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webOS Nation: LG's new Urbane LTE smartwatch runs webOS

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LG Watch Urbane LTE

LG's taking their purchase of webOS back closer to where it was born: mobile, in the form of the LG Watch Urbane LTE. That's right, the just-announced LG Watch Urbane LTE is a webOS smartwatch. We got our first hints of this new watch back at CES 2015, and today we've finally gone full hands-on with LG's latest take on webOS. It's worth noting though, that unlike the TVs, which LG emphasizes as running webOS, the Watch Urbane LTE is touted as running the LG Wearable Platform, but at it's core, this is webOS.

We'll get this out of the way right now: this is not like the webOS we're used to. LG's built an entirely new interface on top of the core of webOS, though it retains a lot of the gesture-driven feel of webOS. There's a lot that's had to change, by virtue of the new owner's design style, the passing of time, and the constraints and requirements of a circular watch platform versus a larger phone or tablet screen. But the swiping left-to-right to go back gesture will be familiar to anybody that's used a webOS device in the past.

Speaking of that interaction, the app menu is a spinning ring of your installed apps. There are three buttons on the right side — the top opens up the settings, the middle (and raised to for prominence) the apps launcher, and the bottom cycles through recently-opened apps. LG's loaded a bunch of their own apps on the watch, including standards for messaging, phone calls, contacts, music, calendar, email, find my phone, voice memo, etc.

In addition, there are apps for LG Health (using the on-board sensors — we'll get to those in a bit), remote camera shutter control, Cashbee (a Korean payments system), CGV (Korean movie theater chain), Golf, Tranggle Cycling (GPS fitness tracking), and a voice translator that works surprisingly well from the watch's microphone and speaker.

At this point we should note that the LG Watch Urbane LTE is designed as a standalone device — as the LTE in the name would indicate. All of these apps are self-contained on the device (except for the obvious remote shutter needing a remote shutter to control) and aren't mere companion apps to an app installed on your smartphone, as with Android Wear (which the standard LG Watch Urbane runs).

The Watch Urbane LTE is a standalone device. It might share part of its design and styling with the Android Wear-powered Urbane, but there's little else about it. Inside it's mostly a different and more powerful device. Under the 1.3-inch circular P-OLED display (the same as you'll find in the standard Watch Urbane, as well as it's less-fancy and slightly older Android Wear compatriot the LG G Watch R) is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of storage.

This is all fueled by a 700mAh battery, and connects to the outside world with Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, and (of course) a cellular LTE. It even has fine motion tracking thanks to an accelerometer and gyroscope, a compass, barometer, heart rate monitor, and GPS + GLONASS. Combine that with the speaker and microphone and you've got what amounts to an entry-level smartphone, but strapped to your wrist. In fact, the power of this phone is roughly equivalent to that of the HP Pre 3 (from 2011).

All of this is crammed into a polished metal body that's on the chunky side, noticeably, but not terribly so, in comparison to the average smartwatch today and many high-end watches today. Considering everything that's in that body it's not shockingly thick, nor thin. It's right about what you'd expect.

Like webOS on an LG TV, this isn't webOS like we grew used to under Palm and HP. This is LG's webOS, where it's not just the interface, but the core OS that's useful and extensible. There are points here and there where you'll find hints of the webOS of old (surely, if you look at the code, there's a lot of webOS in there), but many of those are simply modern user interface conventions that aren't anymore unique to webOS anymore. You won't not find cards or classic webOS notifications here.

Then there's the matter of availability. LG's not commented on a launch time or price, but we can be sure it won't be cheap with everything packed inside and the quality of the design. And right now it's looking like the Watch Urbane LTE might only see a release in Korea. That could change, but LG put a strong emphasis on saying that Android Wear is still their primary platform.

More: Hands-on with the LG Watch Urbane LTE at MWC 2015

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