LG Watch Style review: A great smartwatch with a big battery problem

Android Wear 2.0 kicked off with a pair of smartwatches from LG: the Watch Style and the Watch Sport. The Watch Sport is definitely the flagship between the two, but the Watch Style offers a much more svelte and fashionable option for someone who doesn’t want a bulky, fitness-focused device.

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It’s a slick device that aims to show off the best of Android Wear 2.0 can do, and hopefully pulls it off better than some of LG’s other previous Android Wear offerings.

Design

The LG Watch Style looks like, well, a watch. Gone are the days of smartwatches being ugly, square boxes, and the Watch Style flaunts that.

The smartwatch features a sleek round face made of metal and plastic, which feels surprisingly premium. Most of the device is plastic, to be honest, but the frame around the display is stainless steel. It’s a nice compromise between keeping the watching feeling high-end without driving the cost up.

Interestingly, LG managed to fit the ambient light sensor of the watch into its face. This gives it the ability to adjust screen brightness and manage the always-on display without having to have an extra sensor anywhere else on the device, creating a much cleaner design.

The backside is completely plastic and plain, with only a basic LG logo right in the center. No other sensors or monitors here.

The watch bands that come with the Watch Style are leather and can be replaced with any standard 18mm watch band. The included bands are nice, but you’ve got that flexibility to customize, unlike the Watch Sport.

Hardware

The LG Watch Style features 1.2-inch (360×360) P-OLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a 240mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, and WiFi 802.11 b/g/n.

Performance

The Watch Style loses many of the high-end features that its sibling has, but that means only good things for performance. There’s not much that you can throw at this smartwatch to slow it down, even with the power saving mode enabled. Receiving notifications is instant, apps are quick to load and launch, and games are fluid. Does game performance really matter on a 1.2-inch screen that’s strapped to your wrist all day? Who knows, but it’s great.

LG didn’t skimp on the display of the Watch Style, either. It’s a pretty high quality P-OLED screen that looks great in most conditions and isn’t too tough to see in bright outdoor light. The relatively small screen packs a 360 x 360 resolution, which comes out to roughly 300ppi. Text and images are very crisp, and while it won’t match up to your ridiculously high end phone, it’s really good for a smartwatch.

The interface is surprisingly great, too. Scrolling through menus and through notifications is buttery smooth, with very little lag anywhere in the software. Obviously there’s not much that a smartwatch can do, especially compared to a phone, but rest assured you’re never going to want to throw this thing against a wall for lagging.

Battery

However, you might want to throw this smartwatch against a wall for its battery life. With the fancy always-on display, you’re going to want to bring the charger along. There’s almost no way to last all day with the display always going, and that’s even with light usage.

Turning the always-on display helps, but it’s still a pretty poor showing. I never actually made the watch last for a full 24 hours and always had to drop it on the charger before the 20-hour mark. If you actually use the cool new apps and features of Android Wear 2.0, you could very realistically have a dead smartwatch on your wrist halfway through your day.

To be fair, I’m used to the Pebble Time, which still offers almost a full week on a single charge. It’s not fair to compare the Watch Style to something with a much lighter display and fewer features, but I still consider sub-24-hour battery life to be pretty atrocious on any device in 2017.

Software

Android Wear 2.0 is a really cool improvement over the launch version of the software. Google has cleaned up a ton of the issues and helped to make smartwatches function a little better as a standalone device. Instead of needing to install apps from your phone, for example, you can access the Play Store directly from the watch and install things right then and there.

You’ll find tweaks to the watch faces, fitness tracking, and notification system in AW 2.0, and everything is for the better. You can customize your watch faces with different app notifications. Apps can call that API to set things up, which helps you better keep track of data at a glance.

Fitness tracking is also much better and much more integrated, and notifications work pretty similarly to how they work on your phone. Notifications are grouped to help make it easier to wade through them, and you can quickly reply to things like emails right from your wrist. The tiny keyboard on the watch is terrible to type on, but it’s there.

The Google feed has also gotten its own entry in the pseudo app drawer of Android Wear, so it’s really easy to jump into everything Google has to show you with just a few taps.

The lack of certain hardware features definitely hinders Android Wear in some aspects, however. There’s no NFC, so you can’t use Android Pay, and not having a heart rate monitor or GPS definitely puts a damper on the fitness capabilities of the watch.

There’s nothing revolutionary here that would make you want a smartwatch if you weren’t already sold on the concept, but if you were on the fence or already enjoyed Android Wear, it might be enough to pull you in.

Closing

The LG Watch Style is a really nicely designed smartwatch with great performance that shows most of the best features of Android Wear 2.0. But man, the battery. The coolest features in the world are kind of lame when your device dies halfway through using them.

At $249, you’re getting a watch that can’t handle mobile payments, can’t fully compete with cheaper fitness trackers, and will probably be dead not long after you get home from work. It feels expensive and limited, despite how good the watch looks. If the price ever comes down or LG gets aggressive with their sales and promotions it might be worth it, but as it stands, there are way too many compromises for this to be a good idea at its current price.

Buy it now: Google Store, Best Buy


About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid and an unhealthy obsession with fixing things that aren't broken. This accidentally led to being the go-to guy for anything more complicated than a toaster, which he considers more of a curse than a blessing. Jared is enrolled in online classes at the University of Phoenix, and spends his spare time on video games and listening to music.


  • surethom

    The main problem with the LG style is the lack or heart rate, this has stopped me buying this, the hear rate is used for sleep tracking & general day heart rate, so I have bought the Huawei watch 1 which it to thick but that is the only 1 that actually has everything I need.

  • CF542

    Battery life is king above all else. If a smartwatch can’t get two days minimum then it’s time to move on and look for something else. If the LG is this bad new, just wait until it is six months old and holds a lesser charge from age and daily use.