Android smartwatches may be about as dead of a form factor as Android tablets, but that isn’t stopping OEMs from continuing to pump out these little packages of wrist-mounted sadness. The latest is LG’s “hybrid” smartwatch, the Watch W7, which one-ups the usual Wear OS hardware package by slapping physical, analog watch hands on top of the display.
The watch hands look great in LG’s press renders, which only ever show the watch face, but if you try to use any of the “smart” capabilities of your smartwatch, you’ll quickly realize how bad of an idea this is. The physical watch hands constantly obscure the display, making it difficult to see the text and buttons on your smartwatch. To make matters worse, the watch hands need to connect to the requisite gearing in the body of the watch, so there’s also a sizable hole in the center of your tiny 1.2-inch display. To make matters even worse, the layout has the display, then the watch hands, then the glass cover, so there’s a large air gap between the display and the display cover. As we learned in early smartphone designs, not bonding the display to the cover negatively affects display brightness and contrast.
Google’s Wear OS is definitely not built to work around physical watch hands, so you’ll always be fighting watch hands and the display hole as you try to see what’s actually on the screen. LG has a Band-Aid solution for the watch hands at least—you can press a side button and have the watch hands move into a horizontal mode temporarily, which obscures slightly less of the screen. The main benefit of the physical watch hands is that you can turn the smart watch portion off and run in a “watch only” mode for 100 days, but at that point you might want to just buy a regular watch. The watch hands are also available to some of LG’s apps, so they can act as a compass pointer or stopwatch.
If you push the top right button, the LG Watch W7 mechanical hands move out of the way so you can read your notifications. It sort of works. pic.twitter.com/YmuPrAQDEz
— Avi Greengart (@greengart) October 3, 2018
The specs are also a disaster. The Watch W7 uses the two-year-old Qualcomm Wear 2100 SoC instead of the new Wear 3100 that was announced a month ago. Packing in a physical hand movement means there isn’t room for many of the components of a good smartwatch, so the Watch W7 can’t do decent fitness tracking or payments, thanks to the lack of NFC, GPS, and heart-rate monitor. This means the watch is only really useful as a notification machine, but, again, it’s awful at that, thanks to the hole in the center of the screen and the physical watch hands.
The real kicker is that all this costs more than a brand-new Apple Watch. The LG Watch W7 is $450 and launches October 14.