Our wristwatches are about to get smarter, as the LG G smart watch goes on sale July 11. But as many smart-phone owners know, gadgets can live a rough life. Shattered screens and dented trim mar many everyday devices. Just how resilient are smart watches? Will early adopters need OtterBox-style body armor in order keep their new purchase ticking come July 11, 2015?
The LG G Watch made its debut late last month at Google's annual I/O event in San Francisco, and comes with a 1.65-inch LCD display and a 280x280-pixel resolution. The smart watch is compatible with phones running Android 4.3 or higher, has an always-on display, and sports interchangeable watchstraps.
Most manufacturers, LG included, make claims that their products are water, shock, and scratch resistant, using an IP (Ingress Protection) rating.
How much abuse can a smart watch take?
So far, all we know is that they have a minimal battery life, so perhaps the need to recharge will be enough to keep these devices safe, for now.
LG could not be reached for comment, but iFixit’s chief information architect Miro Djuric personally performed a “tear-down” of an LG G Monday night and had something to say about the state of it’s sturdiness.
“This kind of water-proofiness allows folks to wash dishes or take a shower with the watch on, but not necessarily go into a pool or go deep-sea diving," he says in an e-mail. "However, my watch-repairman friend suggests to minimize water exposure to any watch, regardless of the device's waterproof level – and I suggest the same. Why risk ruining a [$200 to $300] device by washing dishes with it on your hand, unless you just accidentally leave it on?”
For the record, Jeff Deinert, a police officer and maker in Norfolk, Va., says he wears his Pebble smart watch in the shower with no ill effects.
Magellan GPS senior product manager for outdoor products Richard Tinnell says there's a big difference between being "water resistant" and being "water proof." While Mr. Tinnell was not on the “sport device team” that developed the Magellan Echo smart sports watch, he has field tested one while paddle boarding and swimming – and is familiar with the IP resistance rating scale.
To give a baseline, the LG G has an IP rating of 67, which is really two separate ratings in one (6 for dust and 7 for water). A 67 basically makes it OK for dish washing and running in the rain, thanks to a protective rubber gasket. It does not sport an IPX rating, like the Echo does. The Echo’s rating of IPX 6 means it can withstand three minutes submerged in water. It can be worn in the shower and while swimming laps in a pool.
Tinnell agreed with Mr. Djuric about saving the costly smart watch by erring on the side of caution.
“From what I am seeing about the LG G, I would definitely take it off before getting in the shower, think twice about wearing it in the rain, and probably not bang it up if I could help it,” Tinnell says.
Tinnell says Magellan has investigated giving future devices a "nano dust coating."
“This process is really new,” Tinnell says. “It involves putting the device into a vacuum chamber with nano coating dust. The particles are so small they get into the entire device and coast every circuit and part. Then a quick electrical charge is applied and the dust adheres to every part of the device, sealing it and making it completely waterproof.”
Nano-coating companies such as P2i, HzO, and Liquipel say protected devices should function normally after the application.
Users may begin to get some idea of whether the devices can take a licking and keep on ticking as they arrive July 11.