There's a new Android Wear watch heading for carrier shelves soon, and it's all about working without a constant connection to your phone. The LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE is, as the name suggests, a watch with a cellular radio onboard, and while support for Verizon Wireless and AT&T have already been announced there's still a lot about this updated body and the underlying OS we need to explore.
To get started, here's five quick things you should know about this watch when deciding if it belongs on your wrist.
This is one of the biggest Android Wear watches out there
Android Wear watches are already not exactly great for people with smallish wrists, but the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE takes things up a notch in order to support all of the new hardware inside. The increased battery size and sim tray access window, as well as room on the side for three buttons instead of one, make for an even bulkier watch on your wrist.
This isn't so bad if you're got big wrists or you just really like big watches, but if you've found the current crop of Android Wear watches to be too big you're probably not going to enjoy this mini smartphone on your wrist.
Be sure you know which strap you want before you buy.
One of the downsides to the cellular radio baked into this watch is you lose the ability to change the watch strap to whatever you want. This happened because the straps actually house the antennae used to make sure you have a decent connection for voice and data, but it means you really should try this watch on before you make a purchase.
Like its predecessor, the sporty rubber strap that came with this version of the Watch Urbane doesn't feel great. Unlike its predecessor, there's nothing you can do about that. We know that LG is planning a leather model, but it's still unclear how available that version will be compared to the three sport bands that are also being bade available for this watch. Bottom line — try before you buy to make sure you'll actually enjoy wearing this watch.
The SIM key isn't nearly as obnoxious as it looks.
You have the ability to put a SIM in your LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, and that means you need to be able to access that tray from time to time. LG uses a tri-prong plastic key to twist the back plate off of the watch, exposing the sim tray. This twisting motion is important, as it locks the plat in against the rubber seal that allows this watch to claim IP67 rating, but doing so requires a fair bit of force to work correctly.
It looks like a huge pain, but it's actually not that bad. The key locks into place while you turn, and stays attached to the plate when you separate it from the rest of the watch. You aren't likely to need to swap SIMs on your watch particularly often, so be sure to put this key somewhere safe. It's unlikely you'll be able to easily get another right away.
The microphone and speaker are actually pretty good.
If your watch is going to make phone calls, it needs to do so well enough that you actually consider that option. LG's microphones on previous Android Wear watches have been pretty good, and the Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE is no exception. In a call you don't need to hold the watch to your mouth, and in fact can get away with calls in a car or on your couch while playing on your Xbox without much in the way of call quality loss.
The speaker is another matter. It's loud enough for a quiet room or a quiet car, but not quite loud enough for walking down a busy street or in a quiet restaurant. If you're going to be making a lot of calls on this watch, you'll be ducking out to a quiet place to take your calls when out and about. On the other hand, being able to answer your phone and have a call while in the middle of a Destiny raid without putting the controller down is kinda cool.
Cellular mode works just like you think it would.
If you decide you want to leave your phone behind and go for a jog, or you've decided to leave your phone at your desk when in a big meeting, Cellular mode on the Watch Urbane 2nd Edition kicks in and works exactly like WiFi mode. Your phone kicks notifications to the cloud, and your watch pulls them down. It's pretty seamless, which is what we expected.
You still need to be near your phone for app access to work like it should, which is still not quite as functional as it should be. Streaming audio apps, for example, still can't stream directly to the watch. You still need to store audio locally, but according to LG there's an active effort at Google to give developers the ability to change that in the not-so-distant future, so here's hoping that gets better soon.