Review

Review: Motorola Moto 360

Although it has been quite some time since we have heard consistent chatter about Motorola products, it looks like for the second year in a row, Motorola is in the minds of the consumer. After years of failing to regain traction and market share, Motorola unveiled a new strategy and product last year in the form of the Moto X. It was Motorola’s flagship and took a drastically different approach in sales strategy compared to other manufacturers. While the device wasn’t an enormous success, it did show that Motorola was capable of creating something interesting and different. 

A year later, Motorola is back, along with a couple of new products that aim to establish itself as a company on the rise. But, the highlight this year isn’t Motorola’s latest flagship or other devices, it’s a simple wearable that managed to take the world by storm when it was teased six months earlier.

The Motorola Moto 360 is an Android Wear device and like many other companies, Motorola is attempting to enter a niche space that hasn't had a clear victor yet. While LG and Samsung launched their Android Wear devices at Google I/O 2014, Motorola waited for summer.

Patiently I waited six months for this device and while I’m not a watch connoisseur or collector, there is something about the Moto 360 I find intriguing. After plunking down the $249.99 USD plus tax, I waited a week for my order to arrive due to high demand and short supply. But, upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the watches packaging . The Moto 360 wasn't crammed in a small square box like your typical Pebble or Samsung Gear, instead it was housed in an elegant cylindrical packaging. It was clear, Motorola was sending a message. 

As I unpacked the watch, I started to remember previous smartwatches that had failed to hold my interest. A Pebble watch that remains unused and hasn’t been charged in many months and a Samsung Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit that were good, but didn’t quite peak my interest as much as I had hoped. 

But, what was it really about these devices that failed to live up to my expectations? Could it have been that they did not have the functionality that I desired or was is it the interaction? Maybe it was something a bit more simple like the aesthetics? It was during this moment that I realized - sure, they all had their quirks, but it was always about the design. I never quite felt comfortable having a square odd looking piece of technology on my wrist.

As an adult, I never wanted to have this generation's calculator watch on my wrist. Sure, it's functional, but it's of limited use (we all remember those tiny keys) and to be frank it doesn't always work the best. But, with that said, will the Motorola Moto 360 become a permanent accessory on my wrist or will it to become something tossed in a drawer, forever forgotten.

Specifications

  Motorola Moto 360
Product Codes Light stainless steel case + gray Horween leather band
Light stainless steel case + stone Horween leather band
Dark stainless steel case + black Horween leather band
Display 1.56" LCD 
320 x 290 , 205ppi
Processor TI OMAP 3
RAM 512MB
Storage 4GB
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy
Ports Qi wireless charging
Sensors

Pedometer
Optical heart rate monitor

Battery 320mAh
Launch OS Android Wear
Launch Date September 2014
Size & Weight 46mm diameter by 11.5mm high
49g
Price $249.99 USD

Design

Simply put, the Moto 360 is, by far, the classiest wearable out right now. Although looks are always a matter of opinion, I think that this smart watch generates a certain intrigue by the wearer when viewed by onlookers. The Moto 360 is stylish, simple, and functional. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel; it merely infuses it with a bit of technology, making it the first connected timepiece

Lets start with the color options. The Moto 360 is available in two colors: Dark and Light stainless steel. While these are the official color titles, what this essentially boils down to is a black and silver bezel option. Each color option will come with a color matched leather watch band. Personally, I gravitated towards the more subtle option and opted to purchase the dark model. One thing to note, the watch is not yet available with a metal band. This option will be available later in the year and early adopters will have the option to purchase the metal band separately. 

The dark model has a black steel housing, black Horween leather strap, and black clasp. The only aesthetic deviation from the "all black" look is a hint of gold trim that surrounds the button located at the 3’oclock position. The underside or belly of the watch is made of plastic and houses a optical heart rate sensor.

The watch is circular with a casing that measures in at 46mm in diameter with a depth of 11.5mm. Although, I'm not a watch connoisseur or have a large collection of watches, from what I own, the Moto 360 seems like a standard size. I understand that watches come in all different shapes, sizes and thicknesses, but for me, the watch feels great on the wrist. 

Display

The watch face has 1.56” 320 x 290, 205ppi circular LCD display that is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. The glass is raised a tiny bit from the bezel offering a bit of contrast. While some might prefer the glass to be flush, I think this design decision in no way detracts from the overall look of the device. I think the only small quibble I have is the black bar that is located at the bottom of the screen. The black bar does sometimes detract from watch faces, but after using it for more than a week, I tend to forget about it. But, there are still moments when the black bar can be jarring, particularly when using a light colored background or watch face that has numerals in the lower portion of the display.

Naturally, the intrusive black bar does have a purpose. It houses the display connection and an ambient light sensor that allows for automatic brightness adjustment. But, if you feel the need, you also have the ability to adjust the display manually. When adjusted manually, you have the choice of five different brightness settings. At its lowest setting (one), the LCD can still be seen in direct sunlight. Perhaps, what is most odd, is that at its brightest, the brightness changes very little when viewed outdoors. I honestly couldn't see much of a difference when under direct sunlight. But, indoors and at night there is a clear difference. The only time the Moto 360 did struggle to produce an adequate image was under sunlight in the ambient screen option. This is essentially a low power mode that allows the screen to stay on consistently, but is very dimly lit. At night, this level of brightness is perfect, but during the day, it is a bit of struggle trying to decipher, and under direct sunlight it is nearly impossible.

But, overall the display works pretty well. It isn't the clearest display by any means, but it works for a majority of the things displayed on the watch. If you look closely, you can easily see that there is pixelation on the screen, but it isn't to the point where it's a constant distraction. The watch faces look great, the text for incoming notifications is clear and easy to read, and the menu items are easily legible. While there is always room for improvement, as a first generation device, I find that the Moto 360 has a pretty good screen that works great in all environments and does what I need it to do.

Software

Like most smartwatches available today, the Moto 360 functions as a companion device with a smartphone. The Moto 360 requires a smartphone running Android 4.3 or higher. While this might seem common, be warned, a lot of lower end devices will not meet this requirement. Believe me, I searched out all prepaid options (under $100 USD) and only found three handsets running Android 4.3 or above (Boost Mobile (U.S.) - LG Realm, HTC Desire 510, and a Motorola Moto G). During my week of use I had the Moto 360 paired with a Motorola E, running Android 4.4. In order to even begin operating the Moto 360, you are required to setup the device via the Android Wear application. This can be easily downloaded through the Google Play Store.

Once the device is paired, it will run through a set up process that will also include a small tutorial on how to use Android Wear. With Android Wear, you have a limited number of ways to interact with a notification. The notifications come in the form of cards. Each card will have a small amount of information that will be displayed on the screen. In order to scroll through the cards, you will swipe up and down. Naturally, these notifications appear in the order that they were received. By swiping to the right, you can dismiss the card. By swiping to the left you can generally see more information about the card, if it has layers. If the card does not posses the capability to display more information, it will ask you to open the notification on your phone.

While it isn't the most useful piece of equipment, it is convenient. It gives you information at a glance, while doing it in style. Although Android Wear is no where near ready for mass adoption, I think after a few iterations, it could become one of the top wearable device platforms. 

Performance

When you talk about performance of a smartwatch, you will inevitably arrive at the question of battery life. After all, if it isn't functional, than it becomes utterly useless. The general consensus seems to gravitate toward the idea that a watch shouldn't have to be charged each night for it to work. While I understand this and I get where the frustration comes from, realistically, until they figure out how to meld regenerative properties to wearables like solar or kinetic charging, the battery life will always be a pain point. Personally, I'm not that much of a stickler when it comes to battery life. I want something that lasts all week, but I'm perfectly happy with something that lasts me all day and the Moto 360 does achieve that. 

In its latest software update, the Moto 360 can easily last a whole day without needing a recharge. Typically, on any given day, I will receive close to 100 different types of notifications. This includes texts, emails, Facebook alerts, Google Voice and more. My day starts off at around 8:00am, but I don't generally take the watch off the charger until an hour later. From 9am on, I rely on the Moto 360 to send notifications my way. Like I mentioned prior, this comes from a wide variety of sources. Mind you, I'm probably not the busiest guy, but for what I use it for, it works. From one charge, the watch will last me an entire day and well into the night. Typically, if I don't charge it, in a 24-hour cycle I am left with about 10%. Even during heavy use like using navigation and just fiddling with it constantly, I was still able to make it through a day (15-17 hours) with 10% battery life. While this might not be a week or even a couple days of use, it still is a respectable amount of time; I hope that Motorola continues to update the device to improve the battery life.

While the Moto 360 is primarily an inbox for your notifications, it also has the capability to accept voice commands. The device has a wide variety of options when it comes to commands which can range from sending a text to guided navigation. Most of the time I found that the use of voice commands was a hit or miss. Considering this is a huge part of the interaction, I found it pretty disappointing when it didn't work. Despite the fact that the Moto 360 has dual microphones, it was never really able to capture my commands accurately each time. It would have a good streak of maybe four or five commands, then it would all of sudden start failing to understand even the simplest things. For those that are inclined to wear long sleeves, word to the wise, the sleeves will cover up one the microphones making it extremely difficult for the watch to understand what you are saying. .

Conclusion

There has always been a bit of fantasy when it comes to smartwatches and what they should achieve. As a child, I remember watching cartoons and movies that showed futuristic time pieces that would allow communication, some even had visual displays that would allow for video calls. Now that some of those fantasies are finally becoming reality, we can see that it's not all it's cracked up to be. But, honestly, this is just the beginning. Sometimes we forget that products take time to mature and since smartwatches have only been on the market for a little over a year, they have had hardly anytime to grow. Sure, the options that are available today aren't the best, but I think the Motorola Moto 360 is the best option when it comes to an Android Wear device.

While this might not be the ideal solution for everyone, this is still a niche device. It isn't for everyone and it will have its detractors for one reason or another. Although I don't think it's a complete or even polished smartwatch, I enjoy it more as a timepiece. The Motorola Moto 360 might have its apparent flaws, but compared to its peers, its way ahead of the competition. Long after I get tired of using it an Android Wear device, I will still be able to put it into airplane mode and enjoy it as a digital timepiece. 

The Motorola Moto 360 can be ordered directly via Motorola's website or found at your local Best Buy. The unit retails for $249.99 USD / £156.39 / €199.1. Currently, the device is only available in the United States.

 

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