Late last week, LG shockingly canceled its latest smartwatch after just six days on the market. LG said the Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE had to be taken off the market due to “a hardware issue,” but other than telling us “there are no safety issues or concerns with the product,” the company left out any further details.
Now we’re getting a little more detail about exactly what went wrong, and it seems to have something to do with the display. An LG rep told The Telegraph, “For competitive and supplier relations reasons we are not in a position to communicate the specifics of the issue that led to this decision. However, what we can share is that the hardware issue was related to a new advanced component that we had incorporated in the device that had never been used in an LG wearable device before.” The rep went on to say, “During aggressive testing over thousands of hours under severe conditions, it was revealed that this component failed to meet LG’s quality standards and could potentially impact our image quality over the life of the device.” [emphasis ours]
LG is being as diplomatic as possible to not burn a bridge with its suppliers, but it’s hard to interpret “image quality” as anything other than a finger pointed squarely at the display. The display would also fit the description of a “new advanced component” that had “never been used in an LG wearable device before.” The Urbane 2 was the first smartwatch to hit a 480×480 resolution, bringing the round, 1.3-inch P-OLED display to 490 PPI.
OLED displays ship in wide numbers today—usually in Samsung phones—but the technology does have a laundry list of problems the component manufacturers need to work to mitigate. They’re subject to burn-in from stationary images—probably a real problem with smartwatch interfaces—and, with the “O” in “OLED” standing for “organic,” they also tend to rot. The blue pixels are usually the first to fade, with the result ranging from a loss of overall brightness to inaccurate colors due to the lack of blue subpixels. LG said the impact happened “over the life of the device,” which leads us to believe significant burn-in or sub-pixel death was the problem.
The Urbane 2 was significant for being the first Android Wear device to come with a built-in LTE modem, and it was the lead device for the Marshmallow version of Android Wear. The device even got a shout out on the Official Android Blog, making it rather high-profile.
Canceling such a big product due to failed Q/A is unheard of for a company as large as LG. The company now has to deal with angry customers, suppliers, resellers, and a ton of unsellable merchandise. We imagine heads are rolling right now in Korea.
The watch has been on sale for about six days, both online and in Verizon and AT&T stores. Today, the online listings from both carriers are gone: Verizon’s page for the Urbane 2nd Edition LTE shows an error message that aptly notes “Oops! That wasn’t supposed to happen…,” and AT&T redirects customers to a page for the first LG Watch Urbane. The watch also seems to be scrubbed from LG’s site. We haven’t heard of a recall yet, but if you happened to buy an Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, we’d suggest trying to return it.