Product Reviews

LG Watch Sport

Update: New LG Watch Sport availability information details have been added and new standalone apps have launching, including one for Uber.

The LG Watch Sport comes ready to play, offering more bells, whistles and watch faces than any other smartwatch or fitness tracker to date.

Headlined by Android Wear 2.0, this feature-packed watch debuts the long-overdue upgrade to Google’s nearly three-year old wearables software.

What you get is a cleaner, yet more robust interface, one that powers what’s likely be your first LTE-connected smartwatch – if you’re in the US it can function just fine without a phone nearby, for a small fee.

It’s a brawny-looking watch, built for fitness tracking thanks to a heart rate monitor, GPS chip, barometer and waterproof casing. You can even track strength training. Google to Apple: “Do you even lift?” Apple’s answer is “No.”

It’s pretty brainy, too. Android Pay lets you pay for things in stores from your wrist, and Google Assistant is the search engine giant’s context-understanding Siri rival.

This may not be enough to turn around flagging interest in smartwatches, though. If you didn’t want a watch before today, this isn’t likely going to change your mind about the product category.

Nevertheless, the watchmakers at LG and Google take significant steps in the right direction – the LG Watch Sport is enough to outperform the mighty Apple Watch 2 and Samsung Gear S3 Frontier in many areas.

No, Android Wear 2.0 isn’t perfect. Yes, the LG Watch Sport is chunky. It’s especially big next to the slicker LG Watch Style that launched simultaneously.

But if you want top-of-the-line fitness and calling features on your wrist, the Sport is the more convincing choice, and a better contender for our best smartwatch list. Let’s get into why that is.

Price and release date

  • $349 in the US, as low as $249 on contract
  • $5 to $10 a month for LTE connectivity (optional)
  • No UK and Australian price or release date yet
  • Available at the Google Store, AT&T and Verizon

The LG Watch Sport is an expensive smartwatch, but since it also has better specs than your average watch – even the more expensive Apple Watch 2 – it’s a reasonable enough value.

It costs $349 in the US via the Google Store, and it’s available on contract at both AT&T and Verizon. AT&T charges $249 with a two-year contract that costs $10 a month, while Verizon prices it at a higher $329, but charges just $5 monthly for its two-year contract. Don’t be fooled: Verizon’s plan is cheaper in the long run.

We don’t yet have pricing and launch information for the UK and Australia, direct price conversions put it at about £300 and AU$455.

You’re going to want to save up a little more dough, however. The LG Watch Sport accepts nano SIM cards, enabling you to stay connected even when out of range of your traditional smartphone.

In the States, it costs $10 a month to keep the extra line active on AT&T. Verizon charges a $5 monthly fee, while T-Mobile and Sprint aren’t compatible this new smartwatch.

That’s another – optional – $60 to $120 a year on top of the $349 price. Being cutting-edge is always going to cost you when it comes to technology.

The good news is that AT&T’s NumberSync feature is free, so you can link your phone’s existing number to the smartwatch number so no one sees your weird new watch number. 

If you live in the UK you won’t be able to link you current mobile number to the second SIM in the Watch Sport. Networks in Britain don’t offer the feature, so when the wearable finally lands in the UK you’ll have to shell out for a second contract with a second number – which is pretty frustrating.

Design and comfort

  • Sizable watch that rises pretty high off the wrist
  • Surprisingly comfortable fit with contoured lugs
  • Rotating ‘main button’ and two customizable buttons
  • Waterproof up to 1.5m (5ft) for 30 minutes

There’s nothing small about this sports-driven smartwatch, but it’s still stylish, form-fitting and surprisingly comfortable despite all its extra weight and girth.

It measures 45.4 x 51.21mm on the wrist, around the same as the LG Watch Urbane. And while it’s not nearly as slim – rising 14.2mm in the air – its lugs are more gracefully contoured.

The curved top and bottom lugs make the watch look and feel smaller than it really is, while it doesn’t seem as heavy as its weight of 89g, meaning medium-sized wrists can pull this off.

It’s ergonomically designed – just not as much so as the LG Watch Style – where it needs to be, and, first and foremost, it maintains top performance. The underside of the watch stands tall on your wrist so that you won’t have to move it down on your wrist to get a good heart rating reading.

Maybe it looks smaller than it really is because of those slimming colors: titanium or dark blue. The latter is a Google Store exclusive, that, like the Google Pixel and Pixel XL in Really Blue, could become hard to find in stock.

Neither color comes close to the infinitely more elegant-looking Huawei Watch – but this is a fitness watch, not a luxury timepiece. At the same time, it does a good job of blending into everyday life. It’s something you can wear outside of the gym, too.

Our titanium-colored review unit combines a matte stainless steel casing and dark gray watch band. It strikes an attractive two-toned finish whenever the thin, circular bezel catches the light.

A large watch like this deserves a sizable buckle to secure it to your wrist. The band is made of the usual Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), so it’s gym-appropriate, and will endure your sweatiest workouts. 

The TPU here is stiffer and less rubbery than the band found on LG’s first Android Wear watch, the LG G Watch, which had the same type of material.

Not only does it feel better against our skin, it cleverly contains watch antennas. That means the watch band isn’t removable, unlike the one on the Mode band-compatible LG Watch Style; again, this watch is about functionality over fashion.

What you do get are a microphone and speaker for phone calls, and a hidden SIM card tray to make it all work with or without a phone. We’ll look at its performance in these areas later.

Also exclusive to the LG Watch Sport over the Style are two extra physical buttons in addition to the ‘Rotating Side Button’, a less clever name than Apple’s Digital Crown. 

You can twist away at this knob without covering up the touchscreen with your fingers (and fingerprints), although we instinctively still did that. The two extra side buttons can be programmed, but by default they’re convenient shortcuts to the fitness app and Android Pay.

The watch casing is also water-resistant, with its IP68 rating meaning it can survive 1.5 meters (about 5ft) underwater for up to 30 minutes. Only Pebble smartwatches beat that rating.

IP68 makes it more waterproof than the first Apple Watch and LG Watch Style – both at IPX7 – and it ties the Gear S3. But like Samsung’s watch, Google advises you not to go swimming with it on. This may have something to do with the fact that it doesn’t have a water-ejecting speaker along the lines of the new Apple Watch 2, which can go to a depth of 50 meters (164ft).

Screen

  • Stylish, full circle 1.38-inch OLED display looks fantastic
  • The always-on screen mode is useful, but is a battery drain
  • Gets brighter outdoors for decent visibility in sunlight

The LG Watch Sport has a beautiful, round screen with a sharp 480 x 480 resolution, better than any other Android smartwatch and matching the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE.

It’s the circular 1.38-inch OLED display and always-on mode that really sell this Android Wear, however – it’s the classic-looking face many Apple Watch owners wish they had instead.

There are some trade-offs with this, however. You’ll find more usable screen space on boxy watch faces, like that of the Apple Watch, and the always-on display can be a significant battery drain.

We let the LG Watch Sport sit idle with the always-on display enabled and, yes, it sucked up less battery life in this craftily dimmed mode. But it drained nearly 2% every hour, and that really adds up – if you don’t put it back on the charger at night you’ll start the day at around 80%.

Outdoor visibility remains a challenge in direct sunlight, as it does for all watches, although it has an auto-brightness mode (on by default) that goes some way to addressing the problem. The Gorilla Glass 3 protection also helps to reduce unwanted reflections.


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