Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Numbers

Abdel Ibrahim:

Today, Executive Editor at The Verge, Deiter Bohn, posted his in-depth review of the LG Watch Urbane, LG’s second round-screened smartwatch, which sells $349 dollars. I read the review, which highlighted the various pros and cons of the product as reviews tend to do, and then I noticed something interesting at the end of the article: A 7.3 overall score.

I wondered how that compared to their Apple Watch review, so I did a quick Google search (don’t bother using The Verge’s built-in search function — it’s horrible) and noticed that editor-in-chief Nilay Patel gave Apple Watch an overall score of an even 7.

The problem is that the Verge — as with so many other sites — attempts to assign a seemingly objective numerical ranking to an inherently subjective practice. The numbers make it sound like the site, as a publication, would more readily recommend the Watch Urbane over the Apple Watch, if only by a slight margin. In actuality, the review paints a different picture:

I wish I could say that the Urbane is the perfect Android Wear watch, but I can’t. It may be that there is no such thing, there are only different watches for different people. That’s why I called the Urbane a cipher for Android Wear: it perfectly encapsulates how divisive wearable technology can be. I’m also hard-pressed to believe that it’s worth the $349 asking price — the materials and technology aren’t that much better than the G Watch R, which is $100 less. The Urbane is for people who love big, shiny watches, and I’m clearly not one of them.

In comparison, here’s how Nilay Patel summarized his Apple Watch review:

There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today. It is one of the most ambitious products I’ve ever seen; it wants to do and change so much about how we interact with technology. But that ambition robs it of focus: it can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well. For all of its technological marvel, the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for.

If you are willing to go along on that journey, then you’ll enjoy the Apple Watch.

Sounds like a recommendation, if a hesitant one.

Naturally, the two reviews are from different writers, but it’s a confusing mix of an attempt at objectivity and subjectivity. If you relied upon the Verge’s numerical rankings as a sorting criteria for picking a smartwatch, you’d end up with a Pebble Steel, which scored an 8.5 out of 10. It’s nowhere near as capable as an Apple Watch, but it was also released six months ago, so its ranking is kind of irrelevant now.

To summarize, then: the numerical scores only give the illusion of objectivity, don’t match the content of the review, and don’t have lasting value. So why do they exist? When I read a review, I want the reviewer’s opinion; if I’m in the market for a smartwatch, which one do I buy? It sounds like Dieter Bohn recommends I don’t buy the Urbane. Which should I buy? Sounds like Nilay Patel thinks the Apple Watch is the best on the market. That’s all I need to know.

Previously:Recommended by 4 Out of 5 Dentists”.