Hands-On Review: The Moto 360 Smartwatch

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It has been almost five full years since we’ve seen a new Moto 360 smartwatch. The previous model, which was released in 2015, was both handsome and capable, but it didn’t sell well enough for Motorola to continue the series. That was a bit of sad news for wearable enthusiasts, because both the first- and second-generation Moto 360 had scored highly among users, specifically in the categories of design and performance. But at long last, the Moto 360 is back, and though its overall features aren’t as revelatory as previous generations, it’s still a great-looking, great-performing smartwatch.

Moto 360 Smartwatch

Ahead of the Curve

Ironically enough, the original Moto 360 was considered to be somewhat avant-garde because of its rounded display, which distinguished the 360 from its square-shaped peers, by giving it a more classic look. A round watch? What will they think of next?

But despite what, in retrospect, seems like an obvious design choice, Motorola’s decision to use a rounded touchscreen, in place of a square, was pivotal. Users loved the look of the original Moto 360, so much so that other manufacturers followed suit and implemented the rounded design into their own devices. Because it helped establish the trend, the new Moto 360’s design isn’t quite as groundbreaking as before, but it’s still sharp.

The new Moto 360 is available in three color variants: Phantom Black, Rose Gold, and Steel Grey. Each variant comes with two straps, one leather, one silicone, that you can switch out, depending on your outfit and activity. My test unit was the Steel Grey model and most days I wore it with the brown leather strap, though I did switch over to the black silicone strap whenever I went to the gym or for a run.

In terms of aesthetics, probably the biggest compliment I can give the Moto 360 is that even on the days I forgot to charge it and the battery died, I still wore it. Even as a brick, it just looks great, and it really goes well with most of my outfits (although I did find myself wishing I’d gotten the Phantom Black variant any time I wore black jeans). Now, full disclosure, the Moto 360 is kind of thick. Without a strap, it weighs 52g, and it’s definitely not as compact some of its peers, but personally, I like that. I think it’s the perfect size—big, but not ostentatious; distinct, but not garish.

Now even though the Moto 360 looks great when it’s off, it obviously looks much better when it’s turned on. No surprise, that’s because of the display. The Moto 360 houses a fully-round, 1.2" AMOLED display with an always-on feature—one of my favorite highlights. Compared to other smartwatches, its 390 x 390 resolution is pretty high, which helped make the on-screen details easier to read. As someone with notoriously bad eyesight, I really appreciated that. The screen colors weren’t the most vivid I’ve ever seen on a smart watch, but that wasn’t an issue for me. As long as things are clear, easy-to-read, and not pixelated, I approve.

Performance and UI

The Moto 360 uses Google’s Wear OS, which, as far as interfaces go, is about as handy an operating system you’re going to get, especially if you use it along with Google’s other features and services. Once all your accounts are synced and set up, the Moto 360 is as capable a smartwatch as you’re going to find, and, in terms of the features you probably need the most (messages, directions, notifications, etc.), it definitely delivers great performance. Also, navigating those features is relatively easy, thanks to Wear OS’s intuitive layout and fast response.

On top of the more necessary features and services, the Moto 360 also delivers on a lot of nice-to-haves, including contact payments, music apps, a robust fitness tracking platform, and more. Personally, I’ve come to rely on smartwatches more for a very specific set of features (communications, directions, and calendar notifications), so the extra services and applications don’t sway me much one way or the other. However, they are all available, and, as a part of the Wear OS ecosystem, they work quite well.

All-Day Battery

Earlier, I mentioned how I would wear the Moto 360 even when the battery was dead. The reason I know this is because the battery frequently died. Not through the fault of the device per se, but because, at first, I was very bad at remembering to charge it. The Moto 360’s 355mAh battery gives you enough juice for a full day of active use, but not much more after that. And that’s OK, so long as you remember to charge it at night. My recommendation is just to put the included charger by your bed, or somehow make it part of your bedtime routine, and then it’ll be good to go in the morning. Luckily, though, if you do forget, the Moto 360 can be charged from zero to full in about an hour.

The Verdict

In the five years since we last saw the Moto 360, not a lot has changed—and that’s not a bad thing. It’s still a very handsome, very functional Wear OS device. The always-on display is a great feature and overall the touchscreen looks pretty sharp. The interface was straightforward and snappy, making the Moto 360 a prime example of how good smartwatch UI should work. And for those who are interested in the Moto 360 as a fitness device, it checks most of those boxes as well, although for some activities, its size may be prohibitive.

There are also some things that I noticed were missing. Wireless charging, for one. I really don’t care about this missing feature at all—seriously, is placing something on a pad that much of a time-saver over just clicking it into a cradle? But I do know that wireless charging is important to many people, and honestly, at this price point, you’d kind of expect it. And speaking of charging: The Moto 360’s battery life isn’t going to win any awards. Now, because of its impressive quick-charge capability, I’m willing to look past that shortcoming, but you might feel differently.

So, who is this watch for? I think the ideal Moto 360 owner is probably an Android user who wants a smartwatch that looks great and will integrate well with their other Google devices. This person is also looking for a fairly comprehensive suite of features in their smartwatch, one that includes fitness tracking, music services, contact payment, and access to a digital assistant. On the flip side, this hypothetical owner does not care as much about battery life or wireless charging, and they can afford the not inconsequential price tag the Moto 360 carries with it.

Would I wear one? Well, even though I’m an across-the-board Apple user, yes, I would. I had no problems whatsoever with connecting the Moto 360 to my iPhone, and even though it took me about a week to start consistently remembering to plug it in at night, once I did, the battery life stopped being an issue. I admit that I don’t love the price, and for me, it would be kind of a luxury purchase, but it just looks so darn good. It looks like a luxury item. I don’t want to have to spend that much money just to look good, but for this watch, I probably will.

Questions about the Moto 360 or smartwatches in general? Let us know in the Comments section!

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