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Friday, 29 August 2014


LG's G Watch was one of the first Android Wear devices to hit the market, but it didn't quite capture the fancy of the buying public the way the beautiful, round Moto 360 did. So LG went back to work, and came up with a beautiful, round smartwatch of its own. Meet the G Watch R.
LG has finally verified that round displays on smartwatches are real. They're "a thing." The Moto 360 isn't a one-off; the industry has officially figured out how to deliver round wearables, and it's going to do so on a measurable scale. But there is still an issue.
The G Watch R's key feature is its display, a 1.3-inch Plastic OLED panel that takes up 100 percent of the watch's round face. LG promises that it's viewable in sunlight and clear from any angle, and the plastic also comes with some durability benefits — the G Watch R works in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. The screen rests in a stainless steel frame, and comes with an interchangeable calf skin leather strap. This device looks perhaps more like a normal analog watch than any other we've seen before, including the Moto 360.
Of course, it's not an analog watch. It's powered by Android Wear, meaning it offers the same Google Now-based experience we've seen on a couple of devices so far. You'll get notifications, easy access to notes and calendar and directions, and more. It's powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM, plus 4GB of internal storage. It has a heart-rate monitor, unlike the G Watch, plus a handful of health and fitness apps that should make the G Watch R a little more useful as a fitness tracker. Still, from a functionality standpoint the devices don't differ much. It's all about the hardware — and the hardware makes all the difference.

Where the G Watch is bland and square — not badly designed so much as simply not designed at all — the G Watch R has a lovely sense of sophistication to it. Part of that is also due to the retro-analog watchfaces, which show sweeping second hands and a set of internal dials that look right at home in a classic watch. There's even a crown on the side, which is likely the power button in disguise. (The G Watch's mysteriously missing power button appears to have been rectified.)
Count on this being a trend this year: smartwatch makers will churn these devices out as fast as they can, attempting to satisfy as many tastes as possible and to learn as quickly as possible what works for consumers. Things will change quickly, but right now, it's hip to be round.
However, there is still a big question in consumers´ mind. And that is;
I can't overstate how important that is. Smartwatch adoption is held back primarily by two things: one, it's hard to convince people that they need notifications on their wrist. That's an ongoing challenge, and the ball now lies in Apple's court to see if the industry is ready and able to turn that corner. But secondly, smartwatches still just don't look that great. It's a complaint I've been lodging since before the launch of Samsung's original Galaxy Gear last year. Even the best-looking ones are compromised.

That's not to say a wrist-worn device must have a round face to look good, of course, but it can't look like a physical manifestation of high technology — it has to put fashion first, because it's always visible. You can hide a smartphone in your pocket or purse when it's not in use, but wearables have to ascribe to the same rules of design as a shirt, shoe, or hat. (Imagine how many more Google Glass would be sold if they were indistinguishable from regular sunglasses or eyeglasses.) The round face, an iconic element of the classic wristwatch, is a huge leap in that direction.

But it's only a leap, not the finish line. Multiple industry sources have indicated to me that manufacturers are aggressively pursuing display technologies that would make smartwatches virtually indistinguishable from a 30-year-old Timex or Tag Heuer without sacrificing functionality. Analog watch hands aren't dead: consider a round, full-color display with hands above, or a transparent OLED with hands underneath, for instance. The technology is close, and designers are fully aware that they need to get there.
And for smartwatches, that's the dream: once engineers figure out how to seamlessly walk us back to analog, they'll be able to replicate the full spectrum of designs found in traditional wristwatches. Obviously analog hands aren't for everyone, but then you'll be able to choose something more akin to a Moto 360 or G Watch R, or even a rectangular display if that's more your style. That variety is a wonderful thing. It's a celebration of form factor diversity that we've lost with smartphones in the age of the glass rectangle — but thankfully we won't have to lose it with the wearable.