The Moto 360 is arguably the best-looking smartwatch (at least until Apple reportedly shows us what its iWatch will look like next week). After being announced and showboated in limited capacity over the last few months, the Moto 360 finally has a price and launch date.
Motorola was kind enough to let me mess around with the Moto 360 in Chicago yesterday to get a feel for what a wristwatch-style wearable running Android Wear should be like when done right. Spoiler alert: it’s awesome.
Display: 1.56-inch (diameter) display Gorilla Glass 3
Resolution: 320 x 290 at 205 PPI
Processor: TI OMAP 3 processor
RAM: 512MB RAM
Operating System: Android Wear
Sensors: Heart rate monitor, pedometer
Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 LE / 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
Battery: 320 mAh
Water resistance: IP67 water and dust resistant
Right off the bat, the Moto 360 is a beautiful device. Its round display just looks so much better on my wrist than the myriad of square and rectangle-shaped smartwatches other companies are releasing.
The stainless steel case and chamfered bezel add a certain level of premium-ness to the wearable. The Horween-sourced leather band and metal strap option only makes it even more apparent the Moto 360 isn’t some cheapo smartwatch. The Gorilla Glass 3 screen should be tough enough to resist everyday bangs and bumps, too.
And, there’s only one button: the little side button.
In fewer words: I absolutely love the Moto 360’s industrial design.
Look closely. Pixels don’t cover the entire 360 surface of the circular display. There’s a black strip aka the “slice” at the bottom. Motorola says that’s because of the wiring cables and ambient light sensor. That may be true, but LG just made a full-circular display without that black patch.
I’m not going to nitpick too much on that black patch, though. For the most part, the display is big, bright and good to look at. I wish the pixel density was denser, though, because I can see the pixels from 10 inches away.
Best of all you don’t need to tap or press the Moto 360’s single side button to activate it (unless you really want to). It turns on from its black “sleep” display state when you raise your wrist.
There are seven watch faces by default, but you can download more watch faces.
Android Wear is Google’s operating system for wearable smartwatches. It’s not full-fledged smartphone Android shrunken down to fit a smaller display; it’s more of an extension OS. Moto 360 connects and pulls down notifications from a smartphone running Android 4.3 or higher via Bluetooth 4.0 LE.
Certain apps with Android Wear support will be able to relay info to the Moto 360. Some examples Motorola showed off included sending step-by-step recipes to the smartwatch via the AllTheCooks app and getting navigation directions by using voice controls.
The Moto 360’s biggest attraction is its contextual notifications. It’s supposed to give you “timely” alerts such as the weather, traffic info, emails, etc. based on your location and activity.
Controls: Swiping + Voice Controls
There are two ways to use the Moto 360: with the touchscreen display and with voice commands. Unlike the new Moto X (2nd gen), you can’t name your Moto 360 anything you want. You have to say the “OK Google…” command for voice commands to work.
In a Motorola demo in a quiet room, the Moto 360 worked flawlessly, quickly recognizing the presenter’s voice commands.
In a noisy press room, a couple of near final Moto 360’s failed to work properly multiple times, but off in quieter areas, the review unit I’m testing worked well around Chicago and at my hotel.
But I can see the immediate flaw to the Moto 360 and all wearables that require tethering to smartphones to work: if your paired smartphone has a bad cell signal, the Moto 360 will say it has problems too. In my very brief time with it, I already experienced several “disconnected” moments. I sent several emails to myself only for the Moto 360 to not get the notification. The Moto X (2nd gen) I had it paired to had full bars and 4G LTE and said the Moto 360 was paired to it via Bluetooth and everything.
Then a couple of times when I was asking for walking directions to the John Hancock building, the Moto 360 dictated my query a few times, but it got stuck on “calculating route…” The screen kept going black, but no matter how long I waited or retried it never progressed further.
And I got this a few times around different areas in Chicago. That’s not exactly the best first impression. It’s clear the Moto 360 is going to be hit or miss in terms of reliability.
Moving on to swiping, depending on what you’re doing, you can swipe up, down, left and right. By default the Moto 360 shows the time. Pulling down will show the date and battery percentage and pulling it more down will trigger the mute/unmute for notifications.
Heart Rate Sensor + Pedometer
Health tracking is a big deal to a lot of people. The Moto 360 is ready on that front, too. It has a built-in heart rate sensor and pedometer to keep track of how hard you’re working out and how many steps you’re walking/running.
A demo was shown where a person wearing Moto 360 says “OK Google, show me my heart rate” and their BPM quickly popped up. You can also use Moto 360 to track daily and weekly progress. For example, based on a 30-minute workout, it will tell you how many minutes of activity you have left.
Battery Life + Wireless Charging
Battery life is on par with what you’d get on other smartwatches — one full day — but it’s still not as good as a real watch which often lasts for months or years on a small battery (You can argue that regular watches aren’t receiving notifications all day, too.) This is unlikely to change until we get a huge battery breakthrough, so it’s something we’ll have to accept for now.
Motorola is doing right by charging though. Rather than plugging a Micro USB cable or putting the watch in some silly case (hi original Galaxy Gear!), the Moto 360 charges wirelessly via a special included dock. Just plop the Moto 360 on its side and boom, it starts recharging. This should take a lot of the hassle out of charging it every night.
It’s simple, fast, and convenient; exactly the way charging a wearable should be.
Pricing and Availabilty
Motorola’s selling the Moto 360 for $249.99. It will be available on Motorola.com, Best Buy and the Google Play Store starting today at 12 pm ET. The stainless steel Moto 360 will be available later this fall for $299.99. Leather bands will cost $29.99 and metal bands will cost $79.99.
Next Story: New Motorola Moto X (2014): First impressions