Motorola Moto 360: Australian Review

Motorola Moto 360: Australian Review

So what makes a good smartwatch? We’ve seen so many bad ones that it’s tough to define. Whatever it is, the Motorola Moto 360 has it.

  • Display: 1.56-inch, 320×290 pixels (205ppi), backlit LCD, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Dimensions: 46mm x 11.5mm, 49 grams
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Storage: 4GB internal, no external
  • Water Resistant: Yes, IP67-rated
  • Processor: TI OMAP 3, 512MB RAM

Probably the best smartwatch on the market right now.

Sitting at the heart of a traditional 22mm watch strap is the Moto 360’s groundbreaking 1.56-inch. It’s 11.5mm-thick, and packs 4GB of storage, a TI OMAP 3 processor and 512MB of RAM, complete with Bluetooth 4.0. It also features a heart rate monitor to detect your pulse and report it back to your phone, and a microphone to hear what you’re saying.

It’s running the Android Wear platform and pairs with your Bluetooth 4.0-equipped Android-based smartphone. All standard faire.

The Moto 360 with the black leather band will hit Australia on 31 October and cost $329. A stainless steel band version will be available for $359, but for that one you’ll have to wait until early next year.

What’s Good?

At Google’s annual I/O developer conference this year, the Moto 360 was the stand-out attraction. Seriously, go back and watch the keynote: every single year, Google gives out developer freebies like Nexus phones and tablets, and this year that swag bag included a few smartwatches.

The LG G-Watch was announced as the first freebie, as well as the Samsung Gear S. Those two were met with smatterings of applause. When the circular Moto 360 was announced as a freebie, the crowd went nuts. People stood up for this thing when they saw its picture on the screen. The Moto 360 and its uniquely circular face is a big deal.

Other manufacturers have figured out the circle is where it’s at for smartwatches now, with LG fashioning the G-Watch R as its latest wearable. We’ll have a review of that one soon, but the punchline is that to be a cool wearable, you have to make it circular.

And it isn’t just a meaningless hype machine, either. If you’re into wearables, you’re going to want a great circular watch like the Moto 360. It feels like Motorola has thrown brains at a great-looking watch, rather than just build a wrist computer disguised as something that normal people are meant to wear.

The first thing you notice when you slip the Moto 360 around your wrist is just how good it feels to wear. It ships with a leather strap rather than a rubberised bit of 22mm plastic, and that initial feel of quality really helps you to bond with the thing. It sounds stupid, bonding with technology, but this is something you’re going to wear pretty much all the time. It has to feel like a companion.

Alternatively, if you want it to feel super-familiar, install the 22mm watch strap you’re already using on your old dumb watch. Perfik.

The face is rimmed in silver (or gold if you like), and the build quality is remarkable for a smartwatch that only costs $329. You’d pay a lot more for a decent dumb watch these days.

The circular screen is bright and contrasty, and easily visible in full sunlight. Other reviews have said that the worst thing about the 360 is the so-called bottom bezel: a little sliver of black that interrupts the screen at the base of the panel. Honestly, you stop noticing it almost immediately. The watch faces are so beautiful and the Google Now cards so readable that it ceases to become an issue.

The Moto 360 also ships with one of the best charging stations we’ve yet seen for a smartwatch. While other wearables ship with wireless charging plates, the Moto 360 is the only one to ship with a bespoke dock in the box. You rest your smartwatch in this handsome cradle, and it drops into sleep mode, which is this pleasing dimmed face with a navy blue display of the time turned horizontally to sit the right way up in your cradle. That’s awesome. It really shows the care paid in the development phase to how you’ll use the smartwatch every single day and night.

Speaking of charging, you’ll have to do it once every 25 hours at an absolute maximum. The battery life is much improved since launch, and of that particular release cycle (between the Gear Live, G-Watch and 360), it has the best battery life in class. Since then, the G-Watch R has equalled it, but hasn’t come close to beating it. The charging dock encourages you to pop it in at the end of the day, let it charge overnight and put it on the next morning. It’s a subtle way of modifying your behaviour around the device.

The TI OMAP processor ensures everything runs quickly and smoothly, with cards and their relevant animations loading with no noticeable stuttering or lag.

Honestly, this is a fantastic smartwatch, especially considering it’s Motorola’s first attempt, but that’s not to say it’s not without issues.

What’s Bad?

Google’s Android Wear platform is based on giving you relevant information when you need it, and allowing you to use your voice to get information ad-hoc when you want it. That’s a great idea, but the Moto 360 is terrible at executing the promise of the latter.

Its voice recognition is garbage. It couldn’t recognise a single command on the first try. You try again to have it recognise you a few times, and then find that you’re just shouting at your wrist and looking like an idiot. It breaks the promise of a smartwatch, and that’s not ok.

While the bottom bezel isn’t distracting in the slightest, the glass ridge on the screen very much is. Basically there’s a slight angled rise to the display glass, meaning that when you look at it from an angle (which is most of the time), you get this weird parallax effect which is super distracting.

On top of all that, Android Wear still doesn’t make sense to me as a platform. I mean, I get that it’s meant to help you decide whether or not you’re meant to take your phone out of your pocket, but $329 at a minimum is a pretty sizable ask for what is still essentially just a remote control for your phone. Wear is still missing a bunch of features in Australia, too, thanks to the half-baked version of Google Now we’re saddled with.

Android Wear needs to do far more, especially in the Australian market, to be a decent value proposition.

Should You Buy It?

Every smartwatch has problems, from where I sit. If buying a good product means getting one with the least amount of stuff wrong with it, the Moto 360 is on the money.

Taking a slightly more positive slant on it, the Moto 360 really feels like a quality smartwatch, and not just a miniaturised computer that you’re meant to strap to your body.

If you’re going to buy a smartwatch, the Moto 360 is the one you want.