LG GD910 Watch Phone review
What we're looking at here, in the crudest possible terms, is a style item with ringtones. That need not necessarily spell disaster, as good execution and a keen sense for that ephemeral style thing could still make it a success, but we must also set aside our preconceptions of what a modern phone is and does in order to assess the watchphone on its own merits. Our mission here will be to determine whether it succeeds at what it sets out to do or trips over its faux leather-strapped self.
At first blush, it would be easy to dismiss the GD910 as being too big for a watch and too small to be a phone, but our time with it has revealed both conclusions to be inaccurate. While undeniably bulkier than your average watch, the watchphone's styling is akin to some of those chunky leather bracelet that hipsters seem keen on wearing and popularizing, so we'll just give it a pass there and move on. Its stay on our tender wrist was certainly no great bother, although we'll admit it was no great pleasure either. A more flexible metal strap might've been preferable.
On the phone front, if you focus in on the word phone and exclude the cornucopia of additional functions and gimmicks that manufacturers have added to modern mobiles, you'll find that this bad boy does that job pretty well too. After all, it was only this century that the Ericsson T39 and its 101 x 54 monochromatic display were considered fresh and new, so we shouldn't think of the LG's 128 x 160 resolution as being particularly limiting. Where the device shines is with the clarity and vibrancy of its display, which gave us no cause for gripes, and the responsiveness of its capacitive touchscreen, which was flawless throughout.
Construction is also reassuring, with that adjustable faux leather strap and the water resistant stainless steel case both appearing likely to last a while. You can see the entire set of physical buttons above, all pretty much self-explanatory, with the touchscreen picking up the majority of navigation duties. The trio of side-mounted keys were easily identifiable from one another, and we were thankfully spared from having to look to see what we were pressing.
You do get a speakerphone with the device, whose quality we'd place somewhere in the middle of the pack -- it's neither outstanding nor dire. It's good enough to use on a regular basis to carry out calls, and we had no problems talking with our arm in a relaxed position, as opposed to some awkward wrist-to-the-face pose. You'll still want to use a Bluetooth headset for the majority of your calls though, unless you like the idea of having everyone in your vicinity listen in on your conversations.
The most basic expectation of any phone – which is perhaps even more applicable in this case, given the dearth of additional features – is that the user should find its interface intuitive and straightforward to use. In this department, LG hits more often than it misses, as navigation is both fluid and logical and responsiveness is also excellent. We did find, however, that the relatively small screen made accurate texting quite the challenge to pull off – trying to hit 9 and ending up pressing the delete button was an unfortunately common event for this thick-fingered reviewer. We'd put that down to simply trying to cram too many keys into the small space, as dialing numbers was a delightfully crisp and easygoing affair. On the whole, we'd say the UI does very well at the basic jobs of acting as both a watch and a phone, but shows its shortcomings when the user tries to dig deeper into the menus, with configurations and adding of contacts being slightly fiddly.
Another thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, you'll be looking at the default high-contrast black and white clock, and only two presses of the side buttons will get you to the home screen and the stylized timepiece of your choice. A small foible, to be sure, but when the entirety of your offering is characterized by the title of your product, well, both the watch and the phone have to be pretty much perfect.
It merits noting that, even with a plethora of tasteful clock and menu design presets, the watchphone lacks an essential feature that might really have made it an object of lustful desire – customizability. We understand and to an extent prefer its simplification of the menu system, but allowing users to create and import their own watch interfaces would have given the GD910 at least a shot at creating a fan ecosystem and would have injected some added novelty down the road. Then again, perhaps LG is right in believing – as we presume – that the people this device is targeted at just want it to work straight out of the box and have little desire for tweaking options.
In terms of added functionality, you get a calendar and a memo pad, both of which are well implemented, and also a media player. Alas, with 80MB of integrated memory and no expansion options, this is as bare a multimedia feast as you're likely to find on a modern device. When you factor in the understandable lack of a headphone jack, what you're looking at is strictly a last resort for media consumption.
Je ne sais quoi
And now, to the most important aspect of the watchphone – does it feel like the sort of luxurious crossover device that can justify its extravagant price? The short and dissatisfying answer is "kinda." The long answer is that while a lot of things have been executed brilliantly and allow us a glimpse at the world of luxury, there's just not enough to make us experience the sense of operating a transcendental device. First class materials and construction are offset by questionable ergonomics and the inescapable need for a Bluetooth headset, while the generally pleasing UI falls short of perfect, which – at this uncompromising price point – it ought to have been.
We really like the LG watchphone. In a world unbound by the economic realities we face today, we might even recommend it with only a few minor reservations. But when you consider that the hotly anticipated HTC HD2, accompanied by its armada of apps and utilities, is going to cost less without contract in the UK, the watchphone simply cannot be justified as a reasoned purchase. Furthermore, Engadget Spanish has already handled a direct competitor from Samsung, which is heading to the Iberian peninsula this December at a more affordable €450 ($672) -- which further undermines the rationality, whatever traces there are of it, in LG's pricing.
The LG GD910 is a well executed device, whose engineers should be rightly proud. LG's accountants, on the other hand, ought to step outside and smell the recession before trying to pitch us a device at a price point as ludicrous as £500. Ultimately, the watchphone is a fun diversion and also conducts itself well when needed to sub in for your day-to-day phone, but until its price undergoes a major haircut it'll remain difficult, bordering on impossible, to recommend.