One of the great stumbling blocks for smartwatches is the user interface, with tiny touch displays less than ideal for adult fingers. LG Electronics (LG) puts forward its answer with the unveiling of the LG G Watch; one of the first smartwatches to use Android Wear to produce a minimalist design aimed at a mass audience. Like other Wear watches, it’s a device that you don’t press buttons to control – you have a chat with it.
The G Watch is designed to provide information at a glance by means of a 1.65-inch LCD “always on” display. Instead of digging a phone out of a pocket, users simply have to take a quick look at their G Watch to gain access to incoming calls, messages, music players, and other apps and updates as a series of cards on the display.
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Inside, the G Watch is powered by a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, and 4 GB eMMC/512MB RAM memory. There's also Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and 9-axis sensors, including gyro, accelerometer, and compass. Made of PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coated stainless steel with a silicone band, the buttonless device comes in Black Titan and White Gold color options.
The G Watch also has an official Ingress Protection rating of IP67, which means it’s protected against dust and can withstand water immersion for half an hour at a depth of one meter (that's been a pretty common rating on the early smartwatches). Designed to pair with devices running Android 4.3 and above, the watch can automatically display relevant localized information when traveling, and send pre-selected texts for unanswered calls.
The interface is about as simple as it can get in that it’s completely buttonless. This may seem like building a car, then locking the only set of keys inside, but there’s method to the ergonomic madness. A watch with all sorts of features may be a good idea, but it doesn’t make tiny buttons operated by large fingers any the less annoying, so LG – and Android Wear as a whole – opted for voice recognition as the primary control option.
The track record with watches hasn’t been that good, and anyone who’s uses Google’s voice recognition may have second thoughts about relying on it without a backup interface, but LG says it has been working closely with Google to ensure the voice recognition offers a seamless user experience.
"As one of the first to market with Android Wear, LG wanted to develop a product that functions as an essential companion device but most importantly, was simple to use," says Dr Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of the LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. "We wanted a device that would be simple to learn and so intuitive that users wouldn’t even have to think about how to use its features. That’s what the LG G Watch is all about."
The LG G Watch is available for pre-order for US$229 on the Google Play Store in 12 countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea, and Japan, with later roll outs scheduled for Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Russia.
The video below introduces the LG G Watch.