I don’t need the entire world on my wrist. But that hasn’t stopped some companies from trying.
The ongoing dream of the do-it-all megasmartwatch continues with the LG Watch Sport, an LTE-equipped GPS-enabled smartwatch running Google’s. It’s one of two LG watches that will get Google’s new version of its watch software first. In that sense, the Watch Sport (and the far more pared-down ) are flagship watches, made by LG but “designed with our friends at Google.”
The Sport, at $350 (equivalent to £280 or AU$460, with UK and Australian pricing and availability yet to be announced), is the same price as the LTE and GPS-enabled, and has about as many features. The Gear S3 runs on Samsung’s own separate app store for its watch, though, while LG’s watch runs on Android Wear 2.0 and uses Google Play apps.
I’ve been wearing the LG Watch Sport for a week, paired with aand frequently on its own with ATT service on its included LTE SIM card and antenna. Like the Samsung Gear S3 and LG’s previous , it’s one of the few rare smartwatches that’s also a stand-alone phone. (Yes, you’ll need to add another device to your monthly bill; in the US, ATT charges $10 a month, T-Mobile $5 a month.) The Sport aims to be a better fitness watch, too, largely with its onboard GPS.
I’m just not sure, really, who it’s for.
Big, big watch
The Watch Sport is big. Really, really big. Its chunky design is bigger than the Samsung Gear S3, which seems slim in comparison — and that’s not a small watch. Its fixed rubberized wristband is designed in a permacurve, and feels like a gauntlet around my big wrist. Seen head-on, it’s clean-looking and industrial. But it really feels too large for most people to consider. The rubber wristband isn’t swappable, either, so you’re stuck with what you get. The Sport comes in blue or titanium-style gray. My review model was the gray one.
To be sure, the Sport is designed for runners and those who want a stand-alone watch for outdoor use. But the Sport seems big and clunky compared to the. Is it worth the size compromise to add the LTE phone functions?
Fitness: Not as deep as expected
The Sport tracks fitness and loads apps just like any other Android Wear 2.0 device, using Google Fit and other third-party apps. Many apps will download directly to the watch now, but during my time with Android Wear 2.0 in prerelease beta there weren’t many apps to try. Google Fit can be launched from one of three buttons on the Watch Sport: starting a walk, run or one of several other activities (biking, treadmill running, stationary biking, aerobics, stair climbing, strength training and “sit-up challenge” and “push-up challenge”) is easy.
Google Fit shows three bits of data during a workout, which can be customized (heart rate, distance or elapsed time). But the interface seems clunky, and Google’s daily goal metrics are basic: 10,000 steps, or another user-set goal, but nothing like Apple’s three-ring motivational system.
The Sport has automatic activity tracking via Google Fit, but not on-watch, nor does it provide healthy reminders like the Samsung Gear S3 does with S-Health, or even like Apple Watch does with reminders to stand or breathe or meditate. I expected more awareness of when I was going on a long walk or a brisk walk. The added coaching challenges for sit-ups, push-ups or crunches are a nice plus, though, and stair-climbing recognition is onboard.
Stand-alone phone mode and other perks
Using GPS, Bluetooth for playing stored music on the watch, and built-in LTE takes its toll on battery fast. On most days, even in casual use, I burned through the Sport’s battery in less than a day. I tweaked settings to get rid of always-on display mode and LTE, but even then I found it hard to get to two days of use. Stay tuned for more battery results in a full review.
The Sport also allows some nice stand-alone features, not just for runners but for anyone who wants to use a watch instead of a phone. Android Pay is enabled, and clicking the bottom button on the Sport lets me pay at any tap-to-pay Android Pay-enabled spot.
Phone mode worked decently, but Bluetooth connections on the Sport didn’t seem fantastic. My conversations and streamed music broke up and got stuttery whenever my arms were lowered, which doesn’t happen as much on the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear S3.
Android Wear is better, though… sometimes
The Sport’s middle crown button spins like the Apple Watch’s digital crown, making for easy navigation of apps or scrolling messages (Android Wear now supports spinning crowns). It’s a useful addition, but pressing in on the crown also activates Google Assistant, Google’s new spin on voice-powered AI. Assistant is better by far than Samsung’s hobbled S-Voice on the Gear S3, but it only responds via text on the watch face. But I kept pressing the Assistant button accidentally during workouts when bending my wrist.
I love that Android Wear is less pushy about Google Now-style reminders of my commute, or other predictive suggestions. I can access info faster, and launch apps better. But the beta apps and build I tried had plenty of bugs: apps that wouldn’t launch, interfaces that were unresponsive. Even checking the time seemed to sometimes have a bit of lag.
I think having a Google-connected smartwatch, for Android phone owners, is probably better than using something like the Gear S3 (which uses Samsung’s proprietary Tizen operating system) in the long run. But the Gear S3 is a better product, with better hardware and a more polished experience. It just lacks the deeper Android functions and apps. In the end, that’s a tough compromise.
Stay tuned for a full review… but right now I wouldn’t recommend the LG Watch Sport for hardcore runners, or those looking for the best watch-phone.
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