The would-be champion of Android Wear, the gleaming round smartwatch we first glimpsed in March, is finally here.
The Moto 360 -- which holds the distinction of being the first circular Android Wear timepiece -- is available in the US starting September 5 for $250. It will be available from early October in the UK for £199 and will come to other parts of the world, including Australia, later this year (local pricing has yet to be determined, but the tentative date is for an October launch).
It's been a long time coming. Despite its end-of-summer launch window, the Moto's curved stylings were enough to overshadow the first pair of Android Wear watches, the squared off, uninspired, cheap-looking LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live. In the meantime, though, a second wave of Android Wear watches has already begun jockeying for attention (and disposable income).
But those new models are still over the horizon. The 360 is here now. But was it worth the wait?
I finally have one on my wrist, and have had a chance to start playing around with it. It's definitely an eye-catcher, but not entirely as exciting as it once was on paper.
What makes it different?
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'll arrive in other countries later this year), it's $30 more than the original LG G Watch, and $50 more than the Samsung Gear Live.
It has a look that definitely feels premium: everything about the Moto 360 looks clean and well-made: polished steel, a thin watchband that tucks underneath, and a beautiful set of specially-designed software watch faces.
The Moto 360 has a few hardware features that could set it apart besides design: it has inductive charging, which works without any dongle. Yes, you still need the included charging dock to drop the watch into, which still saddles you with an accessory. Still, it's a lot nicer than most clip-on charging accessories.
There's also an optical heart rate monitor on the watch's backside, like Samsung's smartwatches have. Motorola's is differently engineered, and also has different software: a beautiful round dial shows not only your heart rate, but your activity intensity, estimated by heart rate. The app will track how many targeted active minutes a day that you exercise, with a goal of 30 moderate activity minutes five days a week.
The Moto 360 leans heavily on voice commands, like all Android Wear watches, but Motorola promises an extra dash of natural language processing and noise-cancelling microphone excellence on the Moto 360. The Moto 360 understands what I say, but in noisy places it might have an edge on the competition.
But the Moto 360 is still an Android Wear watch. It runs the same OS as other Android Wear devices, by design: a common interface and operational language weaves through all these devices to create a sense of consistency. Google wants Android Wear to make sense, and for developers to make apps that will run on as many devices as possible. So, under the hood, this still feels like the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch in terms of basic menus, card-based swipe notifications, and apps.
The Moto 360 runs off a Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor, and has 4GB of storage plus 512MB of RAM. It sports a 320 mAh battery, which Motorola claims lasts a full day. That's about on par with other Android Wear watches. That's disappointing: I was hoping for more.
Just like other Android Wear watches, the Moto 360 works with all phones running Android 4.3 or higher -- but won't work with iPhones or Windows Phones.
What does round feel like?
The Moto 360's 1.56-inch-diameter round display is big, bold, and feels a lot larger than a square display. It has a 320x290 resolution, effectively, at 205ppi. Actually, it's not fully round: there's a bit of a black bar on the bottom, perhaps a consequence of Motorola going for such a thin bezel that a custom round display needed to be crafted. That bit of black ruins the effect a bit, and mars the look of Motorola's pre-installed beautiful round watch faces. In a way, it shatters some of the illusion that the watch is trying to create when it's in watch mode. It's a shame, because every other part of the Moto 360's screen, and its really thin bezel, is really impressive to behold.
Round seems to work better for some apps than others. Notifications are readable, but the look of pop-up notifications against the Moto 360's clean round watch faces produces a really ugly effect. Hopefully the round Android Wear UI will get a little more elegant over time.
The Moto 360's chamfered Gorilla Glass 3 crystal actually rises off the top of the watch's stainless steel rim a bit, versus being recessed. It also makes edge-swiping easy to pull off.
The Moto 360 is big. While the watch itself feels lightweight, more than you'd expect, the thick body and the big screen create a slightly oversized overall impression. I got used to it, but not everyone will like it.
It does feel good on my wrist. After a few minutes, I forgot I was even wearing one. The leather band attaches like a standard watch strap. My only concern with leather is water resistance: the Moto 360 itself is IP67 water and dust resistant, but leather bands don't like getting wet. It's a reminder that this watch isn't meant for showers.
Steel to come
There are removable watch bands on the Moto 360: the first wave will sport locally-sourced Chicago leather in black, grey and stone. Extra bands cost $30, and a version with a stainless steel segmented band will debut later this fall 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 main body comes in natural brushed stainless steel or black steel: my all-black Moto 360 cuts a sleek Movado-like look. A side button that also turns on the watch looks like a watch dial, a clever touch.
Can it beat the competition?
I haven't seen anything that feels tremendously different on the Moto 360 yet. But, the Moto 360 is absolutely the most exciting looking Android Wear smartwatch I've seen, and the best showcase hardware for Google's Android Wear. The nearly edge-to-edge display is striking, even with that annoying black bar on the bottom. The heart rate app and its way of measuring activity, plus Motorola's engineered dual microphones, might help set this watch apart. But there will be a ton of competition coming now and very soon. Android Wear watches from LG, Asus, Sony, and others will try to steal the Moto 360's thunder. And, of course, there are other watches to come...and a big one expected from Apple.
My feeling after my first day of use, however, was mixed. I tried pairing it with the new Moto X, and also my trusty Nexus 5. While the Moto 360 is fun to wear and look at, I still found Android Wear's notifications to be quirky, and not always responsive. Battery life on a full charge around 2 p.m. dribbled down to 17% at the time this story published at 1 a.m. I've seen some buggy behavior so far -- difficulty connecting, and even what seem like a two dead pixels on my review unit, which is concerning. But stay tuned for more impressions after a full review. It'll take some time living with the Moto 360 to determine how good it is an everyday watch.