The backbone of LG’s showing at Mobile World Congress 2015 was its newest pair of smartwatches: the Watch Urbane and Watch Urbane LTE. Although the two wearables share similar names, they’re distinctly different devices. The larger and thicker Watch Urbane LTE version supports, you guessed it, LTE, as well as NFC, allowing it to perform smartphone-style functions without the need for an actual smartphone. It also comes with LG’s own smartwatch software platform, the unimaginatively titled but ambitious Wearable Platform Operating System. The smaller and slimmer Watch Urbane, meanwhile, is essentially a more stylish version of last year’s G Watch R, complete with a new metal coat and the same Android Wear software. We were able to try the two out in Barcelona last week.
Aside from being a more capable device, the Watch Urbane LTE is also physically different than the Watch Urbane. It comes with three keys on its right side, not the one-button setup that’s used on most Android Wear watches like the regular Urbane here. It also seems humongous on the wrist, much closer to a masculine sports watch aesthetic than a luxury one, but at 110 grams, it isn’t exactly a burden to wear either. Nevertheless, the smaller Watch Urbane is sports a far more elegant design, and weighs in at just 45 grams. It’s a refined version of the already attractive G Watch R, with a slimmer bezel, gold or silver metal, and a more prominent display that makes swiping around a little less finicky.
Given the two watches’ capabilities, all of this makes some sense – with its plethora of antennas and health-tracking sensors, the Watch Urbane LTE is skewered towards people who want to leave their phone at home from time to time, so it carrying a little bit of extra weight isn’t the end of the world. The Watch Urbane is more about looks, on the other hands, and is compact enough to carry around alongside a smartphone without being an annoyance.
Part of the reason why the Watch Urbane LTE is so hefty is its sizeable 700mAh battery, which, based on our few hours of testing, has the potential to provide an entire day’s worth of juice. Making calls with the included LTE radio will inevitably diminish that a bit, but this should be one of the longest-lasting wearables on the market with normal use. By comparison, the Watch Urbane has a far weaker 400mAh battery, but because it isn’t LTE-capable, the difference may not be too stark at the end of the day.
Both the Watch Urbane and Watch Urbane LTE feature a 1.3-inch circular display with a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels, resulting in pixel density of 245 ppi. That’d be pretty low on a smartphone, and individual pixels can indeed be identified in practice, but again we can’t say that it’s too distracting on a panel this small. More concerning is the lack of brightness on both screens and the not-so-well saturated colors, especially in indoor settings. Thankfully, though, the two have solid contrast ratios and remain visible when taken into the sunlight.
As mentioned above, the Watch Urbane LTE is the device here that actually behaves differently. It features built-in LTE – a smartwatch first, according to LG, since Samsung’s like-minded Gear S was 3G-only – to make independent texts and phone calls, and built-in NFC for easy mobile payments. These are steps forward for smartwatches as a whole, and they’re possible here because LG has decided to forego the usual Android Wear for its own WebOS-based solution.
Using the Wearable Platform OS, as it’s called, on the Watch Urbane LTE is notably intuitive, and often feels more capable than Google’s counterpart. The device’s middle key lets you switch between watch skins and a scrolling list of installed applications, while its lower key serves as a back button (or a speed dial shortcut if long pressed). The upper key, meanwhile, is intended for fast and easy access to notifications and settings at any moment. The whole thing just seems more organized and easier to handle than what we’ve seen on most smartwatches to date.
On the spec sheet, both Watch Urbane devices are equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 chipset running a 1.2 GHz clock, along with 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of memory storage. All of that should be sufficient for this kind of device, although we did experience some lag when pressing keys and moving quickly across the screen.
The smartwatch scene is more crowded than ever, but LG looks to have two new worthy entrants in the Watch Urbane and, especially, the powerful Watch Urbane LTE. According to LG representatives, the former will be available on global markets soon, while the latter is only confirmed for Korea, with a European and US launch coming after that, if at all. Pricing details haven’t been revealed, but AT&T has committed to selling the Watch Urbane in the States whenever it’s available.