Motorola 360 – best looking smartwatch to date?

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With Apple confirming that it will be releasing a smartwatch, the battle is well and truly on to see who can produce the most popular timepiece. While functionality isn’t a problem for Android devices, one area in which Apple hopes to get one up on the competition is a familiar one – aesthetics. One of the biggest problems with these devices currently is that they are too large, unwieldy or just plain ugly, so producing something that your average Joe would wear with pride seems to be of the utmost importance.

This rather laboured introduction to the Motorola 360 is there for a reason – it’s one of the best looking smartwatches we’ve seen yet and importantly (and unlike Apple’s entry), it’s round. This makes it far more “watch like” and therefore, in theory, far more likely to replace an actual watch.

Motorola sets the 360 up as an accessory – it’s doesn’t offer 3G, for example, or even wireless – it’s more similar to the Apple Watch in that it’s really intended as an accompaniment to a Smartphone via a Bluetooth tether. There’s a 1.5” (320×290, 205ppi) display here with Gorilla Glass 3, 4GB of internal storage and wireless charging with purported “all day” use, plus the usual bells and whistles when it comes to tracking your exercise routines.

The big question is – has the 360 just gone for looks or does it have enough under the hood to deliver?

TechRadar rates it at four out of five and confirms that it is in fact a bit of a head turner, and something you could wear all the time: “Its stainless steel housing and genuine leather default wristband make it appropriate for almost any occasion.” This could be partly down to the range of attractive fascias – it notes that while there aren’t many, those that do exist contribute nicely to the overall impression.

“In fact, Motorola’s enterprising circular screen is so attractive it instantly became the antithesis of the “smartwatches look like a miniaturized cell phone worn on your wrist” argument when Google first announced Android Wear in March.”

Other nice touches here include being the first watch to have an ambient light sensor that can help adjust for sunny or darker conditions, attractive leather or stainless steel bands that aren’t much bigger than you’d use with a regular watch and a range of effective activity trackers. Unfortunately there’s an elephant in the room here and that’s the battery life – quoting “all day” use did leave us a little concerned initially, and it seems as though you may struggle to even achieve that in the real world.

Considering the importance of battery there’s obviously a lot else to like about the 360 because reviews do seem fairly good across the board. Engadget awards it 76% and while it does criticise the battery (specifically it says “terrible battery life”) is similarly enamoured by the beautiful design, comfortable and lightweight build and useful light sensor. Looking at the display it discusses the reason why the 360 isn’t a “truly round” watch – there’s a black slice at the bottom you see, which houses the display drivers and light sensor to help cut back on the thickness of the body and bezel.

“If that is indeed the trade-off, I agree that the edge-to-edge chamfered glass is a better option. But if you’re even the slightest bit of a perfectionist, that tiny, little black slice might be difficult to un-see.”

It also asks how well Android Wear is suited to round faces – text occasionally gets cut off at corners and the circular border can look a touch jagged at times, so Motorola will be hoping Google gets busy optimising the software for round faces. It finishes by claiming that:

“The Moto 360 is the most attractive Android Wear device you can buy right now, with a design that’s more reminiscent of a regular watch. Even so, it suffers from poor battery life, just like other early smartwatches, and it has a higher price, too.”

Let’s finish up with Gizmodo and a take on what it’s actually like to use the 360. Of course it’s capable of all the things you’d expect of a smartwatch – raising your arm to wake the screen, using “Ok Google” to activate voice commands and swiping around to access functions and dismiss notifications. There are some interesting additions here though. The aforementioned ambient light sensor seems to work quite well, with a fluid operation that should really become more standard.

“It’s also the first smartwatch that charges wirelessly. The watch comes with a cool little curved dock you simply drop it into, without having to futz with lining anything up. It just falls into place and starts charging.”

And another unique feature is that it’s the first smartwatch that has a sensor to continuously monitor your heart rate, along with feedback on how you’ve been doing and (if you want them) motivational messages to help get your recommended daily amount of “active time”. Unfortunately it has the same issues with battery life and notes that the rather ancient Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor was a strange choice – though this didn’t appear to affect operation it’s relatively poor efficiency won’t be doing that battery any good.

Overall the 360 seems to be a bit of a hit – in fact most are saying that it’s the best (or their favourite) smartwatch to date. After a bit of an iffy start it’s nice to see more companies getting involved with more interesting designs, even if there are still clearly some issues to resolve.

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Having said that we’re still waiting for a true game-changer. Android effectively has six months to sort out its Wear software and Motorola et.al have the same amount of time to dream up a design to end all designs before you know who arrives, so it should be interesting to see what develops.

The Motorola 360 will set you back a fairly reasonable £199 in the UK and is available now.