LG Watch Urbane, hands-on: Android Wear gets dressy

LG's newest variation on its Android Wear watch gets glossier: is a tweaked design enough?

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

LG's latest smartwatch has gone for a fancy look, but still runs Android Wear. Is that enough to get it past the post? I tried one on in Barcelona for myself.

The LG G Watch R, unveiled last year, was one of a handful of round-faced Android Wear watches. It looked like a regular sports watch. It was also one of CNET's favorites.

LG's new version, the slightly weirdly named LG Watch Urbane, takes that same vivid, fully-round P-OLED display and sticks it in a polished silver or gold finished steel body. It has a stitched leather strap, which can be swapped out for standard 22mm watch bands.

Even though it sounds similar to the LG Watch Urbane LTE, it's a very different watch: the LTE version is larger and runs its own separate operating system plus phone and wallet functions, while the non-LTE Urbane seen here is...well, familiar old Android Wear.

It's now available for pre-order on the Google Store where it'll set you back $359, shipping on May 8. In Australia that's AU$459 and May 11, while the UK are looking to pay £259.99.

LG Watch Urbane, bottom left and right, with the different LG Watch Urbane LTE, top. Sarah Tew / CNET

The LG Watch Urbane's features seem largely the same as the LG G Watch R: a 1.3-inch 320x320 OLED display at 245 pixels per inch, and a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor. There's also a heart rate monitor for workouts plus a barometer for elevation, plus the Android Wear-standard 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM.

The LG Watch Urbane has a 410 mAh battery. It's IP67 dust and water resistant, but isn't meant for showering or swimming. It doesn't incorporate on-board GPS, like Sony's SmartWatch 3.

Once again, it looks nearly indistinguishable from a regular watch, but it is flashier and sleeker. The overall polish and finish feel similar to the higher-end tone of the Asus ZenWatch. Price and availability, however, remain unknown.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Hands-on: dress-up Android Wear

It's clear after trying on the re-named LG Watch Urbane, that it's basically the LG Watch R with a fresh coat of paint. The LG Watch R was already metal, but the Urbane's gold or silver-toned steel body shows off the metal more, looking fancier. The watch body's redesigned a bit, making the bezel look less bulky. The OLED display is less sunken into the face, too, making swiping and touching easier.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Both gold and silver models looked good on my wrist, giving off a slightly more elegant dress-up look than the big, bold LG Watch Urbane LTE. The leather band feels different to the previous LG G Watch R, too, but that doesn't really matter: the band's swappable with any 22mm one.

On my wrist, I preferred silver. It's a good-looking Android Wear watch, and one of the dressiest. It also shows up the Moto 360 once again, proving that you can create a fully round display on a normal-looking watch without that annoying black bar. But this is a cosmetic touch-up, not a truly new product.

Sarah Tew / CNET

This might be the best-looking Android Wear watch yet, but until Android Wear makes deeper changes allowing for additional hardware features, the Urbane looks like a fancier skin on the same Android Wear experience. It's clearly well-timed to go up against Apple Watch, and it might indicate other smartwatch-makers are about to start trying for higher-style redesigns, too.

We'll see more during Mobile World Congress.