Everyone's trying to create magic on your wrist. To date, few have succeeded.
Motorola's Moto 360 was the first draw-dropping wearable concept of 2014 when it was teased back in March: a round watch running futuristic Google software, it seemed like a device descended from the middle future. Clearly, this was the next wave of wrist-tech.
The Moto 360 is the first round Android Wear smartwatch. Others will come, including the LG G Watch R, but this is the first you can buy. At $250 in the US, it's $30 more than the original LG G Watch, and $50 more than the Samsung Gear Live. It'll arrive in other countries later this year, costing £200 in the UK, with the US price converting to around AU$290.
I've been wearing the Moto 360 for about a month, and I really wanted it to be the ultimate smartwatch. But it's not. The Moto 360 is a mixed bag of a gadget, yet another smartwatch rather than a must-have.
Yes, the Moto 360 is distinctive. It has great watch faces, a good wrist strap and better microphones to understand your voice commands. But, at its heart, this watch suffers the very same problems as other Android Wear watches: middling battery life, strange quasi-interactive notifications and apps that are hard to access.
It's not Motorola's fault. The real issue is Android Wear, Google's operating system for wearables. It's just not a killer experience yet. The Moto 360 is just a prettier shell for Android Wear. It brings nothing new to your forearm. And so, under the hood, it's really not a better watch. Which is a shame, because with a better battery life, improved software, and a better understanding of fitness apps, this could be a pretty interesting device. Those updates may still happen over time. But they're not here yet.
The Moto 360 is a cool-looking smartwatch. There's no doubt about that. But as I strapped it on my wrist for the first time, it all seemed a step below the fantastic dream-device glimpsed months ago.
Other round Android Wear smartwatches will be on the way eventually, including the LG G Watch R, but the Moto 360 is the first to arrive. And it's not only fun to see a round display, but the watch construction is elegant, too.
A round, brushed stainless-steel body sits on top of a Chicago leather watch strap that runs right into the main body. The Moto 360 comes in two metal colors: black, and a natural stainless steel. My review unit was black, with a black leather strap. Other leather bands come in gray and stone. Extra bands cost $30, and a version with a stainless steel segmented band will debut later this year for $300. You can buy that band when it's available down the road and put it on your leather Moto 360: it'll cost an extra $80.
The Moto 360 body feels thick compared to its strap, and its round display is slightly too large -- larger than many people might like. But the clean design and lightweight feel give it a Movado-like minimalism.
On the side of the Moto 360, there's a little home button that looks like a watch crown. Unlike the Apple Watch's fancy turning digital crown, this is just a button. It activates the watch or puts it to sleep, or brings up a settings menu when you press and hold it.
On the back, the smooth surface has an optical green LED heart-rate monitor in the middle, while the rest of the back is inductive for contact-free charging.
On a whole, the Moto 360 has the looks of something from the future: like a real watch, but also some sort of glowing round mini-marvel. But under the hood it's less of a magical experience. The illusion falls apart, sometimes.
For instance, the Gorilla Glass-covered round 1.56-inch-diameter touch display, which actually sits slightly raised above the metal housing, is prone to smudging. The LCD screen underneath, which has a resolution of 320x290 pixels and a pixel density of 205 ppi, looks bright but not as eye-popping or crisp as some OLED displays allow. Text looks a little fuzzy and washed-out if you peer at it up close.
And then, there's that black bar under the round display.
Your eyes aren't deceiving you. In Motorola's quest for a round screen with the thinnest outer bezel possible, a custom design resulted in an added black bar that cuts the circle off by a sliver. That black bar houses an ambient light sensor for auto-adjusting screen brightness.
The little bar isn't a deal-killer, but boy, for a watch this obsessed with looking flawlessly beautiful, it certainly stands out. It's even more baffling when you consider that another upcoming round Android Wear watch, the LG G Watch R, doesn't have that black bar -- and its thicker bezel doesn't really look all that bad. All-white watchfaces end up looking like they had a little slice cut out of them. It ruins what's an otherwise impressive design.