The new Moto 360 looks as though it’s come straight from the pages of a near-future sci-fi novel, but is there a place for it in the present day?
Whilst LG’s G Watch served as the debut device offering us our first taste of Android Wear, it looked like a prototype that had somehow managed to sneak through to retail. The Moto 360 is the first smartwatch that actually looks like it points towards the future of wearable tech.
Motorola Moto 360 – Design: A modern classic
The beauty of Android Wear is that it’s designed to suit both squared and circular displays and the Moto 360 embodies the latter in name and nature almost perfectly. Available in black or silver stainless steel, the body of the 360 adopts a superior level of fit and finish to other wearables we’ve been strapping on our wrists lately, primarily as a result of the highly polished bodywork, precision chamfered metal bezel and comfortable leather strap.
The edge of the body is lightly curved, offering a nice feel under finger when held, which you’ll typically do whilst using the crown-style button on the 360’s right side. The surround of the button is accented by gold, the only hint of colour excluding whatever pops up on the display, so overall you’re left with a sense of understated class, even when the device is off or the screen’s blank.
The curved back sits comfortably against your wrist and whilst the relatively skinny strap makes the 360’s body look abnormally large, the leather is soft and supple out of the box. Flip the watch over and you’ll notice the rear of the body details the key features of the Moto 360, whilst the leather strap bears the ‘Horween Leather’ marque – the Chicago-based producer Motorola approached to exclusively supply the Moto 360 with its integrated leather strap.
Notice we say ‘integrated’, as unlike some other Android Wear devices, the strap isn’t easily replaceable and doesn’t adhere to standard watchstrap designs. The hotly anticipated model toting a metal strap still isn’t available but you can hack a Pebble Steel watch band in there without too much trouble if you want.
Depending on the size of your wrists, the 360 can look a little bulky, particularly as it measures in at 11.5mm thick, leaving the admittedly Gorilla Glass 3-laden display vulnerable to scrapes and knocks. We suggest picking up a screen protector if you plan on wearing one all the time though.
Motorola Moto 360 – Screen: Almost full circle
It’s hard not to crack a smile every time you glance at that circular display. There really isn’t anything quite like it out there right now and paired with the design it makes for a beautiful experience.
The 1.56-inch 320×290 LCD panel isn’t the sharpest around, but it’s perfectly crisp for the occasional glance or interaction and copes well in bright light thanks to a strong backlight. The Gorilla Glass on top has been cut with a chamfer, much like the impeccably thin bezel around it, but being glass it refracts whatever is being displayed at the edges, adding a layer of depth that you can’t get from other smartwatches.
Unfortunately, for a smartwatch that prides itself on being round, the display itself isn’t actually a perfect circle. Highlighted by the small black bar that, at its thickest point, cuts into the display area by about five millimetres, Motorola had to move the display drivers and the light sensor somewhere other than the bezels.
Although it’s a somewhat unfortunate side effect of having such a tiny gap between the screen and the edge of the watch’s body, it’s a small price to pay on a device that packs a lot of technology into a very compact and attractive package.
Motorola Moto 360 – OS: Who, what, when, Wear?
On the surface, the fundamental purpose of Android Wear is to push your phone’s notifications and more importantly Google onto your wrist. Depending on how you use your current smartphone, any Android Wear device, including the 360, can serve as a convenient extension of the Google Now experience.
The 360’s dual microphones seldom misheard our voice commands and queries, even with background noise. Search results also appeared with any readily available content, followed by links to various additional sources, which can be pushed to open on your Android smartphone. Speaking of Android, the Android Wear experience offered by the Moto 360 works with select 4.3 Jellybean devices and up.
Motorola’s own touches include six analogue and digital watch faces that compliment the 360’s minimalist design and a fitness profile that ties into the watch’s pedometer and heart rate sensor information via the companion Motorola Connect app.
As we’re still in the early days of Android Wear and wearables in general, the wider third-party market is still growing, but it’s growing fast. The Secret Agent watch face was one of the first third-party alterations we made to the 360, dressing it in a GoldenEye 64 pause menu garb to great nostalgic effect. For a fast and easy way to see what the wider world of the Moto 360 and in turn Android Wear is capable of, check out the dedicated channel on IFTTT (If This Then That).
Motorola Moto 360 – Performance: Where does the USB go?
The biggest barrier with any smart wearable tech is battery life. The Moto 360’s modest 320mAh cell has to power that circular display, a brightness sensor, accelerometer, maintain a Bluetooth connection with your phone and on occasion, listen up through its dual microphones. Despite its sleek and sexy design, sceptics weren’t convinced by Motorola’s promise of all-day battery life, the bare minimum its debut smartwatch would have to achieve to be taken seriously.
In practice we actually managed two full working days between charges, switching it into airplane mode at night, but power users who plan on tapping away at their 360 constantly should feel confident with a full work day and some. This improved longevity is likely as a result of the tweaks made in the most recent firmware update, so you can strap it on in the morning, head to the office and grab a drink in the evening after work, all without it dying on you.
Whilst the majority of the current Android Wear crop boasts Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 processor to keep things ticking along, the Moto 360 opts for a TI OMAP 3 processor – technically an older and less efficient chip. In practice the user experience isn’t as buttery smooth as on other Android Wear devices like the LG G Watch, but it isn’t a deal breaker. Motorola’s design team would have struggled to fit a chip with a larger footprint inside the 360’s compact body without making its dimensions larger all-round.
The last piece of the puzzle is charging. The 360’s back plate actually integrates wireless charging and the box contains a magnetised dock that you slot the Moto 360 onto in a sideways position. It’s an elegant design and the screen rotates, showing you the amount of charge and the time whilst it’s docked too (if you’re worried about the reported stories of screen burn-in from this mode, Slumber for Android Wear is a little app that displays a black screen during charging).
Motorola Moto 360 – Verdict: It’s time for a change
As we’ve already said, Android Wear and wearable technology in general is still in its infancy right now. Thankfully though, there’s a lot of weight behind it, with companies like Google and Apple already building the foundations for the future of this new class of personal electronic device. The Motorola Moto 360 is a prime example of what that future could look like.
It tries new things, offers up technology in a new way and has the potential to appeal to consumers who either a) wouldn’t typically wear a watch or b) wouldn’t readily pick up wearable technology. The design is definitely the star feature here, but the experience isn’t too shabby either.
At £199, it’s one of the more expensive Android Wear devices on offer, but it still undercuts the upcoming Apple Watch’s expected retail price and looks better doing so.