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Moto 360 review: probably the best Android Wear smartwatch yet

The Moto 360 is the first Android Wear smartwatch to feature a round display. But what else does it have to offer? We find out, in this Moto 360 review!
September 19, 2014
best Android Wear watch faces
The Moto 360 addresses a number of issues with smartwatches in general, and that’s where it gets its charm. Its round face and minimalistic design succeed in style and its charging dock helps keep the smartwatch useful even when off the wrist. This might be the softest entry point for Android Wear we currently have.

The Moto 360 has been one of the most highly-anticipated devices of this summer, following its announcement and quick preview ahead of Google I/O back in June. Of the three smartwatches announced during the event, this was definitely the most watch-like, being the first Android Wear device to come with a round face. We got a better look at the smartwatch in Berlin, and have done the unboxing and initial setup process. Today, we dive into the comprehensive review of the Moto 360!

moto 360 unboxing initial setup (11 of 13)

Of course, the most noticeable design element right off the bat is the round face of the Moto 360, perhaps its most marketed feature.  It is a big, but sleek, device, and I’ve made jokes in previous videos of it feeling like an Oreo strapped to your wrist, but that wasn’t meant to be a negative. Of course, liking a design is a matter of taste, but the fact that this watch features a very neutral look and profile can be considered one of its strengths.

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The two choices consumers have is between the silver and black versions of the metal construction, which have standard black or grey leather straps, with the option of a steel bracelet version expected in the future. Keeping with its more watch-like design aesthetics, the Moto 360 also has a button on the side, though it offers little functionality, other than to wake the device or access the system menu.

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The leather band is quite thin when compared to the width of the body, but it isn’t unattractive by any means. That said, if you’re unhappy with the standard bands available, you might run into a few problems if you are looking to swap it out. This is because the bars that hold the band in place are tucked pretty far into the plastic back, making it difficult to find bands that can be fixed in there.

moto 360 ifa aa (12 of 16)

Of course, it won’t be a discussion about the Moto 360 if the black bar at the bottom of the watch face isn’t mentioned. While there is no denying that it is a blemish on what should have been a perfectly round face, the fact that it houses the ambient light sensor and more, somewhat helps with the backlash. That said, though it does get in the way in the beginning, it isn’t something that you won’t get used to after a little bit of time.

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Whether or not this is the best kind of design for Android Wear is a matter of opinion, but I will admit that Motorola’s version is one that seems to fit the most styles. With the screen on or off, the simple round design helps the Moto 360 blend into any clothing ensemble, and that is probably the most appealing part of this smartwatch, at least for me.

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As far as the display is concerned, you get a 1.56-inch LCD screen, with a resolution of 320 x 290. The display comes with Gorilla Glass 3 protection, which means that it should be able to withstand some punishment. As far as the colors go, the cards and information displayed look quite good. What is most striking about about this watch is its size. It is the largest Android Wear device thus far, and does well to display everything in an easy to read fashion.

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Touch sensitivity wasn’t much of an issue at all, though the round face does lead to some challenges. For example, any applications that require precise swipes from a corner need special aim, and while it is something you get the hang off after some time, it has proven to be a nuisance on more than one occasion.

moto 360 ifa aa (14 of 16)

While the Snapdragon 400 seems to be the standard when it comes to Android Wear devices, the Moto 360 packs a TI OMAP 3 processor under the hood, which may be older, but still provides a comparable performance nonetheless. Performance has been quite good, maintaining good speeds throughout, with rarely any signs of slow down. More importantly, I haven’t faced encountered any unexpected reboots or similar problems.

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Beyond the performance, and with the lack of Android Wear customization afforded to OEMs, hardware is one of the areas where these smartwatches can differentiate themselves. In the case of the Moto 360, it does have more to offer than just a round face. IP67 certification for resistance against dust and water helps it brave the elements, so you can basically wear this watch wherever and whenever you want.

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A heart rate monitor is present underneath as well, and I have to admit I like the way it looks better than any others available. Heart activity is presented on a scale that shows you your upper and lower limits, which is something I really like. You can also set it to record your heart rate periodically throughout the day, so that you know how much strenuous activity you’ve had.

moto 360 on charger review

Wireless charging is another marquee feature of the Moto 360, and I think it is the best charging implementation yet for an Android Wear device. An included dock allows the watch to lie on its side, and when connected, the watch face rotates and continues performing as a clock. Most smartwatches need to be charged daily, and this function addresses one fundamental issue with such devices — when they’re off your wrist, they are far less useful.

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Charging doesn’t take long, which is a big plus and very important for anyone who is concerned about the mixed battery life reports that have been making the rounds. In my case, the battery life has been decent, and has gotten better after a few battery cycles. Out of the box, the device did have abysmal longevity, dying in under 6 hours on a couple of occasions. But after draining the battery and charging it back to full a few times, it’s finally working for around 12 hours. That still cuts it really close, and still a big point docked off for this wearable’s longevity.

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Because manufacturers aren’t allowed to add their own customizations to Android Wear, the software experience is largely the same, regardless of which smartwatch you get. Notifications via cards, heart rate monitoring, step counting, and the extra functions available via various compatible applications is what you get with the Moto 360. What has to be mentioned is that the notification cards are quite large on this display, covering up a large part of what could be an attractive background. The main change here is the inclusion of a Motorola application, that allows you to change the look of the watch faces, and add your biometrics for better health monitoring.

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As the watch face is round, pretty much every available option takes on an analog motif, including the digital one, that still comes with a ticker around the rim. When it comes to the round face, it does pose some challenges for application and watch face developers that have yet to change their code to match it. This will certainly get better over time as developers start making apps for the round face, but for now, some just don’t work very well on this display.

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As always, voice commands are the main way to navigate through a lot of the functions of Android Wear, and things are no different on the Moto 360. You can tap on the screen to get there, or just say “Okay Google,” and then perform any of the voice commands you like, such as sending a voice dictated text message, to start a countdown timer, or to access the features of some of the applications on the device. That said, some commands do go straight to the phone, rather than being shown on the watch, which is still a limitation when it comes to Android Wear.

The Moto 360 will set you back $249, making it the most expensive of the lot currently available. It makes sense for the kind of quality you get, but if you’re looking for just the Android Wear experience, the Samsung Gear Live is cheaper at $199, with the price of the LG G Watch falling in between the two.

moto 360 unboxing initial setup (3 of 13)

To some people, the Moto 360 might feel like a device with a round face just for the sake of having a round face. Granted, there are some flaws here and there with regards to the black bar at the bottom of the display, and the battery life. That said, a neutral but attractive styling makes this a smartwatch that actually toes the line between smart and watch, while other may make you look incredibly geeky, which of course, isn’t a bad thing. Overall, the Moto 360 has its flaws, and perhaps other manufacturers will do a better job at cracking the round form factor. But because of its all-around more natural take on the smartwatch game, for now, the Moto 360 just might be the best entry point into Android Wear yet.