Motorola just upped the standards for smartwatches. Until this point, we’ve settled for square, geeky-looking gadgets the resemble a shrunken down smartphone more than an actual wristwatch.
But ever since Motorola unveiled its Moto 360 in March, we’ve seen a handful of new smartwatch designs that stray away from the overdone boxy shape to focus more on a more premium look. Take LG and HP for example. Both manufacturers have recently unveiled round-faced smartwatches of their own within the past few weeks.
When you look at the Moto 360, you’ll understand why it’s attracted so much buzz. The watch is elegant, simple, and most importantly — it looks like something you’d want to wear.
The Moto 360 is a step in the right direction for wearables, but by no means is it a perfect product. Here are my impressions after spending a few days with it.
The Most Beautiful Smartwatch Yet
The Moto 360 isn’t the only good looking smartwatch out there. It’s just the best looking one. The Pebble Steel was my personal favourite in terms of aesthetics until now, with its premium steel frame and leather bands. But the Moto 360’s neat circular shape makes it look a little more classy than the Steel.
The Moto 360 is outlined in a stainless steel casing while its watch face is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass, which the company says will keep it scratch-free. The band is made of Horween leather and is interchangeable. It’s also worth noting that the Moto 360 is dust and water resistant, meaning it will work just fine after getting wet so long as you’re not swimming with it.
The 360 is still significantly thicker than your average wristwatch, but it’s something I could imagine seeing on the wrists of cocktail party guests or dinner attendees. It’s one of the few smartwatches that doesn’t look like a tech product or a sporty wristband.
That being said, the circular watch face is bulky. On a small wrist like mine, it looks gigantic. It almost looks like someone strapped a pocket watch to my wrist with a leather band.
I don’t necessarily blame Motorola for this. It’s a tough problem to solve. The screen has to be large enough to make reading notifications easy and enjoyable. While the watch face is a bit too big for my personal taste, I could imagine that reading text on a smaller circular screen would seem uncomfortable.
In general, the Moto 360 feels comfortable enough to wear throughout the day. The screen turns off when it’s inactive, but lights up again when you turn your wrist toward you.
Other than its thickness, the main drawback to the Moto 360 is the small section at the bottom of the watch face that’s cut off. This is particularly noticeable when you’re using a bright background, especially the white watch faces.
What It’s Like To Use It
The Moto 360 is one of the first smartwatches to run on Google’s Android Wear software. Android Wear is a version of Android that’s designed to be used on wearable devices like smartwatches instead of smartphones. This means voice dictation is a large part of how you interact with it.
The Moto 360 can do a number of things, such as display incoming calls and texts, measure your heart rate, pull up directions from Google Maps, count your steps, and tell you the weather. The idea behind Android Wear is that the watch should display contextual information before you even need to ask for it. So, for example, if you’re favourite baseball team is playing at 7 p.m. tonight, Android Wear would display that information on your wrist automatically.
Just like Google Now, Android Wear shows information in a card format. When new information comes in, you can either tap it for more details or dismiss it by swiping it to the side. Make no mistake — using Android Wear feels much different than using other smartwatches that run on the standard version of Android. It doesn’t feel anything like using a smartphone, so don’t expect to browse through a grid-style app drawer.
Saying the “OK Google” trigger phrase tells the watch to listen up for your commands. Don’t think of this as a voice search feature; it’s designed for telling Google specific instructions such as “Navigate to the Empire State Building” or “Remind me to water the plants at 4:30 p.m.”
In most cases the voice recognition technology worked just fine, but there were a few occasions in which I had to speak louder and repeat myself.
I found the Moto 360 to be most useful for setting reminders. It was convenient to tell my watch to remind me to call someone back or clean my room at a certain time without having to interrupt what I was doing.
I could easily see why the Moto 360 would come in handy for navigation. It was much easier and quicker to glance down at my watch to make sure I was walking in the right direction rather than having to take out my phone every few steps or so. However, I came across a major issue when using Google Maps on the Moto 360.
Even though my Google Now preferences are set for public transportation as my preferred mode of travel, the watch only let me choose between driving, walking, and bicycling directions. I don’t own a bicycle or a car, so unless I needed walking directions that feature was completely useless to me.
The heart rate monitor feature is also a convenient addition for those who want to stay on top of their health. Simply saying “OK Google, show me my heart rate” tells the watch to measure your beats per minute instantly.
The ability to easily switch between different watch faces and customise them within Motorola’s Connect app also makes it easy to cater the watch to your own personal taste.
While I enjoyed using Android Wear overall, there were a few instances in which the software crashed. In one scenario, I was presented with an error message that said “Unfortunately, Android Wear has stopped.” I also found it strange that you need two separate apps to fully set up and manage your Moto 360. The Android Wear app allows you to manage the apps you use with your Moto 360, but you need Motorola’s Connect app to pair your Android phone with the watch and edit your watch faces.
The Moto 360 can do a lot, but don’t expect to get much out of its battery. The watch died after just about one full day of moderate to heavy usage. This wouldn’t be too troubling for a phone, but something that you’re going to wear on your wrist should be able to last for more than a day. If you receive tons of notifications will probably get even less out of the Moto 360’s battery life.
It’s not so much the watch itself, but the idea behind the Moto 360 that makes it important for wearable tech as a whole. The Moto 360 is the first smartwatch that truly feels like a wristwatch more than a piece of technology. Its circular design has set a new standard for smartwatches to come, as we’re seeing new designs come to market with round-shaped watch faces.
That being said, the Moto 360 still has a long way to go before I’ll be ready to cough up $US250 for it. The battery life needs to be a lot better, and Android Wear still encounters its fair share of bugs. The Moto 360 looks nicer than any other smartwatch I’ve tested, but I’d be more inclined to wear it if it was a bit slimmer and lighter.
Interacting through voice dictation and glancing at notifications throughout the day feels more natural than using touch gestures just like I would on my smartphone. But the bottom line is that the Moto 360, and other Android Wear watches, still can’t do much more than my smartphone already can. It’s more like a shortcut to the things I would usually check on my phone rather than something new. The Moto 360 is one of the best smartwatches I’ve tested yet, but I’m still waiting for something that’s compelling enough to buy.