LG made one of the best-looking smartwatches, the G Watch R, and quickly improved on it. The LG Watch Urbane has classic looks, complete with three hardware buttons, but is actually the most advanced smartwatch to date. It's the first with LTE connectivity and the first to offer mobile payments via NFC (pre-empting the Apple Watch).
It's important to note that the Urbane LTE is powered by the LG Wearable Platform. LG was trying hard not to call it WebOS (failing a few times). The non-LTE version will run Android Wear though.
Here are some of the pre-installed apps on the LG Watch Urbane LTE. It doesn't have a camera, but it can act as a remote shutter. Also note that the LG Wearable Platform does not support Google Now, it uses GVoice instead.
The main motivation behind a custom OS is that back when LG started working on this smartwatch Wear had no support for NFC payments. LG didn't discount the idea of switching now that the software is ready, but didn't commit to it either.
The thing about the LG Watch Urbane is that it's meant to function independently as well as be hooked up to a smartphone. Only Android phones are supported for now via the Watch Manager app. The Android Wear version will use the standard app instead.
You can place calls with the Urbane LTE or use push-to-talk for walkie-talkie style communication. The watch has a microphone and speaker on board. Sending and receiving texts is supported, of course, though you'll probably want to use voice dictation for that.
To further free you from having to carry a phone, the smartwatch has NFC payment technology. Note that this only works on the LTE version.
Putting the LTE and non-LTE versions on the hand is a very different experience. The Urbane LTE weighs 115g and feels like a quality watch, a rather thick one at that. The non-LTE phone is a featherweight 45g, lighter than the LG G Watch R, and people who are used to wearing a watch will probably find it a bit too light.
The wristband on the Watch Urbane LTE is made of plastic, while the one on the non-LTE version is genuine leather and is removable. We found the LG Watch Urbane LTE clasp was definitely better though.
Obviously our quick hands-on is not enough to test battery life, but the LTE has a 700mAh battery - the biggest on a watch yet - while the non-LTE version has 400mAh. That's still bigger than the 300mAh that the 3G-enabled Samsung Gear S has.
The LG Watch Urbane features a 1.3" P-OLED display with 320 x 320px resolution. That makes for 245ppi, not flagship smartphone sharp but good enough for the typical viewing distance for a wristwatch. The display is identical to the LG G Watch R. The screen is not the largest, though the size of the bezels did not bother us.
The Urbane LTE has three hardware buttons on the side. The middle one switches between the watch face and the list of installed apps. The bottom one is a Back button, but can dial an emergency contact when long pressed. Finally, the top button grants quick access to the notifications and settings.
The non-LTE version has just one button, like the other Android Wear smartwatches.
One situation where people tend to leave their phones is when going for a run. The LG Watch Urbane has a virtual fitness coach GPS to track running and cycling. There's a built-in heartrate sensor to track your exercise and a barometer, which will help the hiking tracking functionality.
LG has also included specialized features for golfers that use the built-in motion sensors - accelerometer, gyro and compass.
Additional hardware details include a Snapdragon 400 chipset (the CPU clocked at 1.2GHz), 1GB of RAM (the most on a smartwatch yet), 4GB of built-in storage. In addition to optional LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and NFC there's Wi-Fi b/g/n.
The Android Wear-powered LG Watch Urbane may be best smartwatch we've handled yet even though the MWC is yet to properly start. The Urbane LTE on the other hand is more of a niche product and will originally launch in South Korea only and we're not sure if it will ever go global.