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Moto 360 REVIEW – Android Wear at its Finest

The Motorola Moto 360 was first announced back in March and it has arguably been one of the most anticipated smartwatches to ever hit the market. Motorola took advantage of that anticipation, too, withholding any information on a launch date and pricing even through the Google I/O developer conference in June and  leaving fans clamoring for more information.

The Moto 360 is finally here and available for purchase for $249, which is considerably lower than the $299.99 price point we were expecting. TechnoBuffalo president Jonathan Rettinger and myself have been testing two separate units for more than a week now, and we’re here with a full review of the Moto 360. Is it the smartwatch you’ve been dreaming of? Should you run out and buy one right this instant? Yes and no.

You’ll need to read on to find out why.

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Moto 360 Video Review

Hardware – Finally a Good Looking Smartwatch

Let’s start off with the hardware. If you’ve been reading TechnoBuffalo since the Moto 360 was announced, you know there has been a lot of questions leading up to what sort of hardware design experience the Moto 360 would offer when it finally shipped. It’s much more premium than the two other Android Wear smartwatches that came before it, including the Gear Live and the G Watch. That’s important, too, because if there’s anything smartwatch designers need to understand is that watches are very much fashion items and, for mainstream adoption to really pick up, they’re going to need to look great. Thankfully Motorola did a really nice job addressing that.

The device is available with a dark metal case with a black leather band out of the box, or with a light metal case and a stone gray leather band. Stainless steel bands will be available later this year. The circular Gorilla Glass face has beautiful beveled edges that complement the stainless steel body. The crown, which can be used to control the Moto 360 on a very basic level, is flanked with a gold ring that adds to the premium look of the entire device.

The 1.56-inch screen is just about the right size that it helps the watch look like any other timepiece, which is great when you don’t want to feel like a geek at a fancy restaurant but still want to wear a smartwatch. The 320 x 290-pixel display is sharp enough for notifications and for glancing at the time, but it could stand to be just a hair sharper. It’s satisfactory under direct sunlight: I can still read the time and see notifications, which is more than I can say for my G Watch.

We’ve seen some complaints about Motorola’s decision to use an older TI OMAP 3 processor under the hood, instead of a Snapdragon 400 processor like the Gear Live and G Watch. The performance operates exactly the same as those competitors, however, and we still don’t see any reason why the extra power might be necessary. Maybe it will matter down the road if more advanced apps are created, but for now you’ll be perfectly set with the OMAP 3 chip and 512MB of RAM. There’s also 4GB of local storage and a 320mAh battery, the performance of which we address later in this review.

The Moto 360 is light in the hand and on the wrist, much lighter than the regular Luminox watch that I wear when I’m not wearing the Moto 360. The Horween leather band is comfortable but it’s certainly not one of the highlights of the device. After a week with it it’s starting to look a little crummy, and I never wore it in the water, even though the whole package is IP67 resistant against water and dust.

Software – Still Android Wear, But Better

We’ve covered Android Wear in-depth in our earlier reviews of the Gear Live and G Watch, so we won’t dive too much into it here. Know this, though: it’s still young and we’re still expecting a lot from the new operating system. While it’s OK for receiving notifications, navigation is still cumbersome and there still aren’t nearly as many apps and watch faces and you’ll find on competing systems, like Pebble.

Thankfully Motorola added its own Motorola Connect software to the package that you’ll install on your Android phone during the Moto 360 setup process (which is simple). It allows you to customize any of the Moto 360’s six custom watch faces provided by Motorola. You can tweak the color of the background of a watch face (white or black) or swap between about 10 different colored accents, depending on the one you choose.

It’s a nice touch, especially since Android Wear makers can’t really customize their smartwatches with skins and other overlays. These are the best watch faces we’ve seen on any Android Wear device. My personal favorite is the Retrograde watch face with a black background and blue accents.

Motorola included a heart rate monitor with the Moto 360 and it seems accurate enough. Oddly, you can insert your height, weight and age to create a health profile, though none of that data seems to matter and the Moto 360 doesn’t really coach you beyond telling you how many steps out of your goal you’ve achieved.

Finally, the crown can be used to quickly jump back to the home screen or, if held for about 3 seconds, it launches the settings panel, which we found really useful.Overall, Jon and I both preferred the round Android Wear experience on the Moto 360, versus the rectangular experience on the Gear Live and G Watch, and that boils down to the form factor that looks and feels like a regular timepiece.

Battery – It Takes Time

Jon and I pushed back the review of the Moto 360 to make sure some initial battery problems were settled. Jon found that his Moto 360 had really poor battery life during his first week with the smartwatch, while I noticed the same issue for about two days. At that point we were both noticing that the battery drained so fast you could practically watch the juice drain.

After more time with the Moto 360, however, those issues faded away. With the ambient setting off, which keeps the watch’s screen off until you flick your wrist upward to see a notification, we were able to hit the sack at around 11:00 p.m. with 20 percent battery life remaining. That’s after pulling it off the charging dock at 7:00 a.m.

With ambient on, our results varied. I was able to get through a full day just fine, but Jon noticed that his battery life drained quicker and he’d head to bed with about 10 percent left on a good day.

The good news is that Motorola’s Qi wireless charger can juice up the Moto 360 super quickly. Most times it seemed like the watch was fully loaded after about an hour on the charger, which was great. Also, since the Moto 360 uses the Qi standard, you can put it on any Qi-enabled wireless charging mat.

The dock itself is stylish and looks great with the Moto 360 saddled up on your desk. While charging, the device displays the battery percentage, the time and, if any come in, your notifications. It’s the best looking charger we’ve ever seen for a smartwatch. As a bonus, it has a nice long cord.

BUY/WAIT

Final Thoughts – The Best You’ll Find… For Now

The battery life was an issue at first, but we really don’t have huge complaints in that department. Sure, we wish it lasted more than a day and into two days, which would change our review score drastically, but you should be able to get from wake-up to bedtime on a single charge with the ambient display off.

Android Wear still needs a lot of work, however. The user experience is still clunky and there aren’t nearly as many applications as there are for the Pebble and Pebble Steel, both of which we still strongly recommend.

We also know that the G Watch R is on the horizon. We had a chance to see it in person during IFA in Berlin earlier this month and it’s certainly going to give the Moto 360 a run for its money when it launches, though that will also come down to price.

If you want Android Wear right now, however, the Moto 360 is top dog.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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