Editors Note - Is the Moto 360 the best smartwatch ever? It is worth buying? The short answer is that we think it is the best smartwatch currently available. If you want a smartwatch and have an Android phone, then this is for you.
This review of the Moto 360 is done differently than our other reviews. It is written mostly by J.W. Morse, but has some crap added by J.S. Marler. We have labeled the sections to indicate who wrote what. Let us know if you like this format, think it is stupid, or would just like pictures of bears instead relevant of words.
Your existential internal voice of guidance,
Additional Reporting by J.S.Marler
The moment I saw a picture of the Moto 360 I knew, finally, what a smartwatch should look like. Until that point, I knew that everything that had come out so far didn’t meet my expectations, but I hadn’t really figured out what those expectations were. The Moto 360 has, from the very first press images, set my standard for what a smartwatch should look like. Above all, something you wear on your wrist should be a beautiful.
I have spent about a month with the Moto 360 and I can say that it is a gorgeous watch that feels as good on my wrist as it is to look at. I am struck by the watches ability to play the middle ground between so many things; it has a solid build, yet is light. Constantly useful, but never ‘in the way’. Utilitarian, and a fashion statement.
Perfect for bears, dogs, and lions. Not fish; I’m allergic.
The initial unboxing experience was a bit of awesome, followed by a bit of a letdown.. The box, is very nice looking, and the watch looks amazing in it. Getting the 360 out of the packaging was very enjoyable, and I loved watching the animations as the device booted up for the first time. The let down came when I went to pair the device with my phone. I received an error message telling me the device needed to be fully charged to pair. This was a huge let down because I really wanted to play around with the watch but I had to wait while charging it.
I know it might seem that I am nit picking, but the unboxing experience is huge to me. It sets the tone in a lot of ways, and, at least until the newest software update, the tone it set was accurate: battery problems.
The good news is it took less than an hour for the 360 to get a full charge.
The real story about the display is the fact that it is round. This is the first round smartwatch for Google’s Android Wear platform. Motorola has done a round display before, but never with all the processing and battery power directly behind the display. Plus, that display was for an old unsuccessful phone. Nevertheless, I appreciate that Motorola made the effort. I may never understand how much of a technological marvel this is, but I think it says a lot that apple decided to go with a square screen instead of a circular one. I think it says apple was not able to create a circular display, or at least make one as good as Motorola did.
At 205 ppi the 1.56 in screen is not a very high resolution, especially when compared to most smartphones which are above a 400 ppi. The resolution is a little bit less than the Galaxy Gear at 277 ppi, but truth be told I didn’t notice the lower resolution after my first day of use because I’m not holding it up to my face. Looking down at my wrist showed no resolution problems and at the end of the day; that is all I really care about.
I feel like I am a little more critical of the screen compared to Josh. Certain stock watch faces were not as optimized for the resolution and noticeable pixels showed when compared to other faces. Even the loading screen fell short of my expectations showing noticeable pixilation.. If you choose the right watch face design, then this is a non issue. I am sure it’s something that will improve in the next generation, but right now I am happy to take a lower resolution if it means double my battery life.
At the bottom of the display is an ambient light sensor that in my use was pretty accurate. I never felt the need to turn the brightness up or down, and honestly didn’t know that there was a way to change the brightness; even after several days.
I tested the screen on the lowest manual brightness and was still able to easily see the display while outside in the New Mexico sun. I would like to thank my friend Louie for suggesting this to me. Your gentle touch will always be remembered.
The 360 Gorilla Glass 3 for the screen. I love the idea that my watch face is made up of Gorilla skin lovingly heated to 2500 degrees celsius.
I was able to test the durability by clumsily bashing his watch into walls and doors during my roid rages. Thankfully there were no scratches, cracks, or dents. Thank you Jesus.
the interesting part is that the glass sticks up just slightly above the bezel of the watch. I was worried at first that it would detract from my enjoyment, but ultimately I forgot it even existed.
I felt that the display is a fingerprint magnet. I had the urge to clean the display multiple times a day.
I had fewer problems with my display compared to Josh. I did not need to do more than a quick microfiber towel wipe more than once a day at most. I probably ended up wiping the screen once every 2-4 days on average. Josh probably had more issues because he would get really close to the screen, breathing heavily, and his saliva would mist the display with his odd affection.
I do like the taste of gorilla skin glass.
The battery is one of the biggest controversies of the Moto 360. There is an expectation for a watch battery to last multiple days. When it was announced that the 360 had a 320 milliamp battery there were a lot of people who freaked out. Even more so when Motorola said the device "would last a full day."
The first few weeks of use the battery would last about 12 hours and on a really good day last 15. However, this was before the most recent software update. The update is really quite ingenious, it basically involves attaching a rat on a wheel to your wrist. A little cumbersome, but I think it is worth it. The update significantly improved the battery life. After the update it became normal to have the device sitting at 60% or more with over 8 hours of use. This huge improvement really added to my enjoyment of the device. I stopped worry about the battery life and just started using the device without thought. I don’t think the device will go two days but you can expect to get a day and some change.
We have also noticed that battery life can be drastically affected by the watch related apps on your phone. There are third party watch faces you can get from the Play Store and other dark, dark places on the internet. (long pause) (Audio: Play scary music) Google says that android wear was not designed to have phone apps be used as watch specific apps for watch faces; even though it is possible. Some third party watch apps did not negatively affect the battery life (Insert Matrix Face) and others destroyed hours off the battery life (insert bad watch face here). So, be cautious, or at least aware, if you plan to use third party watch face apps.
I'll be watching to see which watch faces are worth watching out for...
Finally, notifications can have a great impact on battery life as well. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social networks can have a major impact on battery life. If you get a lot of social network notifications, it’s possible that your battery will suck compared to your less popular friend like Josh. Luckily, the android wear app allows you to block notifications for any app you choose. I tested this and was able to extend battery life by blocking facebook notifications. With all that said, the newest update made battery life awesome, even with all notifications on.
Basically, the battery is not as bad as you feared, and is now nothing to worry about with the latest update lasting over 15 hours.
The 360 is running Android Wear, which is built of the idea that interactions with your watch should be clean, swipe based, and simple. There is never any typing or zooming of any kind unless you download a 3rd party app. Android Wear has the mentality that if you need to do anything beyond looking at and taking simple actions on notifications, then you should use your phone instead. This is actually the perfect approach, because the screen is too small to make huge actions. It’s better suited for seeing notifications, and replying to text messages with voice commands.
The software is build off a tear structure where your notifications are stacked; swiping down will let you scroll through them. A left-hand swipe removed the notification and a right-hand swipe will reveal additional actions. Simple and clean.
The other huge advantage of Android Wear on the 360 is that it has not been altered in any way. Google actually built the OS in a way where it could not be altered by the OEM. Exactly what I think it should be.
I had some problems with the software. The problems are not huge for the most part, but I will greatly appreciate it when they are fixed. I will go over my gripes quickly. By quickly I mean go into a lot of detail.
3rd party Software
There are few 3rd party apps that I actually want to use. IFTTT has some useful recipes for Android Wear but I only use have one. There are a few instances where I installed an app and noticed quickly that the battery life of my watch was severely hurt. In a few other cases, it was obvious the developer had made their app specifically for a square screen. 3rd party watch faces are OK, but I have not found any that I actually want to keep using. That should change with the new update for android wear when the APK is released to developers.
I found a 3rd party Matrix face that I really like and does not kill my battery.
-Calling or texting people with voice commands is cut off if the user has multiple numbers.
- You can do voice commands for calling or texting people, but if the contact you are trying to communicate with has multiple numbers, then you will be prompted to select the number you wish to use. I do not have a different android wear device to test, but I experienced both numbers being cut off. I was only aware of what was going on because I was familiar with using this feature on phones with Google Now and Moto Voice.
-“OK Google” trigger Sometimes requires multiple attempts.
- Too often i find myself in the same place I been before, where I am repeating “Ok google” multiple times before the watch is triggered. I still get much better results than what I experienced with the first gen Moto X, or really any other voice detection software, but we are still not at the casual level yet. I have found myself tapping on the screen to activate the voice recognition more than using “OK google”.
-Sometimes watch loses it’s connection to your smartphone.
- It does not happen everyday, but too often I would see the sad cloud icon on the screen indicating that there is no data connection. This was interesting to me because it still has a bluetooth connection to the phone, but is not getting the data from it. It usually fixes itself, but sometimes needs a turning off and on for bluetooth on your phone.
-Some inaccuracy with recognizing speech to text.
- This is usually more accurate than then using my phone because of the close proximity.
-”Listen to” and “Play” commands are inconsistent when trying to play music on phone.
- This has been a pain for me. I love being able to just use a voice command to get music to play. This is especially helpful in the car and the experience is better than using a phone by itself, but there are many inconsistencies. The voice actions have different results on the watch vs Google Now on a phone. This is most notable for me is the “Listen to” and “Play” commands. My phone usually will open the music app correctly, whereas the watch will sometimes do a web search for one artist name, but then open the app for another. This is just software,so hopefully it will be fixed soon.
-You have to slide and tap to change music tracks.
- I wish all music controls could be done in one tap, but changing a music track requires a slide, then tap. Not a huge deal, but there is enough space on the screen to have that easily accessible.
-Touch screen only interaction vs tactile buttons.
This is not a criticism, but there is something to a physical button. I could not help but think of my pebble smartwatch and how easily knowing and using those physical buttons on the side are. The Moto 360 has one physical button, but you rarely use it. To be honest the physical button do-es not consistently work and sometimes requires multiple presses.
Josh: If only there was some kind of “Electronic Crown” or something...
- Scrolling through voice actionable items to get into settings is a pain.
- You have to tap the screen, or say “OK Google” and then scroll to get to settings. This is a little different, but not a big deal. What is a pain is that you have to scroll through 12 options before you get to settings. I use settings all the time and never use those other options. This is a pain everytime I use it.
-Settings and features structure is confusing between multiple locations.
- Watch device settings, phone bluetooth settings, Android Wear settings, and Moto Connect app settings.There are four places you will have to go through to check settings for your watch; way too many. One would be best, but I understand possibly needing two. What makes it even more confusing is that certain settings are only accessible from certain places. For the sake of brevity I won’t go into detail, but it is a very frustrating experience.
-Moto Connect software:
- I will talk about the Moto Connect software only because it is unique to the Moto 360 and not available for other android wear devices. It is an awesome addition that allows to to customize existing watch faces with different colors. I am excited for this to grow, but it is already the best experience with watch faces you can get on stock android wear.
I was hesitant about the leather strap. I was accustomed to always wearing a metal watch and then my rubber/plastic pebble. I was worried that the leather would stretch, crack, and look bad like an old belt. However, I have thankfully not had those issues. The leather does stretch a little, but it does not look bad when on your wrist. Other then that I have been very happy with it. It’s comfortable, does not leave your wrist super moist, and I did not have any noticeable wear from excess water after a few rainshowers. I have worn it for hour long workouts and the excess sweat did not negatively affect its durability.
The 360 uses a really nice Qi charging dock. Qi charging is awesome I have a few Qi chargers already and it is so nice to use them. I really hope that this becomes the standard. It is something I have appreciated with nexus devices and now with this watch. The charger uses Micro USB which is a breath of fresh air. None of this proprietary cable crap. The dock displays the watch well on your nightstand. It sometimes takes a little bit of maneuvering if the straps angel in a way that lifts the watch up. This could have been avoided by making the dock elevate the watch a little higher up off of the surface it sits on.
Built In Health Apps
There are few health apps so there is not much to say. I found that the step counter and heart rate sensor were usually inaccurate. Not terrible, but enough that I really stopped paying attention to how many steps the watch said I had taken or what my heart rate was. I am sure that this is something that can and will be updated with software, not to mention the possibility of third party app support.
The biggest thing that happened because of the 360 is I pulled my phone out less. I used to pull my phone out constantly just in case I missed a text message or call. That worry has been completely mitigated because the notifications I received are nearly always welcome, needed, and delightful. That is, to me, the biggest reason to wear a smartwatch over a normal watch. It creates a situation where you use your phone less.
I particularly enjoyed being able to leave my phone charging in the bedroom while wearing my watch in the living room. I was able to not have my phone, let the phone charge, but still get notifications on his watch. It is even handy when you cannot get to your phone fast enough to answer a call; but instead answer with your watch first.
The Moto 360 is the best looking smartwatch on the market right now. The screen could be a higher resolution, the heart rate and pedometer could be better and it could have a better battery life. These are all small things and will get ironed out. If you want the perfect smartwatch, don’t get the 360, or really any smartwatch at this point. Wait for the 2nd iterations to come out in 2015. I expect most of these issues to be resolved next year. If you want a really good smartwatch that looks amazing, the 360 is the best option you have right now.
I listed a lot of things that I think could be changed to make the Moto 360 a better device. Despite my criticism; I agree with Josh in that this is the best that currently exists. I have confidence in this device because the hardware is great and Motorola has already proved that the device can only get better with future software updates.
Josh: 8 out of 10
John: 7 out of 10