Love is a fickle thing. When the Moto 360 was revealed alongside the launch of the Android Wear OS, its circular face made it stand out from Samsung and LG's first wearable attempts. But in the initial rush of excitement around the Moto 360, the fact that a lower section of its screen was permanently turned off passed many by. Like catching your sweaty parents having sex, once seen it can't be unseen, burning into that space behind your retinas, with the Moto 360 now appearing like a flat tire. LG's G Watch R, with its fully circular display, is ready to claim your affections in its place.
Its 1.3-inch (diameter) P-OLED, 320 x 320 (245 PPI) display is exactly what you'd hope for from an Android Wear smartwatch screen — clear, colourful and bright enough to combat the harsh lighting of the showroom I tested the device in. And, most pertinently, it comes without an unsightly black chunk across its bottom edge. While I can't speak for its performance in direct sunlight yet, its 300 nit luminance seemed bright enough to remain readable in the great outdoors.
Waterproof and complete with a PPG heart-rate sensor on the rear, the G Watch R measures 46.4 x 53.6 x 9.7mm (or 11.1mm with the bezel included). That is still undeniably chunky, and some people at the briefing I attended felt that it could potentially put off a female audience. I'd beg to differ — it's not a particularly heavy watch and fashion trends at the moment (regardless of gender) are edging towards larger watch faces anyway. Though its black metal notched frame does limit its flexibility somewhat, the option of attaching any 22mm watch strap and selecting from a whole bunch of different software faces should make it possible for it to suit many tastes. I'm personally not a fan of the black genuine calf leather strap that will come packed in with the G Watch R though (it feels very rough and its strap holes were very big). Far more so than smartphones, smartwatches truly are fashion items — what seems attractive now could fall out of favor incredibly quickly, an issue all smartwatch manufacturers can do little to change.
Connecting to your Android phone over Bluetooth 4.0, the G Watch R lacks its own GPS sensor (battery concerns being LG's reasoning). While it can still piggyback off your smartphone's GPS signal, the next Android Wear update is said to include specific enhancements for onboard GPS, which the G Watch R won't be able to capitalize on, if true. Sony's SmartWatch 3, on the other hand, does have GPS.
Battery life, if trusting LG's spiel, looks pretty soild. Lacking an ambient light sensor (yet remaining an always-on device), LG's G Watch R switches to an "Ambient Mode" five seconds after your last interaction with it. This changes the watch to a black face with white arms, drawing 13mW as opposed to the standard 130mW and pushing the 410mAh battery to an average of a day and a half's usage. Lacking wireless charging, the G Watch R, like its predecessor, will come with a bespoke charging cradle.
As with all Android Wear smartwatches, the G Watch R has a built in mic, letting you access Google Now functionality with voice control. As well as tapping at the touchscreen to check out email, Twitter, Facebook, music controls, SMS messages and turn-by-turn navigation, you'll also be able to bark commands at the device too. Dozens of unique faces will be available, including a world clock with three time zones showing, a "Hiking" face with steps taken and elevation displayed, a "Fitness" face with heart-rate and steps taken on show and even a lunar cycle face showing the current size of the moon for all you druids out there.
The G Watch R is a device that's been two years in development. So, why, you may be thinking, release the original LG G Watch at all, with this bad-boy waiting in the wings so soon after? LG is keen to stress that the first G Watch was an Android Wear reference model, as much a product of Google's design ethos as LG's own. The G Watch R is the company's chance to let rip with its own wearable design philosophy — LG may be proud of the original G Watch, but it's this one they've been waiting to to unleash all along.
Launching in October, LG wouldn't be drawn on an exact price yet, but did concede that the G Watch R will land at a price point more expensive than that of the £159 original G Watch. Though we'll have to wait for a full hands-on test (and a look at whatever Apple's wearable ends up being) before crowning a smartwatch king, LG's staking a good claim here with the G Watch R.