Moto 360 Smartwatch Review
What makes a watch smartwatch? Some would argue that mechanical gears working in perfect syncopation already represents huge intelligence, but now a days a watch is expected to do more than just tell time and date. In some cases, much more.
Take a example of the Motorola Moto 360, the newest gadget that aims to put the world on your wrist. It is an attractive, a sexy HDTV, ambitious device to the Pebble’s black-and-white cathode tube. Nothing else comes close. The Apple Watch, released last month, appears to raise your wrist IQ even higher.
But for now we have the Moto 360, so let’s take a look at what it does and, more important, how well it does it. Or if it should do it at all.
This is not going to be a traditional review, and let me preface it by saying I have three basic requirements for a smartwatch (which may well vary from your own): nice design, simplistic operation, and reasonable price. If it looks like a palm pilot strapped to my wrist, I won’t wear it. If it has an super-complicated or buggy interface (Sony SmartWatch 2), I won’t use it. And if it costs too much (Apple Watch), I won’t buy it.
My Moto, My Self
Moto 360 choose watch face at first blush, the Moto 360 appears to hit all the right notes. It’s having stunning round watch face, though it’s still larger and thicker than one would like.
The smartwatch interface is powered by Android Wear, keeps things reasonably simple; double-tap to invoke Google Now voice commands, or swipe in various directions to access various functions.
Finally, the Moto 360 is surely not cheap at $249.99, but it doesn’t feel overpriced. Instead, you feel like you’re getting a pretty nice deal on an advanced luxury timepiece-cum-smartphone-accessory.
And that’s finally what the watch is: An extension of your smartphone. One that delivers notifications (calls, text messages, appointments) to your wrist. Likewise, it adapts Google Now onto a small, round screen, letting you easily retrieve driving directions, stock quotes, weather alerts, and the like.
More Features, More Problems
Moto 360 three-panel all this is fine — good, even — but here’s where the Moto 360 goes overboard: fitness tracking. Specifically, the watch keeps tabs on both your steps and your heart rate. No doubt those features add to the device’s bulk, and to little benefit. All this quantified-self stuff? Bunche hooey. A smattering of users might modify their lifestyles toward a 10,000-daily-steps goal, and an even smaller subset might target their workouts to a particular heart rate. I’m not sure who decided all smartwatches should double as pedometers and triple as heart monitors, but it’s to the device’s detriment.
Indeed, when I look at the watch, a full third of the screen is occupied by a step-count banner. If I swipe to get rid of it, I usually (though not always) end up at some other screen I didn’t want. And if I decide I want it back, I can’t figure out how to restore it. Likewise, the interface is really wonky if you want it to show your heart rate.
In other words, Motorola decided to pack in extra features I don’t want, price the Moto 360 higher than perhaps needed, and add a confusing layer to the interface. Oh, and let’s not forget battery life: The 360 is good for a day, period. And while the little inductive-charging cradle is mighty cool, it’s awfully impractical for travel.
If I could take this gadget back to the drawing board, it would emerge as the Moto 180. Same basic design, but slimmer because it has no fitness features. Or, heck, leave it chunky, but pack in a bigger battery. Or engineer a self-charging feature that draws power from motion or the heat of your skin. If nothing else, the watch needs to charge using the same cable that charges your phone. Any other option adds too much to the hassle factor, at least when traveling.
250 = 360
Let me sum all this up by saying the Moto 360 is a good piece of hardware, one that any Android user would likely find an asset to his or her wrist. (Sorry, iPhone crowd – this one won’t pair with iOS). It’s cool, capable, and leaps and bounds ahead of most of the competition. And $250 just isn’t a bad price.
On the other hand, the original Pebble now sells for $99, and even though it’s an ugly chunk of plastic, it gets the feature set almost exactly right. No extra fitness stuff, just useful notifications and info – plus decent battery life. Are you listening, Motorola? And Apple? And Sony and Samsung and all the rest of you? It’s time for someone to get this exactly right.