Motorola 360 Review - A Smart Watch for Watch Lovers

We are going to take a break from cameras and lenses to take a look at a very different product, the Motorola 360. With an increasing amount of smart watches on the market, Motorola separated itself with a circular watch design and aims to bring something different to the smartwatch world. So let’s take a look at the Motorola 360 to see if they can deliver on that promise.
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The Moto 360 is a looker of a watch. It is instantly recognizable as something different, yet it doesn’t give the same tech freak response that I got when using the Samsung smart watches. The round screen seems to add just the right amount of flair while still blending in with other more traditional watches. I did not find the watch overly large but then again I’m a particular fan of larger watches. It is a bit on the thick side but nothing outlandish. Even my wife seemed satisfied with the design and size if she could pair it with a more feminine looking band.

The Moto 360 is definitely a well-made watch and the band is very comfortable and better than the rubber on many other smart watches. That said, it still is the cheapest looking part of the watch.
The beveled glass on the top is a nice touch though it leads to a bit of distortion on the edge of the screen and can be distracting while viewing text. Even the wireless charger is a joy to use as it feels well made with a rubberized heavy plastic and great design and functionality as a good old fashion clock while charging. Overall, the Moto 360 is a great blend of modern tech and traditional watch styling, and as a watch wearer myself, this is the first watch that has satisfied both my love for watches and tech.

The interface is fast enough though there is some lag especially when loading applications. It’s not enough to make me disappointed but it is enough to make me long for a version 2.0. The screen gives the same impression as text is sharp enough to be legible, though individual pixels can still be seen from a close distance. The black bar at the bottom of the display has been the source of quite a bit of negative chatter. It would be awesome if it wasn’t there but I didn’t find it distracting except a little when using white background with round watch faces. It also houses the ambient light sensor which keeps the screen from overpowering your eyes in the dark and keeps it viewable outdoors. Overall it worked well though I do think it should be brighter. Which brings in the biggest problem with this watch...there is little room for customization. You can’t toggle the sensitivity or brightness of the ambient light sensor like most phones allow you to do, you can’t touch the screen timeout of the display, and you have only 7 choices for your watch face as of now. Motorola does allow you to choose between white and black backgrounds with most watch faces, and gives some color accent control for the second hand, but that’s all you get. At almost every point you feel like the watch is doing what Moto or Google wants and not necessarily what you want. The 360 also has a heart rate monitor which I found worked much better than the Samsung Gear watches, however, apps like the heart rate monitor are buried under swipes and taps making them a pain to access except by voice. An incoming call also caused the watch to vibrate louder than it should with no way to change this unlike my phone. This meant that everyone around me could usually tell when I was receiving a phone call which was not the response I was looking for in a smart watch.

Battery life is still an issue with most smart watches and the 360 was no exception. You will struggle to go through the entire 24hr day with a working watch, even with the screen turning off. With moderate to heavy use I averaged around 16 hours though with milder use I was able to make it 18. But even at 16 hours, pulling my watch off the charger at 7am meant I still had battery to spare by 11pm. I don’t know about you but I typically do not wear my watch that long. I did feel like I was constantly being reminded though of how weak the battery was with only seconds to spare before the screen would timeout and no way of controlling it. Warning labels also popped up when enabling the ‘Always On’ screen which even then just dims the screen to the point where it is barely visible making it just about useless. In its current state, the 360 was definitely usable throughout a normal day of normal activity though in the future though it would be nice if that same 1 day battery also included always on (at a usable brightness) or longer screen use before timing out.

On the software side, Motorola has limited abilities due to the tight control of Android Wear, and other than a great looking heart rate app and a few well designed watch face options, It’s all stock. Unfortunately, that is not a great thing as of now as Android wear is extremely limited with few supported apps and an interface that buries them in a menu system. I won’t go too deep into the software but there are a few things worthy of pointing out. Offering almost no customization other than muting certain apps altogether, Android wear features can really be boiled down to just notifications and Google Now. You can’t even use Android Wear to turn disable a lock screen without the help of 3rd party apps and only a few are available so far. You also can’t do anything with notifications other than read and dismiss them. There were no auto-response choices for text messages and no ability to archive, delete, manage email for example.

While Google Now is extremely powerful, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of other abilities, even compared to Galaxy Gear watches. In addition, Google Now only works using your voice which means you will be talking to your watch quite a bit to use it. The round display worked well enough with Android Wear but there were examples of text clipping that were a bit annoying. Also, notifications from apps and Google Now cards take up the bottom 3rd of the screen making it just about impossible to actually see the time with any round watch faces. Moving to a digital clock fixed this issue but seemed to take away some of the appeal of a round watch. And with zero control over how notifications are sent to your phone, the barrage of 100’s of emails I typically get in a day caused me to mute Gmail entirely. Without a method for controlling what types of emails or Gmail labels can get through to my watch for example, many will find notifications more of a hindrance than a joy. For a smart watch, it often acts a bit dumb.

Overall, the Moto 360 is the best hardware around. While it at times feels a bit first generation, it certainly is good enough to be a great addition to your watches as well as tech toys. The wireless charger is a great, and the overall fit and finish is top notch. While the software needs a ton of help, Google Now is extremely powerful by itself with an answer to just about every question you have and in addition, the Motorola 360 will serve as a great source for information as well as companion with note taking, reminders, calendars, notifications, navigation, a music player, and even the ability to compose messages and emails straight from the watch by voice. Sure, you will be charging the 360 every day and the screen always turning off is a bit of a disappointment, but as of now, if you love watches, want the power of Google Now on your wrist, and don’t mind talking to your watch, the Moto 360 is an amazing device.


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