The Moto 360 Review – Out And About – Chris Wilson
When I first saw the Moto 360 pictures turn up online I was taken aback. Finally, this looked like a Smartwatch that would be a well designed and tasteful watch as well as functional tool that would make life simpler. At the time, I was running an Apple phone and so put my hopes on Apple releasing an Apple Watch that looked similarly impressive but with extra functions. Through a series of events, I have switched over to Android (using the OnePlus One) and after being left disappointed by the Apple Watch announcement, I returned once again to look at the Moto 360. Last Friday, my Moto 360 arrived (Europe has been left far behind in the release cycle) so here is my quick review.
One of the key features that sets Android Wear apart from the Apple Watch interface is the use of Google Now. Google Now is one of those items which divides opinions. For some (including me) it is a great personal assistant which offers me up the right information at the right time. For those who don’t like it, it is an invasive and the worst example of big data around. Personally, I love having highly useful cards right on my wrist exactly when I need them. Android Wear does a great job of providing items such as navigation home or to work, weather data, upcoming appointments and also all your notifications.
Speaking of notifications, one of the biggest fears I’ve heard about wearable is that the notification on your wrist will distract you. In fact, it’s pretty much the question I get asked every time someone notices my Moto 360. Personally, I’ve found the reverse to be true. The ability to quickly see what a notification is an do quick actions helps me deal much better with the majority of notifications which really aren’t that important. Emails from mailing lists that I don’t care about can be deleted straight away, emails from important people can be glanced at and I can decided whether I need to get my phone out and deal with them now or deal with them later.
Even just seeing what app the notification came from let’s me know what I need to do, and for the person I’m with it just looks like I’m quickly glancing at my watch rather than my phone. For the record I have disabled a good number of notifications and I have developed a good practice of ignoring notifications at bad times, so this may be a factor for me which isn’t true for you. Overall, it has worked well and I check my phone a lot less than I did. In fact, I am much less attached to my phone now. I used to keep it on me all the time to track my activity but now I can just leave it on a desk or in my coat pocket and know that I’ll still get all the important messages and calls. With the more limited apps that you can access on your Android Wear device, this means that you can procrastinate away your time as easily as you could with a phone.
The charger is also simple to use and creates a beautiful desk side clock. Once the watch is placed on the charger it turns into a different watch face which shows you how much it is charged. The only downside I have noticed with this mode is the screen dims at night so you have to touch it to be able to see the time in the morning, meaning it needs to be within arms reach.
The ability to interact with different apps like fitness trackers or music players is a great addition too, bringing simple, but useful controls such as changing tracks, changing the volume, starting and ending a workout and so on. Particularly useful are controls for interacting with emails and messages allowing you to archive, delete or respond quickly where relevant.
Although I love the Moto 360 it isn’t without its own issues. The battery life has improved a lot since it first came out but I’d be amazed if you could get two days out of it with no charge. It’s easy to get one whole days use, and you could even go to bed with it on (for sleep tracking) but much beyond that is a no go. If you don’t check your watch a lot then it might last for two complete days. However, I check my watch regularly and use it to set timers during class activities so there is no way it will last that long for me. This probably isn’t a big issue for most people who charge their phone every day but if you want it to go for a longer period of time, then you’re out of luck.
The heartbeat sensor is basically just like those apps which use the camera on your phone to measure your heartbeat. It is a little better than that but not much. If you want to just occasionally check your heartbeat then it is better than using your phones camera, but it isn’t as good as a proper heart rate monitor. This won’t monitor your whole workout though so if you really want a great fitness tracker, this might not be the tool for you.
I’ve also noticed a few little bugs with my use of the Moto 360. For example, a week ago I set an alarm which now sounds everyday with no obvious way to disable it. It doesn’t appear in the phones clock app or the Android connect app and although I dismiss it (not snooze) it still sounds every day. Also, I have found the Google Play Music tools a little unresponsive which can lead to me trying to click to skip a track… and nothing happens. These minor annoyances could easily mount up.
Being a watch, the aesthetics of the device are vitally important. If it looks rubbish, then why would you want to put it on your wrist and show it off to those around you. Having said that, I was previously rocking a very “fashionable” Casio watch that could not be called fashionable at all. As such, my opinions on what is “fashionable” may not match those of someone who has previously bought a Rolex or other high cost options. However, so far I have received compliments on the appearance of my watch from both people who realised what it was and those who didn’t. I’d rather trust other people’s fashionable judgements than my own.
The black bar at the bottom of the screen has been widely reported. On the whole I don’t mind it that much. I tend to stick to a black watch face and I bought the black case to make this feature less apparent. However, It can be annoying when the second hand suddenly disappears and then doesn’t reappear until ten seconds or so later. Plus if you want a white watch face or with one of the silver/gold cases, I imagine the black bar will be more apparent.
There are also reports of the watch back breaking due to the strain placed on it by either using steel watch straps or the placement of the watch on the wrist (see our report for more details). This is not something you should expect from a wearable device and I hope it is rectified in the next version, although Motorola has now officially released steel watch straps so perhaps the watch will work better with their straps over third party ones. I haven’t seen any signs of this yet but I am using the original watch strap and have it placed on my arm not on my wrist so that should make me “safe”. Motorola does seem to have a good return policy for those which have broken though.
Now for the positives of the watch design. Overall I think it is very stylish. I really like the curved display, especially when compared with the square versions other companies have offered (although the Zenwatch looks like it could change my opinion there). The different watch faces offer a host of options from traditional watch faces to modern remakes. My favourites are the Minimal and the Rotate faces, but the options for customizing your own watch face (which have just been added) open up a world of possibilities only limited by your imagination.
The screen quality is good enough. I never notice any lack in quality of the images due to the lower resolution, and it is bright enough that on a bright day it can be viewed in all but the harshest sunlight. The charging watch face also looks great and works really well as a desk clock at night so you can glance the time as you wake up in the morning.
Of course, these are my opinions and for some people, they may find the design of the watch a little simple where as they prefer something more elaborate. They may also think that the screen is just too big on their wrist. There are rumours of a smaller version coming which will address some of those issues but then you have a smaller interface to interact with as well.
My real world experience of Android Wear has been that it has lead to me interacting with my phone less, I can leave my phone across the room and out of my pocket with no worries about missing a call or not tracking my activity for the day. The quick action notifications are great for getting rid of those useless notifications but also for quickly noting and actioning on.
I’ve used it at work and out on a stroll with no network connection. I’ve found it to be really useful in every situation I’ve tested it in and it hasn’t lead to me interacting with a device more, in fact it has reduced my interactions with devices (which makes me happy :)).
This is still early in the smartwatch game and I’m sure the second and third generations will improve further. But despite saying that I found the Moto 360 to be a great entry into the smartwatch world and I suspect it will be good enough for many users. It looks attractive and provides some useful functionality. It isn’t an essential tool but in many ways the same could be said about a smartphone for most people, after all you could just check your email at your computer.
If you aren’t convinced yet by the need for a smartwatch, then don’t buy the Moto 360, I’d suggest waiting for the next few generations to really get the device and software right. If the black bar at the bottom really bothers you then don’t buy the Moto 360, check out the Zenwatch or LG watch R instead. If you like the look of the 360 but you have been worried that a smartwatch will be a distraction centre, then don’t worry. I haven’t found it to be so and as long as you don’t have all the notifications going all the time you won’t either.