From the time Motorola first announced they were working on a smartwatch, they had everybody watching them. Unlike the LG G Watch or the Samsung Gear Live, the Moto 360 was different, and everyone could see that. It took smartwatch design to a whole new level – not only with the circular screen, but with the great attention to detail.
Since the initial Android Wear announcement, Motorola took a pretty decent amount of time trying to get this thing ready for launch. It’s finally here, and we’ve been using it non-stop for about 3 weeks. So without further adieu, here is our Moto 360 review.
To begin with the most obvious differentiator, the Moto 360 offers a round display. It’s what sets it apart from the other Android Wear devices currently on the market, and what makes it look more like a traditional watch than the others.
The casing of the watch is made from stainless steel, and it feels really nice. At 49 grams, it’s not too light and it’s not too heavy. It feels just like a watch should. Around front is a 1.56-inch Corning Gorilla Glass LCD display with a nice chamfered edge around the entire display. It slightly distorts the display on the edge, which takes a little getting used to. However, it does add a slight floating effect to the display, which is quite interesting.
The display comes in at a resolution of 320×290 (205ppi). The ambient light sensor, or the “flat tire”, is the main reason for the out-of-the-ordinary display resolution. It’s the big black bar towards the bottom of the screen, and has been quite the conversation piece throughout the last few weeks.
Some people are really bugged by the ambient light sensor. Others couldn’t care less about it. From personal experience, it all depends on the watch face being used at the time. I’m a big fan of the “Rotate” watch face, mainly because it directs my eyes away from the bar at the bottom. On more circular ones like “Classic”, “Dials”, or “Minimal”, it’s much more easy to spot. If you didn’t want the sensor at the bottom, the other option would be to expand the bezel of the casing, which most would opt against. Moto has commented on their decision to keep the black bar at the bottom, and we’d have to agree with their decision.
Around back is the optical heart rate monitor, used in conjunction with Google Fit. In our experiences, the heart rate monitor works about 70% of the time. It gave skewed results before, during, and after our test workouts. When it does work, though, it’s extremely convenient. We’re unsure whether this is a problem with the hardware, or if it can be fixed with a software update. But I can tell you that we’re sure hoping for the latter.
Buying a Moto 360 today means getting to choose between two options: a light metal case with Stone leather band, or a dark leather case with a Black leather band. More color options will be available in leather and will eventually run you $29.99 a piece. The straps are made of Horween Leather, and are super good quality. The leather is soft, durable, and feels like it will hold up over time. While only having the watch for a few weeks, we don’t know that it will hold up, but it sure feels like it. If you don’t mind waiting a few months, you can grab one of the metal watch straps for $79.99 in black or silver.
While on the subject of watchbands, the Moto 360 fits (almost) all 22mm straps. That means you can probably put your favorite band on your watch, though it may be a bit difficult. There is a slight opening in the watch where the strap connects, to make the illusion that the strap goes all the way through the casing. But remember: it doesn’t. That means it’s going to be much more difficult for your non-Moto strap to replace the stock one. You can always try it, but just take caution!
Let’s preface this section with a disclaimer. We’ve used the Moto 360 in everyday life for roughly three weeks. There are some sites out there that posted their thoughts on battery life a mere hours after receiving the device. I’m not naming names, but that isn’t an honest review in the slightest. We’ve tested it in real life situations for weeks, and we didn’t get nearly the same results.
With all of that being said, here’s where the watch gets interesting.
The Moto 360 comes with a 320mAh battery – not the worst, but certainly nowhere near the best. But you can’t judge a device’s battery solely based on capacity alone. Probably the biggest factor in whether the watch will last all day is the “Ambient Screen” mode (not to be confused with the ambient light sensor… more on that later). Ambient Screen mode is “Always On” mode – even when you aren’t looking at the watch, the display remains on, but only in a very dim state. Thinking about it a bit more, this is a great feature to have on your wristwatch. Normal watches are always on, so why not have your smartwatch stay on? The answer is simple:
Don’t turn Ambient Screen on if you want your Moto 360 to last all day.
Ambient Screen mode is nice, but is a huge battery hog. When you turn the mode on, the watch even warns you that your battery life will suffer dramatically. We had to charge the watch twice in one day with the mode on, and only with light use throughout the day. It really is bad. But there are ways around that. When Ambient Screen mode is turned off, the Moto 360 recognizes when you lift up your wrist to check the time, and immediately turns the screen on. It’s usually pretty good about turning the screen on every time we make this motion, but it would still be nice to have a watch that’s always on.
In the brightness settings on the watch, you can either set it to a certain brightness, or set it to Auto brightness. Auto brightness is possible because of the ambient light sensor (the black bar towards the bottom of the display), and it’s a really nice feature. It gets dim in low light situations, then turns to the brightest setting when you move under a light or go outside. From what we can tell, there isn’t a huge difference in battery life compared to just keeping it at a lower setting. This feature alone is why I’m so willing to put up with the black bar on the display.
As for battery life when Ambient Screen is turned off? It will last you about a day. Personally, I haven’t put it on the charger at night with anything less than about 15% remaining. Sure, that’s cutting it close… but if you can come to terms with the fact that you need to charge it every night, you shouldn’t have any qualms with throwing it on the charger. With the newest Android Wear update (version 4.4w.1), users are seeing much improved battery life on the Moto 360. It’s still a new update, though, so we’ll have to do a bit more testing with this update.
Oh, and Motorola made sure to include Qi wireless charging in the Moto 360, so charging it is as simple as setting it on a dock. When the 360 is charging, it shows a really nice, dimly lit clock, which doubles as a battery percent indicator. We’ve found this is perfect for a small bedside clock or a nice desk clock.
The other nice aspect of the battery is that, while it may be a slight hassle to charge it mid-day, it only takes about 45-50 minutes to charge it from 0-100. That’s pretty impressive, and it definitely helps with the battery situation.
UPDATE: Since the software update rolled out last week we’ve noticed that the battery life is much improved. Bluetooth connection is far more consistent and now we can use Ambient Mode and still end our day with 20% juice. In checking with other members of the team with the Moto 360 we found they, too, were impressed with battery life in wake of the software update.
Inside the Moto 360 sits a TI OMAP 3 processor. If you’re at all familiar with Motorola’s previous processors, you’ve probably heard the name before. It’s (just about) the same processor, only slightly more optimized for the Moto 360. Unfortunately, the occasional lag is a common theme while swiping away Google Now cards. Android Wear, in its state at the moment, isn’t too graphic-intensive. Sure, it has the occasional animation that requires some processing power, but there is just too much lag while swiping away a simple card.
Of course, the lag isn’t all thanks to the processor, but it’s still unfortunate that it can’t run Android Wear as well as it’s competitors.
The software on the Moto 360 is the same version of Android Wear that we’ve had for awhile now. It’s still based around glance-able information cards that give you info right when you need it. So, it’s basically the same premise of Google Now, if you’re familiar with that. When you leave for work, Android Wear will give you the traffic card for your destination. When a package is shipped from your favorite website, you’ll get a card showing tracking information. You pretty much get the idea… less having to search around for things, more of it just being there when you pick up your watch.
It’s a good thing, too, that Android Wear gives you information when you want it. If you’re in a loud environment and can’t use voice dictation, you’re forced to scroll through a seemingly never-ending list of possible commands. This certainly isn’t the best interface for completing certain tasks, and Google absolutely needs to work on improving on it.
Probably the best feature of the software is Motorola’s custom watch faces. Out of all of them that we’ve seen, the 360’s stock watch faces are by far the best. What’s more, is that you have the ability to customize the colors of the watch faces with Moto’s new Connect app. Once installed on your phone, you can select each individual watch face and begin choosing which color suits you best. This is a feature we hope every OEM will include on their next Wear watch.
If you need to buy an Android Wear device, buy this one. It’s the most stylish. It’s the one that looks the least like a computer on your wrist. It’s the one that doesn’t feel like a first generation product. Whether you’re looking for a genuine premium-feeling leather strap or holding out for the solid metal watch band, you’re not going to feel like you’re carrying around a smart device on your wrist. It feels like a watch should, and looks incredible.
With all of that being said, if you can wait, then wait. Android Wear is a very young product, and the current OEMs in the space need to figure out what’s important in a wearable device. Battery life and non-voice dictated commands need to be fixed in order for Android Wear devices to be taken seriously.
This is the best Android Wear device out there, and it’s priced relatively well. You can pick one up on Motorola.com, Google Play, or BestBuy (online or in-store) for $250. At least at the time we’re reviewing this watch, it is really difficult to find any in stock. All three of the sellers listed above are constantly sold out, though we’re confident inventory will be replenished sometime soon.
The Moto 360 the most fairly priced, well built smart watch you can buy today. Though the battery and processor are the things we’d like to see improved, it’s a solid smartwatch that, in our eyes, is worth the price tag.
Do you have a Moto 360? How do you like it? Let us know if you disagree or agree with our review. We’d love to hear your voice in the comments below!