Hands on: LG Watch Urbane and LG Watch Urbane LTE review – the smartwatch, elevated

LG announced details of its latest smartwatches – the LG Watch Urbane and Urbane LTE – a few weeks back, but MWC in Barcelona is the first time we’ve had the chance to get our hands on the devices.

LG Watch Urbane - front

LG’s plan with the two devices, as we reported when they were first announced, is to move the smartwatch away from the geek accessory into more traditional watch territory.

The firm wants the Urbane and Urbane LTE to take their place alongside traditional timepieces from companies such as Tag Heuer and Omega.

LG Watch Urbane review – design

The two clearly share similar design DNA – and they’re both a world away from the first, rather boring LG G Watch. Of the two, though, it’s the Android Wear-based LG G Watch Urbane that most catches the eye, with housing design that’s a notable step forward from the G Watch R, whose round face was surrounded by a rather angular circular housing.

LG Watch Urbane - side view

The Urbane’s housing is rounder, more sculpted and looks a little more watch-like than the R, and the design is more practical, too. With the G Watch R we were annoyed by the fact that the screen surround stood proud of the face, making it tricky to perform swipes across the screen. On the Urbane, however, the bezel is flush to the surface of the screen.

It’s available in two colours: silver and rose gold, and is supplied with a leather strap with a standard 22mm fitting, making it possible to replace with any strap you like.

LG Watch Urbane review: specifications

Inside, however, the LG Watch Urbane hasn’t moved forward at all. It has a circular 1.3in P-OLED display, a 410mAh battery, a heart rate monitor set into the rear of the watch’s body, and a Snapdragon 400 processor coupled with 512MB of RAM; identical specifications to the G Watch R, in other words.

LG Watch Urbane - screen off

As for the software, well it’s an Android Wear device, so it should work in exactly the same way as its sibling as well, although LG does chuck in a handful of exotic watchfaces, as has become customary with Android Wear smartwatches.

LG Watch Urbane LTE review: design

The Urbane LTE isn’t quite as pretty as the standard Urbane, clad entirely in slightly heavier stainless steel, but the interest doesn’t lie in the hardware or the design for once. The LTE is, in fact, the firm’s first smartwatch to run LG’s new Wearable Platform OS, which is based on WebOS.

LG Watch Urbane LTE - showing apps

Back to the design for a moment, though, and you’ll see that the standard strap isn’t leather this time, but a rubber black plastic. This doesn’t sit quite as comfortably on your wrist as the Urbane’s leather strap, but it does lend the watch a more rugged look.

On the right-hand side, the watch has three buttons rather than the Urbane’s one. The middle one is used to bring up the app launcher view, the bottom button takes back a step, and the top button is used to quickly fire up the settings screen.

LG Watch Urbane LTE - settings

LG Watch Urbane LTE review: specifications

In hardware terms, though, it’s what’s under the hood that really makes the difference.

The Urbane LTE is built around the same Snapdragon 400 SoC as the standard Urbane, but it’s paired with 1GB of RAM here, plus built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor, a larger 480mAh batter and, as the name suggests, 4G.

The latter enables the LG Watch Urbane LTE to connect to a cellular networks independently of a phone, allowing you to accept and receive calls via the watch’s integrated microphone and – rather weedy – onboard speaker, without the need for a separate smartwatch.

LG Watch Urbane LTE - wrist strap and clasp

LG Watch Urbane LTE review: software

So how is WebOS to use? For the most part, it’s a fairly straightforward experience, and once we’d got to grips with the different functions of the buttons we were zipping around in no time.

It’s a more app-centric interface than Android Wear, but that’s how we like our smartwatches, and there’s far less confusing left, right, up and down navigation to contend with.

LG Watch Urbane LTE - fitness app

Changing watchfaces is, intuitively, a long press on the main watchface, and launching the various apps is child’s play: hit the middle button, scroll up and down and tap to launch. There’s also a funky alternative view where the app icons appear in a spiral around the circumference of the display – you can choose either, depending on your preferences. Apps on the demo device we tried included a fitness tracking app, core apps for messaging, contacts and calls, plus a whole selection of others including a voice memo app.

Responsiveness was generally fine, but we did notice a couple of pauses here and there, which we’d like to see ironed out before the watch hits the market later this year.

We like the look of the UI on the Urbane LTE a lot more than the barebones Android Wear. It looks very much like the next step for smartwatches; whether or not LG can make it more than just an interesting sideshow to the juggernauts that are Android Wear and the Apple Watch, however, remains to be seen.

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