Friday, November 7, 2014

The Moto 360: A Premium Smartwatch from Motorola (Review)


I recently learned that to some people watches and other time pieces, such as pocket watches, are a very enticing collector’s item. I knew that watches could be considered a valuable family heirloom,passing it down from generation to generation, but I never honestly realized that some would consider a watch to be as important, if not more than, the right tie to a suit or the right heels with the dress. But knowing all this now, helps me to understand the why and importance of Motorola breaking the mold with their most recent smartwatch.

The Motorola Moto 360 truly outshines its predecessors in looks alone. At first glance you will see a premium metal watch with a circular face and a leather or chain linked band. Before now, smartwatches have been easily identifiable by their bulky, squared off, rubber or plastic build. Not anymore. Smartwatches should soon become a new “must have” in the realm of smart technology.

In August of this year, Motorola introduced four new mobile devices to their lineup of smart technology; the New Moto X, the New Moto G, the Moto Hint, and the Moto 360. I’ve had the privilege of reviewing three of those new devices and today I’m bringing to you my review of the Motorola Moto 360, the smartwatch that comes full circle and brings premium looks in the form of modern accessories.


The Motorola Moto 360 is an exquisite timepiece that one should consider professional, elegant, and worthy to be worn in an everyday regular environment as well as amongst the VIPs and executives of the business world. It has a premium build made of stainless steel and comes in different colors of such metal in order to best match your wardrobe. Motorola provides an array of bands, both metal and leather, that are interchangeable to accent your suit, dress, or jeans. Band options are black metal, silver metal, black leather, gray leather or stone leather. Also, there are rumors of more color options, for both watches and bands, to be available soon. Colors such as cognac leather and/or champagne gold metal.
Note: while writing this review, Motorola announced the black and silver metal bands in 23 mm thickness and a silver and champagne metal band in 18 mm thickness.

When you first receive the box of the Moto 360, you are already in awe just by the packaging alone. A circular box to accent the watch itself which is front and center under the lid. The Moto 360 has a circular face which is built out of stainless steel metal. It dons a small button on the side which is used for power, access to the settings menu, or simply putting it to sleep to save power just as you would do with your smartphone before you place it in your purse or pocket. The glass of the watch face is Gorilla Glass 3, the top notch option from the Gorilla Company said to be scratch resistant. The glass is also cut to accentuate its beauty incorporating a beveled edge around the entire watch face giving it depth to a flat screen. The screen itself is an LCD display and is 1.56 inches at its widest diameter.

The internals of the Moto 360 equally fit the design architecture of the external shell. It has minimum storage space of 4GB, minimum RAM of 512 MB, and a processor from a few years ago, a Texas Instruments OMAP 3. If all you went by were the specs on the box, you would be understandably disappointed. But like a good book, I implore you to look beyond the cover of the packaging, because despite the specs, Motorola has sweetened the deal with software tweaks which take advantage of those particular internals.

At the risk of ruining a perfect circle, Motorola added an ambient sensor to the bottom of the display. I say this because of the initial shock by the tech world that the watch isn't in fact a perfect circle and should have been named the "Moto 320". This ambient sensor across the bottom of the display allows the watch to control the brightness of the screen by sensing the brightness of your surroundings and is used when you select the "always on" feature in the settings. Your smartphone has a similar sensor and is used when you place the display on auto-brightness. Some will refer to it as the "flat tire". Admittedly, it was annoying at first to have an incomplete 360 degree watch face, but I grew accustom to it very quickly. The circular watch face is a first of its kind though. LG has recently introduced another circular option called the G Watch R. Hopefully a review for that will come soon. 


As far as the interface and operating system is concerned, Google brought forth Android Wear this year and introduced it at the annual Google I/O conference in June.  Android Wear is a simplistic view of notifications which appear as a stack of cards. Navigation is also simplistic. Easy swipes up would be the proper way to scroll through the cards. Swiping left to right will dismiss the notification on both the watch and the phone, and swiping right to left will bring up more options to interact with that notification. For instance, let's say you receive a notification for a new text message. On any smartwatch running Android Wear you can swipe right to left and review the entire history of that message chain, reply using voice dictation, open on your phone, or delete the message. Android Wear also allows for voice input for replying to messages, writing emails, or executing Google Searches. The key words "Ok, Google" will automatically activate the search function on the watch and accepts many commands that Motorola does with both last year's and this year's Moto X smartphone.

That brief explanation helps you understand how one would interact with the Moto 360, or any other smartwatch utilizing Android Wear. As the wearer, you will get a vibration alert with each new notification. You can choose between several different analog or digital watch faces built-in. And because it's Android, you can expect to get many more watch face options from the Google Play Store. One app in particular, Facer, allows you to build your own from scratch or custom others from people who have shared they with the general public.



When we talk about battery life of the Moto 360, it originated with some disappointment. The Moto 360 is powered by a small 320 mAh battery. Before I received my review unit, there were reports of 10-12 hours of battery life before having to charge again and worse than that if you were using the "always on" ambient mode. Motorola markets that the Moto 360 should get up to 24 hours of use. Prior to my review, though, Motorola pushed a software update. As soon as I turned my Moto 360 on, I was prompted to download and install said update, so I didn't waste any time to do so. I am happy to report that I saw more than a day’s worth of use from the Moto 360 while the ambient "always on" mode was activated. With ambient mode on, I made it through an entire day (7AM-11PM) and had an average of 13% of battery left. With ambient mode off, I had an average of 32% battery remaining. To top it all off, once you hit 15% of battery life remaining, the Moto 360 would prompt you to turn on "Battery saver" mode. Doing so would help stretch that last 15%.

The Moto 360 comes with a wireless Qi (pronounced chee) charger. There are no micro USB ports or plugs on the watch itself. The charger holds the 360 in a vertical position when charging, so it could easily be used as a bedside clock. It doesn't however act as an alarm because there isn't a speaker on the Moto 360. Because I got what I would consider to be great battery life with my review unit, I only charged it at night as I slept. Therefore, I didn't have to worry or track how fast it was charging. I wore it all day when I needed it and had no fear that it's battery would die before I wanted to go to sleep again. Which is great of course. We as consumers shouldn't accept smart products that govern our use of it by how close we are to a wall plug.




There are a few things about the Moto 360 that I will bring up as cons. The list is short, however, and a little picky. The Moto 360 is a bit on the thick side. It is 11.5 mm thick in fact. To put that into perspective, it's thicker than the New Moto X smartphone, which is also from Motorola. At the thickest part in the middle, the New Moto X is 9.9 mm thick. I look forward to the slimmer 2nd generation Moto 360 next year. Next, I expected the leather Horween leather watchband to be more premium in both feel and design. My expectation was that the leather band would match up in looks at least to the Timex Indiglo watches I buy my wife which is padded with a few layers and has stitching around the edges. This leather band is a single piece and looks and feels as though it was cut from a stencil out of a much larger sheet of leather and then a few holes punched down the middle of one side. It does feel soft and is easy to put on and take off. Let's just say I'm very glad the bands are removable. If I were to have kept the 360 for myself, I would have swapped the band out with something with a little bit more professional design. If rumors hold true, more options should be coming in the future directly from Motorola. Any negative remarks I have about the Android Wear software can be fixed with a simple software update, which they've already pushed two major ones and both made a world of difference, but the hardware points i've mentioned cannot always be changed so easily.



The Moto 360 also has some cool tricks up it's sleeve besides telling time and sending notifications. The back of the device, which is meant to sit against your skin, incorporates an optical heart rate sensor. You can choose to allow it to check your heart rate sperodically if you like, and it will chart it for you, in addition to manually checking it at any time through the adjoining app installed on the watch. The device also includes a pedometer for step counting. So Motorola is encouraging you to keep in touch with your health and make some exercise goals towards a heathier lifestyle, as opposed to a day of sitting in front of a computer writing device reviews. The Moto 360 is also water resistant (IP67 certified). IP68 certification would have meant water proof, so it's not quite a shower or pool toy.

Final Thoughts
Smartwatches are not yet mainstream accessories. Like the smartphone itself, it will take some time to become culturally acceptable as a worthy replacement of the timepiece we've known for decades. Just like the pocket watch, there will be inventions that will allow you to wear a smartwatch much in the same ways we wear any other piece of jewlery: around our wrist, neck, in our pockets, on our keychains. I'd love to see a Moto 360 on a slap bracelet of sorts for kids, I'm thinking of a tracking device product.

The Moto 360 is definitely not a first attempt at smart accessories, we've had sports bands and other watches from many manufactures. Samsung released six in the past year. The Moto 360 is a push in the right direction of a smart accessory paradigm shift. It's crossing over the right stepping stones that all smart devices must go through. It's the smartphone shift all over again. It will take some perfecting and a few iterations to tweak all the specifics, but I predict smartwatches will be a must have within the next 3 years.

If you want to jump on this bandwagon today, you cannot go wrong with the Moto 360. The premium build quality and professional aesthetics are the proper qualities when you want to wear a smart accessory, but not look like a tech geek. Software updates both from Motorola and Google are coming quick and in just two weeks of using this review device, it went from "unusable disappointment" to "I can't put it down". As I stated before, there are few but some knit picky cons, but they are far outweighed by the plethora of pros. Just like Android is at its core, the bands can be simply customized. You have two (soon to be three) color options of stainless steel metal. You can make the watch face match any and every single outfit you ever wear, any day, at any time for work, gym, or leisure.

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Do you already own a Moto 360? What is your take on this new smart accessory? Let us know in the comments your thoughts and feedback.



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