LG Watch R full review
The Apple Watch and the LG G Watch R are two of the most exciting upcoming wearable tech devices, set to take the world by storm. But as you glance at your wrist and consider with which trinket to adorn it, the choice is about to become a tricky one. In this article we compare the LG G Watch R with the upcoming Apple Watch, and explain why smartwatches in general - and Apple's smartwatch in particular - matter. Also see: Best smartwatches 2014.
You can watch our Apple Watch launch live stream today at 5pm.
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: what is a smart watch?
smartphones are brilliant, portable computing and communications devices. But they have taken us back to the era of the pocket watch. We have to take a device out of your pocket to get at all that great information. The reason the dumb watch has remained a constant for decades is that it is almost a perfect form factor. Convenient and only as obtrusive as you wish it to be. Getting the information from your smartphone on to your wrist is highly useful. Also see: LG G Watch R review.
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: Why the Apple Watch matters
And the Apple Watch launch is truly significant. Apple rarely, if ever, truly innovates. What it does amazingly is take existing technology and create the first truly great consumer products in that space. It has done so several times: OS X, iPod, iPhone, iPad - none of these were the first in their respective classes, but all of them set the gold standard and gave life to markets.
So to an extent it doesn't matter how good, bad or indifferent is the Apple Watch. The very fact that Apple is making one will generate sales, which will in turn lead to smartwatches and wearables in general looking normal and desirable. This is good news for the likes of LG with the LG G Watch R.
It also means that software makers are now creating apps for smartwatches - they know there will be an after market. In turn this also generates more of a market, almost regardless of consumer desire. Apple is not pitching at techie people, and its watch won't be cheap. It is aimed at people with disposable income who are style- and fashion conscious and who like to be seen to have the latest kit. There are plenty of them and they will snap up the Apple Watch, which will in turn create a market for cheaper alternative smartwatches. (See also: Microsoft Band vs Apple Watch comparison.)
Finally, the Apple Watch is critical for Apple itself. Interesting fact: the iPhone 4S is still the most popular iPhone in terms of usage. Simply, it was a great product that came along at the peak of Apple's market dominance just as smartphones were becoming must haves. For more details read our Apple Watch UK release date, price and specs.
There are nearly 20 million iPhone 4S users in the US alone, according to Comscore, and 40 percent of them indicated to pollsters that they are ready to upgrade. There's nothing sinister in this, but it does make this period a big opportunity and a threat for Apple. It is most unlikely that those iPhone 4S users will remain iPhone 4S users for a fourth year - so they should be prime candidates to upgrade to the iPhone 6. The trouble is that this makes for a natural break in user loyalty, and in order to keep those users faithful Apple needs to offer them something better than the opposition.
So the Apple Watch - even before it launches - is an anti-churn measure. Similar to Sky TV offering you a new channel or your bank a new product or service: the very idea that there is an iPhone-only smartwatch coming down the tracks makes existing users more likely to upgrade to another iPhone, than seek better value elsewhere.
At this point you may feel that you will never use a smart watch, but get ready to see them all over the place. Here we will compare two of the most important upcoming smart watches, the Apple Watch vs the LG G Watch R comparison review.
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: Compatibility
Compatibility is a key point in whether you choose the LG G Watch R or Apple Watch. Unless you're planning on also upgrading your smartphone and potentially switching from iOS to Android or vice versa, Android users will be able to use the LG G Watch R or the Motorola Moto 360, or any other Android Wear-powered smartwatch, while iPhone users will have a choice of the Apple Watch or the Apple Watch. To be fair, there are plenty of Apple Watch options to choose from. Also see: What is Android Wear.
You can use the G Watch R with any Android device (normally a smartphone) running Android 4.3 Jelly or later. We think the Google Now style card interface is the best available on a smartwatch at the moment and while it's no different to other Android Wear watches, LG adds its own suite of LG health and fitness apps. Meanwhile the Apple Watch works only with the iPhone (including the 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus). Neither smartwatch works independently of a smartphone.
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: UK price and availability
The Apple Watch does not yet have a firm UK release date, with Apple merely quoting "early 2015". When it launches prices will start at $349 and likely go sky-high, given the 18-carat rose- and yellow gold options in the Apple Watch Edition collection. A straight conversion to sterling is £216, but don't expect to be able to buy the Apple Watch so cheaply - we reckon it will cost at least £299 in the UK.
The LG G Watch R is also not yet available. There's a launch date pencilled in for October 2014, and a European price of €299. So we'd expect the two smartwatches to cost broadly the same when they launch. Which would be a coup for Apple, so often at the premium end of the market.
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: Hardware
As always with Apple, it cares more about what a product does and how it looks and behaves than what is inside; it hasn't announced the exact tech specs of its Apple Watch. For once we agree: while we want the battery to last at very least a full day and we don't want a smartwatch to show any lag when scrolling through menus and launching apps, we're hardly about to whip out Geekbench 3. In the case of a smartwatch, looks and functionality - not speed - are key. (Although battery life is critical too.)
We know the Apple Watch has a single sapphire-crystal retina display, which comes in two sizes: 38- and 42mm height. We also know it houses a custom S1 processor that builds an entire computing solution on a single chip, and a unique Taptic Engine. And there must be some sort of internal storage, since it is possible to store music, but we don't yet know exactly how much. It supports Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, too.
There's a heart-rate sensor, an accelerometer, a waterproof speaker and support for wireless charging, although the Apple Watch depends on a companion iPhone for GPS. A digital crown is used alongside touch input to interact with the Apple Watch.
We're seeing almost identical specs across all the Android Wear smartwatches with a few little differences here and there. The core hardware is a familiar Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage.
A battery size of 410 mAh is pretty typical and there's the usual array of sensors including a gyro, compass, accelerometer. An additional feature which you don't always find is the heart rate monitor which sits on the back.
The 1.3in screen might sound small but looks great in circular form and easy to use with Android Wear. The display itself is P-OLED and has a resolution of 320 x 320. In regular watch mode, you'd be forgiven for thinking the moving hands were real.
Important in the fight with the Moto 360, the G Watch R doesn't have the bottom part of the screen cut off.
From this distance we'd have to say that both the Apple Watch and the LG G Watch R are shaping up nicely. We need to know more about the Apple Watch before we can make a secure judgment. The LG G Watch R has our attention, however. Also see: Motorola Moto 360 review.
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: Design
The G Watch R has bucket loads of style. The number of Android Wear smartwatches is increasing so with the same software and largely the same hardware, design is a key element when choosing between the devices on offer. As we've already mentioned, the G Watch R has a round screen rather than square - again, like the Moto 360. It looks more like a traditional wristwatch than the square-faced Apple Watch. Indeed, this is probably the main reason to opt for the LG G Watch R over the regular version or other square screen smartwatches.
The G Watch R looks great and will come with a stainless steel frame and a leather strap although the standard 22mm size means you can chop and change. The G Watch R is IP67 rated so is dust- and waterproof – up to 1m of water for 30 minutes.
LG says the G Watch R will come in black but we also took a look at a silver model. The device is relatively thick but no bigger than a lot of analogue watches on the market.
The Apple Watch comes in two sizes, for men and women, and in three collections. The Apple Watch collection has a polished silver or black case made from a custom alloy of stainless steel; the Apple Watch Sport collection has a 60 percent stronger anodised aluminium case in silver or space grey, with strengthened Ion-X glass; and the Apple Watch Edition collection uses 18-carat yellow- or rose gold, and features equisitely crafted straps and closures. Then there are six strap options: Link Bracelet, Sport Band, Leather Loop, Classic Buckle, Modern Buckle and Milanese Loop.
In terms of watch faces (or 'complications') the Apple Watch has 11, yet Apple claims to offer more than two million ways to tell the time through various customisation options. There's everything from Astronomy and Solar to Modular, Timelapse, Utility, Motion, Photo and even Mickey Mouse.
Both are very good-looking watches, but we prefer the more watch-like aspect of the LG G Watch R. Your opinion may differ. (See also: Apple Watch vs Motorola Moto 360 comparison review: watches that are as beautiful as they are smart.)
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: Features
While the LG G Watch R runs Android Wear, and the Apple Watch runs Apple's own iOS-based software, in essence both do the same thing. On either watch you can install apps, make calls and send texts, call up the voice assistant (Google Now with the LG G Watch R, or Siri with the Apple Watch), check your email, control-, store- and play back music, display photos, view notifications from social media and more.
The Apple Watch has a few extras, including Glances (swipe up from the bottom of the screen to see at-a-glance information on whatever you choose to have there), and Digital Touch. The latter lets you connect with your friends with a single touch. Pressing the button under the Digital Crown brings up thumbnail images of your friends, which you can use to call or message them. You can also send them your heartbeat (odd), or to let them know you're thinking of them send them a physical tap (odder still), thanks to the unique 'Taptic Engine'.
Both support haptic feedback, although Apple's Taptic Engine takes things a step further. Not only is the Apple Watch able to distinguish between a tap and a press, allowing it to support a range of gestures, but it can also provide differing amounts of vibration for specific notifications. For example, in the Maps app the amount of vibration differs depending on whether you need to take a left- or right turn.
Both smartwatches are primed for health- and fitness tracking, with a heart-rate sensor and pedometer inside. The Apple Watch also has an accelerometer to measure body movement. Both will track your daily activity and encourage you to hit exercise goals.
Apple Watch vs LG G Watch R comparison: An early verdict
The Apple Watch will surely generate all the hype, but if you are not an iPhone user at this range we can't see that there is any reason to desire that watch over the better Android watches. The LG G Watch R is certainly one of the latter. Of course we need to spend more time with the G Watch R and some time with a finished Apple Watch before we can say for certain, but right now the circular watch face and additional compatibility swings us toward the LG G Watch R. Also see: Best smartwatches 2014.