Moto 360 Review: Android Wear-Powered Time Piece

Article Index

Software: Android Wear User Experience

As stated earlier, the 360 is merely a timepiece and basic fitness monitor when not synced up to an Android v4.3 (or higher) smartphone with a data connection. In other words, the software makes or breaks the experience. You can find plenty of stellar watches for $250, but the inclusion of Android Wear is what defines the Moto 360. The latest update (bringing Wear to v5.0.2) allows for only priority notifications to be sent through to your wrist, and it also enables the watch’s “Mute” mode to also silence your phone.

Setting Things Up

Considering just how new this segment is, I’ll address the initial setup. For those with anything other than an Android 4.3+ phone, there is no setup. (I tried pairing the Moto 360 with an iPhone 6 just for kicks, and while the watch did spot the iPhone as a prospective partner, the iPhone notified us that the device wasn’t compatible.) That said, this could change soon. Rumors are swirling that Google is working on an Android Wear app for iOS, which would be a clever way to sabotage potential Apple Watch sales. It’s reasonable to think that a few die-hard iPhone users would prefer the design and functionality of watches like the 360, but without an app, it’s simply not possible to use the Moto 360 with a non-Android phone at this time.

moto360 7710

With a Samsung Galaxy S 4 in hand, I downloaded the Android Wear app onto the handset. From there, I triggered the Bluetooth radio, launched the app with the watch nearby, and waited. Within a few seconds, the watch and phone recognized one another, and after a confirmation tap on each, a bond was formed. That’s it — if you want. Further customizations can occur if you prefer to change the watch’s face, but otherwise, everything happens on your phone. Any notifications that are setup on your phone will be passed through to your 360. Any Google Now cards that you have programmed in your phone will be shown on your watch. Think of it as such: if you have a notification enabled on your handset, it’ll come to your watch. If you have a notification muted on your phone (such as disabling them for a specific app), then it won’t come through to your phone.

moto360 7702

Notifications

As of now, the Moto 360’s primary function is to serve as a notifier. Yes, your phone will vibrate when you get a new email, but with the 360, you don’t have to pull your phone out. You simply glance down at your watch, check out the subject line, and decide whether to read further, archive, delete, or open the email on your phone (from your watch) to peck back with a reply. Does it work well? Yes. Is it necessary? No, and that’s perhaps the biggest hurdle for all smartwatch makers to tackle. We’re all fairly accustomed to looking at the screen of our phone dozens of times per day, and you won’t find too many folks who would suggest that looking at one’s phone is an arduous process.

moto360 7713

However, I found that I vastly preferred to look at notifications on my wrist. Frankly speaking, it’s as if Google Now cards were designed with watches in mind. They simply look great, provide you with just enough vital information to keep you informed, and feel a lot less heavy than a notification on the phone. I was initially concerned about notification overload. There are times where it feels as if my phone owns me, and the thought of bringing that flurry of notifications even closer was a but daunting. As it turns out, I have a much easier time disregarding notifications on my wrist when I’m too busy being engrossed in real life. Where the phone screams “Respond to this!,” the watch simply whispers “Here’s something you should know — no rush to reply!” It’s a subtle difference that only the hyper-connected would understand, but it’s an unexpected breath of fresh air.

Performance

In my experience, the only quirks experienced were related to lag. For example, when using the watch to archive an email received in Gmail, it took around 30 to 60 seconds for that to reflect over on our desktop. And, occasionally, I’d get Google Now cards at inopportune times — perhaps those health-related pings were subtly trying to get me to stop writing this review and exercise.

Overall, the fit and finish of Android Wear feels great. It truly does work hand-in-hand with Android, and it even handles disconnects with poise. If you stray too far from your phone, or your phone loses its data connection, you’ll notice a small “Disconnected” logo atop the time. No giant red X or annoying alerts. When that connection resumes, it picks back up where it left off. This goes back to Motorola making the 360 feel as if it’s never in your way, and I’m happy to say that the software is an elegant as the hardware.

moto360 7693

In terms of interaction, the single bezel-based physical button turns the screen off and on, but in practice, I never really used this. Sensors in the watch were eerily good at lighting the screen up when brought up to my face, and equally good at turning things off when the watch returned to my side. Not only is this great for usability, but it’s great for conserving battery life. The panel supports capacitive touch, and it handles it well. While you may expect a package such as this, which is obviously less powerful than a modern phone or gaming system, to exhibit touch-input lag, I found none of it. All of our touches were instantly recognized, and the UI responded in kind. After a night’s worth of notifications piled up, I noticed a bit of lag when trying to swipe ‘em all away, but in most cases, lag simply wasn’t a factor.

The process of interacting with notifications is a simple one. Swipe up to learn more about what is onscreen; swipe from left to right to clear; and swipe right to see the next notification card in waiting or to activate more options on the current one.

moto360 7687

Taking Commands

Beyond notifications, Android Wear’s ace in the hole is its ability to listen. More specifically, to take orders and bestow information after you say the phrase: “Ok Google.” This process is the most unfamiliar, but those who commit to making it a part of their daily Moto 360 use will get a lot more out of their smartwatch. The Ok Google command is deceivingly powerful. You can tell your watch to make an appointment, to show you last night’s Red Sox score, to call a contact, display how many steps you’ve taken, and a whole lot more. Anything that you would generally say to Google, Cortana, Siri, or any of those personal assistants can be said to Android Wear. After all, it’s really just passing your commands back to the phone.

moto360 7712

Where this notion gets really exciting is third-party integration. For example, avid Lyft users will appreciate that “Call a car” dials up the Lyft app and readies a confirmation to send you a vehicle. In the future, it’s not tough to envision other flagship apps adding direct Android Wear voice control — Google Keep and AllTheCooks are a couple that are already quite tightly integrated. When it comes to basic texting or messaging via Hangouts, you can actually dictate the message you want sent and send it right from your wrist.

moto360 7696

While the Moto 360 doesn’t boast a GPS module, it will rely on your phone’s GPS in order to pipe turn-by-turn navigation to your wrist from Google Maps. For those wandering around a new city, this is a fantastic perk. Rather than being forced to have your phone out as you’re being guided, you simply need to peek at your wrist from time to time. It’s far more discreet, and it frees up your hands. It’s these convenient little moments, in sum, that serve to make the 360 special, and Android Wear is off to a fantastic start in terms of functionality and polish.

Related content

Comments

Show comments blog comments powered by Disqus