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.
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.
Being round really makes the watchfaces pop: the seven included watchfaces look fantastic, far better than the odd assortment of faces on the rectangular Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch. They make the Moto 360 look more like an actual watch, taking advantage of the round design to create virtual analog hands that sweep across. You can also add your own custom faces by hunting around Google Play.