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. Honestly, I wasn't expecting this - I thought the Moto 360 would run away with the show for looks and fit and finish, or that Samsung would lead the charge on battery-saving screen technology in its own high-end Wear smartwatch.
I first saw the G Watch R a month ago in Berlin, where LG demoed it to us during the IFA trade show. At the time, we were not allowed to go outside of the Wear retail demo mode, so there wasn't much we could look at functionally aside from the hardware. Liam liked it, though I was still incredulous. In that sort of environment, it's hard to get a feel for something that you have to wear day in and day out in order to really say you've "used" it. Though, on the other hand, it's a watch, and people buy watches all the time without actually wearing them for more than a few minutes.
Upon receiving my G Watch R, I immediately switched to the second of the 18 (!) preinstalled faces, Castle White, and it made a big difference to my eyes in terms of the overall style. I am not a fan of the giant, masculine "chronometer" look with red accents and brushed metal and secondary dials and information all over the place. I realize that fashion is highly subjective and that I cannot really say much about what doesn't look good without managing to offend someone, but I think the default watch face looks like crap and that LG is doing a disservice to its product by using it. It is too aggressive, bold, and busy - it will turn off more people than it will turn on.
Now, yes, even with a different watchface you do still have the second tick-marks along the outer ring of the watch, so there's that to consider. I personally think the watch would look better without them, but I'm not outright annoyed by their existence. The actual individual second ticks are much harder to see than the 5-second increments, too, so it doesn't actually look all the busy / fussy to me.
The watch body itself is thick, but not enough that I find myself thinking I look conspicuous while wearing it. I do not have small wrists (though I'd say they're not gigantic), but on me, I think the G Watch R looks appropriately sized for a watch of its style. It's not a small watch, to be sure, with a case diameter of 46.4mm. However, this is still smaller than, say, a massive Casio G Shock, a fairly generic Invicta chronograph, or a bold, modern Tag Heuer. Yes, this is bigger than most traditional dress watches, and yes, it obviously does take many of its design cues from the modern men's watch world, but as these things go, it could be a lot worse.
The metal body (the bottom is technically plastic - see above) seems of very high quality - it's a nice matte black / dark gray. Because there are so few contrasting color elements (the face and the tick marks, basically), the G Watch R actually comes across decidedly minimalist from a style standpoint, especially when in always-on display mode. Even the band is black on black.
Speaking of the band, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. LG says it's "genuine calf leather," but it doesn't feel especially premium, and the leather will definitely require a lot of breaking in before it gets supple and forms around your wrist gently and naturally. The clasp mechanism just sucks - because the leather is so stiff, it's difficult to get the watch on (I've already dropped it once trying to strap it), and just kind of feels cheap. I'd prefer something a little more innovative here, or at least less clunky to use. The band is also fairly thick, so the GWR can be pretty annoying to wear while using a laptop or typing at a desk.
After a couple days, I am noticing that the band is a bit more broken in, so I may revise my judgments here by the time the full review arrives.
The initial thoughts on the display are overwhelmingly positive. It gets very bright, and in always-on mode it has excellent viewing angles indoors, so you can actually glance at your watch to see what time it is without having to lift or angle it too much. Outside, well, it's a screen. It doesn't look as good, and the always-on watchface is going to be hard to see at anything but a fairly direct angle. When it turns on at full brightness, though, I think it's pretty usable outdoors. The display does not seem to have any noticeable levels of the P-OLED weirdness I saw on the G Flex.
Battery life has been, for a Wear device, excellent. I have the brightness set to maximum and always-on mode enabled, and when I received it on Friday at 5PM it had 92% remaining. By Saturday at 5PM, it still had 31%. By 2AM that evening when I put it on the charger (that's 31 hours on-time), it was at 17%. Extrapolate a bit, and I'd guess it would have probably made it through the night sitting off the charger. Personally, I'm confident in saying you will absolutely get a full day out of the GWR unless you actively try to challenge that claim by doing something with your watch that one would not reasonably expect a person to do with it.
This is not to say I think 30-40 hours of battery life is what I want out of a smartwatch - Samsung's Tizen OS Gear devices get 2-5 days. I want that, please.
I'm not going to get into Wear itself in this post beyond issues I've noticed. I've had a few random connection drops with no seeming relation to the proximity of my phone to the device - it's happened while my phone has been in my pocket twice in the last few days. Just toggling the connect/disconnect button in the Wear app brings it back immediately, though, and this seems like par for the course for Wear at this point. Otherwise, I've had a couple voice commands not go through - I've not used it enough yet to get into the nitty gritty issues.
Overall, my time with the GWR so far has been pretty positive. It's a nice product overall from a hardware standpoint, but I think cost is going to be absolutely crucial. If it's $350 or more (aka Apple Watch territory), I think LG may just price itself out of the market. $300 (which sounds likely)? I could probably see that, but the Moto 360 is still $50 less, even if it does have its issues - LG will have to make its case on the merits for the extra cost.
Our full review of the G Watch R should be up at the end of the week - so stay tuned. If you have questions about the G Watch R, leave them in the comments, I'll answer as many as I can.