LG claims first LTE smartwatch

Korean electronics giant has launched a premium addition to its recently announced new smartwatch range called the LG Watch Urbane LTE. As the name implies, LG is claiming this is the first smartwatch to feature an LTE modem, although Huawei is also talking up its LTE-M chip.

The other novel feature of this new addition is that is apparently doesn’t run Android. As you can see from the spec list below it runs a proprietary ‘LG Wearable Platform’, which LG assured The Verge is based on neither Android nor webOS, which LG acquired to power its smart TVs. The spec list also reveals LTE is the only protocol supported, which will mean VoLTE if you want to use it as a phone.

Whether or not you might want to is a matter at the heart of the nascent smartwatch industry. It was clear from the start that that there would be two main branches of smartwatch: dumb accessory and standalone smart device. The dumb accessory would rely on being paired to a smartphone for its connectivity while the standalone device wouldn’t.

Thus far smartwatches have mainly been accessories, but have failed to gain much traction as, despite being the cheaper option, they have failed to demonstrate either why they’re worth the extra expense when you already have a smartphone or why they are preferable to a regular watch.

A standalone device could, in theory, replace a smartphone, but then you would need to use it for voice. This would mean either talking to your wrist, which could be awkward, or pairing with a Bluetooth headset. Even then the user experience would be significantly diminished by the small screen, so the market for standalone smartwatches would seem to be small. LG seems to be trying to address the UX issue by including three buttons which facilitate navigation.

The company clearly sees this as a flagship device, designed as much to justify a spot of corporate gloating as to sell to punters. “The LG Watch Urbane LTE is an example of the kind of innovation that’s possible when you’re the industry leader in LTE technology,” said Juno Cho, CEO of LG Mobile. “This smartwatch breaks new ground with the world’s first LTE connectivity and the real-watch styling of a high-end modern classic watch. It embodies our philosophy, innovation for a better life.”

There were no details on pricing and availability, but it will likely be a pretty expensive, niche product. Having said that it’s good to see companies trying to develop a category already dominated by ‘me too’ products with minimal unique appeal, and it should be noted that the latest Pebble smartwatch raised over $10 million in its first couple of days on Kickstarter.

LG Watch Urbane LTE specs:

  • Chipset: 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • Operating System: LG Wearable Platform
  • Display: 1.3-inch P-OLED (320 x 320 / 245ppi)
  • Network: LTE
  • Memory: 4GB eMMC / 1GB LPDDR3
  • Battery: 700mAh
  • Sensors: 9 Axis / Barometer / PPG / GPS
  • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b, g, n / Bluetooth 4.0LE / NFC
  • Color: Silver
  • Other: Dust and Water Resistant (IP67) / Speaker / Microphone

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