LG Urbane 2nd: A smart watch you’d actually buy? Maybe.


LG is in currently taking some of the wrappings off details on their successor to the LG Urbane, one of the first Smart Watch devices that consumers would actually want to purchase. Tonight saw the release of a promotional video as well as basic information on the specifications of the Urbane 2nd Edition . One of the larger changes I’ve seen looking over the current press-bumps is that some of the watch internals are moved into the straps.

The immediate disadvantage is that the straps on the Urbane 2nd will not be interchangeable; so users will have to settle for the strap their device is built with. Early press pictures, however, show at least 4 models of the Urbane 2nd with Silver face plating. One of the models seem to mimic the existing Silver Urbane smart watch with a black band; one with leather brown strap; one with a white strap; and one with a sky blue strap. With another event to be held; well; today by this posting; more details on the available color combinations may become available.

The advantage to moving internals into the strap is that the watch size itself has decreased. Most smart watches to date tend to be comically over sized; which makes such devices good for showing off. The size generally doesn’t make existing smart watch devices good for practical work scenarios; such as in a kitchen. The quick shot then is that the Urbane 2nd could potentially be more useful to people who do not sit in an office cubicle all day long.

Outside of those changes everything else pretty much looks about as expected from the early press bumps. There is the expected increase in Pixels Per Inch resolution on the display; an expected increase in battery life; and more practical functionality in the form of added buttons. There is also the continued selling point that the Urbane 2nd actually looks like a high-end dress watch; rather than some cheap plastic toy from the Apple parts bin.

Where the unveiled Urbane 2nd really sets itself apart from the rest of the recently updated Android Smart Watch crowd is the inclusion of an LTE communications chip. LG already released, at least in Korean markets, a version of the original Urbane with an LTE communications chip leveraging the WebOS/Linux platform. The Urbane 2nd will be the first Android/Linux platform device to leverage this network capability; but as of this posting it is not clear if all Urbane 2nd’s will include LTE communication capabilities.  On paper the Urbane 2nd is supposed to be able to operate at least it’s core networked functions without completely relying on a nearby smart device. The promotional video on Youtube singles out real-world usage scenarios like listening to streaming music. While the feature could be useful, the real question could be how cell carriers like T-Mobile could handle the LTE connection capabilities. As a consumer I would not want to have to purchase an additional data plan to get all of the benefits out of a Smart Watch. Nor would I be too particularly interested in swapping SIM cards around; which on many smart phones requires physically opening the battery case in order to gain access. Even assuming a smart phone device like Sony’s Xperia series where the SIM card slot is placed in a reasonably accessible position most average consumers likely have a protective case; which adds complications to SIM card access. This isn’t even considering the physical sizes of SIM cards or how easy slotting a SIM card would be on the watch itself.  While LTE access could be a potentially killer feature for the Urbane 2nd; the carrier’s response to how those capabilities are delivered to the end consumer could very well determine whether or not the feature is one that drives adoption or gives consumers a reason to look at a different smart watch.

Assuming for a moment that LG does not intend to equip all models of the Urbane 2nd with LTE Communications; the question is raised on whether or not a non-LTE Urbane 2nd is entirely competitive with other Smart Watch devices.  Lenovo’s Motorola division certainly stepped up their game with the updated Android/Linux Moto 360 and Moto 360 Sport. Huawei came out swinging as well with possibly the first Smart Watch device that was prettier than the original Urbane. Samsung’s Tizen/Linux Gear S2 certainly looks compelling from a feature standpoint; but I’m not sold on the visual appeal. Sony’s SmartWatch 3 has features that look great on paper; but they really need to just let Tetsu Sumii design the SmartWatch 4 to bring the visual appeal in line with the specification appeal.  As for Apple? Well. For a company that supposedly places design first; it’s amazing they managed to turn out a device that looks worse than Sony SmartWatch Version 1; and completely failed to even touch the original Moto 360’s feature set or ease of use despite launching around 8 months later.

So between LG, Lenovo, and Huawei; it’s actually a toss-up.  The second generation, third generation, and even arguably forth generation Linux based smart devices have certainly progressed beyond the novelty status of devices released in 2013 and 2014; becoming aesthetically pleasing while gaining functional utility. From my perspective the deciding factors could come down to just how rugged the “Classic Dress Watch” designs actually are. The average consumer might pass on an attractive smart device if the device cannot handle the heat of an oven; the sprinkling of a bit of flour; or a few splashes of buttermilk.

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