Moto 360 Review – Form Over Function
The Motorola Moto 360. It’s easily the most anticipated smartwatch in recent years, if not ever. The first Android Wear device to bring a circular display and a premium design, but that’s not all it has to offer. Motorola is proud of this device and they should be. It’s a work of art in an otherwise somewhat bland smartwatch world, but they made some serious sacrifices to get the Moto 360 to look how it looks. Over the past few weeks I’ve been using the Moto 360 and now it’s finally time to give my full thoughts on the device including both the good, and the bad.
Hardware & Design
There is no argument here, the Moto 360 is the best looking smartwatch on the market. With a stainless steel body, non-existent bezels, and a genuine leather band, it easily beats anything else available for sale. One reason is that it looks like a real watch. Whether you are wearing a t-shirt and shorts or a full suit, the 360 looks like it should be there. The leather band only compliments that and adds to the premium feel. That band however doesn’t hold up to water quite as well as the watch itself does.
As noted in the name of this watch, the display is circular. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite get a full 360 degrees as it does have the small “chin” on the bottom of the display. That chin was Motorola’s trade-off that allows the Moto 360 to have such small bezels. It’s there, but in all honesty, I don’t think it’s a problem. Only when something white is on screen do I actually notice the chin. I see only two other downsides to the hardware on this device, the bottom and the glass. The bottom of the watch is plastic and while that does allow Qi wireless charging, it also allows cracks. I’ve seen many Moto 360 owners experience unfortunate cracks in their devices especially when trying to change the band. The other downside is the glass. It’s raised up above the rest of the watch. While that looks incredible, it makes the watch much easier to break. In my own experience I’ve had no issues with the 360’s hardware having any issues.
The display on the 360 is obviously round. The size of the screen is 1.56” inches at a resolution of 320×290 coming in at 205 pixels per inch. That might not be the best out there, but it’s certainly not the worst. I didn’t have any complaints when it came to the way the screen on this watch looked and it’s very impressive viewing angles certainly helped with that.
Software & Performance
The Moto 360 is another Android Wear device, and I love it for that. The OS is a wonderful mirror of your notifications on your device and I thoroughly enjoy the way it works. The way it looks also compliments the looks of the 360. I won’t go too much into Android Wear itself, but instead into Motorola’s additions and how the hardware compliments the software. As for Android Wear, it is somewhat optimized for the round display in that most text is not cut off but unfortunately some animations aren’t as lucky and sometimes have issues because Android Wear doesn’t actually recognize that it is on a circular display. Underneath the software is still a square and is just cut off to fit inside the circular display. Luckily though that’s not noticeable 99% of the time. Sometimes something will seem off center or just won’t fit, but it’s not the end of the world.
When it comes to Motorola’s additions, we are looking at some stellar watch faces and some pretty sweet features. Motorola packs in 6 of their own uniquely designed watch faces and all of them look absolutely great. My personal favorites are Digital and Rotate. What really enhances this experience however is the fact that Motorola allows you to customize their watchfaces to your liking through the Motorola Connect app. Another way Motorola managed to improve Android Wear was through the heart rate features. The watch features an optical heart rate sensor on the bottom that manages to take your heart rate without disrupting the look of the watch. The heart rate app does it’s job well and looks good doing it but the activity portion is what really has my attention. The watch will poll your heart rate at certain parts of the day and track how active you are. It pushes you to get 30 minutes of activity each day, 5 days a week. This is something I found pretty valuable. Overall the story here is the same as on other Motorola devices, they didn’t change things, they just made them better.
So how about the performance? The Moto 360 brings the same amount of RAM as other offerings in the Android Wear arena, but it’s processor is a relic compared to the competition. I mean that literally. The processor found in the Moto 360 is a TI OMAP 3 from 2011. I know this watch doesn’t need a lot of power, but Motorola could have at least used something that was still supported. Due to that choice the Moto 360 is a prime candidate for lag and stutter, especially when waking up from the screen being off. Things improved with software updates, but it’s still not great and noticeably slower than the competition.
This is the low point for every Android Wear device to date and somehow Motorola managed to make things worse. The company has always been pretty good about battery life, but the Moto 360 just has terrible battery life. If someone tells you “it’s not that bad”, they aren’t looking at the big picture. (If they tell you it’s great stop listening to them, they are just a fanboy) The Moto 360 is powered by a 320 mAh battery which is between the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch in capacity. In real world performance though this battery doesn’t last long, at all. On an average day I’ll take the watch off it’s charger at about 7:30 AM and put it back on the charger sometime between 6:30 and 9:00 PM. Most days I’ll get to 9:00 with a respectable charge left, but there’s more to this story than meets the eye. In the settings menu on every Android Wear device there is a setting for “Always-On (display)”. On the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live this setting keeps the display on all of the time but dims it and puts everything in grayscale most of the time. On the 360 however, this option has been replaced with “Ambient Mode”. This setting when turned on makes the watch more apt to turning the display on when the device is turned on, but still doesn’t leave it on all of the time. Turning this mode off keeps the display off unless you either tap it, use the power button, or gesture the watch to turn on. With either setting the display is off most of the time. So why no always-on mode? Mainly because the watch would probably die within two or three hours of use. No matter how you look at it, this watch has terrible battery life.
Editor’s Note: I’m just waiting for the comments on this section so before you start, let’s look at the facts. The Moto 360 on the same settings as any other Android Wear device doesn’t last nearly as long. Meanwhile another Android Wear device on the same settings as the Moto 360 would have two to three times the battery life.
A couple other things I have to say about this watch. Let’s start with charging. This watch brings Qi wireless charging to the table and that’s actually a pretty good thing. The included charging dock works best, but if you find yourself away from your home without the original charger, any Qi charging dock should work fine.
A GIF of the Moto 360 charging because why not?
Motorola also includes a pretty awesome charging screen that works great as a bedside clock. Another note would be the band. I mentioned it a little earlier in the review but I wanted to give it a little more time. The band is made from genuine leather and is made here in the US from a company called Horween Leather. It feels good on the wrist and is surprisingly comfortable. On the downside though the band doesn’t not stand up well to water at all. I had a couple dunks in the water with the band and it doesn’t feel quite as good after. My last note would be the size on your wrist. This is completely objective to the size of your wrist. For someone like me with an average sized wrist the watch feels fine. For me it feels a bit too light but I’m someone who likes a substantial watch, something heavy enough to know it is there.
Should You Buy It?
As mentioned before, the Moto 360 is the most anticipated smartwatch in recent years. There’s no way it could live up to all of the hype and it didn’t. The way I look at it, Motorola valued the form of this watch over it’s function. By including a very old processor the watch doesn’t have near the performance and battery life of other options out there. Should you get it? That depends on what you value most. If the design is most important, get the 360. In the design department there isn’t a better option out there, especially at it’s $249 price point. If you want a more stable watch that can last more than a day off the charger, something like the LG G Watch or even the Pebble might be a better option. If you can wait though, go for the second generation. Motorola knows what is wrong with the 360 and if they are smart they will fix it next time around and I certainly have very high hopes for the Moto 360 2.