Still our favourite Android Wear device, but the Moto 360 isn't the perfect smartwatch
Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: Yes, Display size: 1.56in (circular), Resolution: 320×290, OS support: Android 4.3+, Battery life: 1 day
The Motorola Moto 360 was once one of the best smartwatches around. In fact, it was the only round one you could get, which really made it stand out from the crowd. But you don’t want one now.
The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, the chipset it uses – the TI OMAP 3 – is pretty long in the tooth now, given it was already two-years-old at the Moto 360’s 2014 release. Smartwatches aren’t that intensive in terms of power requirements, but the problem is that this bottleneck still made it one of only a handful of smartwatches not to get Android Wear 2.0 or the subsequent switch to Wear OS.
That’s fine in terms of basic functionality, and if you already have one you’ll probably still be chugging along happily. But if you’re buying today, it’s one to avoid. In fact, even getting the Moto 360 2 would probably be a mistake. True, it’s better in every way, but future support looks extremely dicey given the company has confirmed it’s no longer in the smartwatch game.
In other words, there’s a reason you may well see it cheap, and it’s still probably not worth buying. Consider our list of other cheap smartwatches instead.
Tom’s original review continues below
The Moto 360 has long been the poster child for Google’s Android Wear operating system. Its sleek design and eye-catching circular screen were light years ahead of the pedestrian LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, so many customers were content to wait until it launched to get their first experience with wearable technology. That time has now arrived, and while the Moto 360 is certainly a beautiful thing, it’s not quite the leap forward we were hoping for – although Google is as much to blame for the 360’s failings as Motorola.
Moto 360 design
As an object, the Moto 360 is a thing of beauty. Machined from stainless steel in a choice of black or silver colours for the basic model, with a crown on one side and no ports, sockets or inputs whatsoever, it’s the most minimal smartwatch around, and that circular screen is undoubtedly eye-catching. Yes, it’s chunkier than a normal watch, but it certainly isn’t fat: you’ll easily be able to slip it out from underneath a shirt sleeve. It doesn’t look oversized on larger wrists, but can look huge on smaller ones; the Apple Watch will be available in two sizes to fix this, whereas Motorola has gone for a one-size-fits-all approach.
You can customise the look of your Moto 360 with Motorola’s Moto Maker service as well. Previously, the service was only available to those buying a 2nd Gen Moto X smartphone, but now Motorola’s brought it over to the Moto 360. Here, you can customise the case finish, the strap and pre-load your device with a particular watch face. Unsurprisingly, some additions cost a little extra – most notably the £50 light gold finish and the various £30 metal watch straps – but even a fully-kitted out model will still cost less than the cheapest plastic Apple Watch.
Motorola has been able to ditch the ports or charging terminals found on other smartwatches by adding Qi wireless charging to the Moto 360. The charging dock doubles as a display stand for the watch, letting you see the time while you’re refilling it with juice, but you’ll have to bring the stand with you to keep the watch topped up when travelling – assuming you don’t have access to another Qi charging plate.
The watch itself is IP67 water resistant, meaning it won’t break if you get stuck in a rain shower, although it remains to be seen how the leather strap will cope when wet. We’ve been caught out in the rain a few times while wearing it, and so far it has maintained its colouring, but it’s also beginning to look a little creased and wrinkled as with any leather. It’s a shame Motorola didn’t manage to get the stainless steel band out in time for launch (although these are now available via the Moto Maker), but we like the leather strap nonetheless. The Horween leather, available in black and grey to match the black and silver watch finishes, is comfy, has plenty of adjustment holes for different-sized wrists and, most importantly, doesn’t distract attention away from the watch itself. You can swap the band out for another, but it’s a fiddly process and because of the watch’s circular shape not all bands will sit flush.
Moto 360 display
The visually stunning circular screen nearly goes edge-to-edge across the entire watch face. It has a 320×290 resolution, which is sharp enough to make text easy to read at arm’s length, and even at the lowest brightness the display is perfectly legible in direct sunlight. Colours aren’t as pronounced as they are on the OLED screens Samsung uses in its wearables, but images still have plenty of punch when you turn the brightness up. We especially like the raised glass, which has bevelled edges that catch the light beautifully, and Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 should help prevent scratches or scrapes. It’s just a shame Motorola opted for LCD technology rather than OLED, which would have been much better for battery life.
Despite outward appearances, the screen isn’t entirely circular. Motorola has added a small black bar to the bottom of the watch face to make room for the ambient light sensor. This lets the screen adjust its brightness to suit your surroundings, and although it works as advertised we preferred to fix the brightness to the lowest setting to conserve battery life. With a black watch face the ‘flat tyre’ isn’t particularly noticeable, but as soon as a notification appears or you switch to a white watch face, you spot it straight away. If you insist on a fully circular screen, you’ll have to pick up LG’s G Watch R instead.
Moto 360 hardware
Inside the watch, Motorola has opted for a Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor, which is sufficient for running Android Wear smoothly. Swiping between screens, opening apps and using Google Now all feels responsive enough, and we were never left waiting for a screen to open or the device to react to our swipes or taps.
However, the SoC is definitely less-power efficient than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 found in the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live. This, combined with the LCD screen and the optical heart rate sensor constantly monitoring your pulse, means battery life is the Moto 360’s major failing.
Unlike other smartwatches, which typically last around 2-3 days on a single charge, or a week in the case of the eInk Pebble watch, the Moto 360 often struggles to last 24 hours. Even on the lowest brightness and with the ambient display mode disabled so the screen was off until we came to use it, we couldn’t find a way to squeeze more than 30 hours from a single charge. That means you’ll have to charge the watch every single night, or run the risk of it dying mid-way through the next day. This isn’t a problem unique to Motorola, and until battery technology improves frequent charging will be one of the facts of life for wearable technology, but its component choices have compounded the issue for the Moto 360. Ambient mode certainly draws attention to the screen though, and after a subsequent Android Wear update the watch now automatically disables it when the battery drops to 15%. That means you shouldn’t find yourself completely drained of battery mid-way through the afternoon, even if you use the most battery intensive screen mode.
Moto 360 Android Wear
Android Wear itself primarily pushes notifications from a paired smartphone to your wrist. The series of Google Now-like cards that appear as you get notifications can be dismissed with a swipe, or opened on your phone with a tap, but there’s no way to get one back if you dismiss it accidentally. Without adding third-party watch apps, there’s no way to control music unless you’ve already started playback on your phone, as the context-sensitive card won’t appear until a track has started.
Annoyingly at launch, there was way to hide notifications from the main watch face, which we thought slightly spoilt the look of the circular screen; you could swipe them all away, but that defeated the object of a smartwatch. This was less of an issue on the rectangular G Watch, but on a circular screen it was particularly frustrating. We weren’t alone in thinking this, and thankfully Motorola was paying attention to its critics, with a subsequent Android Wear update adding in the ability to hide, but not dismiss notifications from the watch face. With Update 4.4W2 installed, tapping the notification and swiping down would hide it from view, leaving the main watch face unobstructed, but won’t dismiss the notification entirely. This is particularly useful if you use multimedia playback controls or turn-by-turn navigation, but could equally come in handy if you want reminding about a particular appointment later in the day.
You can control the watch using your voice too, using the “OK Google” trigger phrase to take notes, set alarms, check the weather or find directions, which are then displayed as turn-by-turn instructions on your wrist. Voice recognition is excellent, so we could speak naturally and have the watch detect every word, but you still look daft when speaking into your wrist in public.
As Google doesn’t let manufacturers skin the Wear interface with their own custom UI, it feels identical in operation to the other Android Wear watches we’ve tried. Motorola has managed to tweak the formula slightly, as the Motorola Connect app lets you customise the selection of circular watch faces and the fitness app tracks your steps and measures your heart rate using the built-in pedometer and heart rate sensor.
The heart rate watch app includes an activity monitor which measures how much you move about during the day; after you’ve entered your height, weight, age and gender, it will split your day into “Inactive,” “Active” and “Vigorous” categories, aiming to get you moderately active for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week. We reached our goal during a particularly leisurely morning walk to work, so it seems to be very lenient as to what constitutes moderate activity, but it’s a welcome addition for anyone looking to replace fitness band with a smartwatch.
Android Wear 5.1 update
It took quite a while for Android Wear 5.1 to arrive on the Moto 360, which was uncharacteristic of Motorola – usually the company is among the first to update its smartphones to the latest build of Android, yet in this case LG beat it to the punch and had the G Watch R and G Watch Urbane on 5.1 before the Moto 360. Now that the update has finally arrived, though, the redesigned menu system is very welcome. Now, tapping the watch face opens a menu, rather than a Google Now prompt. You can scroll through a list of available watch apps, or swipe to the left to open the Google Now voice prompt and scroll through a list of suggested actions. People apear at the top of the list, making it easier to reply to messages or make calls without pulling you phone out of a pocket, and you can even draw emoji on the watch if you want, although accuracy isn’t the greatest.
Motion controls have also arrived, letting you flick your wrist down to hide a notification, or twist it upwards to move through any notification cards currently sat on the watch. It’s surprisingly effective, despite tilt navigation being something of a mixed bag on smartphones, and letting you interact with the watch single-handed makes it much more useful when commuting or in meetings.
Always-on apps are still rather limited at the moment, so we’re unclear as to how effective they will be in the future, but we like the idea of having walking directions permanently displayed on our wrist while out and about. The watch switches to a low-power state too, with dim display and monochrome colours, which should help preserve battery life.
Finally, the 5.1 update activates the Moto 360’s Wi-Fi receiver, letting you connect it to your local network even if your phone isn’t nearby. The smartphone still sets up the connection, but if you leave it charging and walk to another part of your house or office and stay on the same Wi-Fi network, you’ll still get notifications sent to your watch. Your phone will still need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network for this to work, however.
Moto 360 – the verdict
On the surface, the Moto 360 is the most desirable piece of wearable technology we’ve ever seen. It’s sleek and stylish, made with premium materials and is highly customisable with third-party watch faces. Underneath, however, it’s a compromise: the LCD screen and outdated processor result in mediocre battery life that puts it at the bottom of the smartwatch pile in terms of endurance. Android Wear is still in its infancy, with usability issues and a paucity of features, and although Motorola can’t take the blame for this, the operating system can still be frustrating to use at times.
At £200, the Moto 360 is also the most expensive Android Wear smartwatch currently available. It’s the best of the bunch, so if you’re determined to buy a wearable this is absolutely the one to go for. You’ll need to wait until early October to get your hands on one, as the smartwatch has not yet gone on sale in the UK. We’re still waiting for someone to get the smartwatch absolutely right, and although Motorola has hit the nail on the head in terms of looks, the Moto 360 isn’t quite perfect, but until something better comes along we’ll happily take poor battery life in exchange for fantastic design.
|Vibration motor, dual microphones
|Price including VAT