A week after LG announced the global distribution of its latest smartwatch—the Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE—the company is dropping the new LTE timepieces due to an undisclosed hardware flaw.
Based on an email the company sent to media members who are reviewing the watches, the problem, which LG has not fully detailed, involves a “hardware issue which affects the day-to-day functionality of the device,” according to a Nov. 19 report by AndroidPolice.
“We understand that you are currently reviewing our latest smartwatch; however, late in the quality assurance process for the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, our engineers were made aware of a hardware issue which affects the day-to-day functionality of the device,” the email states. “After further investigation, the decision was made to cancel the rollout of the Urbane 2nd Edition LTE due to the complicated nature of the issue.”
The action means the future of the watch is now in doubt, the note continues. “Whether the device will be available in the future will be decided at a later time. For now, our top priority is to ensure that only products that meet our very specific quality standards are available for purchase.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the smartwatch. On Nov. 12, LG issued a press release describing the global rollout of the new Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, starting with the United States and Korea. The wristwatch was to be the first that allows users to make 3G or 4G calls on it without the need for a smartphone, creating an intriguing new segment in the marketplace. The watch was to be compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones.
The LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition was also designed to provide notifications of incoming calls, messages and more right on the watch face. The device features a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and runs on Android Wear. It also features a 1.38-inch, full circle P-OLED display; a 44.5mm diameter; a stainless-steel body; a hypoallergenic TPSiV elastomer band; and a 570mAh battery.
LG’s fast move to cancel the watch was seen as a positive move for an apparently troubled product, several IT analysts told eWEEK.
“I’ve never seen something scratched this close to launch before, but kudos to LG for pulling it once they knew it had problems, rather than taking a chance with customers,” Jan Dawson, chief analyst of Jackdaw Research, wrote in a reply to an email inquiry. “It’s not clear exactly what the issue was, but it was clearly serious enough that they knew it would detract from what’s supposed to be a premium smartwatch experience. The big question is just when—if ever—they will release a second version of this watch. It was supposed to be the first LTE smartwatch running Android Wear, and this may mean we now won’t see one for a while.”
LG Drops its Latest Smartwatch Due to Hardware Flaw
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, said LG made the decision that “fixing it would apparently be more costly than shelving and/or killing the product.”
Such a move is a rare occurrence in IT, he said, “and typically happens when a company determines that a new product simply doesn’t have a future in the marketplace. A good example of this is Microsoft’s Kin phone, which the company withdrew after just 16 days.”
Also perhaps playing a part in the cancellation of the smartwatch is that “tepid sales of [the] Apple Watch suggest that other wearables could face even more trouble,” said King. “It’s also fair to say that LG has suffered a significant setback here that could flow over to other Android-based smartwatches”
Rob Enderle, principal of Enderle Group, told eWEEK that the move came after LG realized it had discovered “a serious problem that required a redesign” at a time when the smartwatch market is stalled. “This class of product is cycling very quickly at the moment and not selling well. Thus it was better from their perspective to just write it off rather than to try to fix it and bring it back out. If they continue the line, the fix will be in the next version.”
At the same time, though, quick product cancellations like this are pretty rare, said Enderle. “The problem has to be major and the risk that the fixed product wouldn’t sell [must have been] high. This is also done if there is a safety concern for instance if the product burned the user. This line has a lot of functionality in a very small form factor.”
Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, was philosophical about LG’s cancellation. “Product development can be messy,” he said. “There are always chances that something will go wrong, and products get delayed, canceled, or recalled.”
Other companies have also experienced such fates in recent months, he wrote. “This is obviously bad for LG, but LG is not alone—just in the last few months, Sony cancelled a phone it had announced for Verizon, and HTC cancelled (or delayed) fitness bands that it had announced.”
Greengart said that LG’s move to drop the watch cannot be seen as an indicator of “broader inferences about the state of [the] smartwatch market from a single product problem, at least not without more details as to what the issue really is.”