LG's G Watch R shows off sophisticated curves and circular 1.3-inch display (hands-on)

At IFA 2014, LG will launch its G Watch R smartwatch, complete with a 1.3-inch circular display.

Lynn La

Lynn La

Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones

Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.

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3 min read

Editors' Note: This piece was originally published on August 27, 2014 and has been updated with hands-on impressions.

These days, it's definitely hip to be round -- at least, as far as LG's concerned.

Less than six months after it unveiled its G Watch smartwatch, the Korean tech company announced that it will launch another wearable device, called the G Watch R. Though both devices run Google Android Wear, the G Watch R sports a distinct circular face compared to its predecessor's square design.

The smartwatch first debuted at the IFA 2014 tech show in Berlin. According to LG, the device will be available in "key markets" starting Q4 of 2014, most likely towards the end of September. Though official price and release date information will be announced as launch dates of each region draw nearer, expect it to be somewhere around $330 (£200 or AU$350).

Taking a page out of the Moto 360's design book, the G Watch R features a stainless steel frame and an interchangeable leather strap. This new design is promising, and is in stark contrast to the original G Watch. When CNET's Scott Stein reviewed that device, he noted that it was simply unattractive looking and it felt like "the sort of generic smartwatch nobody really wants to own." And despite having a high build quality, it ultimately looked bland.

The G Watch R, on the other hand, aims for a higher, more sophisticated level of style that its predecessor didn't quite achieve -- especially when you consider that it's going more upscale, with leather and steel construction.

When CNET's Luke Westaway and Andrew Hoyle got their hands on it during the IFA tech show, they noted that the device had a classy and masculine design. Its 1.3-inch (33mm) plastic OLED display with a 320x320-pixel resolution was also a standout feature. When it's set to a regular clockface, passersby may have to do a double-take to see that the face is actually made up of pixels. Unfortunately, the G Watch R still felt a bit chunky on the wrist, and isn't as thin as, say, the Asus ZenWatch.

Up close with the sleek, circular LG G Watch R (pictures)

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The device is powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and a 410mAh battery. For the most part, it shares the same basic features as its Wear brethren: voice recognition; notifications to remind users of missed calls, messages, events, and the weather; and compatibility with handsets running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or later. It also shares the same shortcomings: it needs to be tethered to an Android phone to do most anything, and it won't work with iPhones.

Unlike the original G Watch, however, the R will be getting a heart-rate monitor that works in conjunction with LG's suite of health apps, LG Health. In order to preserve battery life, LG also forewent a GPS tracker. Instead, you'll need to rely on your tethered phone if you want to beam information about your location to the smartwatch.

Additional features include 4GB of internal storage and 512MB of RAM, and it meets IP67 certification to resist against dust and water. That means you can dunk your G Watch R in up to 3.3 feet (1 meter) of water for 30 minutes.

LG teased the possibility of a rounded smartwatch earlier this week when it posted a video online, which included the phrase "round the corners." But it won't be the first round Android Wear smartwatch to go on sale. That will likely be the Moto 360, which has been hotly anticipated since being teased in March -- and then again at Google I/O, where it overshadowed Samsung and LG's smartwatch announcements. Motorola has said it will be available "late summer," and will most likely launch the 360 next week at a September 4 Chicago event.

LG has ditched the square and opted for a stylish rounded design. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung is in the works of developing its own rounded wearable as well. Many predict LG's top Korean rival will reveal the smartwatch ahead of IFA 2014, at its September 3 Unpacked event.

While designing a circular smartwatch simply presents you with another design to choose from, LG and Samsung's direction to round the bend could be due to the fact that most users find the shape more aesthetically pleasing.

According to CNET's Nick Statt, smartwatches are moving "away from sharp corners and boxy screens and toward edge-to-edge displays and circular faces." And as wearables become as much a fashion statement as they are a piece of technology, it wouldn't be surprising if LG's isn't the last one to jump on the circle bandwagon.

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