John Galea's Blog

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Moto 360 review

I’ve owned a number of smart watches at this point. Two Sony and three Samsungs. Most recently the Samsung Gear Live. I’ve been interested in the Moto 360 for a while now. The LG-R is an interesting product (one of my colleagues bought one) but the price is more than I am willing to pay. The Moto 360 is starting to really come down in price (likely getting ready for the next gen of it to come out), so much so I decided to give it a go. One of the things I really don’t like about the Gear live is the annoying band. I actually bought a metal band for it only to figure out it was too long. I tried a leather band and it too was too long. The combination of my small wrist and large watch means it’s challenging to find a replacement band.

To start off with, it’s best to set expectations. What do I like and expect from a smartwatch? First and foremost it is a standalone watch, alarm, and chronometer (timer, stop watch). Second of all it is a way to get secondary notifications from your watch. Buzzing with a call is coming in, a message etc. To make this effective it is important to minimize unnecessary notifications. A well designed app allows you within the app to turn off notifications. Sadly not all apps do that. Happily Google gave you the ability to strip an aps ability to use notifications at all. You go settings, applications, find the app and click off allow notifications. I also turned out Google now cards which are an absolute plague on Android Wear watches. So much useless info. And the third use for a smartwatch is to act as a secondary display to an app running on the phone. The watch is a companion to your phone with some stand alone functionality. IMHO.

I bought a Moto with the metal band and silver so it looks more like a real watch. The band has an odd sequence of two clips (one from each side) to do up. It’s a touch clumsy but if does work. I have to say the metal band is a HUGE improvement over the Gear Live. Even with my small wrist there still is more room to adjust the band. Motorola really left lots of room for adjustment in the design of this band.

The charge cradle on the Gear live connects to the watch with a plastic nib that mates with a plastic hole on the watch. It is susceptible to wear and cracking. Mine broke on the cradle and wore on the watch. Fortunately I had a spare cradle, but the watch cracking is going to get serious enough as to render the watch unusable and also make it hard to resell.

The moto cradle is much smarter in that it uses wireless induction charging. It takes just under 2 hours to charge from dead.
The cradle has a light on it to show it is plugged in and a notch to make sure the watch is in the right place but no indicator to show it actually is charging. I would have liked the light to change color when it’s charging. Motorola built in a bed side clock into the watch when it’s charging. Some people don’t like this. To turn the screen off you can manually tap the button on the watch twice and the watch enters theater mode, but that is a manual thing. There is an app called Slumber which does this automatically for you. The wireless charging is Qi so if you already have a Qi wireless charge pad you should be able to use it on the 360. I tried a Samsung one I have for my S5 and it worked fine. I bought a knock off backup cradle from ebay and interestingly enough they were smarter than Motorola. The light only turns on once the watch starts charging. Much smarter.

Display 1.56 inches 320 x 290 Vs 1.63″ Super AMOLED (320 x 320) for the Gear live
205 pixels per inch Vs 278 for the Gear live
Battery 320mAh Vs 300mAh for the Gear live
Projected battery life of 1 day Vs 1.5 for the Gear live, more below
11.5mm thick Vs 8.9 for the Gear live, and the metal band adds more

The thickness of the watch is quite noticeable and is quite square (on the edges) compared with a normal watch. It is susceptible to caching on sleeves.

With the Gear Live set to always on it would get around 16 hours of battery life. enough for a day. Turning off always on extended the battery life on the Gear live dramatically, like 30-36 hours. The moto does not have an always on mode, it has what it calls ambient screen mode, which has is similar (and different) always on mode (more like almost always, it eventually completely dims). It simply extends the screen on time. With ambient screen mode off on day one the battery was at 44% after 12 hours with a projected battery life of 22 hours.So in spite of having a similar battery size the battery is definitely worse than the Samsung Gear live. With Ambient screen on the battery was down to 14% after 12 hours and was completely dead in 14 hours. Battery life is one of those things everyone has to be concerned about. You have to have enough (IMHO) to last a min of a day. For most people that is 16-18 hours. Having more than that is great but if it ends up only being a day and half how useful is that. So for me 14 hours means this is not a function (ambient screen on) I can use everyday. For me, the Moto 360 is just barely good enough for the day. So one has to be careful what uses you are making of the watch that might end up with you without a watch before the end of the day 😦

The Moto 360 does not have a full 360 degree screen. The bottom of the screen is cut off. It’s often referred to as the flat tire. For some people this is irritating. For me I knew about it and accepted it. How noticeable it is depends on the color of the watch face. If your watch face is black it is way less noticeable.

The reason for the flat spot is that is where the ambient light sensor is. On the Samsung it was so bad in bright sunshine that anytime I was going to be outside, I simply left the Gear Live at home. The Moto on the other hand is able to adjust and compensate automatically making it possible to use it outdoors. This is a HUGE step forward for me. As a snowboarder and mountain biker I spend a reasonable amount of time outdoors, so I am happy for this feature and if it is the justification for the flat tire, it’s well worth the trade off. You still need to be careful with the watch face you choose, some colors, specifically darker ones are still hard to read in bright sunlight, but still, it’s like a night and day difference in readability in the outdoors.

One of the reasons whey I used always on with the Gear Live was the wrist detection on it was not great. The screen would turn on at times when I didn’t want it to, and not when I did. It wasn’t to the point of maddening but it was frustrating sometimes. The moto works a little different. You can sit there and shake and twist your wrist like an idiot (an action that would often wake the Sammy) but on the moto it looks for the distinct action of twist and then stop to turn the screen on. So shake all you want and it ain’t coming on. It was a bit frustrating at first until I got use to it.

The whole square Vs round debate for watches is an interesting one. Most text based information like notifications etc suit a square face better. But getting good looking analog style watch faces on square was a challenge. Round actually suits the watch faces much better. And being a watch is what this primarily for so round as it turns out, for me, is a better choice. I was surprised how much so for me. The larger round screen also meant I was able to turn the font size down on watch faces and still be able to read it. So all in all I like round, even more so than square. I’ve seen no down side to round over square and lots of upside. As an interesting note, Facereop (a repository of watch faces) has 107 pages of square watch faces and a whopping 471 pages for round. I guess that kinda says a lot about round Vs square. One of the things I really like about the Moto is the screen goes pretty much to the edge of the device instead of having a dead bezel around the outside. It’s one of the things that makes the watch faces look so good IMHO.

Given that I still have the Gear Live I was interested to see how Android and other watch apps dealt with having more than one watch at a time. It actually works fine. Android wear attempts to connect to both watches and the apps loaded on the watch end up being the same ones for both watches. My watch face editor (WatchMaker) had to be manually changed over to the watch type. This particular app did not deal with multiple watch types well, blending watch faces from both devices into the same stream. Other than that it worked fine, surprisingly so actually.

The pedometer on Android wear has been a bit on the odd side. The watch itself provides an acelerometer that can be queried and interpreted but there is not one place to go get the simple question of how many steps have I done. This means Google Fit, Moto Body (Motorolas health and fitness watch app) and any other app on the watch all can interpret the results differently. Why this wasn’t created as a generic API by Google is beyond me. So on full day one for example:
10,767 steps, 10.47 km, 581 kcals – Samsung S.Health on the phone
11,099 steps, 4.57 km, 1344 cals – Google Fit on the watch
8433 step, 5.44km – Moto Body on the watch.

Moto Body is odd. You can entirely control what it does on the watch (turn heart rate on/off, set units etc). There is no app on the phone to see the data (pedometer/heart rate). There is no web based portal to see the data. Moto body does not seem to interact with Google fit (thus the difference in steps). It does however send you a weekly summary (a digest) of your activity. All in all I have to say I am not sure I see the point in Moto Body (and thus Moto connect). Moto connect does however have a neat feature to allow you to see the last location of your watch should you happen to loose it. Neat feature.

A while back I did a post on the Samsung Gear Live’s heart rate monitor so I was interested to see how bad the Moto 360’s was. So I did a little 20 minute walk and compared to my Scosche Rhymth+ heart rate monitor. I used RunGPS to capture the heart rate off the Moto. One of the first things I noticed its that the heart rate seems to only get a lock periodically. Much less frequently than on the Gear live. The Scosche saw an AVG heart rate of 110, min 66 max 132. The Moto saw AVG 78 Min 50 Max 91. So as bad as the Gear live was the moto is even worse. To call the heart rate monitor a random act of fiction is not far off.

Update 3/2/2016
I’ve been living with the Moto 360 now for almost 6 months. This is an eternity for me and my tech. So I have a good handle on the good, the bad and the ugly. The Moto is a terrific device. Big bright screen, auto brightness, I love the metal band on mine, and I love the ability to whimsically change my watch faces. Using the watch for secondary notifications is excellent. For me those two points alone justify why I would bother with a smartwatch at all, and are exactly what I miss when I don’t use my smartwatch. Now onto the ugly. The battery life on Android wear is bad. Barely a day. Android 5 is supposed to go a long way to improve this but so far it has not been released for my first gen Moto 360. A call to Motorola got me no answers and the tech support person actually hung up on me? WTF … There are some easy fixes to battery life. If Google would simply turn the Bluetooth connection off when not needed this would help. Don’t believe me? Disconnect your watch from your phone and checkout the improvement in battery life. Turn airplane mode on and see an even more dramatic improvement in batter life. Both of which could easily be done in software. The second big oops is the lack of always on for the Moto. Other watches, the Samsung, the LGR have always on modes. On the Moto they call it Ambient screen mode, which is basically a delayed turn off mode. Not the same. You have no idea how many times I have twisted y wrist and stood there waiting for the watch to turn on so I can see the darn time. And sometimes gave up and tap the display to wake it up. And lastly having moved to an iPhone the iOS experience for Android wear is bad. I have no idea why they even bothered.

August 4, 2015 - Posted by | Android, Android Wear (Smartwatch)

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