Smartwatches are imperfect experiments that have caught the world a little off guard. From merely a farfetched idea just a few years ago have sprung Google’s Android Wear and Apple’s own smartwatch. Now, marketing pushes have convinced many that these devices are useful enough to purchase. Google has a year ahead of the Apple Watch with Android Wear, so you’d expect the second generation Moto 360 to impress – but does it? In some ways, absolutely. In other ways, not so much.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: watches are round. Watches have always been round. The Moto 360 is round. This makes the Moto 360 the most natural looking, well-designed smartwatch on the market. It’s a solid, sleek, metal build with a wide variety of available bands, and it isn’t too thick. Walking down the street, this is one of the only smartwatches available that could pass for an actual watch – and that’s nice, because it makes wearing a smartwatch feel less ostentatious. The screen is bright, crisp and I forgot about a small black bar at the bottom of the device (where many components and sensors are housed) within a few days. It’s not easy to make technology round, but Motorola did a nice job and I appreciate its uncompromising approach.
Like every other smartwatch, the Moto 360 will show you your notifications, give you transit directions, answer your questions with Google, show you the time, track your steps, let you customize your watch face, respond to voice commands and call an Uber for you. It feels pretty futuristic to look down at your watch and glance at an email or have a screen turn on to show you the time as you rotate your wrist. No smartwatch has figured out how to be as functional as your phone in addition to being informative, but that’s (mostly) okay. I enjoyed sending emojis (which you draw with your finger) as responses to text messages or – gasp! – not having to pull out my phone to see the time. It was especially nice that the Moto 360 can work over WiFi and doesn’t need to be connected to your phone via bluetooth.
Navigation through the watch is a bit obtuse, but a “getting started” tutorial goes a long way. Take a little bit of time to get to know your watch before believing you’re a smartwatch savant. Battery life exceeded my expectations, with the Moto 360 easily making it through every day I wore it with moderate use. You’ll definitely have to charge it at night in its wireless charging port, but at least it looks sleek there. I admit that it’s a bit annoying to remember to charge two devices every night, and battery life is where smartwatches will need to improve in the future if they want to remain part of the zeitgeist.
Google Now is Android Wear’s killer app and the most compelling functional reason to get a Moto 360. Google Now is a custom recommendation tool that uses things like your location and search history to give you relevant information about the news, weather and more. This was, by far, what I used the Moto 360 for most (a quick glance at the weather here, a recommendation for a good restaurant there). Google Now is only going to get better with time, and it’s already delivering on its promise of making information retrieval less of a hassle.
Like every other smartwatch, the Moto 360, starting at $299, has some hiccups. While its usefulness is certainly bolstered by Google Now, it can be sluggish at times, dropping frames in between animations or freezing. I hate to say it, but sometimes the Moto 360 made me wish it worked as smoothly as the Apple Watch. The first time I used it, I had to restart the device before it was usable. Not a great first impression. In addition to the occasional technical problems, the Moto 360 needs to be just a little more useful and less obtuse. I didn’t expect to feel my wrist and cell phone vibrate when I got an email or for my phone and Moto 360 to turn on when I said, “Okay, Google.” These small kinks overshadow what is otherwise a neat little device.
So, with all of that to consider, should you get the Moto 360? If you’re a techie who loves experimenting with the latest and greatest, or if you can live with the limited functionality of the smartwatch landscape today, I’d say yes. The Moto 360 is the most natural looking smartwatch on the market right now, and it’s just useful enough to warrant a purchase if you don’t expect it to replace your phone.