Motorola Moto 360 (2014) Smart Watch Review

Motorola Moto 360 (2014) Smart Watch Review

TLDR?  Quick version here

First off, yes you read the title correctly.  This is a review of the original 360 and not the brand new one.  Why you may ask, well in part because I’ve been meaning to write this for ages and partly because there are simply somethings that you do not pick up on if you have used a device for 2 weeks.  Something’s you discover only when you have lived with something for a long time and its only then you discover that there are things, had you been aware of, you may not have bothered getting one.  Think of it like a marriage.  The first while is all fun and laughter but time can breed contempt.  So how well has the 360 held up?  Should you snap one up cheap and what lessons have we learnt going forward?  Let’s see shall we.

First Impressions:  Ahhh casting the mind far back into the depths and it arriving in its round box.  Ooh so pretty.  Inside the watch itself, round too sitting there, it looks bloody good.  They have gone out of their way to make you think that the 360 is a watch, not a smart phone or tiny computer, it’s a watch, round and above all a joy for the eyes to behold and well…………… they pretty much nailed it.  The 360 was pretty much the unquestioned pretty one among the first wave of Android Wear devices.  It is deserved.

Picking it up and it feels so plush and quality.  The strap is real dead cow and feels nice to the touch, the facia with its bare metal glass.  So much pretty and quality to the touch.  I’m not wild about leather straps, I’d rather metal but it seems that Motorola decided that they couldn’t use standard watch strap fittings.  I don’t know if it’s just to be awkward but it’s a bloody annoyance.  Something that the new one has corrected so clearly Moto picked up on the feedback.  Additionally while the leather strap looks nice it has a traditional buckle mechanism,  which is not the most straightforward for taking on and off with regularity.  This is going to be an issue going forward.

Specifications:  Display 1.56” 320 x 290, 205 ppi, Backlit LCD IPS, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3, Watch Case Dimensions, 46 mm diameter x 11.5 mm high, Weight 60 g (without strap), Battery 320 mAh  Wireless charging with charging dock included, Processor TI OMAP™ 3, Memory 4 GB internal storage with 512 MB RAM, Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, Wi-Fi, Sensors Pedometer (9-axis sensor), Ambient light sensor, Optical heart rate monitor (PPG), Water Resistance IP67

It also comes in 2 colours, black or silver and a few strap combos too.  Though they are proprietary watch straps which is just odd.  I mean why do it, urgh.

Accessories:  It came with a charger with a built in USB cable, grr.  It also came with its little charging dock and a normal micro USB cable for it.  If you want more things, like more straps or screen covers, as ever hit up eBay.  Sad that they didn’t use normal watch strap attachments but for a bit more money you can still get a fair assortment of straps.

Fit/Comfort:  Perfectly fine.  It’s a watch, granted it’s a little big for a watch but not wildly so.  On it went, and that was basically it.  I’d have preferred a metal strap but not enough to go to the bother of actually changing the strap myself.

Screen:  AMOLED lovely gorgeous prettiness.   The screen is also mostly round, with what’s been dubbed the “flat tire” at the bottom.  When the 360 first came out feelings were mixed, some didn’t mind and that thought that it was a good trade-off for having super thin bezels.  It’s a shame both perfectly round and thin bezels can’t be had but……. in use you just pick a facia that doesn’t light up the whole screen.  Something that isn’t noticeably missing the bottom and then honestly, I didn’t really miss it.  Sure when playing with watch faces, perfectly round ones with something obviously missing was the only time it bothered me.  Most of the time in use, I didn’t only not mind but I never really even noticed it was there.  You just forget that there is anything missing.

However……………… while the “flat tire” thing didn’t bother me what did was the round screen.  Does a round screen look pretty, oh god yes it does.  Then it’s an AMOLED which just looks sooooooooooooooo pretty it’s just gorgeous, there is just no way around the fact that the 360 is a lovely, super pretty thing.  Thing is, there is a reason why we use rectangular monitors and TV’s.  A round screen is just stupid.  The UI clearly wants things to be square and text especially gets partially cut off at the top and bottom of the screen where it rounds off.  It just hammers the functionality and having a Moto 360 and a Sony Smart Watch 3, the Sony is the one I pick up and want to use every day.

UI:  Android Wear is Android Wear.  It’s in a reasonably rapid state of development still being only a year old.  On the whole it’s good, however there is still the screen, rounded and thus missing bits from the top and bottom, issue.  The UI is just simply not made with round screens in mind and thus it’s a pain.  However the problem is the round face and not the UI in my opinion.  Trying not to turn this into an Android Wear review which is a different article entirely.  However expect things like swiping in from the upper left to be regularly, mildly frustrating.  It’s not terrible but I did get on my nerves.

Features:  So the stand out things on the 360, for me, are the round screen,  its stunningly good looks, its heart rate sensor and lastly its Qi charging.  Now if you are in the know you’ll notice that those are basically the differentiation points between the 360 and the Sony 3.

So that round screen.  See above frankly.  Pretty but at the price of usability.  It really is very pretty but the cost for me is just too high.  However if you kept this maybe just for going out of an evening, when pretty really matters then great.  It is such a pretty thing.

Heart rate, well it kinda works but it doesn’t seem to continuously monitor so while it is interesting, if you’re a fitness freak why would you be using this device?  It would be like wearing dress evening shoes for running.  It’ll do the job but it’s clearly the wrong tool for activity.

Qi.  Ahhh you know I love Qi charging and I can tell you that every watch should have it.  That you slap it down in its little dock, you can instantly see that it’s charging, that any Qi charger works are all boons.  It makes charging the thing every night (and you will be charging it every night) not just into a requirement but it turns into a little clock.  It lights up with a clock face in the right orientation.  Just perfect for living on a bedside table.  All Wear watches should have Qi charging.

Build Quality:  On the surface, its perfect.  The construction quality is exemplary and it’s simply beauteous to behold to both the eye and the fingers.  Note that while perfectly built it doesn’t mean you can’t break it.  The watch straps and put under pressure can shatter the back screen.  While that’s fairly rare it’s a stupid design flaw not a manufacturing issue.

Usability:  Take a wild guess what causes a usability issue?  Yep that round screen.  While it wasn’t as awkward as the Sun S2 with its bevelled edge making it hard to touch things near the edges.  The 360 is clean glass right to the edge so you can access it all perfectly.  The issue is that the UI is clearly intended for a rectangular screen.  So that isn’t really the 360’s fault per say but you get the idea.  It doesn’t make anything impossible to do or really much different but a square screen would just be better.

Battery:  Well it has a 360mAh battery.  The battery is not the issue though, the issue is the screen.  That super pretty AMOLED screen you see, needs to be actively transmitting light to be seen.  It is an emissive screen and its battery hungry.  Then you have the option to have it auto light up with a flick of the wrist or you can have it run in a dim passive mode most of the time so it’s something you can glance at and see.  This however is battery destroying.  Leaving the screen on and the battery life just plummets like a lead weight.  If you make use of the thing or have the dim always lit up feature in use then expect to start charging the thing halfway through your day.  I get that the battery itself isn’t the problem, nor can it really grew much physically but that’s not my problem, it’s for Moto engineers to solve.  Even if you use it without passively being on still expect the thing to want charged every single night.

Connectivity:  So its main method of world communication is via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy.  That’s great, it pairs to your phone, the phone does the thinking and data transmission all over that power sipping Bluetooth connection.  You also have the option to use Wi-Fi.  You can use it to keep your phone and watch in communication, via Wi-Fi and the internet.  You know, for when your phone is out of Bluetooth range yet you still need to be connected to it, if not physically near it.  Why you may wonder, I certainly did.  The only scenario I can see it popping up is if at work you go to the bathroom, leaving your phone behind but are waiting for some urgent email.  You need that notification that it’s come in.  It’s a stretch I know, mostly it’s a stupid feature that just further hammers the battery.  Of course you can just leave Wi-Fi off which is what I do.

Value:  When it launched it was what, £200.  So pretty but yeah that battery life.  Now with its successor just announced, this will have practically identical functionality and features.  Seriously they changed almost nothing, as I see it they have added a smaller one for girls, moved the button up a bit and altered the strap attachment to that of a normal standard watch.  Like every other watch on earth.  Price though, well this one’s fallen so I saw somewhere selling it for £113.  The New one is retailing for US$300, that’s £200 and that’s before VAT and the obligatory you’re not an American price hike.  So that makes the old one probably less than half the price of the new one.  To me that seems like pretty reasonable value in comparison to the new one.

Conclusion:  So what have I learned from the Moto 360 (2014.)  I’ve learned that pretty only gets you so far.  The 360 is pretty, it’s the prettiest Android Wear device I have seen and the old one, to me is still better looking than the new one.  I get that while I bitched about the straps being some weird proprietary thing and that it can break the glass back of you put them under pressure but…… damn it’s a good looking device.  If you want a Wear watch for going out, to look great in a business meeting to impress someone for whatever reason or situation the old 360 is a damn fine looking machine.  Oh and that AMOLED, ooooooh just soooooooooooooooooo much pretty.

However, those good looks have left it compromised.  Round screen, they are just awkward and there is a reason we don’t use round screens or round sheets of paper, it’s a pain.  That strap, the weird fit attachment.  Yeah, so for me that means I’m pretty much not changing the strap.  I’d really like one with a clasp rather than a buckle because the battery life is such that you need to take the damn thing off every 20 min to charge it.  Granted its little dock is cool but you really need one for the office and one for your bedside.  Though in fairness any old Qi charger will do fine.  AMOLED, it’s just the wrong tech for a watch.  I need always on to glance ta the thing and that while better than lighting up a whole LCD screen it is still too battery heavy.

So should you buy one?  Well I’d easily buy this over its successor, its price slash makes it waaaaaaaaay better value and offers practically identical functionality and features.  Still you have to want to sacrifice usability to get that super pretty round screen.  for me, na I’ll take the Sony but if you want something to visually impress on a budget, the old Moto 360 is pretty (oh so pretty) option that won’t destroy your wallet.

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