Alongside the announcement of the new LG V40, LG took the wraps off of its latest smartwatch, the LG Watch W7. This is the first new wearable from the company since the Watch Sport and Watch Style launched in partnership with Google back at the start of 2017. LG is hoping to ride the momentum of launching at the same time as Google’s rollout of a new Wear OS interface, but the company is doing something altogether unique: this is a “hybrid” smartwatch with physical hour and minute hands, like a standard mechanical watch.
At its base, this is a standard Wear OS smartwatch. It has a 1.2-inch circular LCD at 360×360 resolution, Bluetooth 4.2, IP68 resistance, and all of the typical sensors. It’s also worth noting that it’s running the last-generation Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor (LG can’t do a whole lot about that, the new chip just isn’t ready), and has the usual 768MB of RAM and 4GB of storage.
But beyond that, things get a little odd — there’s a small cutout in the center of the display that supports an hour and minute hand to sweep the dial to display the time. The hands run on a quartz movement, like a standard watch, meaning it can keep time independent of the “smart” parts. With regular use the Watch W7 has the usual two-day battery life of other Wear OS watches (from a 240mAh battery), but after the “smart” watch dies you continue to get a basic ambient watch face with the moving hands for another two days. You can also switch over to a standalone “just watch mode” and let it only use the physical hands with no display — and get this, it can last for 100 days on a full charge.
This is an old-school solution to a smartwatch-created problem.
So how do you use a smartwatch that has its display obscured by the watch hands? LG has a few tricks. First, this is still a touch screen device — LG was able to separate the “touch” layer from the “display” layer, and place the touch components up against the glass while putting the display underneath the hands. Really neat. In that respect, you can just use the Watch W7 as you would any other smartwatch.
When you’re trying to read something on the screen that’s blocked by the hands, just press a side-mounted button and it will bring the hands together at one position, or separate them (at 12 and 6, or 3 and 9) to get out of the way as best as possible. We don’t yet know how well that’ll work in practice, but LG is at least thinking about the complications of having a display underneath physical hands. Given the relatively low information density of Wear OS screens, this shouldn’t be a huge problem.
There are a handful of trade-offs associated with the neat features up front, though. You don’t get NFC, GPS, a heart rate sensor or optional LTE here, likely because there just isn’t room to add them with the mechanical watch bits taking up space. This is clearly a watch focused on style and timekeeping rather than all of the extras.
For all of that hybrid watch goodness, you’ll pay a bit more than you would expect for a standard Wear OS smartwatch. The LG Watch W7 is $449, sending a signal that it’s focused on quality rather than mainstream appeal. And despite its unique watch hands, it’s available almost immediately — you can get one from Best Buy on October 14.