I’ll be straight up with you before you read any further: despite being a watch lover and tech fan, the whole idea of smart watches, and wearable tech in general, just doesn’t really do anything for me.
A couple of years ago, whilst writing for a watch blog back in the UK, I was sent one of the early versions of the Pebble smartwatch, in fact it might even have been a prototype, if my memory serves rightly.
Anyway, back then I failed to see the appeal and my opinion hasn’t changed much since.
You’re probably thinking the Moto 360 will already be on a hiding to nothing in this review and perhaps my mind was already made up before getting play around the Motorola’s popular smartwatch for the past couple of weeks.
I first saw the Moto 360 at the Thailand Mobile Expo which was held in Bangkok back in October and it was easily the smartwatch which attracted most attention at the event.
What is a Moto 360?
If you’re not familiar the Moto 360, it is arguably the most popular Android smartwatch available today since its release in July 2014. The device runs Android-Wear and was the first smartwatch to offer a more traditional style (almost) round case and face, as opposed to other smart watches such as the Pebble and Samsung Gear Live which have a square or rectangular shaped faces.
Using Android-Wear, you can connect your watch with your Android phone via bluetooth to receive notifications on the display of the watch. It can also give you information on such things as your heart rate, how many steps you’ve taken in a day or even where you’ve parked your car!
As mentioned I’ve been using the Moto 360 for the past 2 weeks and whilst there is no getting away from its good looks and some of its funky features there are a few major drawbacks to the device which I’ll highlight shortly and which would ever prevent from not only buying one myself but also recommending it to others.
Battery life? What battery life?
Before I talk about the design and the features of the watch, where it ultimately falls apart before it’s even really got going for the Moto 360 is its battery life.
If you consider that you probably need to replace the battery on a regular watch every couple of years, then the fact that you need to charge the Moto 360 as often, if not more than you need to charge your smartphone, is something I’ll never get used to. And I know this is smartwatch and trying to make comparisons with regular watches is a little like trying to compare apples and pears.
However, there is no getting away from the fact that battery performance of the Moto 360 isn’t great, even if it does come with a pretty cool charging station and offers wireless charging, which is something many other smart watches do not.
In fact, if you happen to receive a lot of notifications to your Android device, the battery life is so poor that at times it almost renders the device completely useless as chances are you’ll run out of juice before the day is out. This is especially true if you happen to be travelling and not able to put the device on charge.
Like I said, I don’t expect a smartwatch to have the same battery life as your average quartz watch, but come on, a full 24 hours without needing to charge would be nice.
The round case and overall design of the Moto 360 is one its redeeming features. The case is pretty chunky, which I like as I’m a fan of Seiko dive watches and some of Casio’s G-Shock series, so bigger sized watches tend to be my thing.
The Moto 360 is available in black (which is the version I saw at the Mobile Expo in Bangkok) and chrome, which is the version I’ve been testing out just recently. At the time, I remember thinking the black version looked a little plasticy, dare I say a bit cheap, whereas, the stainless steel version is more solid and looks more elegant, in my opinion.
Another nice feature about the design of the Moto 360 is its leather strap, which is of real quality. That said, I reckon a stainless steel bracelet would be your best bet, it’s just that I only had access to the leather strap.
Display and features
The Moto 360 has a 1.5 inch LCD IPS display with a resolution of 320×290 at 205ppi. The display is bright and despite its size offers good visibility even in the outdoors.
The screen is made from Gorilla Glass 3 which not only offers improved viewing but is very touch and durable.
The screen is also very responsive and I didn’t encounter any problems when it came to answering notifications or swiping to launch apps etc.
The Moto 360 is powered by a TI OMAP 3 processor, with 512mb of RAM and 4GB of internal storage space.
The Moto 360 is also water resistant with Motorola claiming the device can be submerged in water of up to 1 meter deep for as long as 30 minutes.
Like I said, I had no problem in swiping the screen in order to launch apps but for an improved user experience you’re going to need to get used to saying “OK Google”, as Google’s voice command function is the driving force behind the Moto360 and all Android-Wear products.
DON’T MISS: A handy list of OK Google voice commands
Using OK Google takes a bit of getting used to and I must admit to being on the receiving end of a few strange looks whilst I was using the device out in public.
However, after a few days, you kind of get used to using the voice commands (and the strange looks) and the device actually fared very well even when using the voice command function outside or in places with a lot of background noise.
Where I found the Moto 360 to be most useful was with the various functions it offers with regards to fitness.
For example, the Moto 360 offers a pedometer and heart rate monitor and syncs with Google Fit. I got the most use out of the watch when I was in the gym as I was able to monitor my heart rate and distance when running on the treadmill. The pedometer function is also kind of useful as it can tell you how steps you’ve taken each day. Not that I was exactly losing sleep about this before I tested out the Moto 360 but it was quite interesting to keep a track of this each day when using the device.
That said, the fitness functions don’t really offer anything that say a Polar Heart Rate Monitor doesn’t and I dare say that a Polar watch has much better battery life.
Should you buy a Moto360 smartwatch?
Based on the time I spent using the Moto 360, I’d say if you’re a real tech or gadget junkie and you have an Android smartphone then you may want to test the watch out for yourself.
However, if you’re simply looking to buy a new watch and like the idea of the additional functions a smartwatch has to offer, then I’d say you should probably just wait for maybe a third or even fourth generation of this device.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast, despite me personally enjoying the fitness functions, the Moto 360 has some way to go before it could be considered a viable replacement for dedicated running watch or heart rate monitor.
Sure, being able to see when a nuisance call came through to my phone via the display on the smartwatch was useful as I could just ‘swipe’ it away without taking the phone out of my pocket, but being able to do this is not really a necessity.
And whilst I enjoyed playing around with the Moto 360, it didn’t particularly offer me much more of an improvement on my regular watch and smartphone. I don’t really need notifications to be displayed on a device on my wrist, as I’m more than capable of taking my phone out my pocket each time it beeps.
Also, some of the problems I encountered with the Moto 360, such as battery power and functionality, aren’t just exclusive to this device. I think these are wider issues with smart watches generally.
It seems to me that the smartwatch industry as it stands is in need of a real ‘game changer’. Whether that will be the Apple watch when it is finally released next year, only time will tell.
I had reservations about smart watches prior to testing one out for myself and unfortunately the Moto 360 did little to change my opinion.
Jonathan is our Google Nexus and Android enthusiast. He is also fanatical about football which makes it all the more strange that he should support Stockport County. In addition to writing about tech, Jonathan has a passion for fitness and nutrition and has previously written for one the UK’s leading watch and horology websites.