Moto 360 Review
Pebble, Samsung, Google, and Apple. These four major contenders have all entered into the Smartwatch and wearable race. A sound argument has been given for Smartwatches usefulness and style. However, what is the result of these companies effort to get their technical ideologies on your wrist? One such company that has been at it for about a year now is Motorola and I am here today to examine their wrist wrapping offering the Moto 360.
When it comes to Smartwatches my idea on what sort of experience they should bring to the table is vastly different than a smartphone, tablet, laptop or greater computer. These companies have a hard sale trying to get people to buy into these miniaturized computers. One of the biggest hurdles these companies face a certain Smartphone Phenomena. What is this Smartphone Phenomena? It is the tendency for consumers to put devices into same category as a smartphone because it uses apps, or what the commercial industry likes to call a "Smart Thing". For a long time tablets were a hard sale because they were basically glorified smartphones, which even til this day, you can still make an argument that they are. With the advent of mobile phone tech companies trying to "smartify" different devices other than phones and open source mobile operating systems like Android which is evidently what the Moto 360 runs on, many devices from TVs, to streaming boxes, game consoles, wearable tech, washers, dryers, and cameras all can run Android or contending operating systems. In a good and a bad way this bring more a less feature parody to devices other than your smartphone. This leads many to ask, why do I need this "Smart Thing"? Can't my phone do what it can do? Well, yes, your phone can do all of what that "Smart Thing" can do and then some. You can however, make an argument these devices usefulness and beauty lie in what they cannot do and that's where I think the Moto 360 shines.
The Moto 360 is a collaboration between's Google's customized wearable OS "Android Wear" and the hardware company that was bought out by Lenovo a while back, Motorola. Google's intent in creating this OS and devices that it will run on was to minimize engagement with your phone and other screens, bringing info to you when you need it and letting you make a quick decision on that info so you can get on with your life. The software is quite minimal reflecting that. One of the most common things to do on a phone are to check notifications. Facebook, SMS, Emails, etc. To accommodate this, the Moto 360 has a vertically scrolling interface heavily focused upon notifications. Going through cards representing the notifications on your phone you can swipe right to dismiss a notification. I spend so much time going through dozens of emails, and social network updates that I usual take almost no time to read. Just a simple way to read and dismiss what I do not need to engage with sold me on the concept of a Smartwatch and the Moto 360 more specifically. On the same interface a left swipe on the notification, Twitter for example, will give me the option to engage with it. Some of these options may include replying, retweeting or favoriting a tweet. The options per app may vary.
Speaking of apps, there are many. In a matter of fact during Google's Developer Conference last week it was announced that there are more than 4,000 available apps for Android Wear. These apps are there, but they do not rest front and center. Instead they lay hidden dormant in your settings in case you need or want to use them. The Moto 360 also has always on voice dictation which means that by simply raising the watch with it's face towards mine, the screen will turn on and I can say "Ok, Google.". The watch will start recording my voice and I can ask it a number of things from questions, navigation, I can ask it to text or call someone, open an app, take my heart rate, start a run, write down a note or a reminder along with a slew of other useful functions A caveat I do have with the way these "mini apps" are handled on the version of software that the Moto 360 is on right now is that it makes it very difficult to get to. This has largely been fixed with an update that is headed to the Moto 360 very soon, nevertheless the majority of owners who have had this since it came out still do not have the update. One thing that still hasn't been fixed with the software is the issue with how ephemeral certain apps can be once dismissed. An example of this is Google Hangouts. It's a messaging client that comes with most Android devices. Once you dismiss a Hangouts conversation, you cannot reopen this conversation from the watch. The person who you were talking will have to send you a message or you will have to re-engage with that person with your phone. In areas like these, the lack of consistency plagues the Moto 360 and in that matter all Android Wear devices. They recently added the ability to revive a notification or app soon after it was dismissed but this does not completely fix this issue. This is not a deal breaker for me but it is a product of the struggle that the Moto 360 has with balancing feature richness with the convenient distancing of over-engagement. In the end what remains the same with all app engagements, are that they are quick, they use voice control which is surprising accurate and speedy. 9/10 times it gets the right words down and .5 times is it a critical contexual mistake that needs correcting lest I send something horrible to my boss via text. In other words, voice dictation on the 360 works great.
I have owned my Moto 360 since January and not once have I found myself on it for more than a minute or two unless I was just playing with it to see what cool watch faces were available and that is what I love about it. Often times I save battery on my smartphone because I am not pulling it from my pocket out of a compulsive fear of missing out on critical life altering updates. Well… you may not have that problem, but it is sure nice not to look like a jerk or a social recluse when in public and you are looking down at your phone, your fingers swiping away. Glancing at a watch many times is less problematic and socially acceptable and the fact the 360 looks like a watch is the next big point I wanted to get into.
The Moto 360 is among the few smart wrist devices that looks like a watch, not a miniaturized phone with a fancy watch band. I am looking at you Apple. The 360 is circular and has chamfered metal sides which goes a long way. Many times when in public people do not notice that is a Smartwatch. I have gotten many "That is a nice watch", followed by a "Wow, that's cool, what does it do?" When I explain to them that it is in fact a Smartwatch called the Moto 360. I can feel comfortable if I am going out to eat as it doesn't draw too much attention making me look like a "nerd" with a computer screen strapped to my wrist if I when I dress up. Bands can be swapped out at by watch specialist or by yourself if you know how and have the tools to do it, making this an even more viable option for as a legitimate fashion accessory and there is a wealth of watch faces both free and paid for that you can download that expand your creative expression even further. When it comes to style, although I cannot speak for every individual, looking at today's trend in watches, the Moto 360 is rather large and as a watch may not be attractive to the broadest of female watch wearers as it could or should. As this is a review I found it appropriate to mention this, but in that same light, it can be argued that this watch was aimed more at the male demographic. These are things out of my ability to judge but it is something to take into consideration.
All in all the Moto 360 is far from a perfect device, it doesn't quite blend everything current watch wearers and enthusiast love about time pieces and other jewelry but it is a great start and mighty fine option if you are looking for a companion for your smartphone and more importantly your increasingly connected life.