The Moto 360 is the best smart watch I’ve ever used. While not the perfect gadget, it delivers the best overall wearable experience yet. This Moto 360 review will look at what the device does well and where it needs some work.
“What does the Moto 360 do?” and “Is the Moto 360 worth buying?” are two of the most frequently asked questions when someone notices the stylish $249 smartwatch. The Moto 360 price puts this smart watch out of impulse buy territory, but the design and features live up to the expense of buying one.
The Moto 360 only works with Android smartphones, but you don’t need a Motorola smartphone like the new Moto X for this to work. The Moto 360 connects to any Android phone with Android 4.3 or higher using the Android Wear app. You cannot use the Moto 360 with an iPhone, and the actions are limited when the Moto 360 is not connected to a smartphone by Bluetooth.
A recent update dramatically boosts the Moto 360 battery life, delivering almost two days of use with battery conserving settings and a full day when using a setting that keeps the screen lit partially.
Read: Moto X 2014 Review
Over the last several years companies have tried and tried to deliver a compelling smart watch or wearable gadget, but battery life, notifications and feature limitations continually got in the way. After trying everything from a prototype made by a company Google purchased to multiple Samsung smart watches and a Pebble, the Moto 360 stands out in several key areas after a month of use.
Moto 350 Video Review
Watch our Moto 360 video review to understand what the smartwatch can do, why we like it and other important details.
Moto 360 Design
The Moto 360 features a circular display wrapped in a stainless steel case in black and in stainless steel. Right now the only Moto 360 bands are leather, but Motorola will sell you a stainless steel Moto 360 in the coming months. If you buy a leather Moto 360 you’ll be able to buy a stainless steel band for the Moto 360 around the time this new model launches.
The circular design helps keep the overall feel of this somewhat large watch face in check. This is not too big for my wrist by any means, but users with smaller wrists may want to try one on before buying. A gold-colored ring accents the crown on the side of the stainless steel watch case, which users can press to turn the display on or off.
The leather Moto 360 watch band, from Horween, feels like a very nice leather band. It’s a nice change from the plastic snap to close band found on the Samsung Gear Fit. You can swap out Moto 360 bands like most watches and while you don’t need to buy one specifically for this watch, you can’t use just any band.
It’s OK to shower with the Moto 360 on as it is IP67 dust and water-resistant, but it isn’t designed to survive swimming or sitting in a hot tub.
Moto 360 Display
The circular Moto 360 display is perhaps the biggest reason this smartwatch catches eyes when you wear it. When you move the watch towards your face the watch face lights up to show you the time, notifications and more. This is a scratch resistant touch display and it’s where the main interaction takes place.
I was worried that I would scratch the face up for the first several days, but the Gorilla Glass finish does a good job: even though I ended up smacking the watch face against a few hard surfaces, it looks just like new.
At first glance the Moto 360 display looks like a full circle, but the bottom edge includes a small area to drive the display and house the ambient light sensor. When you use a white watch face this stands out more than with the black faces. Although this is not as exciting as a completely circular display, it is not something that should bother most users.
The glass that covers the display is chamfered on the edges, which may look great on a traditional watch, but on a display like this it only serves to make parts of the display near the edge look fuzzy.
Overall the Moto 360 display looks good, even with a relatively low resolution. This isn’t something to read a book on, but a place to see the time, or see why your phone is buzzing and respond. When the backlight is on, the Moto 360 display is usable in the sun.
While driving at night many smartwatches interpret a turn as a gesture to turn the display on. The Moto 360 does a fairly good job of keeping the display off while driving, although it isn’t perfect.
Moto 360 Features & Software
There are a number of Moto 360 features that stand out after using the smartwatch for a month. It is really tough to do notifications well on a wrist. The same frequency of notifications that make sense on a phone are overwhelming on a watch.
Although the Moto 360 can show Gmail notifications I quickly turned them off, as they are overwhelming and too easily interrupt my work. Google Hangouts notifications are on and useful even though they can be rapid fire. I like that I can quickly reply with a canned message or with my voice.
The Moto 360 shows any notification that is visible on the phone you connect it to. This means on an average day I see the following notifications.
- Convo – alerts for team communication.
- Hangouts – work and friends.
- Facebook – alerts for personal and for Facebook Pages.
- ESPN Fantasy Football – Alerts for injured players and score updates.
- Texts and Phone Calls – alerts for both core phone functions.
- Weather – today and a forecast for upcoming days
- Team alerts – Score alerts for football teams I follow.
When I want to stop the notifications and relax or focus on work I simply pull down from the top of the watch face to mute notifications. This leaves the rest of the Moto 360 functions available and easy to use without the need to grab my phone to turn off notifications one by one on the phone, or disconnect for peace and quiet.
When you listen to an audiobook or music on an Android phone there is a small notification with playback controls in the notification drawer. This appears on the Moto 360 with cover art for easy on-the-wrist controls.
The Moto 360 includes support for what is essentially Google Now on your wrist. When the watch face is lit up you can say “Ok Google” and then set reminders, take a note, get a translation or pretty much any other request you can ask Google Now to perform. From your wrist you can say, “OK Google, send a text” to quickly send a text. You can dismiss a call or even answer it, but if you answer you need to grab your phone, as this is not a bluetooth speakerphone.
Voice control works great when you have a good connection to the phone and when the phone has a good connection as well. A recent update delivered better connectivity between the watch and the phone, but there are still times where I try to use voice control for some capacity and the voice search stalls out.
While traveling with the Moto 360 I used the watch to get walking directions. It’s possible to start these with voice and get updates on the wrist as you walk. This was one of my favorite Google Glass features, and it’s less conspicuous when it’s on my wrist.
There is a built-in pedometer and heart rate tracker. You can check your heart rate and view the past heart rate information. There is also a heart activity tracker to help you make sure you are active enough during the day for a healthy heart, but this is not something I use every day.
Some apps will connect and show special information, like recipe information from AllTheCooks, and there is even Tinder and Lyft integration.
I enjoy using the Moto Connect app to customize the watch faces. This lets you choose the color combinations and time zones for watch faces to match your style.
What the Moto 360 Does without a Connection
When the Moto 360 is not connected to your phone the list of things it can do drops significantly. The watch will still show calendar alerts so you know when your next event or meeting is.
The Moto 360 can also continue to act as a fitness tracker with pedometer and heart rate tracking. It can also function as an alarm clock and timer, and you can also use it to tell the time. That’s pretty much it, so you’ll want to carry your phone with you instead of viewing the Moto 360 as a replacement for your phone.
Moto 360 Battery Life
For the first several weeks of use the Moto 360 battery life didn’t last as long as it needed to. Using the battery saving mode it would last all day during the week and run low on the weekend. Using the ambient light sensor that keeps the display on just enough to see the time without lighting up the display was not an option, as it left the watch dead before bedtime.
A recent update now delivers all day Moto 360 battery life with the ambient light sensor on and nearly two days of use when battery saving mode is on.
The Moto 360 charges with a wireless charging dock that also turns it into a bedside clock. This is better than a micro USB port or some type of dongle, but it also means something else to pack when you travel.
Is the Moto 360 Worth Buying?
The Moto 360 is the best smartwatch I’ve used. It delivers timely notifications in a stylish design and the battery life lasts long enough to get me through two days.
Voice control doesn’t always work, but that’s still a challenge we run into with many smartphones, so it is hopefully something that will improve over time. One update already fixed the connectivity issue that prevented the OK Google usage from working.
Like picking out any other watch or personal accessory, it is a personal choice, but for users who want a great smartwatch experience on Android, the Moto 360 is the watch to buy.
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