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Featured Review: Moto 360 (2015)

October 6, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Android Wear made its official debut at Google I/O in June of 2014. At Google I/O we got a couple of watches, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. The Moto 360 was launched later that year, in September, alongside the Moto X 2014 and Moto G 2014. The Moto 360 was the first round smartwatch, and since then we’ve had a few other competitors come in with round smartwatches including Huawei and Samsung. The Moto 360 was often criticized for a couple of reasons. One was having that flat-tire look at the bottom, with the other being the TI OMAP processor Motorola used in the Moto 360. Smartwatches don’t need a ton of power, but it was obvious that TI OMAP didn’t give it enough power.

Now Motorola is back – and under new ownership at that – with the new Moto 360. The smartwatch looks largely the same, but there are still a few differences. Are those differences enough to warrant an upgrade? Is it enough to sway buyers from buying the competitive Huawei Watch? We’ll find out in our full review. So let’s jump in!

Specs

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The size of the two models of the Moto 360 are 46mm x 11.4mm and 42mm x 11.4mm. The Women’s model is the same size as the Men’s 42mm. It has a 1.56-inch 360×330 LCD display with a PPI of 233 on the 46mm version. With a 1.37-inch 360×325 LCD display and a PPI of 263 on the smaller 42mm version. Both have Gorilla Glass 3 as well. The Moto 360 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, a quad-core 1.2GHz processor. There’s 512MB of RAM inside along with 4GB of storage. The 46mm version has a 400mAh battery and the 42mm version has a 300mAh battery inside. Both have a Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Heart rate sensor, and Bluetooth 4.0.

Color options consist of black, gold, silver and rose gold (Women’s version only), and the straps include black, silver, gold and rose gold in the metal. With leather straps being in cognac, black and for the women’s version, blush and dark gray.

In The Box

In the box, Motorola has packaged the Moto 360 quite elegantly. Now it’s not as nice as the Huawei Watch, but it still looks great. At the top of the box, you can see exactly what watch you got. Whether you ordered it from Moto Maker, Best Buy or another retailer. Underneath the watch, you have your wall charger, your dock as well as some paperwork. And that’s about it for what’s in the box. Everything is there without creating extra fluff, and thus keeping the price down – somewhat – for the new Moto 360.

Unboxing

Video Review

Hardware

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Before we get too deep into this part of the review. It’s important to let everyone know that we have two models here. One is the 46mm Men’s Moto 360. With a silver casing, silver bezel and Cognac leather strap. The other is a 42mm Men’s Moto 360 with a silver casing and the silver micro knurl bezel along with the Cognac leather strap. Now the Moto 360 starts at $299 and goes up to $429, through the options in Moto Maker. Our 46mm Men’s version retails for $349, with the 42mm version coming in at $319.

Taking a look at the Moto 360, you’ll see that it does look very similar to the first-generation model. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this review, there are a few changes. One of those being the crown. That has moved to the 2 o’clock position from the 3 o’clock position. Motorola mentioned that the reasoning for this was to make it more comfortable for their users. Sometimes the crown would smash against your hand, and make for a rather unpleasant experience. I’ve found in my time with the Moto 360, that it makes for a better experience when you need to use the crown. Which mostly only works as a power button. It does also work as a home button, when you are in a specific app, too. Some of the other changes included bring the lugs outside of the watch. With the previous model, the lugs were under the watch. Which made it look sleek, but it was a pain when you wanted to replace the strap. Motorola has also made it easy to swap them with quick release bands. So you won’t need any jeweler tools to swap out the bands. It’s worth noting that the quick release bands are only on Motorola’s bands.

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One of the differences this year includes the micro knurl bezel. We saw this at IFA in September, and I fell in love with the look. It looks much nicer than just the regular chamfer bezel. It stands out a bit more, in my opinion. The micro knurl bezel is available in black, silver and gold. And will cost you about $20 extra. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth the extra cash.

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On the back-side of the Moto 360 is your heart rate sensor. Which was also present on the original Moto 360. You can take your heart rate through the Moto Body app, of course there are a slew of other apps that can take advantage of the heart rate sensor as well. It does take a few minutes but it does give you a reading. Now how accurate it is, is yet to be seen. Also included on the back-side of the Moto 360 is your wireless charging contacts. Now this is one thing that I think Motorola hit out of the park, when it comes to smart watches. Using a standard that is somewhat popular. LG, Samsung and even Huawei have stuck with using a hockey puck-like dock for charging their models. While the Moto 360 can charge off of virtually any Qi Wireless charger.

Moto 360 Sizes

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To some degree there has been talk that some women may want a smaller smartwatch. That many of the smartwatches available today are just too big for their wrists. It appears that Motorola listened. This year there are three models, and two sizes. There is a 46mm Men’s, 42mm Men’s and a 42mm Women’s model. Now the 46mm and 42mm Men’s watches are identical, with the only difference being the size of the watch face, and the straps being slightly smaller. The Women’s differs a bit more. The straps are a bit thinner, and there are different options for the straps. For the leathers, there is the dark gray then the blush leather that is available in the regular band or the double wrap. For the metal bands we have silver, gold and rose gold. With the bezel and case being in silver, gold and rose gold as well. They also offer a micro-cut bezel, which looks quite nice.

The different sizes here are a pretty big deal for Motorola. While some guys think the 46mm Men’s Moto 360 is large enough, after having the chance to use both for an extended period of time, I think I’d prefer the smaller 42mm version. You can see the size differences in the picture above. Battery life has been about the same on both models as well. Even though the 42mm has a smaller battery – also a smaller display to power.

Display

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As we listed in the specs section above, the Moto 360 has a 1.56-inch display and a 1.37-inch display for the different size models here. With the smaller model having a higher PPI. Through using both models, I can say that you won’t notice the difference in the PPI. Both displays show the content very well, without needing to strain your eyes. You also don’t need to worry about seeing pixels. While this isn’t an AMOLED panel like we’ve seen on other smartwatches, the LCD panel here that Motorola has used is really good. Blacks are nice and dark. Whites are nice and white. The screen doesn’t appear to be too warm or too cold.

Having the ambient light sensor on the Moto 360 helps it to adjust the brightness depending on the condition you are in. So in the dark, the Moto 360 gets a bit darker. And when you’re outside it gets nice and bright. There is also a nice Brightness Boost option that has worked wonderfully in my experience. Even in bright sunlight, I can still easily see my Moto 360 and what it is telling me.

Performance

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With performance, we saw a big improvement over the original Moto 360. This is largely due to Motorola getting away from the TI OMAP in the original Moto 360 and going to the Snapdragon 400, which is in every other Android Wear smartwatch. With the original Moto 360, we saw a few stutters in the animations throughout the OS. It was also a bit slow, overall. This affected battery life and unfortunately, made the battery on the original Moto 360 less desirable.

We’re happy to note that the performance on the Moto 360 2015 isn’t bad at all. We haven’t had any stutters, lags, freezes, or anything of that sort during our time with the device. And the battery life is actually quite good on this second generation Moto 360 here. That is likely partially due to the better, more energy efficient chip in the Snapdragon 400. It’s also due to a slightly larger battery. We had a 320mAh battery in the same size watch that sports a 400mAh battery this year. It may not seem like a huge jump, but with a display that small, it really is.

Battery Life

One of the bigger complaints with the Moto 360 last year was the battery life. In fact, the first day I used the watch and had ambient mode on, it was down to 50% in just a few hours. The battery life did get better over time, but it was a huge no-no to use ambient mode. This year, that’s the complete opposite. I’ve been using ambient mode the entire time I’ve had the Moto 360, and I often take the watch off of my wrist with around 50-60% left. That depends on what I’ve been doing during the day, how many notifications hit my wrist, etc., but it’s still a huge improvement over last year’s model. Typically, I put the watch on around 8am and take it off around 11pm. That’s about 15 hours, and it only loses about 40-50% during that time. So it could likely get through two days, almost. It would be a tight squeeze though.

Moto Maker

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Last year, Motorola brought the Moto 360 to Moto Maker about halfway through it’s product cycle. My thought on that was they were gearing up to put the next generation Moto 360 in Moto Maker. And that’s exactly what happened. Motorola says that there are over 400 different designs that can be had with Moto Maker this year. And that’s even with having a somewhat limited amount of choices. We have three sizes, the Men’s 46mm and 42mm and then the Woman’s 42mm. On the men’s side, the bezels come in chamfer and micro knurl in silver, gold and black. For the women’s it’s peak and micro cut in silver, gold and rose gold. The cases for the mens are in silver, black and gold. With the women’s being silver, gold and rose gold. While the straps are in leather and metal for the Men. With the leather being black and cognac. For the women it’s dark gray and blush. The metals are available in silver, black and gold for the men and rose gold, gold and silver for the women. The Moto 360 ranges from $299 to $429.

Voice Commands & the Microphone

One of the biggest features of Android Wear is voice commands. But how good can voice commands be if the microphone isn’t all that great? It looks like Motorola has added a really nice microphone to the Moto 360, and tweaked the software a bit since last year. As the microphone is on the left side of the Moto 360, and through my time using it, I have not had any issues with giving it voice commands at all. I didn’t have any issues with it being slow or not recognizing what I was saying either. Really, there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the microphone and voice commands.

Software

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On the Moto 360 here, we are running build LLA44S, and the Android Wear companion app is running on version 1.3. So we do have the latest and greatest version of Android Wear available here. Android Wear is still in its infancy, but it has improved greatly over the past year or so. Adding in some new features like flicking your wrist to scroll through notifications – which, I might add, works surprisingly well – you can also draw emojis for messages and such.

More and more apps are are getting Android Wear compatibility, and one of my favorites is AlltheCooks. Which is a recipe app, it’s great for when you’re cooking something new. You have the ingredients and instructions right there on your wrist. Another one of my favorites is Todoist. Having a To-Do list makes productivity that much better, and having that on your wrist is even easier. Todoist is great for staying on task as well as having a grocery list put together for when you go to the store. Then you don’t need to pull out your phone, instead just look at your wrist.

One of the newer features with Android Wear is the “Together” watch faces. With these, you can pair your watch with a friend and you can share pictures, emojis and activity updates straight to that person’s watch. It’s an interesting feature, but would be really cool for sending across pictures to someone else. This was actually announced in the latest Android Wear update a few weeks ago.

Watch Faces

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Motorola has decided not to load up the Moto 360 with a ton of watch faces, unlike one of its competitors. They’ve added just a couple of new ones, compared to the original Moto 360, including the Dials and Retrograde. Altogether there is around 17 watch faces pre-installed here. I’ve been using the Dials watch face, which has a few shortcuts in the watch face, including one for the weather, battery and Moto Body. These are all customizable through Moto Connect as well. In fact, those shortcuts and smaller dials can be customized to show the battery, calories, Day/Date, Digital Time, Heart Activity, Steps, Todoist, Weather, or World Clock. You can also select to have it show nothing.

As always, you can install third-party watch faces from the Google Play Store, which will bring a ton more customizability to the Moto 360. There are hundreds if not thousands of watch faces in the Google Play Store, with more and more popping up every day.

Moto Connect

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While Android Wear companion app provides a good number of options for your Android Wear smartwatch, Moto Connect is another great app that adds even more customization. And if you have a Motorola phone, it is pre-installed by default. When your watch is connected to your phone, Moto Connect can show you the battery status, allow you to customize the watch face, dock mode, as well as show the location of where your watch is. So in case you lose it, you’ll know where it is. Although this won’t be a huge help, as it does need to be connected to either your phone or WiFi.

Many of the watch faces that are pre-installed, you can change the background and the accent. A few others have other options like having a smooth second hand. Of course, that smooth second hand is going to use more of your battery. Just hit Apply, and it will apply the changes to your watch instantly. One of the cooler features of the Moto 360 is the way it looks when it’s charging. It basically looks like a regular clock. So you can set it on your bedside table and get a nice looking clock, while the watch is charging overnight. Motorola has added some customization to the dock mode this year. Instead of being stuck with just a blue color, you can choose, red, green, purple or yellow. I choose yellow, as I think it looks pretty nice.

Moto Body

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Motorola had their own app for keeping track of your steps, calories, heart rate, etc., before. But it’s even better this year. Motorola has put it in the Google Play Store, so now it can also live on your phone. With the app, you can choose to upload the data to Google Fit. Also, Moto Body uses your Google account to sign in and back up your data, even if you don’t want to use Google Fit. Now, by default, Moto Body wants you to be active about 30 minutes a day, and walk around 10,000 steps. Which isn’t hard to accomplish. I beat that just about everyday. If you tap on the heart rate activity, you can see how you’ve done during the week. As well as seeing the daily average and total minutes for the entire week. The same goes for steps and active calorie burn. The app is pretty colorful and is also material design.

Now over on the watch, things are slightly different. You do get the same information, but it looks different. This is obviously because the much smaller display here. Inside the Moto Body app on the watch, if you scroll to the bottom you will see where you can record your heart rate. Tap on that, and then have it measure your heart rate and within a few seconds it’ll have a response for you. It’s pretty straight-forward to be honest.

After using a Fitbit for the past few months, I feel that Moto Body and Google Fit have a bit of catching up to do. For me, at least, the ability to compete with friends for walking or running more each day have helped me to be more active. Working from home every day has kept me from being all that active, and a Fitbit has helped me. I can’t say that Moto Body nor Google Fit has done the same. And I feel it’s the competitive part that has let it down. We’ll have to see what kind of updates Google has for Fit in the coming weeks and months.

Should you buy a Moto 360?

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Often times I say don’t buy a first-generation product. Especially a tech product in a new category. But with the Moto 360, I think I might stick with that, slightly. The Moto 360 2015 is definitely a great smartwatch, in fact it might even be the best one available right now. But, as far as functionality goes, there’s still not a ton here with Android Wear. Sure it’s great to read your notifications on your wrist, delete emails without pulling out your phone, and even being able to call a car using Uber or Lyft from your wrist. But that’s really it, right now. For some, it’ll be tough to justify the price tag of the Moto 360.

However, for those early adopters like many of you reading this review. The Moto 360 seems to tick every box, except the price. We have great battery life, great performance, a great looking watch, and customization. While the price isn’t that steep compared to the Huawei Watch or the upcoming Fossil and Tag watches, $299 to start is still a bit steep. However, if you’re coming from the original Moto 360, I’d definitely recommend it. Instead of revolutionizing the smartwatch industry, Motorola refined an already proven recipe with the Moto 360.

Currently you can buy the Moto 360 from Moto Maker and Best Buy.com
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