Moto 360 coming soon, but other circular Android Wear smartwatches may be close behind (hands-on)

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/ Updated: August 25, 2014 4:43 PM PDT

The long buildup to the release of the Moto 360 may turn out to be an anticlimax.

The smartwatch has been highly anticipated since it was first teased in March -- and then again, at the Google I/O show in June -- because of its unique circular design. (Most other smartwatches to date have been square or rectangular.) But now, as its promised "summer" release deadline approaches, the Moto 360 is losing its mysterious allure -- even as some heavyweight competitors appear poised to ape its rounded design.

The trouble started on August 17, when retailer Best Buy mistakenly leaked the 360's product page on its website -- apparently revealing the smartwatch's price and full specs.

Now, the 360 looks to be getting two more high-profile circular competitors running the same Android Wear operating system: one from LG and one from Samsung. Indeed, both companies appear to already be one-upping the respective original Android Wear smartwatches (the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live) they released just a few weeks ago to a mostly tepid response. And while Motorola has already scheduled a September 4 media invite to reveal more about the watch (and maybe some new phones, too), the Korean manufacturers have press conferences scheduled at the IFA tech show in Berlin, Germany one day earlier. (CNET will have in-depth coverage of both, along with everything else at IFA.)

So, with the clock ticking, it's a good time to recap what we do -- and don't -- know about the Moto 360 so far.

Another Android Wear watch

Square or round, all Android Wear smartwatches will largely have the same look and feel from a software and interface perspective, since Google isn't allowing the different "skins" you see among various Android phone manufacturers. So, like other Android Wear watches -- current and rumored -- the Moto 360 will be a wrist-based tether to your Android smartphone, offering Google Now voice commands for sending texts, getting directions, and music playback. With the smartwatch you'll also be able to receive and dismiss notifications, accept or decline calls, and dictate notes and reminders.

It also means the Moto 360 will work with Android 4.3 or later phones, but not with iPhones.

moto-360-9694.jpg
James Martin/CNET

Rumored specs and pricing

Of course, just because the 360 uses the same OS, it doesn't mean it's a clone of those earlier (and somewhat underwhelming) Android Wear watches. In addition to its design, the 360 promises to offer some features not found in the earlier LG and Samsung models.

While the Best Buy leaks haven't been confirmed (Motorola declined to comment), both the pricing -- $250 in the US -- and the specs seemed to fall in the "more believable than not" category. Among the highlights: the 360 will reportedly boast a 1.5-inch backlit Gorilla Glass 3 LCD touchscreen with a 320x290 resolution and 205 pixels per inch, an optical heart rate monitor, a pedometer, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless, and a lithium ion battery.

Motorola had already confirmed that the 360 was waterproof to some degree, and the leak indicates it can go down about 3.3 feet (1 meter) for 30 minutes -- in other words, it should be OK to wear in the shower.

A subsequent (also unconfirmed) leak seemed to point to wireless charging as well.

moto-360-9693.jpg
James Martin/CNET

Hands-on with the Moto 360

When we saw the 360 at I/O, the round design set the Moto apart from the other two initial Android Wear watches, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. The round design is meant to appeal to both genders while ditching the sharp corners that can dig into your wrist. Promises aside, the shape is an improvement over the square designs that we normally see and it makes the Moto 360 look like a regular fashion watch from a distance.

And how does it look in person? Very nice, but probably bigger than you'd expect. The round face feels about as large around as a silver dollar, and the steel casing is about as thick as a Pebble Steel. Svelte this is not. A single button on the side of the Moto 360 turns the display on and off

And yes, for whatever reason, the 360's face is not a complete circle. The flat black band you see at the bottom of the face is permanent, not something that's temporarily on the screen.

A leather band attaches cleanly to the body and buckles up like a standard watchband; it's comfy and even supple.

The back of the Moto 360 is mysteriously devoid of standard connectors or charge ports, which bolsters that wireless charging rumor.

moto-360-9696.jpg
James Martin/CNET

Remaining questions

Within a few days, the remaining questions about the Moto 360 should be answered. But those answers will be coming concurrently with the announcement of competing round-faced Android Wear watches from LG and Samsung. (Of course, when those newly announced products will be available is anyone's guess.)

Whether the 360's reign as the "only" circular Android Wear smartwatch is over before it starts has yet to be seen. But one thing's for sure: the smartwatch race is about to get even more competitive.

Editors' note: This story has been updated extensively since its original publication, with additional information on the Moto 360 and its competitors. Josh Goldman and John P. Falcone contributed to this story.

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