Two weeks with the Motorola MOTOACTV. We had it over the Christmas period and hoped it would do its bit to fend off the inevitable belly eating like a king and drinking like a fish would bestow upon our mid-section. Did it work? Well, yes actually.
It’s a watch first and foremost, fascia, strap, buckle. Wrapped around your wrist and there’s no denying that there’s bulk behind it. Not ideal for those with petite appendages but stylish for girthier wrists nonetheless. Black with red accents, it looks pretty attractive and fits comfortably.
The front is taken up by the 1.6-inch, 176×220 pixel display and back button. On the right are the volume controls and power buttons while the exercise and music buttons are at the top. Under a weather-sealed flap on the left is the microUSB charging port and at the base is the 3.5mm headphone jack. The device is splash proofed to deal with sweat and rainy days, just make sure you’re using your headphones when running with it as the headphone jack opening doesn’t look weather sealed.
Interface + Features
The interface of the Motorola MOTOACTV is very simple. Harking Android with its 5 homescreens, starting at the far left is Settings > Sport > Time < Music < Notifications.
Settings options are extensive, allowing you to configure workouts, wireless, watch settings and theme colour to name but a few. The clock-face can be changed from a simple digital big number layout right through to a skull analogue clock (demonstrated in the video below).
Sports is a screen we’ll discuss in more detail later in the review, but suffice to say this is where all the blood, sweat and slimming is orchestrated. It allows you to select your type of exercise and view recent workouts.
Time isn’t interactive, however displays a static watch fascia, your daily calorie consumption and the number of steps taken in the day.
Music gives you access to the 8GB of storage on the Motorola MOTOACTV. You can manage playlists, have the MOTOACTV generate a playlist for you or listen to the radio.
Notifications is only officially applicable if you’ve got a Motorola Phone. This sends text, calendar and call alerts to your Motorola MOTOACTV via Bluetooth. Fortunately for those of you who aren’t Motorola’d up in the mobile department, there’s an XDA-Developers forum (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1335806) with the apk, though be mindful, use of this isn’t sanctioned by Motorola and won’t be covered by the Motorola MOTOACTV’s standard warranty.
One notable absence worth bearing in mind is an alarm function. This might seem like a small thing, but being a watch, we expected it to be on-board. As the device is well able to beep, perhaps a software update will bring this seemingly missing bit of functionality to MOTOACTVs in the near future.
For a video demo, here’s our hands-on preview:
Exercise options are pretty much limited to cardio out of the box. With indoor and outdoor exercises pre-loaded on-board, you can choose from running, biking, walking, elliptical and the step machine.
When you select running, biking or walking, the Motorola MOTOACTV gives you the option of indoor or outdoor. We tested the indoor option with running and were initially disappointed, with the MOTOACTV reading that we ran 2 miles when in fact we ran 0.6 miles. That said, we were given the option to correct the reading, thereby calibrating the MOTOACTV to your specific indoor running style which worked pretty well after 4 short 5 minute sessions. This may be useful if you have a treadmill that doesn’t display your running information, however if you’re a gym user with more modern equipment, the main advantage will come with the release of the heart-rate monitor later this month.
If you’re an outdoor exerciser however, this is where the Motorola MOTOACTV comes into its own. The onboard GPS tracks your route, distance and pace while the MP3 player powers your workouts with your choice of tracks.
You can program a workout based on a goal of time, distance or calories. You can also pre-load workouts directly from MOTOACTV.com or run against your personal best. Finally, there’s a fitness test that requires you run for 8 minutes at your maximum pace without stopping or slowing down. Provided you’re still breathing after 8 minutes, this is a smart way to track your overall fitness improvements.
The actual running itself is pretty predictable. We went for just over 4 miles and had the Black Keys new album pumping our stride. The watch was comfortable throughout and the audio was occasionally interrupted by voice-prompts letting us know what milestones we’d hit, and how long there was to go. The display stays on during workouts making glancing at your progress easy and with nice big buttons to control music and workouts, it’s much more intuitive to operate than an iPod or iPhone. When we got home, detecting a familiar Wi-Fi connection, the clever watch automatically uploaded all our running data to the portal. Naturally, the Motorola MOTOACTV won’t run for you, but it certainly makes the run more enjoyable.
For anyone looking for more guidance, the Motorola MOTOACTV.com portal is fantastic as it actually tailors a guided run to you based on how you performed in your fitness test. It’s all tallied up against your target goal using the Carmichael training system and delivers a 16-week fitness regime that should get you in fighting condition.
Music + Media
With 8GB of memory, there’s a fair bit of room for music or podcasts. Playback quality is above average which is great to see and the supplied headphones do a good job. Thanks to the generic headphone jack, we used our own hands-free headphones and were really pleased to see that the hands-free functionality worked perfectly with them.
Music is managed by the software that installs automatically upon connecting the MOTOACTV to a computer. This works by exporting playlists created in iTunes or Windows Media Player to your MOTOACTV. It’s easy enough to get your head around and can also include auto syncing of audio podcasts.
Tracks that deliver a boost to your workout performance are marked out from the crowd and come together for a fitness focused playlist, or butt in to boost performance mid-run if your pace is waning.
Combined with the supplied headphone, the MOTOACTV also becomes a Bluetooth headset for calls. With our Android phone in our pocket therefore we were able to initiate and end a call directly from our wrist. Add to that the ability to read texts and view calendar alerts on it and there’s scope for day-to-day use beyond just exercise. With the wire threading through a sleeve, it’s discrete and comfortable to use, really adding value to the unit and its arguably steep asking price.
Battery-life is going to directly correlate with exercise usage. With the screen staying on for the duration of a run, it shouldn’t alarm you to see an hour long jog zap 50% of the battery right down. There are options to drop screen brightness and in turn preserve juice, however, if you keep it at around 70% brightness and go for an hour long run with moderate music playback, it will last just over a day – not ideal but workable nonetheless.
After reviewing the Motorola MOTOACTV, we’re begrudging the thought of giving it back. It hasn’t necessarily made us run more, but it’s educated us on the subject and made our progress more measurable and goal oriented. The day to day functionality is also brilliant, with music being tangle free thanks to the headphone wires threading comfortably through our sleeves. Our phone happily stays in our pockets when answering calls or reading texts and while it’s a shame Motorola have locked the MOTOACTV apps to Motorola handsets, if you’re prepared to install unsanctioned APKs as we mention above, you won’t miss out on the action. The £249 asking price is a bit steep, there’s no denying and we almost wish we didn’t want one so much. Will we buy the Motorola MOTOACTV? Maybe. Would we recommend it? Yes, especially if you’re into running, music and tech.
If you’ve got any questions, just drop us a comment below, we’ll do our best to answer.