For $530 The Moto 360 Should Be Much Better Than It Is

For $530 The Moto 360 Should Be Much Better Than It Is
It’s fine but too expensive to be this boring. (Photo: Victoria Song, Gizmodo)

There’s nothing wrong with the new, rebooted Motorola Moto 360. There’s just nothing special about it either.

To get why that’s disappointing, it helps to revisit the Moto 360’s past. When it launched in 2014, the original Moto 360 was one of the most popular Wear OS (then Android Wear) smartwatches. It was the first round, touchscreen smartwatch and, as a bonus, it was nice to look at, too. Even though the watch had some drawbacks—notably the infamous flat-tire bezel—it definitely left an impression strong enough to warrant a sequel. Then, in late 2016, Motorola called it quits on the smartwatch market, citing an overall lack of interest in wearables.

Fast forward to 2019 when a new Moto 360 was announced. Early reports showed it had the same attractive style as the original, but with upgraded guts. There was one small wrinkle: The watch wasn’t made by Motorola. The company behind this new Moto 360 is eBuyNow. You might be wondering: Who now? The company describes itself on its website as “the most ubiquitous consumer electronics vertical you’ve never heard of.” Basically, eBuyNow tuned into our collective nostalgia and decided to get the licence to make a zombie Moto 360.

Moto 360 (2019)

WHAT IS IT?

The third iteration of the Moto 360—notably not by Motorola

PRICE

$US350 ($532)

LIKE

It works. Fitness-tracking was accurate. Decent battery life for Wear OS.

NO LIKE

Dim screen. It doesn't do anything different from other Wear OS watches to justify the price.

But a lot has changed since 2016. Round touchscreens on sleek smartwatches aren’t novel anymore. In fact, for Wear OS watches, they’ve become the norm. This new Moto 360 isn’t exactly sporting anything revolutionary on the inside. As far as specs go, the watch looks the same on paper as the Fossil Gen 5 and Skagen Falster 3.

It’s powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip and 1GB of RAM, has 8GB of storage, and has the array of sensors you’d expect from a Wear OS watch these days, including an accelerometer, barometer, continuous heart rate-monitoring, gyroscope, built-in GPS, and NFC payments. The commonalities extend to the Moto 360's quick-charging feature, which is designed to go from zero to 100 per cent battery in about an hour. This was admittedly a cool feature....in 2018 when it was introduced on the Fossil Sport.

The Moto 360 is pretty much like any other Wear OS watch out there right now when it comes to features as well as specs. The 1.2-inch AMOLED screen is kind of dim, and I found the always-on display hard to read even in a bright room or under direct sunlight. For fitness-tracking, you’ll have to rely on Google Fit out of the box, which is better than it used to be but still not comparable to the Apple Watch’s Workout app, for instance. Real fitness buffs are better off just downloading the Wear OS version of their favourite workout app on the Moto 360.

The always-on display is quite dim, but it’s also not exactly bright when the main screen is on. (Photo: Victoria Song, Gizmodo)

Even the Moto 360's design is lacklustre. It comes in three different colours: rose gold, steel grey, and black. I tested the grey model, which is supposed to come with two straps (one silicone and one leather). My review unit was initially missing the leather strap, but that’s likely because press samples sometimes get recycled between publications. (Ew.) I eventually got sent the leather strap, which is exactly how you’d expect a leather strap to look—albeit it got scuffed as soon as I took it out of the box.

The leather strap elevated the Moto 360's overall look, but the silicone band wasn’t what I’d call ugly by any measure. The Moto 360 just plays it a little safe by 2020 design standards. It’s not hideous; it’s also not gorgeous. It’s simply inoffensive to look at and relatively comfortable to wear. As far as round, Android-friendly smartwatches go, I found both the Falster 3 and Samsung Galaxy Active2 to be better-looking devices. The most distinctive design element on the Moto 360 is the teeny tiny Motorola M on the top pusher.

The Motorola M on the pusher is probably the most distinctive thing about the Moto 360"s design. (Photo: Victoria Song, Gizmodo)

The Moto 360's battery life is decent. I got on average of somewhere between 36 and 48 hours on a charge, depending on how heavy my GPS usage was. The quick-charge feature also meant I didn’t have to worry if a half-hour of charging would juice up the watch enough to last me the train ride to the office, let alone the rest of the day.

When it comes to fitness-tracking, the Moto 360 performed well over two test runs. On one run, the Moto 360 logged a distance of 4.58 miles and an average pace of 10'30". That’s within striking distance of the 4.62 miles and 10'20" pace logged by my phone. By comparison, I simultaneously wore an Apple Watch Series 5, which logged 4.5 miles and an average pace of 10'40".

On my second run, my phone logged a distance of 3.1 miles and an average pace of 9'55". The Moto 360 again showed impressive results, logging 3.08 miles and a 10'05" average pace. The Series 5, meanwhile, logged 3.03 miles and a pace of 10'11". These are fairly slight differences, but more importantly, it shows the Moto 360's results remained consistent compared to my other two devices. The same was true of heart rate. The graphs for the two runs appeared nearly identical on the Series 5, Moto 360, and my Polar H10 chest strap.

A look at the sensors. (Photo: Victoria Song, Gizmodo)

The Moto 360 is a mostly fine smartwatch, but not terribly exciting. It’s pretty much on par with every other Wear OS smartwatch on the market in every way except one: price. The Moto 360 costs a whopping $US350 ($532). When you consider that it’s basically a Motorola-branded Fossil watch, that doesn’t make much sense. Unless you get a fancy-pants metal strap, the Fossil watches generally retail for $400, or $100 less than the Moto 360. Even a more premium version of the Gen 5 costs $40 less at $499. If the guts and the operating system are basically the same, then the Moto 360's higher price doesn’t track given the fewer design choices and dimmer screen.

This is doubly true when you consider the Galaxy Active2, which costs $US300 ($456) for the 42mm (which is the same size as the Moto 360). Simply put, the Galaxy Active2 delivers way more bang for your buck. Samsung designed a better OS, called Tizen, for its watch, which also has a more innovative touch bezel navigation and will eventually be able to take electrocardiograms. And while I had issues with fitness-tracking accuracy during testing, Samsung has since released multiple software updates. Heck, even a $289 Fitbit Versa 2 has many of the same features and can be dressed up in more ways than the Moto 360.

The leather strap definitely elevates the look, but it still looks like every other Fossil watch. (Photo: Victoria Song, Gizmodo)

Nostalgia can be powerful when it comes to tech. You only have to look as far as the initial hype surrounding Motorola’s foldable Razr phone to see proof of that. But while Motorola shat the bed with the Razr’s launch, people were excited that a beloved piece of tech was coming back in a new way. That’s...not the case with the Moto 360. And, with the $2,699 foldable Razr, most people weren’t willing to pay buckets of cash for that vague sense of, “Oh, remember when?” That’s even truer when it comes to the Moto 360, a smartwatch that triggers nostalgic feelings for just a small subset of gadget nerds. Given that it doesn’t offer much in the way of new features and costs more than most Wear OS watches out there, this is ultimately a reboot that is most remarkable for how unremarkable it is.

README

  • Internally, it’s the same as the Fossil Gen 5. Also runs on Wear OS.

  • Accurate fitness tracking, but doesn’t offer unique apps.

  • At $US350 ($532), it’s too expensive compared to competitors that offer the same specs and more style options for at least $80 less.