Motorola Moto 360 hands on preview

We've got the best-looking smartwatch in the world on our wrist - and we might never take it off again

We've had a Moto 360 strapped to our wrist for the last 12 hours and we're not going back to square smartwatches. 

That's not to say the would-be Android Wear icon is perfect, nothing was going to live up to our sky high hopes for it. But it's hard to take your eyes off one, especially the stainless steel model, and it's not as huge and wrist-swamping as some of the images flying around the web make it look. 

It's a watch so it's round. It's made from premium materials such as steel and leather so it's a little pricey at £200 (S$410). It rests in a dock to charge. The 360's design makes gadget sense after gadget sense. But what's it like to wear one? And should any other Android Wear watches get a look in? 

READ MORE: Which smartphone should you buy? The Sony Xperia Z2 vs HTC One (M8) vs Samsung Galaxy S5 vs LG G3

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

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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 is the way all 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 around or pretend there's an itch on your arm so that you can bring the Moto into people's eyeline to get more attention.

That's what we've been doing. 

Because it looks awesome and we want to show it off. Even in a room full of other people who are wearing a Moto 360.

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 11.3mm high so it does sort of declare its presence even if you don't want it too. At least, then, it's light. 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. 

The steel body feels sturdy with a perfectly smooth circular edge 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.  

Some people will moan about the strip that cuts off the bottom of the circular screen. But Moto showed us 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. 

READ MORE: LG G Watch review

Glanceable, Pretty Sharp

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

Easily glanceable, yes. 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 looks. At 205ppi, the 360's resolution is about as sharp as smartwatches get. That means text looks fairly crisp but not if you get up close and really stare at it. There's also a little distortion around the very edge as the glass is slightly raised above the steel body but it's nothing that gets in the way. 

The display's not an OLED as the rumours suggested but a backlit LCD. One nice feature is auto brightness, something we haven't seen on the LG or Samsung and that's sure to help make the battery last. It will need to be cranked up for outdoors though as the top of the 360 gets quite reflecty. We'll test out how the Moto holds up in direct sunlight for the full review. 

There's Gorilla Glass 3 coating the screen to help protect it from scratches and bumps which, together with the IP67 waterproofing, should make for a surprisingly robust little smartwatch. 

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 clock face with timezone dials to a stylish rotating set of circles, they really show off the form factor. There's only seven, yes seven, to get started with but we're hoping to be able to download many more in a matter of days. With Moto holding competitions for watchface designs, we don't think it will stick at seven for long. Like the Gear Live and G Watch, you can set the watchface to always on, or 'ambient' here - the 360 warns that this decreases battery life but hey, a watch is for telling the time. 

Moto 360 hands on review

Everything else about Android Wear - the menu list, pulling down to mute and see the battery, swipeable cards - is exactly as it was 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 won't waste any time tweaking Wear apps. 

READ MORE: Android Wear review

More after the break...

Slightly bumpy start

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We already have a soft spot for the Moto but that doesn't mean we're blind to its little flaws.

We've had a couple of teething problems with the 360 already. Pairing to our Android phone went smoothly but 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 - so we can forgive this but we're keeping an eye on it all the time. 

We've also noticed a teensy 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. 

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 better. After the initial flurry of helpful Chicago based updates though - local buses, baseball scores and the time at home in London - the 360 calmed down a little. Again, this might be a blip so we'll keep testing.

The good news? The heart rate monitor works, though as with Samsung we'd stick to sports accessories for medical readings. It looks pretty too - like someone kidnapped the iOS designers in charge of the clock and compass UI and forced them to create a heart rate app.

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 as on other Android Wear watches. That's Google doing a great job and Moto's audio geeks working their magic helped by the two 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 good way to do that. 

READ MORE: Samsung Gear Fit review

A battery that should last a day

Moto says the 360 should last a day of mixed use and after our initial play, we'd be inclined to agree. After eight hours (on auto brightness) of setting it up, testing voice, changing watchfaces every five minutes and taking our heart rate, the 360 still had 47% battery which isn't too shabby. 

Moto 360 hands on review

It's a 320mAh unit, which sounds like it shouldn't take long to charge. But the Moto 360 charges wirelessly, via the bundled dock, so expect it to take longer than a microUSB cradle. When docked, the 360 displays the time in a night mode so chances are you'll stick the charger by your bed and charge once a night, during the week at least.

It's an elegant solution, the charger is big enough that it probably 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. We'll update this hands on review after a couple of charges with the timings of how long it takes to get from 0-100%. 

Initial 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 er, wearable doesn't disappoint. The watchfaces are classy, Android Wear is as clever as ever and you won't want to take it off. 

If it charges in a reasonably quick time and the performance blips are just that, blips, then there's nothing standing between the Moto 360 and the wrists of everyone who is thinking about getting a smartwatch but doesn't want to look stupid. In fact, the only thing that could really spoil Moto's fun is if Apple announces an iWatch next week. For now, on first impressions, this is by far our favourite Android Wear device so far. And it could be the watch that makes Google's wearable tech OS. 


Motorola Moto 360 hands on

Moto 360 hands on review
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