LG Watch Urbane review

Bold gold: LG's attention-grabbing Watch Urbane is not for the meek of wrist

The LG Watch Urbane’s bold style and rose gold finish look just right peeking out from beneath the cuff of a neatly pressed shirt, but its flashy, masculine look won’t appeal to everyone.
The LG Watch Urbane’s bold style and rose gold finish look just right peeking out from beneath the cuff of a neatly pressed shirt, but its flashy, masculine look won’t appeal to everyone.
The LG Watch Urbane’s bold style and rose gold finish look just right peeking out from beneath the cuff of a neatly pressed shirt, but its flashy, masculine look won’t appeal to everyone.

Highs

  • Best circular Android Wear watch display
  • Strong two-day battery life
  • It makes a fashion statement
  • Latest Android Wear version installed

Lows

  • Divisive design
  • New software features aren’t very inspiring
  • Leather strap needs a lot of wearing in

The LG G Watch R, released late last year, didn’t really split opinion when I showed it around. Everyone pretty much liked it. The Watch Urbane is a sequel of sorts, and it’s considerably more divisive. The first person I showed it to hated it. Didn’t like the flashiness, the chunky body, or the way it took up most of my wrist. The next person thought it looked classy, attractive, and worth considerably more than it actually costs.

That set the tone for the Watch Urbane; people either loved it or hated it. I’m sure there are designers who consider that a good thing, as any reaction must be preferable to no reaction at all. But the Watch Urbane is more than a simple style update — It has a few new features to go along with the new body. Here’s what it was like to wear the Urbane for a week.

It’s big and bold, but is it beautiful?

It took a lot more time to make the Urbane a part of my daily attire than any other smartwatch I’ve worn. It’s large and very gold, with a strap so inflexible that it would have had more flex to it, if it were made out of concrete. It’s more comfortable now that the strap has loosened up a bit, but it still has some way to go. Plus, I’ve finally found a watch face that I really like, which helps soften the looks. The Watch Urbane takes a while to get used to — the rose gold is very ‘look at me,’ and it really stands out on the wrist — but I’m definitely more positive about the design now than I was at first.

The rose gold is very ‘look at me,’ and it really stands out on the wrist.

The light catches the now flat bezel around the screen, and it looks really cool when paired with the Classic watch face, which simulates light reflecting on the screen. There are two new faces, Chairman and Chronos, which come in either silver or gold to match the watch, but they are very busy for my tastes, and erred on the stuffy side of classic. I found the Urbane to be far more sensitive to the watch face design than other smartwatches. It takes a while to find one that suits both its look and your own tastes.

At first glance, you may think the Urbane is larger, thicker, and heavier than the G Watch R, but it’s a bit of an illusion. The bodies are practically identical in size and shape, but the more pronounced lugs on the Urbane give it a chunkier look. It’s impossible to tell the few grams difference in weight when wearing the Urbane, but for the first few days — because the leather strap is as stiff as a board — it feels ungainly on the wrist.

The rose gold color on our test Urbane isn’t subtle. It stands out from a mile away, and although the leather strap contrasts well in brown, the Urbane is crying out for a metal link strap. Yes, it’ll make it even more noticeable, but the supplied strap is too dinky. It just accentuates the size of the face. I don’t have petite wrists, but the Urbane’s face covers my entire wrist, and the strap falls vertically on either side. If you do have small wrists, the Urbane is going to be enormous.

The Urbane name may be a little tacky, but it’s fitting. The watch is definitely going to suit male wrists more than female, and the bold style and rose gold finish means it looks just right peeking out from beneath the cuff of a neatly pressed shirt. Flip it over and there are no exposed screw heads, and metal replaces the plastic back seen on the G Watch R. Even the crown, which functions as a back button, has a more satisfying click. Altogether, it’s an improvement over the G Watch R, but the differences are only noticeable when the two are so closely compared.

Android Wear is improving, but only in tiny increments

LG has used the same P-OLED 1.3-inch screen found on the G Watch R for the Urbane, and it’s an excellent choice. Performance is identical, which is to say, superb. It’s bright, colorful, responsive, and a joy to look at — even in sunlight. If you’ll forgive the phrasing, LG really has cornered the market in round smartwatch screens so far.

You’ll have enough battery to fuel a workout after using the Urbane during the day.

The screen shows Android Wear, and the Urbane is the first to use version 5.1.1. It’s not massively different from previous versions, and anyone who is used to an older Android Wear smartwatch is still going to feel right at home. The same swipe and tap navigation system remains, notifications appear from the bottom part of the display, and there’s an information screen pulled down from the top. The screens have been augmented with some wrist gestures, which quickly fit in with everyday use.

Swipe to the left and you get to the main visual alteration in 5.1.1. There are now three menu screens to slide through. The first is a list of apps and tools, the second is for contacts, and the familiar Android Wear menus come up third. The contacts are there so you can send a text, make a call, or draw an emoji for that person. Except what could be a cool feature is marred by a frustrating oversight. Want to go back a step in the menu? You can’t, it just throws you back to the watch face, making you start all over again and adding three or four extra moves to the process. Ridiculous.

LG Watch Urbane
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch has some interesting personal messaging features, so how does the ability to draw an emoji compare? Well, it doesn’t. Adding an emoji to a message takes two seconds on the phone, and 30 seconds on the watch. It never quite interprets a drawing correctly, and there are too many steps in the process. It’s a novelty you’ll try once, and then forget. Emojis are best dealt with on the phone.

Android Wear 5.1.1 also adds Wi-Fi connectivity, a feature designed to overcome the limitations of Bluetooth. Provided the watch can connect to a trusted Wi-Fi network — dictated by the paired phone — if Bluetooth goes out of range, the watch will switch over to Wi-Fi and still receive notifications. Never having any problems with Bluetooth range in my home, this feature never really kicked in for me. It could be beneficial to some, though.

LG has added a few of its own features to the Urbane, including LG Call and LG Pulse. The latter leaves the heart rate sensor on continuously, helping sporty types stay in the zone. While it sounds like a horrendous battery hog, in reality, it sucks about 10-percent every thirty minutes. You’ll have more than enough battery left to fuel an average workout after using a fully charged Urbane during the day. The heart rate data gets fed into LG Health on the LG G4, where it is collated to give averages throughout the day, and gets attached to step data.

LG Call requires an app to be installed on the paired phone, and turns the watch into a hands-free extension, complete with a rotary-style dial and access to recent calls, as well as your favorite contacts. It was rather temperamental, and wouldn’t always connect when dialing from the watch. The Find My Phone feature’s good, and will ring the connected phone, if it goes missing.

Version 5.1.1 operated on the Urbane without any stability issues, but it can’t be described as a huge leap forward over previous versions. It’s only available for the Urbane at the moment, but should come to other Android Wear watches in the future.

Two days of battery life

The processor, screen, and battery may all be the same as the G Watch R, but the usage time from the 410mAh cell did vary a little more than the older watch. Two days should be considered achievable, even when using LG Pulse for a short jog. Seven days in, and it has visited the charger four times. Incidentally, it doesn’t fit the G Watch R’s charging dock, or vice versa, despite looking almost the same.

When out and about on one day, using the Urbane for some GPS work and audio controls, the battery ate through 50 percent in an afternoon. Strange, and so far it hasn’t reoccurred, but if that hadn’t happened, it wouldn’t have needed a fourth charge in the week.

The big question is, the Urbane or the G Watch R?

Now we come to the big question. If you’re in the market for an LG smartwatch, should you buy the G Watch R or the Watch Urbane? Remember, they are both technically identical, with the main differences coming with software and designed. You’ll need deeper pockets if the Urbane is for you, because it’s $350, which is $50 more than the retail price of the G Watch R (or more if you shop around) and the same as an Apple Watch.

It’s hard to justify the extra cost when the two are straight up compared. The G Watch R is still attractive, and gets the job done even with the slightly older version of Android Wear onboard. The Urbane looks more classy sat next to the G Watch R, and it’s sure to appeal to those who dislike the latter’s sportier body.

Yes, there are cheaper Android Wear watches, and the Moto 360 is tempting, but none quite match the combination of build quality, design, and technical ability seen in the LG Watch pair. Ultimately, you should go out and try both LG watches on. Judging by my own basic research, it’s highly likely you’ll love one more than the other. The good news is you won’t be disappointed if it’s the Urbane that better fits in with your own personal style.

Highs

  • Best circular Android Wear watch display
  • Strong two-day battery life
  • It makes a fashion statement
  • Latest Android Wear version installed

Lows

  • Divisive design
  • New software features aren’t very inspiring
  • Leather strap needs a lot of wearing in

Available from: Amazon |

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