When smartwatches first hit the mainstream, they were meant to be digital portals – unassuming, bland – like a tiny smartphone on your wrist. It wasn’t long until they adopted buttons like regular watches, then more traditional watch styling and later yet, rotating bezels. Smartwatches, as they were originally conceived, failed to take over. The “dumb watch” is a resilient, persistent thing, and over time, smartwatches have edged closer and closer to the traditional end of the timepiece spectrum.
Enter the LG Watch W7, a smartwatch that takes the extreme step of adding physical hands just like a regular analog watch.
To get the complexities of a mechanical timepiece right, LG partnered with Soprod SA of Switzerland to achieve high precision quartz movement via a gearbox stuffed inside. While the LG Watch W7 is LG’s first hybrid watch, it’s also LG’s first wearable to run the reimagined Wear OS from Google. As weird as it is, I kind of like it. Of course I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way.
It’s a relatively bulky watch, as most of LG’s offerings have been, with a large circular bezel (that unfortunately does not rotate) and a stainless steel body. I like chunky watches personally, but it won’t suit everyone, especially if you have thinner wrists. The band is a nice rubberized strap that can be switched out for any regular 22mm band but it’s not too light at 79.5 grams. For reference, the LG G Watch R weighed in at 62 grams, as did the Gear S3 Frontier. The Watch W7’s dimensions are 44.5 x 45.4 x 12.9mm.
The top button shifts the on-screen text up and makes the analog hands lay flat to get out of your way while reading.
There are three buttons on the right-hand side, each of which has a unique function. The top button is primarily used to “level” the analog watch hands at 9 and 3, so you can more easily read the writing on the watch face (which shifts upwards slightly when the button is held). It’s also used for starting and stopping the timer and other peripheral functions like on a normal watch. Launch the compass and the hands will point you in the direction of north. It’s pretty neat stuff.
The center button is pressed once to access your app drawer, and long pressed to launch Google Assistant. This center button is also a rotating crown, so you can twist it to navigate menus and then press it once to return to the main watch face. The bottom button launches handy “Master tools” including a barometer, compass, stopwatch, timer and more. Long pressing the watch face brings up alternate watch face options.
There’s no heart-rate sensor here, so if that’s important to you, you had better look elsewhere. There’s also no GPS, LTE or NFC. Without NFC that means no Google Pay, either. LG is clearly trying to reimagine what a “smartwatch” can be, so don’t expect all the bells and whistles found on a regular smartwatch. This list of omissions will be enough to put this on the no-buy list for many, but LG is at least trying to change the game that no one but Apple is winning right now.
This is not a smartwatch in the traditional sense, with no heart-rate sensor, no LTE, no GPS, and no NFC for contactless payments.
The display is a 1.2-inch LCD (360×360 resolution, 300ppi) and it looks good. The Watch W7 is powered by the slightly older Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform and 768MB LPDDR3 RAM with 4GB of internal storage, so a powerhouse it is not.
A 240mAh battery keeps the lights on, but despite sounding painfully small, the diminutive cell is capable of powering the watch for 100 days if you disable the smart features and just use it as a traditional analog watch. Even with the smart features enabled you can still get two days’ usage out of it. If the battery does die while in smart mode, the Watch W7 can continue working in analog mode for another two or three days. Charging is handled via pogo pins on the back.
The fact that you can switch between a fully fledged smartwatch and a dumb analog watch is kind of cool, and provides a lot more flexibility if you know battery life is going to be critical over the days ahead. The presence of analog watch hands in the middle of a digital display is a little odd at first, but LG has done a good job of getting them out of the way when you don’t need them and making them very useful when you do. Again, this isn’t likely to be a solution that appeals to everyone, but, like the notch, many will be able to look right past it.
The LG Watch W7 supports Bluetooth 4.2 LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, USB 2.0 and has an IP68 dust and water resistant rating.
We’ve already covered the new Wear OS experience in detail, so I’ll spare you an extensive walkthrough of the software experience. But the OS is essentially made up of four parts: swipe down to access quick settings toggles and the settings menu, swipe left to access your fitness stats, swipe up to access notifications, and swipe right to see your Google feed and reminders. Combined this with the added features accessible via the physical buttons and Wear OS on the LG Watch W7 feels surprisingly robust.
The worst part about the LG Watch W7 is its price. At $449.99, this is not a cheap smartwatch.
The worst part about the LG Watch W7 is its price. At $449.99 at Best Buy, this is not a cheap smartwatch. But traditional watches have never been particularly cheap, and the LG Watch W7 is more of a traditional watch than any other Wear OS watch before it. Whether it will convince analog watch fans to switch to a smartwatch or remind smartwatch owners why traditional watches are so good I can’t yet say. But I do know that price is going to be a sticking point for many.
Stay tuned for our full LG Watch W7 review to find out if spending more time with the Watch W7 reveals more endearing qualities or just makes us wonder why.
The LG Watch W7 goes on sale on October 14 with pre-orders starting on October 7.
What do you think of LG putting analog hands on a digital watch?