Apr 21, 2015

The reviews of the smart watches are making no sense. This is nicer than the R, yet a lower score. Even funnier, it is 0.1 below the Apple watch, when all of the pros and cons of the Apple Watch, are in the Pros of this delightful watch. I need to be enlightened. I must also say, on some of the Apple Watch reviews and points, you say there is no point comparing the Watch to Wear, because iOS users can't use Wear. But then you state at the end of this, Watch is better for everyday use, which A) Isn't possible for 2/3rds of smartphone population, and B) Is not true because you are far more limited with the Watch regards to lower battery life, need to keep the phone next to you at all times, and a personal thing, the always off screen is well annoying. Wear; I want to talk to my wrist, otherwise, what can really be improved? Battery is getting better every model with 3 days life now, design is amazing and broad, specs are perfect because it is just a notification centre... Watch is also somewhat broad with it's customisation, but for people who don't like rectangles, (and it's clear people prefer round by looking at the sales of Wear devices), or the super high entry price tag. I don't understand your rating system at all, PA.

12. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

In regards to its rating relative to the Watch R, you're forgetting (or are unware) that we don't rate products in a vacuum:http://www.phonearena.com/howdowerate. That is, all things being equal, a product that got an 8/10 last year won't get an 8/10 this year because a successor is supposed to improve upon its predecessor, not to mention that competitors could have improve their own offerings in the meantime. The rest, I believe, has already been addressed in my above comment.

13. SamDH1

Posts: 419; Member since: Apr 21, 2015

So what has brought a competition to the R, or this? Android users can't buy Watch, iOS users can't buy Wear. So surely, this device should be compared to other Wears, not Watch, and I still don't believe Watch is able to compete with this, and you even said just above, the lagging issue is probably baby step problems with 5.1 and will get ironed out, which leaves only one con... Fair enough you guys live and work with these devices, but like you said before, we won't be buying our next phone based on watches, so rating them towards the real competition makes way more sense, because right now, it looks like this is worse than the R and 360 to the average Joe, but we all know this is way sweeter.

24. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Um, just because the two devices -most likely- won't compete for consumers doesn't mean that they shouldn't be compared to each other. Keeping in mind what competitors have to offer is fundamental to the review process, and I don't think I'll ever agree that Android Wear smartwatches should be spared this. In fact, I think it's ludicrous. What competitors have to offer matters. A great deal, in fact. As for the lag/freeze issue, if we adopted a policy of pardoning products because the manufacturer will -probably- take care of it, then things would get out of control really, really fast. After all, where do we draw the line? Next it will be some inexplicable camera algorithm that we leave out, hoping that the company will -maybe- address it. It doesn't work that way, and I'm sure you'd agree were that the case. Finally, and I believe I've never spent as much time justifying our review scores before, you're disregarding my earlier clarification on how we rate. Both the Moto 360 and the Watch R are some some 8-9 months old, so you keep that in mind. Were we to review the Watch R right now, we'd have higher expectations, too, and would rate it less favorably. Again, we don't rate products in a vacuum — both time and competition matter a -great- deal.

25. SamDH1

Posts: 419; Member since: Apr 21, 2015

Alright, my fault about the review system. I get that, but it doesn’t really apply to the smartwatches, does it? These are fashion items first. You clearly love this, it has the best battery than any other, Wear 5.1 may be laggy, but so is the Watch (I’ve played with one, it’s laggy and buggy with iMessage and Maps, plus you can -only- use iMessage and Email on the Watch for messaging features, unlike Wear which you can use –all- of your messaging applications), but why has the Watch got a higher review than this? It makes –zero- sense at all when you compare this review to the Watch review, too. Also, to say it’s not a women’s watch as a con is pretty subjective, as some women may love this timepiece, and some women have larger wrists anyway; stating a personal taste as a con is like grasping at air. I feel very odd for getting heated with you on this, but I always come here when it’s review season cuz I likes yous guys’ reviews, but it’s like you purposefully gave this 0.1 lower for no reason at all other than to be 0.1 lower than Watch, when Watch seems like 7.5 and this seems well into the 8’s. - -.

28. DeusExCellula

Posts: 1390; Member since: Oct 05, 2014

Did you read his justification for doing that above?

15. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

The Apple watch is butt ugly that it should get the worst rating out of all smart watches. Both the Apple watch and pebble have it all wrong. I would never wear one because a time piece , smart or analog, needs to be first and foremost, attractive. It's like clothing. If they ever made a smart jacket, I better hope that it isn't rated based on features, it's a jacket...

17. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

Best looking intelligent watch thus far, but it does look bad on a female's wrist. Sorry, it's too bulky for females. Definitely a manly wristwatch.

27. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

they'll give smaller diameter for woman i guess

20. NexusX

Posts: 613; Member since: May 16, 2013

people who think this is better looking than apple watch must have s**t for taste.

22. 0kax0el0

Posts: 238; Member since: Nov 15, 2012

Where I live we have a saying "En gustos se rompen géneros... y caras" that can be roughly translated as "In preferences, genres get broken... and so do faces", the first part in a serious tone means that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the second part is more of a joke that sometimes people get too carried in a discussion about preferences and end up in a fist fight.

23. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

A lot of smart watches look better than the Apple watch. In fact, the only ones that don't look better than the Apple watch are probably the pebble ones.

21. 0kax0el0

Posts: 238; Member since: Nov 15, 2012

"Very attractive, classic design" "Its size and design may hold little appeal to women" I'm not sure those points should be summarized in "Pros and Cons" as these are very subjective opinions, and do not have a direct impact on performance or quality of the product. I remember reading a couple years ago that the Galaxy Note wouldn't appeal to women because it was too big, but it turns out that women aren't limited to just the pockets in their robes, they carry the phone in their purses, so a big sized phone isn't a problem. There are no laws in appareances, just trends and as so, there is no wrong or right as to how something should look.

29. pt020

Posts: 157; Member since: Apr 08, 2014

My first "Smartwatch" was in 2007. SE MBW-100.

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