When Motorola teased an image of their upcoming smartwatch back in March of this year, they said it best with their teaser: “It’s Time.” And time it is indeed. Time for us to stop pulling out our phones in the middle of a conversation to check a message. Time for wearables to finally reach a critical tipping point. Time for a smartwatch to actually look like a watch.
The Moto 360 does all of that, and while it’s the first version of a product that will no doubt be around for years, the essential functions of the device have had a major impact on the way I work.
The Smartwatch Experience
When I found out that I was the winner of the Motorola Canada #TimeForMoto360 contest on Twitter, I knew the Moto 360 was going to change my habits, but I didn’t realize what a large impact it would have. Before I jump into the look and feel of the device, I want to focus on what a smartwatch is. A smartwatch in 2014 is essentially an extension of an Android phone. The watch runs Android Wear, Google’s first attempt at an operating system made entirely for wearables (excluding Google Glass). It works by mirroring all of the notifications I get on my phone, but places them on my wrist. I’m notified by a quick vibration, and have the ability to either hide the notification, dismiss it (on both the phone and watch), or perform an action. This can include favouriting a tweet, replying to a text message using my voice, or seeing the traffic on my route to work.
The functionality of the watch is simple, and that’s how it should be. And with that simplicity comes a wealth of time saving that I never anticipated I would get from a watch. Wearing my watch at work, if a text message comes through, I can quickly glance at my wrist, and see whether the message is urgent or not. From there, I can either continue what I was doing, or break and give my attention to the watch. Pretty standard, right? Yep, it is, except that this entire process is happening over the course of just one to two seconds. Compare that with the same process on a cell phone. First you feel the vibration, pull the phone out of your pocket, unlock the phone, navigate to the messaging app, read the message, and decide to respond or not. I’m going to ballpark that the latter process takes about 30 seconds, not including any of the time you spend in other apps because you got distracted by your phone.
The Moto 360 is about saving seconds. If our smartphones serve as the connection between us and the digital world, the smartwatch serves as the gatekeeper to that world. The smartwatch is a secretary of sorts, prioritizing our time and diverting our attention only when necessary. Though it doesn’t seem like much, those seconds add up, and I’m finding myself overall less distracted at work. This is the same philosophy that BlackBerry has had for years, and something I feel we’ve lost in current smartphones.
Over and above its core functionality of mirroring notifications, the Moto 360 supports a variety of different watchfaces and apps. Motorola has always placed effort on constantly updating their products with new, exciting features, and the Moto 360 is no different. Just last week, Motorola released an OTA update for the watch, enabling custom watchfaces and a new Moto Body app. When they say custom, they truly mean it. The new My Design watch face option allows you to customize everything from the background image to the style of the tick marks and watch hands. I tried it out by creating a watch face that matched my arm – creating a see-through watch! The new Moto Body app turns the Moto 360 in a fitness wearable, providing updates throughout the day on calories burned, steps, and heart rate (Yes! It even has a heart rate monitor in it!). These additions are Moto-specific, meaning you won’t get them on a Samsung or LG smartwatch, and they’re pretty good reason for going with the Moto 360.
The Look and Feel
Visually, the Moto 360 is classy, stylish, and looks like a modern watch should. The metal case and included Horween leather band are both built with quality in mind, and the screen is bright and easy to read in sunlight. One of the main comments I’ve been getting from people, is that while the watch is beautiful, women often comment that it isn’t something they would wear. Thankfully, Motorola is addressing that with the recent announcement that metal bands and a new Champagne slim band are coming soon. All watch bands are interchangeable, and I’m looking forward to trying out different styles.
But what about the battery life?
Battery life is something that the Moto 360 has been criticized for in many of the early reviews I’ve read online. Many state that the watch doesn’t last a full day. I can honestly say this is completely untrue.
I’ve been the using the Moto 360 consistently for the past month, and I’m finding the battery to last a full 20 hours on a single charge. I charge the watch overnight on the included wireless charging dock, wake up, put the watch on, use it consistently throughout the day, take it off around 9PM and turn it off, then turn it on the next morning. The watch lasts a full two days like this, and considering my smartphone dies in about 12 hours, that’s pretty good!
The other two comments I’ve seen are regarding pixel density and processor speed. Both of these are really non-issues for me. Yes, the pixel density could be higher, but you’re not holding the watch as close to you as a phone, making the pixel density less relevant. The processor speed issue also hasn’t affected me. I’ve rarely seen the device lag in daily use.
Does It Make Me Tick?
As a first generation smartwatch, the Moto 360 overdelivers on style, function, and is getting better with every update. Sure, it would be nice to have a fully round display without the small blank area at the bottom of the screen, and I’d also like the addition of a speaker for calls, and NFC for mobile payments, but those are just add-ons. In its current state, the Moto 360 leads the pack of current smartwatches, and if you’re an Android user looking be more productive in your day, this is the device for you.