After trying out a series of smartwaches over the past few months including multiple Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy Gear iterations, Pebble Technology’s Pebble Steel and some outliers like Martian Watches and ConnecteDevice’s Cookoo, I was pumped to get my hands on the Motorola Moto 360.
Motorola’s round-faced smartwatch doesn’t just look different; it is one of the first to run former parent company Google’s (GOOG) new Android Wear operating system.
Based on the hype leading up to the Moto 360’s release, I was expecting it to be the best smartwatch of the current crop, hobbled only by an expected one-day battery life.
During my time with the smartwatch, it proved to be better and worse than I expected. Battery was less of an issue than I thought it might be (thanks in large part to no-fuss wireless charging), but Android Wear brought its own complications.
Read our Moto 360 review for the full scoop on Lenovo’s (LNVGY) newly acquired smartwatch.
Moto 360 Review: Attractive Design
I’m getting tired of the square or rectangular form factor that smartwatches have been forced to adopt up until now. The Moto 360 promised to change that. In the marketing material, Motorola says the 360 “stays true to the timeless form of the classic wristwatch.” They even ship it in a round box (that has to drive shelf-stockers crazy).
For the most part, they succeeded, at least compared to current smartwatch competition.
The Moto 360 resembles a standard wristwatch, especially when you choose one of its analog watch faces. It’s a bit larger than most watches (1.8 inches in diameter) but the thickness is what caught me off guard. At nearly half an inch thick, the device is much less svelte and is clearly apparent as something other than a typical wristwatch.
The display is bright and reasonably crisp, and yes, you can see it outdoors in bright sunlight.
The Moto 360 includes a built-in heart rate sensor and pedometer, so it can be used as a fitness tracker. The features worked well.
Much has been written about battery life being a big concern with smartwatches — something that even the forthcoming Apple (AAPL) Watch will face.
Motorola says the Moto 360 should get “all day (mixed use)” battery life. What you use the Moto 360 for, how bright you like its display and whether you leave the display on all the time or let it turn off when not in use is going to have a huge impact on actual battery life. I was playing with it quite a bit, but left the screen settings at their default (auto brightness and dimming) so I would have 20% or more of a charge remaining at the end of the day.
Motorola’s wireless charging stand makes the whole recharging thing so easy that you can forgive having to use it daily. Set the smartwatch on the stand and it recharges using magnetic induction with the display showing the battery level. It’s easily the best smartwatch charging system on the market today and beats the pants off of having to fumble with a USB cable and port.
Moto 360 Review: Android Wear and Other Frustrations
As nice as the Moto 360’s design is, some aspects are annoying. As I mentioned, it’s a bit on the large side, and that thick case makes it seem rather chunky — it looked slightly oversized on me, and this effect will be amplified if you have a small wrist.
The round display is also marred by a slice taken off the bottom that’s covering electronics. It’s less noticeable with a black watch face, but it sticks out with other background colors.
Although Motorola says the Moto 360 is compatible with any smartphone running Android 4.3 or greater, out of the box, the watch throws up a message demanding you first download the Android Wear app for the smartphone. Once that’s installed, it proceeds with setup.
Android Wear on the Moto 360 wasn’t quite the smooth experience I was hoping for. Notifications worked well but responses to spoken “OK Google” commands were hit or miss. I received a lot of nonsensical notes from the Moto 360, which seemed to have trouble interpreting my speech — I’d blame the Canadian accent, but Apple’s Siri doesn’t seem to have an issue with it.
Every once in a while, a screen that I hadn’t selected (on the watch or the smartphone app) would appear. Why is the Moto 360 suddenly showing how many steps I’ve taken? Sometimes the watch would fail to wake no matter how I lifted, waved or shook my arm and I’d have to resort to pushing the button to activate the display.
Moto 360 Review: Specifications
- 1.56-inch backlit LCD display at 320 x 290 pixels (205 ppi)
- Corning (GLW) Gorilla Glass 3
- 320 mAh battery rated at one day mixed use
- Wireless charging
- TI OMAP 3 processor with 512MB RAM
- 4GB storage
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Pedometer and optical heart rate monitor
- Vibration motor
- Dual microphones
- IP67 water resistance certification
- Available in light stainless steel or dark stainless steel case (Moto 360 review unit was dark stainless steel finish case with Black Horween leather band)
- 1.8-inch diameter, 0.45 inches thick, 1.7 ounces (with leather band)
- Compatible with smartphones running Android 4.3 or greater –with Android Wear app installed
- MSRP: $249
Moto 360 Review: Conclusion
Despite a few annoyances, the Moto 360 is by far the best smartwatch experience I’ve had to date. The round form factor is a refreshing change, and Android Wear works reasonably well even on the round display.
Many of the complaints I’ve had are largely software-related, and that means with future Android Wear updates, the user experience is likely to get better.
If you want to buy a round-faced Android Wear smartwatch, you currently have the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R to choose from. The LG version has a true round display (no chunk cut off the bottom), but carries a $50 premium. If you have an iPhone or Windows smartphone, you’ll have to sit this one out, but at least it’s not tied exclusively to Motorola smartphones.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lenovo managed to sell quite a few of these over the holidays, if for no other reason than the hype that’s built up over the device combined with the attention wearables are receiving. The real test for the Moto 360 will be in the spring when Apple is expected to release its Apple Watch. The quibbles that seem forgivable now may be much more glaring compared to Apple’s obsessive attention to detail.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.