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What’s round, black, and attaches to you tightly with a genuine leather strap?

We don’t know where we thought we were heading with that opening, but we’re talking about the LG G Watch R. It’s one of the latest Android Wear-powered smartwatches available on the market, and it was officially launched here in the Philippines a short while back.

We’re no stranger to smartwatches here at Gadget Pilipinas, but this one is kind of special. As earlier mentioned, it has a round shape — not much when compared with regular watches, but a clear differentiator from other wearables. And it also runs the latest version of Android Wear, which has been updated to match Android 5.0 Lollipop.

G Watch R hero

So what exactly is the big deal with the G Watch R and its ilk?

Design and build quality

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The G Watch R is the second Android smartwatch out of South Korea-based LG’s stable. The first one was called the G Watch, and the main difference between the two is that the first one was square while this one, as we have mentioned twice previously, is round.

People keep saying that its roundness makes the G Watch R look better than its predecessor, but in our opinion, that is entirely subjective. Physically, it does look a lot like a regular watch. And if you like the classic watch aesthetic, then you’re going to love the look of the G Watch R. But it serves the exact same purpose as the G Watch, and that is to act as a wrist-based wearable accessory. With Android!

The G Watch R’s watch face is a user-configurable P-OLED (Plastic OLED) screen, and it’s surrounded by a non-rotating bezel with traditional watch face markings, complete with indicators for the 15-minute, 30-minute, and 45-minute mark. The black strap completes the “regular watch” look, but you can replace it with any standard strap if you want to.

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Flipping the G Watch R on its face reveals the built-in heart rate sensor that it has on the back. This can be found right in the center, below the LG logo, and right next to it is a curving line of charger pins not unlike the ones found on the older G Watch.

One of the problems on the older G Watch was the fact that one of the charging pins (the second one from the top) tended to corrode after a few days or weeks of being exposed to sweat. We’re happy to report that, on the G Watch R, this problem no longer exists.

Like the older G Watch, the G Watch R also features IP67 dust- and water-resistance. While we never got around to testing it, we’re willing to take LG’s word for it — this gadget should survive the rare drop into a filled-up kitchen sink or bathroom toilet. We’d be wary of scratching the screen, though, as it doesn’t seem to have Gorilla Glass protection.

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The underside of the G Watch R’s black strap really makes it clear that it’s made out of genuine leather material. Is that a good thing? Yes it is. But if we’re being honest, LG may have gone a bit too far in the let’s-try-our-best-to-make-this-look-like-a-regular-watch department, in this regard.

The leather strap is made out with a stiff kind of leather, and we found that it creases up very easily, which of course affects the overall look of the G Watch R. The tightness of the G Watch R around the wrists is adjustable thanks to built-in strap holes, but even those are subject to the leather strap quality.

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The strap hole that we used the most ended up getting bigger than all of the other ones — which we didn’t use — and we imagine something similar happens to every other unit of the G Watch R.

Overall, we just think the strap of choice was better on the older G Watch, although the one on the G Watch R also manages to get the job done. And besides, the creases and relative stiffness of the straps can be viewed as minor cons when compared with the pros which include looking sharp while wearing this handsome-looking smartwatch.

Software and performance

As of this time’s writing, the software on the G Watch R has already been updated to Android Wear 5.0. The update brings with it even more watch faces, better remote control features, and a more useful Android Wear companion app which you can install and use on any compatible smartphone.

It should be noted here that Android Wear — the app — only works on devices running Android 4.3 or later. So it goes without saying that you absolutely need a device with Android 4.3 or later to use the G Watch R as well.

In terms of features, the G Watch R is equipped to work as a proxy smartphone texter or dialer and more. In fact, not only can you text or call with it, you can also use it to search the Internet (through Google) as well as check the weather, set calendar appointments, create to-do lists, and control music playback.

The one thing that we couldn’t do on the G Watch R even though we could do it on the G Watch? We couldn’t reply to emails or texts directly on the watch itself, even with canned responses (message templates). The only option we had on incoming messages was to read them, and then we could either swipe them away or open them on the phone. That was before the update, though. And if another update comes along, we’re sure that the G Watch R will gain even more features.

With all of that said, the G Watch R can function as a proper smartwatch — update or no update at all. Its pedometer is reliable, if somewhat inaccurate, and its heart rate sensor comes in handy when trying to keep tabs on your cardiovascular health. We also found that the G Watch R has the ability to last for quite a long time on a single charge.

Battery life

Based on our testing, the G Watch R manages to last over 40 hours on active standby while the screen is set to always-on. In real life usage, it can easily go for 3-5 days straight on a single charge if you turn on airplane mode every once in a while and let the screen go completely black when there are no notifications. This happens automatically after the most recent software update, and it’s really a great way to save battery life.

You have the use the bundled charging cradle to recharge the G Watch R, and that’s a bit of a hassle. But fortunately, it charges through micro USB, so you can charge it even without venturing near a power outlet. Just use a USB-compatible powerbank. That should be enough to fill up the G Watch R’s 410mAh battery.

Verdict

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So does the LG G Watch R deserve all of the hype that it has received so far? We know plenty of people who have sworn by its round watch face, and others who think it’s the best Android-powered wearable ever released by any company by far. Well, it certainly looks smart. But should you buy it?

Our verdict on the G Watch R is undoubtedly positive, but we have to be realistic. At this point in time, a smartwatch is a novelty. Even the ones that cost as low as $100 (less than 5,000 Pesos) should be considered carefully before being entered into any Christmas shopping list.

However, any self-respecting early adopter would do good to don the G Watch R as soon as possible. The display quality took a hit here — the P-OLED panel is not as good as the IPS LCD used on the older model — but everything else has been improved. It’s far from an essential, but you can consider the G Watch R to be an excellent accessory.

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