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Moto 360 review

Michael Sawh

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Summary

Our Score:

6

User Score:

Pros

  • Light, comfortable design
  • Wireless charging support
  • Solid, robust build quality

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Ugly black bar at bottom of screen
  • Inconsistent heart-rate monitor

Key Features

  • Android Wear; 1.5-inch 320 x 290 display; Gorilla Glass 2; 320mAh battery; 4GB internal storage; 512MB RAM; Bluetooth 4.0; Optical heart-rate monitor; IP67 water resistant; dual microphones
  • Manufacturer: Motorola
  • Review Price: £199.00

What is the Moto 360?

The Moto 360 is the Android Wear-running smartwatch everyone was raving about before the Apple Watch turned up. When Motorola first unveiled the 360 earlier this year, it was the only manufacturer to opt for a more traditional round case and watch face. With the upcoming arrival of the LG G Watch R, though, it won't be the only round Android Wear watch for much longer.

Priced at £199, the Moto 360 is the most expensive Android Wear device currently available, costing £30-40 more than the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. For that extra money, you do get a more elegantly crafted design, but the awkward Android Wear experience and battery life issues still make it tough to recommend it over its rivals.

SEE ALSO: Best Fitness Trackers

Moto 360

Moto 360: Design

The round watch face is the feature that endeared the Moto 360 to most, but unfortunately it’s a circle that’s not so perfect when you get up close. The first thing is how chunky the case actually it is. At 11mm high it's thicker than most smartphones and on our small wrists it does have a cumbersome look. Compare it to most standard analogue watches and the Moto 360 simply doesn't have the elegance to make it attractive on the wrist.

We had the black model and it certainly gives off a 'prototype' vibe more than the lovely bare stainless steel version. It definitely feels more solid and robust than the predominantly plastic G Watch and the Gear Live but it just feel plain, ordinary and not very pretty.

It says a lot about a watch when the strap is actually the nicest part. Motorola uses Horween leather, and while that probably won't mean anything to you, we do know that it sits snug on the wrist and doesn't provide any irritation. A stainless steel bracelet option is on the way, which might be a better accompaniment for the stainless steel watch face, but it still won't hide the fact that this is far from a sleek timepiece.

Moto 360

But the oversized case isn't the only design issue we have with the Moto 360. Another is the black bar at the bottom of the screen, snipping off the bottom of what would have been a nice full-circle display. The reason it's there is to accommodate the ambient light sensor, which shouldn't be confused with the battery-sapping ambient always-on screen mode you can turn on in the settings. Unlike other Android Wear watches, the ambient light sensor automatically adjusts brightness depending on the environment, to help improve visibility. It's at the expense of the watch display looking as nice as it could be and it's up to debate whether it will bother most. It definitely bothered us, though.

A further issue is that the screen doesn't sit flat with the bezel and when you are viewing notifications, especially on lighter backgrounds you get some refraction at the edges of the display, which creates a weird warping effect. It's not as a big a problem as the black bar, but it's enough to put us off.

To keep up the traditional watch look, there's also a watch crown, which doesn't have Apple Watch-style functionality, but can be used as a shortcut to the Moto 360 settings if you don't want to rely on Google Voice Search. On the opposite side are dual microphones to help pick up voice commands, while around the back is where you’ll find the optical heart-rate sensor. This is a similar setup to the one found on the Gear Live, but has the ability to continuously measure heart rate and resting heart rate to enhance its fitness credentials.

Surrounding the optical heart-rate sensor is the inductive charging surface, to support wireless charging, which means you're not entirely reliant on the proprietary charging cradle that's included in the box alongside the wireless charging dock.

Like the first round of Android Wear watches, the Moto 360 is water resistant with an IP67 certification, so you can submerge it in water up to one metre in depth for 30 minutes. As we found while wearing it in the shower and caught out in the rain during a run, you're going to have a hard time using the touchscreen in those conditions, and that leather watch strap can stay wet for a while before it finally dries off.

Moto 360

Moto 360: Screen

The Moto 360 uses a 1.5-inch backlit LCD IPS display, which is a smaller surface than rival Android Wear options – although without a thick bezel it actually seems a little bigger. It has a 320 x 290 resolution with 205ppi pixel density, so promises roughly the same screen quality as the G Watch and the Gear Live, and similarly struggles when you have to display images.

It’s brighter than rival watches, and that's without resorting to the maximum brightness setting, which can take people by surprise at night. It fares well for visibility in the bright outdoors, thanks to the ambient light sensor at the bottom of the screen. It doesn’t match the Samsung’s more vibrant, colourful AMOLED display, but it’s still decent enough screen quality for notifications and most apps.

Screen responsiveness is good, registering swipes and prods to launch apps perfectly well when you're stationary. On the move, however, it’s a slightly different story and it can take the extra swipe or press to get it to work. The Moto 360 isn't alone in this – it's something that needs to be addressed across the wearable board.

For those worried about screen durability, Motorola uses Gorilla Glass 3. That not only means there's an extra layer of protection over the watch display, but it also helps to improve viewing angles.

Moto 360

Moto 360: Features

The 360 again doesn’t differ too much from the competition. There’s Bluetooth 4.0 Smart to connect to Android phones running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or above. The brain is a TI OMAP 3 processor, which is a slightly older CPU setup compared to the Snapdragon 400 architecture nestled inside its rivals. That’s accompanied by 4GB of internal storage and 512MB of RAM to match other Android Wear smartwatches.

There’s not a great deal of difference in performance here. There’s some slight lag in general navigation compared to the Gear Live, for instance, and processing voice search queries isn't as quick as we'd like it to be. We'd like more power, but we can only imagine that packing any more in there will make this watch chunkier, and nobody wants that.

Saying ‘Okay Google’ is still a core part of the Android Wear experience, so Motorola has included dual microphones to ensure voice commands come out clearly. It works well, but not noticeably much better than on previous Android Wear watches. When you're gasping for breath mid-run, it can struggle to make out simple commands designed to be recognized by the 360, such as: "Show me my heart rate."

Moto 360

On the fitness side of things, Motorola includes a pedometer to track steps, plus a heart-rate monitor. It’s built to work with Google Fit and Motorola's own Heart Rate and Heart Rate Activity applications. That almost immediately confuses the process, so the one you really need to worry about is the heart-rate section. Here you'll be able to see how hard (or not so hard) you're working out. The problem, as with the Gear Live, is that the heart-rate readings are inconsistent and at times it struggles to deliver readings at all.

Testing it next to the TomTom Runner connected to the Polar H7 heart-rate monitor chest strap and the Epson Pulsense tracker with its dedicated heart-rate sensor, measurements were accurate at times but mostly generated readings that were either slightly above or below the more accurate chest strap. When out running, it often prompted us to re-adjust when it couldn't take a measurement. The Moto 360 isn't a ready replacement for a dedicated running watch with heart-rate monitor support.

word-merchant

September 5, 2014, 4:01 pm

The moto 360 is the most promising looking smart watch I've seen yet. It looks well designed and well built; the only smart watch I've seen that doesn't make you look like you still live with your mum. I'm also fine with the size - large watches are still fashionable: check out the IWC Big Pilot or anything by Hublot.

But I still can't see what the USP is for these things - why you generally can't just look at your phone or do without. Given how many models Samsung is churning out, they seems to similarly have little idea either. I'm less worried about the short battery life - most of us are used to the daily charge.

So who will be the audience for smart watches? I know the dangers of sweeping generalisations, but here goes anyway: Younger folk either seem to wear cheap Casios or no watch at all; folk of my 'middle youth' age tend to already have a nice watch or two and the presence of kids/mortgage/car finance/adult life means we probably won't buy more. And real oldsters often wear a watch with sentimental value they've owned for a large part of their life until fading sight or health prompts a hand down to a younger family member.

It'll be interesting to see what Apple come up with, if indeed they do. My guess (and I certainly don't have any 'sources close to the matter'), is that Apple's iWatch will be a very well specified fitness aid, like the Nike fuel band, designed purely for use by gym fans and skinny baristas up and down the land. No more than that.

Gareth Burleigh

October 22, 2014, 5:26 pm

Cue angry comments about Apple in 5,4,3,2,1........ Ha ha

Prem Desai

October 23, 2014, 8:44 am

Very negative review. Maybe the reviewer had to pay for this watch rather than a freebie!!

Anyway, some valid points made to bear in mind before purchasing.

However, I don't understand what the reviewer means by waiting for the second or even third generation..? Skipping this one, I understand.

Does he have details of the next generation?? If so, please share with us ....

MattMe

October 23, 2014, 9:18 am

This sums up exactly how I feel about smart watches right now:

"When we think about how many of these apps we actually use instead of the same ones on our phones, there's not really any at all."

"most of us don't want to be forced to talk into our watches all the time."

"to get the most out of it you'll need to be connected to your phone, and there's limited functionality without that connection."

What is the point in them really? To prevent you ahving to get your phone out of your pocket? Is that really that big a deal? I think the watch manufacturers would like you to believe that, but come on...

The main uses for this I could see would be GPS where you may be putting your phone in and out of your pocket A LOT, and then things where you might want your hands free, but I can't think of an example of that right now. What do you do with both your hands where you need your computer/smartphone that would benefit from looking at your wrist?

Where's the comfort?

Talking to any device will never be convenient in a public space, holding your wrist to your face is no better than holding your phone to your face, and head-mounted hands-free devices (like Bluetooth earpieces) could work on both.

If smartwatches included all the features of a smartphone I could see the appeal, but even then I'd have to question the benefits.

Genuine question - am I missing something?

Alex Walsh

October 23, 2014, 9:48 am

You can now pick the LG G up for around £100 from online retailers, making this seem even more expensive :-/

Tim Sutton

October 23, 2014, 9:59 am

You are not.

Smartwatches have no practical benefit at the moment.

I can see a use for standalone exercise bands (music via headphones at the gym or running, tracking and basic navigation on a run) but a tiny screen adjunct to a phone that means you:

- A: have to carry the phone anyway and

- B: have to take out the phone in order to actually respond to an alert on your smartwatch ..... is essentially pointless.

The only way smartwatches make any logical sense AT ALL is as mobile phone replacements, and I can't see too many people wanting to swap their large smartphone screen for a tiny wrist mounted one.

chaosdefinesorder

October 23, 2014, 10:53 am

Here is the intended use-case scenario for smart-watches:

Consider two scenarios
1) Your phone beeps for a new email. You dig it out of your pocket, press the power button and find that it's just a promotional thingy from Pizza Hut etc. You put your phone back in your pocket again only for it to beep/buzz again a minute later. Again you fumble to get phone out of pocket, again press power button and find it's an email from Facebook saying someone has invited you to play Candy Crush Saga. Again turn screen off and put phone back in pocket. A phone call comes in. You hurry to get it out of pocket before it goes to voicemail only to find it's yet another PPI spam call. Again you put phone back in pocket. Repeat several times every day.

2) Phone beeps. You glance at wrist. See spam email and swipe it away and carry on what you're doing. Phone buzzes again a minute later. Again glance at wrist, swipe away and continue. Another buzz, another swipe. Phone rings, glance at wrist shows it's nuisance call, you swipe it away.

THAT is the idea behind these devices. Yes it's not really that hard and "not a big deal" to get your phone out of your pocket each time, but added up several times a day and given the number of communications we generally receive on a daily basis, a glance as your wrist is MUCH more convenient than digging phone out each and every time, particularly if your phone is in your bag rather than a pocket. I certainly consider it a pain in the arse to keep pulling phone out of pocket and pressing power button to see what the buzz was about!

If you don't see anything wrong with scenario 1 then smartwatches just aren't for you (or you don't get as many notifications as I do throughout the day). That doesn't mean that they have no benefit at all!

Saying all that, I DO agree with you w.r.t. voice actions. I HATE the trend towards everything being voice activated and such an emphasis being continually placed on voice actions trying to make you look like an idiot marking commands at your wrist...

Mark Colit

October 23, 2014, 3:52 pm

Get yourself a cheap Casio watch which has a battery life of 10 years and put the money you save towards a decent smart phone or tablet if you don't have one. Companies are looking for the next big thing when it comes to electronic junk and smart watches aren't it. People want a fondleslab, as another site archly puts it. Something in their hands. And the big device for the conceivable future is the smartfone. Wearable computers are some way off.

jason

March 2, 2015, 3:44 pm

Didnt think much of the review.
Firstly the comment about a battery life similar to a pebble steel is just stupid. People that buy smartwatches dont like the dull pebble steel one colour screen yet that is exactly the reason it lasts a week. put a backlit screen and you get a day instead.
I also dont get the hate for the black bar at the bottom. We know what its for and if you pick an alternative you get a lg which has a large bezel that looks like it belongs on a plastic argos watch. the moto is very nice looking as is all the awesome faces.

USEAGE
Ok so people are saying whats the point and ill give you two. Jobs and Motorbikes.
There are many jobs where you are not allowed to have your phone out. I work in office security public facing and im not allowed to have my phone out therefore with a swipe i can check messages or emails.
Secondly i ride a motorbike but the same applies to a cycle. riding in cold or wet weather the phone is buried somewhere safe i dont hear it ring or feel it vibrate and if i do i have to open my dry jacket dig inside making my gear wet. on my wrist i would feel it allowing me to pull over move my glove and see my message. Many times i have missed important messages when planning things because i have sent a message started riding but never got the reply till it was too late.

If you dont use it for the above reasons then maybe you will get bored but otherwise i think it will come in very handy

Renaissance_nerd

November 24, 2015, 8:43 pm

I work in an office with a strict no phone policy, stealth messaging on my watch is worth its weight in gold.

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