The G Watch R is LG's first circular-display smartwatch, following up on the original G Watch that launched alongside Android Wear earlier this year. While the original G Watch looked like a proof-of-concept brick out of an engineer's garage at some angles, the G Watch R very clearly got the full design and style treatment from LG - it looks nothing like its kind-of-predecessor.
A 1.3" circular P-OLED (plastic organic LED) 320x320 screen gives it the densest display of any Android Wear device yet announced, and its ability to stay always-on without drastically cutting into battery life provides it a clear edge on competitors that are struggling with longevity issues.
Google has promised standalone music playback over Bluetooth as part of Android Wear for some time, and it appears with Wear version 4.4W2 we're finally getting it, at least if you use Play Music (you're also getting new playback controls). If you're using the latest Play Music APK on your Android phone and have the Android 4.4W2 update on your smartwatch, you can now download your pinned music from your smartphone to your watch.
We spotted it in a teardown of the new material Play Music app this morning, but it looks like a new set of media controls in Android Wear are live - and here's exactly what they look like.
The new controls get a red-themed makeover and volume +/- buttons, plus a nifty kind of physical remote key animation. It's nice. For Play Music, these new controls require two things: the material version of Play Music (which contains an updated mini APK for Wear with these controls) and the 4.4W2 update to Wear, which is rolling out to some devices now, like the LG G Watch.
Android 4.4W.2 is slowly rolling out to various Wear devices this week, and my G Watch R review unit just received it earlier this afternoon. A couple of commenters have pointed out a new feature in W2 that we hadn't yet noticed - you can now hide notifications, as opposed to dismissing them, directly from the watchface.
The G Watch R is the first truly circular smartwatch, and it's also the first to ship with quite so many watchface options - 18 in all. Here's every one, in both active (as in, the display is turned on and ready for interaction) and always-on (passive sleep) modes.
Back in September, we heard Google's official plans to update Android Wear and add more functionality to the platform and its watches. The first update promised to bring GPS and offline music playback capabilities, so that Wear watches could be used without a phone to track activities and listen to tunes via Bluetooth. The second update is supposed to add native support for watch faces. And it looks like LG's G Watch is the first Android Wear device to start benefiting from these additions.
The G3 is LG's current flagship phone, but Sprint is pushing out an over-the-air update that shows some love to 2013's model, the G2, instead. This special delivery will bring in a number of general enhancements that some users may be happy to see. HD Voice is seeing improvements, and there are some LTE-related changes as well. These are joined by a security patch fixing something that's unspecified in the change log.
I received my G Watch R on Friday, and after a couple of days, I'm ready to share some of my early impressions.
As the title of this post suggests, we don't know yet just how much LG's newest smartwatch, the G Watch R, will cost. This is a very important question, because so far in my short time with the device, it actually seems pretty good. It isn't without flaws, but LG has probably produced the most serious Android Wear device we've yet seen.
Technically the Developer Preview builds of Android L that Google issued are meant only for, well, developers. But of course a ton of regular users have downloaded them to try out Lollipop, and those users tend to be the same ones that like to use root apps. The updated Android 5.0 preview builds for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 2013 issued yesterday broke the existing root functions, so SuperSU developer Chainfire issued a quick fix.
Look, $200+ is a lot to pay for a watch, especially when you've been wearing the same $30 Timex Ironman from Target for the last fifteen years. If you've been on the fence on the first generation of Android Wear devices, waiting for a good deal on at least one of them, then your time is now. Best Buy is selling the LG G Watch for $149.99, a full $80 off of the list price.