Smartwatches have been gaining steam lately and a few shipped last year using Google’s Android Wear operating system. Typically smartwatches feature a square face, but Motorola’s Moto 360 was the first to take the round classic approach. Smartwatches are designed to give users notifications at a glance, quick access to send texts, set reminders, and even monitor your physical activity. We had an opportunity to strap one to our wrist for a few weeks and offer up our thoughts in our Motorola Moto 360 review.
The Motorola Moto 360 specifications include:
- 1.56″ Backlit LCD (320×290 – 205ppi)
- TI OMAP™ 3
- 512MB RAM, 4GB Internal Storage
- 320 mAh battery
- Qi wireless charging
- Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy
- Pedometer, optical heart rate monitor
- Android Wear 5.0.1
- Requires smartphone running Android 4.3 or higher
I’ll admit, I haven’t worn a watch for years and I was surprised to find how quickly I didn’t mind wearing a watch again. While the watch face is on the slightly larger size of the watch spectrum, it’s the same size, or even smaller, than some of the large sized watches out there. Even the thickness isn’t that bad, although when wearing a sweater or something with tighter sleeves around the wrist I did notice that it did feel a bit tight and bulky.
Aside from that, the watch with the leather strap is light – weighing just under 50 grams, and it sits well on my wrist. The band also has enough holes to accommodate wrists much smaller and much larger than mine, so it should fit almost any wrist although I imagine the watch face might look rather large on smaller wrists.
Changing the watch face is simple as well and can be done either through the companion Android Wear app, or by long pressing on the screen. There are plenty of watch faces available, both free and paid, on the Google Play Store and there’s even plenty of customization available with the default “My Design” feature which allows you to use any image you choose as your background.
I wasn’t going to mention the black bar across the bottom of the display, which makes room for the ambient light sensor, but I’m sure I’ll get asked so here’s my mention: I wasn’t going to mention it because I hardly even noticed it was there. Sure, it would be nicer to have a fully round watch face, but the black bar didn’t bother me at all.
The backlit LCD display works well with auto brightness set, and in bright sunlight I was still able to see the display just fine. The Moto 360 also has a Sunlight mode setting which uses full brightness to make it even more viewable in direct sunlight, but I had no issues just using the auto brightness setting. The screen is also made with Corning Gorilla Glass and seems to be fairly scratch resistant as I don’t notice any scratches on the screen – even minor ones – after normal use.
Android Wear is a wearables version of Google’s Android operating system. It primarily integrates with Google Now and allows for communication between your wearable and your smartphone. Being a smaller interface surface, Android Wear works quite well. Swiping down allows you to access settings, swiping left expands the current notification, swiping right dismisses the current notification, and swiping up scrolls through all the available notifications. The notifications display quite well on the Moto 360 given the round display and loss of real estate on each of the four corners. Notification access can also be turned on, off, or set to priority notifications only with a simple swipe down and 1-2 taps.
The settings on the Moto 360 include the aptly named Theatre mode which basically turns the screen off while activated, Sunlight mode for viewing in full sunlight if required, brightness (auto or adjustable between 1-5), ambient screen mode which leaves the watch face on dimly lit at all times, airplane mode, and accessibility options.
Tapping the screen once or saying “OK Google” enables voice controls and allows you to send texts, reply to a message, ask for directions, or set a reminder amongst other things.
The Moto 360 also comes with Moto Body which includes a heart rate & activity monitor, a step counter, a count of calories burned, and an analysis tool (accessed from the app on your smartphone). I’m still on the fence as to how accurately a smartwatch or smartphone can determine your heart rate or calories burned but the step counter seemed pretty accurate.
I really didn’t see any issues with performance on the Moto 360. There was the odd instance where turning my wrist and looking at it didn’t enable the display but that was rectified with a simple tap of the screen. Touch controls were very responsive, and I was surprised at how the voice commands were almost always recognized correctly making it easy to set reminders, launch an app, reply to a message, or set a navigation route.
When the Moto 360 first released, one of the major complaints I kept reading about was insufficient battery life to last the day. The Moto 360 as we tested it is running the latest version of Android Wear, 5.0.1, and I didn’t have any issues at all with battery life. After removing the watch from the Qi wireless charger in the morning to when I placed it back on the charger 16-17 hours later, I consistently had between 15-19% battery life left. With the ambient screen set to on, which leaves the watch face visible at all times in a dimmed state, I still made it through the day getting a full 17 hours of use with 2% battery life left. Once the Moto 360 hits about 10%, battery saving mode kicks in which ended up giving me about an extra hour and a half of use. On an average use day I checked and dismissed notifications, set reminders, responded to hangouts, used the step counter and heart monitor, and on occasion used Google maps navigation.
Running Android Wear, the Moto 360 utilizes the Android ecosystem. When paired to an Android device, you can get most – if not all – notifications on your phone sent to your smartwatch. There are other apps as well which are Android Wear specific. The obvious ones come from Google such as Keep (limited to viewing and archiving existing notes) and Play Music (useful for controlling music playback on your smartphone), but there are also calculator, photo gallery, calendar, and other productivity apps. There are a few simple games as well including versions of Flappy Birds, Reversi, and poker. Watch faces seem to make up the largest portion of Android Wear specific apps, which is great as it allows you to really customize your Moto 360 appearance to your liking.
While the Moto 360 has finally released with leather and metal watch bands, there are still are third party bands available for purchase. As far as other accessories go, the only other item that is currently offered are screen protectors to help protect the face of the Moto 360.
A decent watch these days can run you upwards of $300 (or more), so $249 for a smartwatch which has a lot of extra functionality on board really isn’t a stretch.
For a first generation Android Wear device, the Moto 360 performs well and looks decent while on your wrist. As far as the device itself, I couldn’t find much wrong with it based on the version of Android Wear it was running. It also functions as intended coupled with a smartphone, whether or not a smartwatch is a gimmick or useful tool is a topic for another article. It will be interesting to see what Motorola and other manufacturers drum up for the next generation of Android Wear devices for sure.