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Wearable Tech

LG Watch W7 is a weird hybrid of Wear OS and analog watch

Just when you thought smartwatches had no extra surprises, along comes LG.

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LG Watch W7: real hands, LCD screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

LG has a brand new phone, the LG V40, but it also has a new watch. The LG Watch W7 is the company's first smartwatch since the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style in early 2017. But instead of aiming at pure fitness, the Watch W7 is going high fashion with an unexpected twist: It's a $450 hybrid Wear OS smartwatch that blends a display and an analog watch, with real watch hands, coming later this month.

Advanced smartwatches still have a problem, and that problem is battery life. The Apple Watch lasts a day and a half. Google Wear OS watches, about a day. The Samsung Galaxy Watch: two days or so. Some watches have tried to tackle battery life with improved low-power chips, simplified functions, using physical hands or running off body heat.

The LG Watch W7 is the first hybrid Google smartwatch that we've ever seen, one that blends analog watch hands with an actual screen underneath. What does that mean, exactly? 

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From this distance, looks pretty normal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

At first it looks... like a normal watch

Despite seeming strange in concept, photos make it look utterly normal. The round watch looks even more normal thanks to its physical watch hands. The LED display beneath adds extra design for watch faces, and also shows information like any other Google Wear OS watch. That could make this an interesting choice for a "I want a smartwatch that looks like a normal watch" person.

On the side, two buttons and a spinning crown control extra features, similar to other Wear OS watches we've seen.

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Oh no.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Those physical watch hands could get in the way

The watch has completely real hands, lit up for night viewing. But that also means part of the display's obscured. The hands can move aside temporarily when showing notifications, but it seems like it could get weird at times, too. See here: the physical hands actually lie over the display. The hands can move to different positions to "get out of the way" and show information, but in the end those hands are still sprouting from the middle.

The hands move when the top button is pressed, and the display shifts up a bit for better visibility. It's an odd solution that seems like it could be problem for a bunch of Wear OS apps.

Battery life goes long, but only in nonsmartwatch mode

The analog watch part of the LG Watch W7, made by Swiss watch component manufacturer Soprod SA, works independently from Wear OS and basically lets the watch last for 100 days in a basic time-telling mode.

With the OLED display and Wear OS connected, the LG Watch W7 lasts two days, similar to many other smartwatches.

Another odd thing about the Watch W7 is that, despite aiming for better battery life, it does not use Qualcomm's next-gen Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip, which aims to offer longer-life standard watch modes that last up to 30 days. Instead, the W7 runs off the older Wear 2100 chip platform, and the 240-mAh battery isn't particularly large by smartwatch standards.

Limited features

Most other recent Wear OS watches have focused on adding heart rate, NFC payments, GPS and water resistance to catch up with the Apple Watch. The LG Watch W7 doesn't have heart rate or GPS, although it has an altimeter/barometer. And it only has IP68 water resistance, which is rated for 30 minutes of water immersion, but not swimming. And there isn't any NFC, and there's no onboard LTE, but LG's considering it in a future watch (LG was an early adopter of cellular-equipped smartwatches via Android Wear).

Who is this for?

Good question. The LG Watch W7 is targeted at fashion-watch folk, those who want an everyday more traditional-type watch. It's also odd because Google and Qualcomm are working with high-end Swiss watch manufacturers already, but those pricey Wear OS smartwatches from Tag Heuer and Montblanc, among others, don't have any analog, mechanical-style aspect at all, opting for only touchscreens.

The watch's design is clearly in the bigger-men's-watch category as far as style, something many other round smartwatches tend to fall into -- the Samsung Galaxy Watch comes to mind. The Watch W7 seems solid but large. It's at the thicker end of the smartwatch spectrum.

We'll be reviewing the LG Watch W7 as soon as we can: It's expected to arrive later this year.

LG Watch W7 specs:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • 1.2-inch LCD, 360x360 pixels, 300 ppi
  • 768MB RAM
  • 4GB storage
  • 240-mAh battery
  • 1.75 by 0.51 by 1.79 inches (44 by 13 by 45 mm)
  • 2.8 ounces (79 grams)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • IP68 water and dust resistant
  • Accelerometer, gyro, magnetic, pressure, compass, altimeter, barometer

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