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LG's own smartwatch OS shows promise, but hardware leaves a lot to be desired

LG's own smartwatch OS shows promise, but hardware leaves a lot to be desired

The Watch Urbane LTE's cellular connectivity comes at a big price

The inclusion of a larger battery has made the LG's  Watch Urbane LTE a big device.

The inclusion of a larger battery has made the LG's Watch Urbane LTE a big device.

LG Electronics has developed its own OS for the Watch Urbane LTE smartwatch, and while the software impresses the hardware it runs on will prevent the watch from becoming anything but a very niche product.

The watch was announced last week and on Sunday the company gave reporters their first chance to try it out. LG developed its own OS because it wanted to build a smartwatch with cellular connectivity, and that's not possible using Google's Android Wear.

The new LG Wearable Platform operating system started off as WebOS, but LG has made so many changes it didn't want to keep the name. The user interface has a home screen on which all the app icons are shown in a circle on the round 1.3-inch screen.

The current version of the watch was developed for Korea, and has apps for booking movie tickets, making phone calls and voice control. It also has three physical buttons on the right side of the smartwatch, which combined with the touch screen make it easier to navigate than Google' Android Wear.

But if the software feels like a step in the right direction, the hardware makes the Urbane LTE a difficult sell.

Unsurprisingly, the inclusion of LTE has had some repercussions on the design of the watch. For example, the antenna is built into the strap, which means the strap can't be removed or be laid flat on a table. Because the strap doesn't flex, the watch might not be wide enough for everyone.

Also, it's very big, so big that LG doesn't want to reveal its dimensions or weight.

Part of the reason why it's so large is the 700mAh battery LG has had to include to power the LTE connection, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a heart-rate monitor and sports friendly sensors. The battery capacity is almost twice what the company's other new watch, the Android Wear-based Watch Urbane has. A spokesman said the battery should last up to two days with moderate use of LTE.

The only thing that seems not to have been thrown in is a camera, and that's because the company doesn't think people like to take photos with their watch.

One of the problems smartwatches face is that current models are largely developed with parts for smartphones, which have much larger batteries. But with the growing popularity of wearables in general, chip makers are starting to develop more customized components. This will in the foreseeable future result in much better products.

What the future holds for the Urbane LTE and LG's Wearable Platform is very much up in the air.

For now, the watch will only go on sale in South Korea and the company still hasn't decided if it will develop more products running the OS.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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