The LG Watch Style is a thin and light smartwatch built in collaboration with Google. It’s also one of the first watches to run Android Wear 2.0, Google’s revamped smartwatch operating system. Android Wear 2.0 will arrive on a handful of other watches soon, but the Style and LG Watch Sport will be the first watches to get the update.
Android Wear 2.0 makes for a better smartwatch than Google’s last efforts, but LG’s basic smartwatch isn’t the best watch to take advantage of the improvements. There’s no heart-rate sensor, no speaker for answering calls and no NFC for mobile payments. It’s best feature is an Apple Watch-like rotating digital crown. That shows just how basic this watch really is. If you want a smarter smartwatch, you might consider the LG Watch Sport… but that costs more, and is a lot larger.
The LG Watch Style will be available in silver, rose gold, and titanium on February 10 for $249 (which converts to about £200 or AU$325, with UK and Australian pricing and availability yet to be announced). I’ve been wearing one for a week.
Living with the Style
The Style is thin, but it has one of the smallest batteries of any smartwatch (only 240mAh). I saw about 20 hours paired on a Samsung Galaxy S7 with early access beta software installed, and 15 hours on an iPhone (without the updated Android Wear 2.0 conduit app). Those numbers might change when final software arrives, but it’s not promising so far.
The digital crown is key
The highlight feature is one that LG copied from Apple. The crown on the side of the watch can actually rotate and be used to navigate the interface. It’s a lot smoother than using a finger, and helpful for scrolling through notifications when wearing gloves.
A single press on the crown will bring you to the app drawer. Android Wear 2.0 adds an on-watch Play Store for downloading apps. I didn’t find many useful ones, but it’s still early and that could change.
A long press on the crown will open the Google Assistant. The Style doesn’t have a loudspeaker, which means you can’t answer calls with it and the Assistant won’t speak to you — it can only show information on the screen. It was easier to scroll around and find what I was looking for myself.
This isn’t the only feature the watch is missing. While Android Wear 2.0 supports mobile payments through Android Pay, the Style can’t do this because it lacks near-field communication (NFC). While Android Wear 2.0 adds new workout and fitness features, there’s no heart-rate sensor or GPS. The Style connects via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to your phone, while the step-up (and much larger) Watch Sport adds LTE for a full stand-alone phone connection.
Should I buy it?
Android Wear 2.0 fixes a lot of what I didn’t like about Android Wear watches. No longer do random Google cards about stock or traffic fill the screen, and instead I receive useful notifications for emails and text messages. But there’s still no real reason to buy a smartwatch. They’re still just a luxury.
The Style is one of the first watches to run the software, but it won’t be alone. Existing Android Wear watches will see an update in the coming weeks, which makes the Style a hard sell. Between the poor battery life, cheap feel and limited features, you’re probably better off with a different watch.
For iPhone users, it’s the Apple Watch Series 1 or Series 2, while Android users should check out the Huawei Watch, Asus ZenWatch 3 or Samsung Gear S3. We haven’t updated the Huawei Watch or ZenWatch 3 to Android Wear 2.0 yet, but stay tuned as we test other Android Wear watch models. Our final rating on the Style is pending until final Wear 2.0 software and more apps arrive, but this isn’t the Android Wear watch I would pick out of the bunch… although I do like that spinning crown.