Posted By Simon Montford on Oct 17 2015
Whenever I go out wearing my LG Watch Urbane during the day it receives very little attention, because it looks very much like a conventional horological watch. At night, however, it's a different story. The Urbane's illuminated P-OLED fascia looks so good it turns heads.
In dark settings such as bars and clubs, the Urbane's effulgent watch face not only receives admiring looks, but people have actually walked over to me for a closer look. On one occasion, while navigating a crowded bar, a young lad exclaimed that it was the coolest thing he'd ever seen! Although flattered, I think his over-enthusiasm was probably due to the volume of cocktails he'd consumed rather than a genuine passion for my item of wearable tech. Regardless, his super-charged compliment was gratefully received, because the Urbane is not just a timepiece, it's a personal style statement.
The Urbane runs the Android Wear operating system, which handles notifications and supports an ever-increasing number of apps. Some come pre-loaded, but others need to be obtained via Google Play, installed onto your phone, then synced to the watch.
One of the greatest advantages of donning a smartwatch, is that I now spend far less time checking my phone, which is great particularly because I find having to enter a password each time I use it, very tedious and time consuming. As a smartwatch is less likely to be lost or tampered with, there's no need to enter one. Notifications, incoming calls and texts can be discreetly monitored at a glance. The Urbane's screen dims to extend battery life when in standby, but a quick tap will fully illuminate it. The watch's brightness level can, as you'd expect, be easily adjusted in the settings menu. Apps can also be quickly accessed with a tap and swipe.
I have always had a passion for watches. As previously mentioned, I think of them as accoutrements of style, so like any fashion accessory, they should be worn according to mood and occasion. For many, this has necessitated the need to own several watches.
One of the things I, therefore, love about the Urbane is that I can access an almost endless variety of different watch faces, negating the need to switch timepieces. If I'm in the mood for something elegant, say I'm at a formal event such as a wedding or a business meeting, I can select a fascia that looks like a Patek Philippe or a vintage Rolex. Many of the best fascias must, however, be purchased from Google Play. There are loads of different watch faces to choose from, but some of my favorites are "Avio", which is a Panerai-inspired diving fascia by Pizza Entertainment, "Yellow Code" by Pluto, and "Manarine" by Brandon.
In addition to beautiful-looking faces, you can also download a companion app that allows you to make and answer calls. This is a useful feature, but unless you have the LTE version (you insert a 3G sim into the watch itself) you can’t actually have a conversation without using your phone.
LG claims the Urbane's 410mAh battery can last three days, but as I like to have the screen on full brightness, it tends to last only around a day and a half between charges.
Overall the Urbane is an excellent product that I've grown increasingly fond of, but it's far from perfect. For example, it's not ideal for rugged activities like gym workouts. Even though it is waterproof (it can withstand immersion of one metre for up to half an hour) the leather strap isn't designed to get wet. Also, because it's such a thing of beauty, I'm constantly afraid of denting and scratching it. This is why I tend to leave it in my gym bag or locker when exercising. One solution is to buy a dedicated fitness trackers like the Fitbit Flex to complement the Urbane, but that really misses the point of having a multi-purpose smartwatch.
Another major fail, which is more to do with the operating system than the hardware, is text input. The only way to enter text is via voice command, which generally works very well for most things like search and navigation, but when it comes to replying to text messages it gets a big thumbs down! This is because there is no obvious way to edit text messages before they are sent. What all smartwatches desperately need is a touch-screen keyboard, such as Tusi, that allows texts to be edited before they are sent.
Illustrations ©Nautilus Beam Ltd / Tusi
Not having the ability to edit texts in this way has led to many incorrect words appearing due to the less than perfect voice recognition software; this is a big problem! In fact this missing feature has led to confusion and, on one occasion, acute embarrassment! A couple of weeks ago I replied to a text message sent to me by a work colleague that should have read "thank you". The problem was that Google Now thought I had said "love you"! Moments after the erroneous text message was sent, I received a call from my rather perplexed colleague. As you can imagine my unsolicited declaration of love didn't go down too well, and I had a lot of explaining to do!
For those considering a smartwatch, I would say the Urbane is a strong contender. It is available to purchase from Amazon.co.uk for the current price of £174.99, or from Amazon.com for $277.84 There are, however, plenty of other devices that are worthy of your consideration that include: the Apple Watch, the Huawei Watch, Samsung's Tizen-based Gear S2, the Moto 360 2, Asus Zen 2, and of course the Urbane's successor, which will be called, you guessed it, the predictably named LG Watch Urbane 2.
Please leave comments, as it would be great to hear from you. Which smartwatch do you own? Why did you go for that make/model? What are your likes and dislikes? If you are considering a smartwatch, which one are you planning to purchase? Also, please get in touch if you'd like to submit a guest blog, we are always on the look out for great content!
Disclaimer: I am a co-founder of Tusi, so have a clear incentive to see Tusi adopted by smartwatch OEMs. Everything written within this blog is a truthful account of a genuine need for a text entry feature, based on real-world events.
[Update: Since upgrading my Nexus 5 to Marshmallow, my Urbane refuses to sync! Hopefully I’ll be able to solve this issue soon].
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