Is this still the best non-Apple smartwatch around?
It’s fair to say that the smartwatch market has been dominated by one fruit-related release over the past few months. But what if you’re not all about that Apple?
There are an increasing number of Android-powered wearables on the market at the moment, with major manufacturers such as LG, Huawei and Sony all cranking out a variety of smartwatches and fitness trackers.
But it’s fair to say none have had quite the amount of attention as Motorola’s debut smartwatch. The Moto 360 was hotly anticipated before its launch, promising a sleek, attractive design backed up by a user experience boosted by having Google’s dedicated support behind it. But with rumours of a successor on the way soon, does it ultimately live up to expectations?
Unveiled back in March 2014, the Moto 360 was for many people the first wearable device that actually looked like something they’d want to wear. Breaking with the square-faced, blocky devices on the market at that time, the elegant circular design was an appealing build that if nothing else helped break the psychological issue that square smartwatches presented.
And it has to be said that the Moto 360 is a good-looking device. With a variety of finishes, straps and materials available, there are many options to build your own unique device to stand out from the crowd.
The version we were provided with for review was the ‘champagne gold’ stainless steel model, which was suitably chunky – and larger than a traditional average wristwatch.
Its’ certainly an eye-catching accessory though – I had all kinds of people, from friends and co-workers, shop assistants, and even airport security workers commenting on it. Nearly all were positive, so it’s fair to say that the Moto 360 will definitely still get people’s attention.
There’s still a lot of debate within the technology industry as to what the true purpose of a smartwatch is. Is it a fashion accessory? Time-saving piece of kit? Or just something slightly unnecessary?
From the basis of my usage, it’s a little bit of all three. As I haven’t worn a watch on a daily basis for around 15 years, except for when out running or at the gym, the initial weight of the Moto 360 is a little off-putting. But you do get used to it in time, as it never feels too heavy or bulky – unless you have oddly-tight shirt cuffs.
Apps, alerts and services are all accessed via swiping the Moto 360’s touchscreen, with the side button acting as a return to home shortcut. It was often fiddly to work out what swiping did with each app to begin with, but after a few days’ trial and error, I was able to get the hang of it.
That said, the screen is bright and colourful, and is always able to display all the information you want, even if it does take a bit of scrolling in most cases. Photos are a different bag, however, as for example, those displayed when showing a Facebook or WhatsApp notification are often hilariously distorted to fit the 1.56in 320×290 205ppi screen.
This is only a very minor gripe, though, and I even got used to the fact that the Moto 360 doesn’t offer full coverage of the screen (with a small lower section being used to house sensors for the device).
The main use case of the Moto 360 is as a companion to your phone. It’s very easy to sync up with a smartphone via Bluetooth, and once you’ve downloaded the Android Wear companion app to your phone, you’re all set. Updates and notifications are sent via Bluetooth, with the watch vibrating slightly to alert you to anything new – a really useful feature, but one that, truth be told, just led me to instinctively pull out my smartphone every time I felt my wrist vibrate.
There are also a variety of apps that can be directed using the Moto 360, with initial steps being taken on there before the end result is displayed on your paired device. This includes messaging, GPS and many more, with developers increasingly adding capabilities to many top Android apps.
Of the services that can be directly accessed using the watch, voice search is probably the most useful, as you can use Google’s ‘OK Google’ voice recognition to ask questions or search for information, with the results then either displated on the watch or the phone.
The Moto 360 is also a very handy health tracker though, providing a wealth of data on steps taken, stairs climbed, and calories burnt during the day. There’s also a heart rate monitor, which if I’m honest often provided the main draw for friends and colleagues trying on the watch, so they could test to see how healthy they were.
Overall, this is a clean, easy to use interface that, once you have the hang of it, is a breeze to use.
At over a year old, it’s fair to say that the Moto 360 no longer has the top hardware which is now leaking into some of the newest smartwatches on the market.
However it is no slouch by any means.
The Moto 360 is powered by an OMAP 3 processor from Texas Instruments, backed up with 512MB RAM and 4GB of onboard storage, although I didn’t really end up using much of this. Our tests didn’t find any occasions where power was an issue, with the device able to cope with multiple tasks and liking to our paired smartphone without any problems.
The Moto 360 will support any phone that runs Android 4.3 or higher, pairing with your smartphone thanks to an accompanying Android Wear app that helps link up notifications.
This is all backed up 320mAh battery which offers all-day use, our tests found, but this will need to be charged up overnight. Charging, done via an accompanying wireless charger, is fast, powering up to full capacity in under an hour.
Overall, this is a smartwatch that will be able to cope with whatever you can throw at it.
The big question – and some would say the only question – when looking to buy a smartwatch is what benefits you think it will bring to your daily life.
After over a month with the Moto 360, I’m sold. As someone who is connected to a range of social and professional accounts, to have a quick and clear view of notifications is a welcome function.
And following a recent discount from Motorola, the Moto 360 can be yours for only £200 – significantly less than many of the other smartwatches currently on the market
So if you have that kind of money to spend and want to splash out on a smart, elegant and all-round companion to your Android smartphone, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the Moto 360. It offers the complete smartwatch experience, and thanks to having the brains of a constantly innovative company like Motorola behind it, is a joy to use.
And it doesn’t look half-bad too.
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