Smartwatches tend to range from incredibly basic, offering not much more than just notifications, to supercomputers that have everything built-in while also making the watch big and bulky. Ultimately, the smartwatch that most customers want is one that lands somewhere in between these two categories. The LG Watch Style is an Android Wear 2.0 device that resides more on the basic side of the spectrum but at least it does the basics extremely well…

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Google partnered with LG to launch two brand new smartwatches alongside the release of Android Wear 2.0. The first device, the Watch Sport, is literally a powerhouse when it comes to wearables. It has almost everything it needs to be a standalone device, including LTE, GPS, and NFC so that it doesn’t even need to be connected to a cell phone to receive data, send text messages, and make calls.

The second wearable that Google and LG announced is the Watch Style. This smartwatch takes a widely different approach to Android Wear 2.0. Instead of having all of the bells and whistles found in the Sport, the Watch Style brings with it the bare minimum. This allows for the smartwatch to be small and compact but does not leave a lot of room for any additional features.

Hardware

As mentioned before, LG made the Watch Style to be stylish, simple, and look and feel more like a traditional timepiece. The company did this by keeping the device’s footprint relatively small and thin. Built out of stainless steel, the Watch Style has a simplistic design that features a 1.2-inch P-OLED display. The only hardware item that sticks out from the body of the watch itself is a digital crown. This is used as a home/power button as well as a scroll wheel for navigating the interface.

MODE Watchband

The watchband that comes with the Style is one of Google’s leather MODE interchangeable bands. Out of the box, the leather strap can be tight and slightly uncomfortable. Thankfully, because it’s made out of genuine leather, it should soften up and fit your wrist better once you’ve worn the Style for a while. The best part about the MODE collection of bands is the fact that you can easily change them out without having to remove the spring-loaded watchband pins.

If you want to know more about MODE, you can check out the full series of watchbands on the Google Store. Additionally, as any standard 18mm watchband should work on the Style, you can head on over to Amazon where they have a wider variety of bands to choose from if you end up picking up the Style.

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Digital Crown

One of the greatest things about Android Wear 2.0 are the new way methods of navigation that let you avoid swiping on the screen itself. Simply rolling your finger across the rotating side button will advance whichever screen you’re on up or down. This is wonderful for a watch like this with such a small screen. If you’re using your finger to swipe up and down on the display, not only are you covering everything that you’re trying to look at, but you can also accidentally tap on something.

One of my biggest frustrations with the digital crown is how easy it is to accidentally trigger Google Assistant. Simply pressing the crown down for a second launches Assistant and this happens all the time by mistake. This has more to do with the placement of the crowd than anything else but because I wear the Style on my left hand and the button is on the right side, anytime my hand flexes a little backward, I trigger Google Assistant.

My second issue with the digital crown is the fact that the knob is tiny. This is of course to match the overall design of the Watch Style but the crown itself is a tiny button and when you turn it, there isn’t much surface area that makes contact with your finger. When scrolling, I feel like I am swiping more on the frame of the watch than the crown itself.

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Display

The LG Watch Style does not have the best display when comparing it almost any other smartwatch on the market. Its 1.2-inch P-OLED display only has a 360×360 pixel resolution at 299 ppi. While I really didn’t have any issues reading text on the Style’s display, images and applications appeared to be slightly pixelated.

The Style has a built-in ambient light sensor that’s located underneath the display, which can detect if the brightness of the watch needs to be turned up or down. In the past, we’ve seen other smartwatches require a section of the display — commonly known as a “flat tire” — to house the sensor but thankfully LG found an alternative method. During my testing, I never needed to manually adjust the watch’s brightness as the Style did a good job managing that by itself. And the screen gets more than bright enough to see clearly when outside.

Battery Life

The battery life on the Style can be hit or miss based on how often you are receiving notifications and playing with apps on the watch. While the Style only has a 240mAh battery, you have to remember there isn’t any added hardware built-in that would drain it. Unlike the Watch Sport, the Style has a lower resolution screen, less RAM, and it doesn’t have to power GPS or LTE. Although I probably get more notifications than any normal human being should and I had the always-on screen setting enabled, I was able to make it through an entire day without having to recharge the watch.

One of the best things about the Style having a small battery is the fact that it can be fully charged in a very short time period. And, as it uses wireless charging, all you have to do is place the smartwatch onto the puck-like charger that comes in the box and it will start charging.

Watch Style Specs

Screen size 1.20-inch P-OLED
Resolution 360×360 pixels
PPI 299ppi
Dimensions 42x11mm
Watchband size 18mm
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
Storage 4GB
RAM 512MB
Battery 240mAh (w/ wireless charging)
Other features IP67 water and dust resistant, Stainless steel build w/ plastic backing
Base price off-contract ~$250 (Rose Gold $280)

Software

The LG Watch Style is one of the first smartwatches to run Android Wear 2.0 out of the box and it’s more than clear that Google and LG worked together to perfect the software experience. While the updated operating system is by far better than the outgoing generation, the matchup of the Style’s hardware and AW 2.0 is perfect. Because of this, the Style is buttery smooth.

Also, with Android Wear 2.0, you get standalone apps. This means having your favorite apps on your wrist and ready to go whenever you are. It does take several seconds for these apps to launch and load completely, but it is occasionally faster than pulling out your smartphone.

As I noted in my article comparing the LG Watch Style to the Watch Sport, the software performance on the Style is miles better than anything you can find on previous Android Wear hardware. While I had noticed some slight lagginess during my first few days with the smartwatch, the Style received a firmware update which fixed all of the issues I was having. After getting the update, the Style and Sport are now on the same version of Android Wear.

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Google Assistant

With Android Wear 2.0 comes the arrival of Google Assistant on wearables. This version of Assistant acts very similar to the version running on the Google Pixel. You can ask it questions, set reminders, and more. To activate it, all you have to do is hold down on the digital crown for a second, and you’ll know when it’s listening when the “Hi, how can I help?” text pops up. Unlike using Google Assistant on your Pixel or Google Home, though, you don’t get an audio response, since the Watch Style doesn’t have any built-in speakers. Instead, you get a written answer. And since the screen is so small, you’ll have to either swipe down on the screen or use the digital crown to read everything.

The biggest downside of Google Assistant on the Style is just how long it takes to answer your questions. As the watch is receiving data from your smartphone or Wi-Fi, the voice recognition can take longer than it normally does on other devices. While answers to simple questions might take a few seconds to show up, you could be standing in one spot with your arm raised for close to 10 seconds waiting for your Style to tell you what you were looking for.

The main issue I had with Google Assistant on my wrist was just how often it failed. Around a quarter of the time, the Watch Style would just sit there for several seconds trying to comprehend what I had asked it before timing out. Yes, Assistant is still new and will get better over time, but for now, it is still rather buggy on Android Wear.

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Google Play Store

Gone are the days where you needed to have an Android phone paired with your Android Wear device to get apps on your wrist. Also gone are the days where every application that you had installed on your phone shows up on your wearable. With Android Wear 2.0, smartwatches have a pared-down version of the Google Play Store built right into the device.

While it is great having the ability to view available applications and download them directly to the Style, moving through the Play Store’s interface can be cumbersome on such a small screen. Thankfully, you can find apps by searching through the Google Play Store on your desktop and send them directly to your watch.

Additionally, you can go into the Play Store on your Style and install the Android Wear version of applications that you have downloaded on your smartphone just as long as one is available. App updates and everything else happen automatically in the background so that you don’t need to worry about them.

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Conclusion

There is so much about the LG Watch Style that is just good. It gets the basics done well (performance being the critical win here), but that is about it. Unlike its more expensive and higher specced sibling, the Watch Sport, the Style is lacking anything that makes it more useful than just a timepiece that feeds you notifications from your phone and runs simple apps.

As mentioned before, most of us want a device that is somewhere in between the simplicity of the Style and the overloaded performance and features found in the Sport. The Style nails it as far as thinness and weight but that probably wouldn’t have been compromised much if it shared basic features the Sport’s NFC functionality. Users not being able to make payments with Android Pay would have been a big deal for this watch.

So is the LG Watch Style worth $250? Yes and no. First, $250 seems a bit steep for a smartwatch that doesn’t do much more than the basics. $200 seems fairer for something of this nature. On the other hand, the Style is designed beautifully, has Pixel-like performance, and is running the latest version of Android Wear.

At the end of the day, the Style works as intended, but don’t expect it to do anything more than advertised. The choice to buy it or not will have to be based on what functionality you want out of your smartwatch, and unfortunately, neither of LG’s watches are really going to fill the desires of the average person. But if you like the Pixel for its polished Google experience and great performance, this watch is pretty comparable in that way.

The LG Watch Style is available to purchase from the Google Store or Best Buy right now. The silver and titanium colors are both available for $250 but you’ll have to pay the premium price of $280 if you want the rose gold color variant.

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