Motorola Moto 360 review

4 stars
£200.00
The beginning of the end for bad smartwatch design

We're not going back to ugly smartwatches. 

That's not to say the Moto 360, the first real Android Wear icon, is perfect - nothing was going to live up to the hyping and hoping of the past six months. But it's the first smartwatch you'll want to show off rather than hide under a sleeve.  

The 360's design makes gadget sense after gadget sense. It's a watch. So it's round. It's made from premium materials such as stainless steel and leather. So it's a little pricey at £200. It rests in a dock to charge. 

But what's it like to wear one? And should any other Android Wear watches get a look in? 

READ MORE: Making the Moto 360 - the inside story of how Motorola built the first good-looking smartwatch

Oh This? This is my sexy, round, early adopter smartwatch

Motorola Moto 360 - Oh This? This is my sexy, round, early adopter smartwatch 2Motorola Moto 360 - Oh This? This is my sexy, round, early adopter smartwatch 3

When a device is as sleek, futuristic and eye-catching as the Moto 360 you can do one of two things. Wear one under a shirt and suit so that you can easily peep at the circular smartwatch as and when you need to. This how the Motorola execs do it - we didn't even notice many of them had the 360 on at first glance. 

The second thing you can do is slyly turn your wrist to check the time every five minutes or pretend there's an itch on your arm to get more attention. 

That's what we've been doing. 

It takes up about the same amount of space on your wrist as a regular analogue watch, or for that matter the square LG G Watch (which looks even more uninspired in design now we've sat it next to the Moto atop our wrist). It is chunky, though, at 11.5mm high so it does sort of declare its presence even if you don't want it to.

At least, then, it's light. We don't know the weight of the steel model yet but the 360 with a black leather strap, the unit we've been given to review, weighs just 49g. That's heavy enough so you know it's there but light enough to avoid feeling like you have a tiny computer strapped to your arm. Compared to the rubber band-like strap on a Samsung smartwatch, the leather strap feels lovely. Once you start putting the 360 next to real watch straps, it's obvious this isn't as luxurious as it could be. But remember this is the first smartwatch we've even thought to compare to a premium wristwatch. This is what Moto is putting itself up against. 

The steel body feels sturdy, with a perfectly smooth circular edge, very slim bezels around the screen and a single power button on the right-hand side. We tried winding it - nothing happened, but still, it's a nice borrowing from watch design school. If you select the watchface with a ticking hand and two timezone dials then squint, it could be an IWC.  

The plastic inside can get a bit grubby and some people will moan about the strip that cuts off the bottom of the circular screen. But Moto showed us what it considers to be the alternative in its Model Shop. A fully round screen, with no room for the display drivers, would have meant much bigger bezels. In fact, the prototype Motorola threw out looks a little like LG's G Watch R. We think Moto made the right choice, although if someone can solve that particular conundrum we'll be mighty happy about it.

READ MORE: LG G Watch review

Glanceable, Pretty Sharp

We've established the screen is round, but is it any good? 

Well it's certainly easily glanceable. At 1.56in it's nice and big and while colours don't pop off the display in a fit of vibrancy, they look appealing and fit in with the 360's understated aesthetic. At 205ppi, the 360's resolution might not match the Gear Live's, but it is about as sharp as smartwatches get at this point. That means text looks fairly crisp at typical viewing distance, only getting a bit murkier if you get really close and personal.

There's also a little distortion around the very edge as the Gorilla Glass 3 raises the screen so it's not flush with the steel body. But it's nothing that gets in the way and we'd rather the protection from scratches and bumps that, together with the IP67 waterproofing (resistant up to 1m for 30 minutes), makes for a surprisingly robust little smartwatch.   

The display's not a power-sipping OLED as the rumours suggested, but a backlit LCD. One nice feature to help counteract this is auto brightness, something we haven't seen on the LG or Samsung - the 360 has an ambient light sensor that adjusts as you move from bright environments to dark ones and vice versa. It will need to be cranked up for outdoors as the 360 gets quite reflecty. Generally it's easy to read both the watchface screen and notifications, even in strong sunlight. As usual, placing your hand over the screen reverts to the low power screen with a little haptic feedback for confirmation. 

One more point on the screen - as with the others you'll find yourself staring at fingerprint smudges for a big chucnk of the day. This is your new pride and joy so show it some love by giving it a wipe now and again. 

READ MORE: Pebble Steel review

Why the round face?

The Moto, as expected, has the best Android Wear watchfaces so far. From an animated ticking clockface with timezone dials to a stylish rotating set of circles, they show off the form factor superbly. The square watchfaces designed for the G Watch and Gear Live won't work on the Moto 360, which means there are only seven to get started with.

Moto 360 review

With Moto holding competitions for watchface designs, we don't think it will stick at seven for long. And once you've downloaded the free Motorola Connect app you can customise them by choosing between black and white faces, colours for accents, number styles and timezones. As with the Gear Live and G Watch, you can set the watchface to always on, or 'ambient', as Motorola calls it - the 360 warns that this decreases battery life but hey, a watch is for telling the time so we think it's worth the hit. 

In action, when you get a notification on your phone, the 360 vibrates and a card pops up on the watchface. If Google Now thinks weather, directions, transport or calendar info will be contextually useful, another card appears.

Everything else about Android Wear - the menu list, pulling down to mute and see the battery, swipeable info cards - is exactly as it is on the Wear watches we've tested so far. Now cards have a bit more room to breathe, thanks to the round screen, but each one only requires a short flick to the right to get rid of. 

Motorola tells us that plenty of Android Wear apps are, or will be, optimised for the round display - notifications certainly are and we've seen some examples, such as recipes from Allthecooks, making full use of the screen. With the Moto 360 going on sale this week in the US, developers aren't likely to waste any time tweaking Wear apps, but right now there are a few niggles - some apps we've tried don't work on the 360 whereas some built-in functions such as the turn-by-turn navigations have cut-off text, having been designed for squarer screens. We're not too worried right now but if the situation doesn't improve in a few months, this could turn into a bit of a dealbreaker. 

READ MORE: Android Wear review

 

More after the break...

Slightly bumpy start

Motorola Moto 360 - Slightly bumpy start 2Motorola Moto 360 - Slightly bumpy start 3

We have a soft spot for the Moto so we're really rooting for it. But that doesn't mean we're blind to its flaws.

We've had a couple of teething problems with the 360 already. It's compatible with any Android running 4.3 Jelly Bean or higher, and while pairing to our phone went smoothly, soon after the Bluetooth connection decided to drop out. Now, every single smartwatch we've tested has done this once or twice - even the ever reliable Pebble Steel - so we can forgive this but this is a problem both Google and smartwatch manufacturers need to devote some energy to. 

We've also noticed a bit of lag with Google Now cards coming through. A few were stuttery as they popped up or were swiped away. And one card was blank until we tapped on it. Again, Moto's own heart activity app and Google functions such as voice search and navigation aren't quite as smooth as we'd like. 

We might not have paid much attention if it weren't for the fact that the G Watch and Gear Live we've been wearing for the past month or so both performed much better. After the initial flurry of helpful Chicago based updates - local buses, baseball scores and the time at home in London - the 360 calmed down a little. But this isn't a solitary blip. It's not enough to make you want to chuck the Moto across the room (as you might with a Sony SmartWatch 2) but if you've used other Android Wear watches you'll spot the difference. 

The good news? The heart rate monitor works, though as with Samsung we'd stick to sports accessories for medical readings. Both the red and white-hued reader and the circular graphic showing weekly activity goals look very pretty too - like someone kidnapped the iOS designers in charge of the clock and compass details and forced them to create a heart rate app. You can also enter age, gender, height and weight details in the Wellness section of Motorola's Connect app to get better goals - although for now, there's nothing to track progress via Moto on your smartphone. 

The wrist flicking gesture to turn the screen on, or from 'ambient' to on, works well enough, too, almost every time, and voice search and commands are just as excellent, if not better, as its Android Wear rivals. That's Google doing a great job and Moto's audio geeks working their magic with two in-built microphones on the 360. Of course, if you're trying to draw attention to yourself on the street - as we are when wearing the 360 - talking to your watch is still a pretty surefire way to do that. 

READ MORE: Samsung Gear Fit review

A battery that (sometimes) lasts a day

A day is the absolute minimum for a smartwatch battery. And sadly the 360 doesn't always reach that. 

Moto 360 review

It all depends on whether you want an always on watchface. With the ambient screen on, in an average day of us grabbing the 360 from its charging dock just before work, the battery gets us home from the office - but just about. And if you're heading out after work, be prepared to walk around with a blank screen on your wrist. And the first day the Stuff team got their mitts on it to have a first play, the 360 conked out at eight and a half hours after we undocked it. 

For the next few days, we wore it with the ambient screen turned off. That means that unless you tilt your wrist or tap the screen, it's a blank face. This lasted a full day without fail. 

It's a 320mAh unit, less than the G Watch and the upcoming G Watch R and while both the LG and Samsung sometimes made it into Day 2, that's not really possible with the 360 unless you turn the ambient screen off. Ideally, we'd want a day's battery with the always on watchface. 

Motorola has at least made charging a nice experience. You heard us. The Moto 360 charges wirelessly, via the free bundled dock, and from dead to 100% only takes about an hour and a half. When docked, the 360 displays the time horizontally and the battery percentage in a night mode. Chances are you'll stick the charger by your bed and dock the watch once a day, during the week at least.

It's an elegant solution, the dock is big enough that it won't get lost (unlike the Gear Live's cradle, for instance) and it means the designers didn't have to ruin the build with a microUSB port. So if it lasted all day, we'd have no problem with nightly charges. As it is, we'd suggest buying an extra wireless dock from Moto when these go on sale or making do with a regular Qi mat as your back-up as we've been doing. 

Motorola Moto 360 Verdict

We're suckers for a pretty face and the Moto 360 sure does have one. 

When you see it in person, this stylish and supremely wearable smartwatch doesn't disappoint. The watchfaces are classy, Android Wear is as clever as ever and you won't want to take it off. 

Anyone who is thinking of buying a smartwatch but doesn't want to look stupid should consider it. But do so knowing that the battery life might make you anxious and it's in need of a performance boost. And we'll probably have to wait for the second gen 360 for these improvements. 

This is by far our favourite Android Wear watch so far and with a sell-out run in the US already, it could still be the watch that makes Google's bold OS. Two things could spoil Motorola's fun - rivals such as LG outpacing it over the coming months and the threat of an Apple Watch launching in early 2015. There are many hands yet to be played in the smartwatch face-off.

READ MORE: The best smartwatches, fitness bands and wearables you can buy 

READ MORE: Making the Moto 360 - the inside story of how Motorola built the first good-looking smartwatch

 

 

says

Motorola Moto 360

The first wearable you'll want to wear - the Moto 360 is just a few specs short of brilliance

Moto 360 hands on review
4 stars
£200.00
Iconic, head-turning design
Wireless charging beats faffy cradles
The most comfortable Android Wear watch yet
Auto brightness
Needs charging at least once a day
Some disappointing performance blips
Not all apps optimised for that round screen
design
smarts
battery
screen
apps
OMG!
WTF?

Comments

*grumble* Google says 250 dollars is £153. I know 'rip off Britain' isn't new but I didn't think things were usually 30% more.

Now THAT is a smart watch!

Id buy that just as a watch, shame they're phones are so crap!

Sexiest? Doesn't say much for the others. Not interested. Like the glass, seen 2 people trying to look 'it' wearing them but I just laughed. Tech is amazing. Wear is not for me. Ever. 

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