Months after it was first announced, those in the US will be able to pre-order LG's Android Wear-powered G Watch for $US229 today. I had the chance to handle the hardware for the first time, and I saw a true smartwatch that actually works like a watch.
The G Watch's rectangular display feels like a slab compared to the newly announced Samsung Gear Live. It sits relatively flatly on your wrist, and barely tries to conform to the organic shape of your body. It compensates for this by being very lightweight. Personally, I'm used to wearing watches of all kinds, and this is definitely more comfortable to type in than anything made out of metal. I could see myself running down the street after a bus with this thing on without a problem. The fact that you've got a watch on your wrist isn't going to bother you at all -- unless of course you're averse to the idea of wearing a watch altogether.
On first inspection, the IPS display lacks some of the shimmer and colour depth of the AMOLED displays Samsung is trotting out these days, but don't let that fool you. As an LG product manager told us here today, the lower-power display tech is what gives LG it's critical spec: It will show you the time for 36 hours straight without running out of batteries. And if you tweak the display settings in your using the G Watch app that's apparently dropping tomorrow to get four days. That's hugely impressive if it holds up -- and would make the watch actually usable as watch, which is maybe the most important thing it can do.
Unfortunately, the units I used today weren't running a retail demo mode, so we can't evaluate Android Wear, or the G Watch's actual performance. It shows the same weather, fitness, messaging and Google Now screens we've been seeing for some time. We'll update as soon as I get my hands on a full version of the OS.
As one of the very first Android Wear watches to hit the market, the LG G Watch has a lot to prove, and without using a version that's running the full version of Android Wear we can't say whether it's really going to work. But after just a few moments with the hardware, I think it might just prove that smartwatches can be useful.