Well behaved children could be up for a smartwatch this Christmas if they play their cards right. The category is being hailed as the ‘next big thing’ by electronic companies, even though most remain clueless on how smartwatches will make our days that much better.
Breaking away from the pack is Motorola and LG, which recently launched circular smartwatches in Australia. Both smartwatches run Android wear, work with Android phones running 4.3 and above, and pack fitness features.
Yet these two similar smartwatches are worlds apart.
A design from the ages
A multitude of problems plague the LG G Watch R. The smartwatch ships with 24 watch faces, although the majority are unattractive. The distasteful faces make waste of the G Watch R’s superior 1.3-inch plastic-OLED display.
The 1.3in display proves relatively small when it's compared to other smartwatches. People want big phones, but when it comes to computers stealing real-estate from wrists, the challenge lies in keeping them small. LG had this going for it as the Moto 360 has a 1.5in display, but the company undermined its own efforts.
Rounding the face of LG’s smartwatch is such thick bezel that it ends up being larger than the Moto 360. Defacing this bezel permanently are redundant minute markings. We’re not sure why the markings are there because they’re replicated on virtual watchfaces and are irrelevant altogether if you pick a digital face.
It gets worse. The G Watch R isn’t really a circle as massive hinges steal space. They reach outwards enough to leave the thin wristed (guilty) in discomfort. The latched leather band feels cheap, and the body’s underside is plastic. This ‘smartwatch’ looks like something from the $2 shop.
And LG is charging $359.
Motorola on the other hand has cracked the design of the Moto 360. When the company claims circular watchface, it delivers. The 360 is a sleek, steel, cylindrical pellet, a stylish capsule that best bridges the divide between being a smartwatch and being a timepiece.
The screen of the Motorola 360 is not a perfect circle as a small fraction of it has been cut straight. The backlit-LCD display has a resolution of 320x290, but the little black strip is a small price to pay for its stunning design.
What do smartwatches do?
Smartwatches primarily glean notifications from your smartphone and present them on your wrist. Motorola and LG’s smartwatches run Android Wear, and unlike its smartphone counterpart, little of the software can be tweaked.
Notifications are identical with both pushing the kind found in your smartphone’s notification blind to your wrist. Other insights from Google Now will also be displayed on the LG or Motorola smartwatch’s screen.
The watchfaces are what will separate one Android Wear device from another. LG comes with twice as many at 24, but many of them are unattractive.
Read more: LG sub-$1000 UHD TV (40UB800T) review
Update, 18 Nov: We initially found the G Watch R handled voice searches much slower than the Moto 360. We have since performed a hard-reset on our G Watch R and found it actions voice instructions just as quickly. Previously the performance was reason enough to abstain from recommending the G Watch R; however, with the improved performance, we believe it works just as well as Motorola's smartwatch.
One of these smartwatches comes with additional support. LG’s G Watch R relies solely on the stock applications that come with Android Wear. Motorola’s Moto 360 requires a separate ‘Connect’ app to be installed and it adds a custom ‘Moto 360 heart rate’ app.
Relying on the stock application gives an insight into your heart rate. Motorola’s custom app is better suited for exercise because it recognises the intensity of your heart rate when you’re working out.
Sweat scarcely fazes either of these smartwatches. The G Watch R and the Moto 360 are certified against water a metre deep for thirty minutes; however, Good Gear Guide doesn’t recommend wearing or swimming with the watches because there’s no guarantee for the watchband.
Battery life: running out of time
Sometimes dated technologies prove best, and in the case of smartwatch battery life, the sentiment couldn’t be more true. Each of these smartwatches come with the option of having an always on screen, or the option to switch the screen on whenever you flick your wrist to capture a glimpse of the time. Tapping an inactive screen is another way of turning on the display.
Good Gear Guide tested the smartwatches with the ‘always on’ screen disabled. We found the Moto 360 would hold charge for a day, while the LG G Watch R lasted almost a day and a half. Unfortunately our review period was not long enough to repeatedly record battery life with the ‘always on’ mode enabled.
Charging the smartwatches from flat to full happens in an hour. LG offers the G Watch R with a charging base, while Motorola’s Moto 360 charges wirelessly when it's set on the included dock. There’s no technological advantages separating the two modes of charging, but the docking system for the Motorola 360 adds a touch of finesse — and it is a touch missing from the LG.
Specs, at a glance
The smartwatches from LG and Motorola have the same features, with each offering round displays, a range of watchfaces, a heart monitor and resistance to water. The bands are interchangeable and they both run Android Wear. But these smartwatches are miles apart. The LG G Watch R lends the impression it is another electronic gizmo. The Moto 360 on the other hand doesn't: it is a time piece evolved.
Pricing and colours
LG is only offering the G Watch R in black, although the enthusiast can swap out its band with any stock 22mm offering. Motorola is offering the 360 for $329 in combinations of light and dark colours, with Horween leather bands or, for the same $359 price tag as the LG, with matching steel bands.
Update, 18 Nov: We have since performed a hard-reset on our G Watch R and found it actions voice instructions just as quickly as the Motorola Moto 360. This has resulted in an amended verdict.