Why Android Wear can finally rival the Apple Watch

Android Wear 2.0 is here, and the massive update brings a host of welcome new features to Google’s wearable operating system. This is a thorough OS overhaul, one that gives Android Wear a cleaner look and feel, boosts the user experience and, most crucial of all, finally creates a true Apple Watch rival. 

From a revamp of Google Fit to the app launcher that now lets you use apps on your smartwatch that aren’t on your phone to Google Assistant, Google has taken feedback from five developer releases plus user metrics to deliver an update that’s leaps and bounds better than Android Wear 1.0.

Say hello to one of the first Android Wear 2.0 watches

Say hello to one of the first Android Wear 2.0 watches

The best of Android Wear 2.0 is showcased in two smartwatches built by LG. The LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport are the fruits of a close collaboration between LG and Google, one where, as Android Wear project manager Jeff Chang told TechRadar, the hardware influenced the software, and vice versa. 

With a reinvigorated OS and two solid devices that feature its best bits, Android Wear is finally poised to take on Apple Watch. Here are three reasons why.

1. You can now buy a smaller Android Wear watch

The LG Watch Style is the thinnest Android Wear watch ever, addressing one of the most vociferous complaints about devices running the OS - they are big and bulky. At 10.8mm thin, the LG Watch Style is a touch slimmer than the Apple Watch Series 2, yet stretches to the same 42mm width as the larger version.

We’re talking the difference of a millimeter here, so it’s not like the Apple Watch suddenly looks like a hulking chunk of metal next to the Watch Style, but the latter marks a new chapter in the Android Wear story, one that now includes the option to buy a smaller watch on the same scale as Apple’s wearable. 

LG Watch Style, the slimmest Android Wear watch yet

LG Watch Style, the slimmest Android Wear watch yet

Thinness has up until now been the Apple Watch’s calling card, so bringing a slim watch to market lets Android Wear muscle in on its rival’s exclusive turf. And not only is the LG Watch Style thin, but it also sports a respectable 1.2-inch 360 x 360 display that stands up to the Apple Watch Series 2’s 1.65-inch 390 x 312 screen. 

By going thin, Android Wear 2.0 can truly challenge the Apple Watch for wrist real estate. Shoppers turned off by bulkier smartwatch sizes can now cast their gaze past Apple's wearable to get a device they desire. The LG Watch Style won’t be the last thin Android Wear 2.0 watch, but as the first, it presents an instant challenge to Apple Watch.

2. Android Wear is first to LTE ... again

LTE connectivity is somewhat of a Holy Grail in the smartwatch world, and with the LG Watch Sport, Google and LG have found it.

The device is the first Android Wear 2.0 watch to feature LTE, Google says, letting you stay connected free from your phone. The LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE had, as the name suggests, LTE connectivity, but it didn’t run Android Wear 2.0. It was hardly a success either, having been delayed five months before a less-than-spectacular launch. This was not the Android Wear LTE watch you wanted.

The LTE-equipped LG Watch Sport

The LTE-equipped LG Watch Sport

After that misstep, LG is back with a much better effort in the LG Watch Sport. Not only does it run Android Wear 2.0, but you can also send messages, receive notifications and take calls all from your wrist, no handset required.

Apple Watch lacks LTE connectivity, meaning you need your phone nearby to perform many of these same functions. If you’re on a run with the LG Watch Sport, you can leave your phone at home and still enjoy its full host of features.  

Apple may introduce LTE in the Apple Watch 3, but that won’t be out until later in 2017 or even 2018. Google and LG have beat Apple to the punch when it comes to LTE - again - and will enjoy owning those bragging rights for at least a few more months. 

3. The price is right

The final arrow in Android Wear 2.0’s quiver is price - the LG Watch Style costs $249 and the LG Watch Sport is priced at $369. Both go on sale February 10, the same day the software releases to the public as well.

Not only are the Style and Sport right in line with the Apple Watch on cost (and, in the Style’s case, below it), but these price points gives Android Wear a distinct advantage going forward. 

LG Watch Style's many looks

LG Watch Style's many looks

An LTE-enabled Apple Watch will likely be expensive, and probably more than the base price price of the Series 1 and Series 2. There’s just about zero chance it will be as cheap as the Series 1, that’s for sure. 

With the sub-$400 LG Watch Sport, Android Wear 2.0 already has an LTE watch that won’t buckle shoppers’ wallets. Apple might try to match this, though again, we don’t expect an LTE variant of its proprietary wearable to be what anyone would call inexpensive.

Fully loaded devices that give you a ton for your money, leading LTE connectivity and the slimmest size choice yet all set Android Wear up as a legitimate Apple Watch rival. Google has put its best hardware and software forward at the launch of Android Wear 2.0. Now, it's Apple's turn to respond.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.