LG Watch Urbane first look: Hands on with the new Linux watch

Linux everywhere! We just added another Linux device to our family; this one is attached to my body and can monitor my heartbeat.

LG Watch Urbane
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

I just received my LG Watch Urbane, which I ordered as soon as it was made available on the Google Store.

I was previously apprehensive about smartwatches, not seeing any practical use for them beyond being an extension of your phone.

I also didn't like their look. I like watches, and I like watches that look like watches. Until the LG Urbane came along there were none that fit that description.

The LG Urbane is a great looking watch -- a bit bigger than my traditional watch, but it does look like a watch and not a tiny smartphone with a strap. I have just started playing with it so I can't comment yet on the battery life; I will return with a follow up article after spending at least a week with the watch.

Powered by Linux & open source

LG Watch Urbane is powered by Google’s Android Wear. It’s a Linux-based operating system optimized for wearable computing devices. The watch has access to the Google Play Store and developers continue to add more apps to the smartwatch ecosystem.

As I mentioned before, I was apprehensive that there would be any practical use of a smartwatch for me given that I already wear a watch and I didn't see any use for them that another gadget didn't already do. On this point, I was not wrong. Today's smartwatches are still just an extensions of your smartphone; Urbane was vibrating on my wrist every time I got a message, email or call.

Things you can do

While these watches still really are just wearable smartphone extensions, it does add one minor layer of comfort. Instead of reaching out for my phone, I can read the whole email. I can check my messages and reply to them or send new ones. The watch has a built-in microphone and it works great with voice command to ‘compose’ text messages, emails or make a quick note. I like it because I have a Nexus 6, which is a huge phone. Now the phone can rest quietly in my pocket and I can basically manage it using this $349 extension.

Composing messages is not the only task the watch performs. I can also make calls (or basically initiate the call on the phone). It comes with Google Now so you can ask questions and get answers. You can check weather reports and get news updates. Shopping on Amazon is also quite easy as you can search for the stuff and then order it. And I'm sure can do many more things as well. I'm still exploring.

More customizable than Apple watch

The LG Watch is much more customizable with the Apple Watch, which I did consider. LG offers at least a dozen faces, but you can easily get new ones from the Google Play Store. The watch uses the standard 22mm band (unlike Apple’s ‘authorized’ and proprietary band) so you can get any band you desire and easily change it.

For fitness fanatics, the watch comes with Google Fit or LG's own fitness app to track your progress. I would choose Google Fit so as to be able to work across devices. It also has a heart rate monitor -- useful for watching your heart skip a beat when you see a Linux powered watch.

Installing new apps is quite easy.

I haven't really played much with more apps yet. I've used Wunderlist, Alarm, Calendar, USAA banking, and Calculator, so far.

If you are working indoors, the watch comes with WiFi capability that can connect to your wireless network automatically (as it's paired with your Android smartphone). If you walk out of bluetooth range, the watch will continue to work using the WiFi.

I am about to depart for a week-long trip so this will be a great test for the watch's battery life and real usability.

So far, I am extremely excited about the watch and will report back in a week when I've had a chance to test the watch more thoroughly.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Download the CIO Nov/Dec 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.