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Moto 360 (2015) REVIEW: Full circle

by Mark Burstiner | September 27, 2015September 27, 2015 9:00 am PDT

The Moto 360 was my favorite smartwatch of 2014, but it was not without its issues. This year, Moto is back with a model that addresses nearly all of the shortcomings of last year’s entry.

I’m an early adopter, so when the first Moto 360 came out I was rabid to get my hands on one. In its infancy, Android Wear didn’t really have much to it, but now that it’s been given some time to mature, it’s my favorite thing to have on my wrist. I’m excited to cover the new 360 since I’ve worn my old one nearly every day since getting it. The new Moto 360 is an incremental update to the original, but it’s enough to make you take a look. Let’s talk about the changes and what’s stayed the same.

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Design

The first thing you’ll notice is the addition of lugs. The new lugs allow for much easier quick release band changing, a more free hanging strap, and alleviates the issue many first gen users had with the plastic backs cracking. The button has also moved to the two o’clock position on the face and it’s much clickier than last year’s. Nothing has changed with respect to the button’s functionality, though. The watch face also retains the same dimensions as last year’s model with the exception of shaving .1 mm off the width.

The Men’s large model measures in at 1.56 inches, 360 x 330 for a ppi of 233. The 1.37-inch model is just a bit more dense at 263 ppi because of its smaller face housing the almost identical resolution of 360 x 325. The higher PPI screen is really welcome here. I didn’t anticipate it making a big difference, and it doesn’t, but it does amount to a more premium feeling device.

The ever so polarizing ‘flat tire’ is still very much present. For me, it’s not a big deal. The flat tire allows for a very small bezel and a high screen to bezel ratio. It makes things look silly sometimes, but nothing egregious. It doesn’t change functionality at all, so I don’t consider it a dealbreaker.

Ambient mode is something I’d considered a luxury until now. I never had it activated on the old model, and even if I did it still insisted on deciding when it should and shouldn’t be on. The new one, however, I’ve had ambient mode always activated and it still makes it through a full day on battery.

The accelerometer is also much much more accurate. The display always wakes up from ambient mode when lifted to my face, and the wrist flicking gestures works much more reliably than they ever did on the last model. The activity tracking, though, was definitely a bit amiss. Oddly, despite many reports of it, I never had any issue with activity tracking on my original model. The new Moto 360 does seem to have something up given that Moto Body and Google Fit both constantly had huge discrepancies between step counts. That said, I don’t use Moto Body. I stick to Google Fit, so as long as my readings are consistent in the ecosystem, I’m happy.

As far as looks go, I’m more of a function over form kind of guy so I like something utilitarian and understated. The 360 fits right in with that, so I’m happy to wear it on my wrist. If you’re looking for something flashier, though, you can always Moto Maker up something in gold if that’s what you’re after.

Processor

The processor in the old 360 was a single core TI OMAP 3 clocked at 1 GHz. The new 360 is sporting a quad core Snapdragon 400 and the difference is massive. My old 360 was really laggy and the signs of age were starting to show. The new device is quick. The device is easily (anecdotally) twice as responsive as last year’s model.

Battery

One of the major pain points in last year’s model was the inconsistent battery life. I’m very happy to report that the battery capacity has been upped to 400mAh from 320mAh. Between that, a more efficient processor, and moderate to high usage, I was able to get through a full day with about 50 percent left in the tank. Motorola says this is to be expected. It claims 1.5 full days without ambient display and 1 full day with ambient display. I’m really really pleased with the battery life here. That was never a giant pain point for me on last year’s model, but I’m happy to see it’s something I don’t have to worry about. In my most recent test, I took it off the charger at 7:30 AM, and at 9:15 AM the next day, it still had 20% left. If battery life was something you were concerned about, don’t be. It’s much improved in this model.

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Everything else but the price is the same. The price has gone up from the initial MSRP of $250 to $300, and that goes up to $430 for other bells and whistles you might want. The remainder is all as it was on the original. Still 4GB of storage, ½ gig of RAM, heart rate monitor is still here, microphone, and it is still IP67 water resistant (which does not mean you can swim with it).

On the software side, the latest version of Android Wear is finally something I feel really comfortable recommending to Android users. While some apps are certainly rough around the edges, all the new interactive watch faces really make Wear feel very futuristic to me. The Together watch face can be used to link up to another Moto 360 user (like the Apple Watch) to send silly doodles, photos, and your current transit status. When I use this with my wife, it really feels like I have her right there in my wrist.

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The new 360 is almost exactly what I want out of my smartwatch: all day battery and speedy performance.

Overall, I’m really happy with the quality of the new Moto 360 and the improvements they’ve made, but I’m not sold on the price point. I bought the first model at full price for $250 when it came out because I wanted to be one of the first people with a smartwatch, but for this incremental upgrade, I can’t recommend upgrading because the changes are so evolutionary. Once the price comes down, I think it’s a no brainer. Or, if you’re in the market for your first smartwatch, this is a great one to pick up even at the full price of $300.


Mark Burstiner

Mark is a former entrepreneur from New York by way of Chicago. He's a tech enthusiast and heavy gamer. If it's bleeding edge, he wants it. If it's...

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