Saturday, 25 October 2014

Moto 360 smartwatch review: Adding convenience

Moto 360 smartwatch review: Adding convenience

Top Features

1. Makes checking notifications very convenient
2. Great design
3. Packed with features, like heart rate monitor, pedometer, water-resistance etc
Motorola has made quite a splash with its Moto 360 smartwatch globally, offering the first smartwatch that comes with a round dial, water-resistance as well as an integrated heart rate monitor and pedometer. But do you really need a smartwatch? Will its unique features be enough to help the Motorola smartwatch speed up the adoption of wearables in India? Is this smartwatch worth the asking price of Rs 17,999? Find out all the answers in our Moto 360 review...
Display and design

Moto 360 has a 1.56-inch LCD display clad with Gorilla Glass 3 on a round watch-face, making it the only circular smartwatch in the market. The IPS panel is pretty good to look at and adjusts the brightness by itself if you have turned on the ambient light sensor. The display remains turned off usually but lights up automatically when you turn the wrist to look at the watch; of course, this means that the display panel lights up anytime your wrist faces upward, for example while typing an email on a laptop.

The Motorola smartwatch looks much better than the other smartwatches available in the market right now, thanks to the level of detail given to the design. The brushed metal finish and leather strap look good, and you can change watch-faces anytime you want by simply long-pressing the display and selecting the one you like; Moto 360 comes with seven pre-loaded watch-faces and a few more are available on Google's Android Wear marketplace.

Like a regular watch, Moto 360 has a button on the sides, but it does not change the time on the watch. Instead, long-pressing this button opens up a menu that shows all the features of the smartwatch, such as doing a Google search, counting steps, tracking the heart rate etc.

At the bottom on the screen is a black bar that disrupts the circular design of the watch-face. This black bar houses the ambient sensors and though it makes engineering sense, it does not make any design sense at all. This bar looks awkward and takes a lot away from the overall look of the smartwatch.

In terms of design, the size of the watch's dial and the weight of the whole watch matter a lot. In Moto 360's case, the metal-finished watch does not feel too heavy on the wrist. The dial itself does not look too big on the wrist of a man, but is pretty big on the more svelte wrists of women.

How it works
Basically, Moto 360 is just like any other Android Wear smartwatch — it brings all of your smartphone's notifications to your wrist. All of your new notifications, such as SMSs, WhatsApp messages, emails, updates or alerts by apps etc, come on your wrist as soon as you pair it with an Android 4.3 or 4.4 smartphone.

Apart from the standard Android Wear capabilities, Moto 360 has step counter (pedometer), heart rate monitor and wireless charging. Both Google and Motorola's heart rate monitoring apps are pre-loaded, so you can choose which you want to use. You can also set goals for yourself on Moto 360 if you use the step counter on your smartphone regularly. The smartwatch will not be damaged if you dunk it in 1 metre of water for up to half an hour; instead of such dips in the pool, we found ourselves getting Moto 360 wet while washing the hands and as claimed, there was no damage.

You can interact with notifications on Moto 360 by tapping on the screen to read the notification or swiping it away to remove it. Once removed from the smartwatch, you cannot check out the notification again except by opening the app on the phone manually. Oddly, the notification is not removed from the paired smartphone even after you remove it from Moto 360.

In case of SMSs, WhatsApp messages and emails, tapping on the notification on Moto 360 shows not only the current message from the sender but your whole thread with the person. However, the smartwatch does not allow you to read another conversation on the same app through the notification. You can, however, open the app on your smartphone by selecting the option on the smartwatch.

Responding to the messages and emails is a challenge as the voice recognition system of Moto 360 largely failed to recognize our voice during the review period; a couple of people in the office tried the hands-free voice recognition system, but with no luck.

In case you were wondering, Moto 360 does not let you make or receive phone calls independently. It will only show that you have an incoming call and allow you to receive it, but you will need to take the phone out of your pocket to actually talk to the caller.

There are certain tasks you need to set the groundwork for in the case of Android Wear smartwatches. For example, if you want your plane tickets' QR code to show up on the watch's face, you need to set the reminder yourself (unless Google Now does for you automatically).

The problem is that Android Wear is still a work in progress, so you face a few problems while operating it. The app selection is limited, you cannot open an app on the smartwatch directly unless there is an active notification for it, navigating within the app is very limited still, among others. This hampers the overall Android Wear experience, and though we realize such features will take a little time to come, we still believe that the asking price of Rs 17,999 for Moto 360 is too much.

Battery life
Moto 360, sadly, does not have all-day battery life if used to its full capabilities. During our review period, the maximum battery life that the smartwatch delivered (with ambient light sensor turned on) was 17 hours, while the average period was in the range of 14 and 15 hours. Turn the ambient light sensor off and you get over a day of battery life. This is decent for a small 320mAh battery, but most people are not used to charging a watch every night and it is a small inconvenience.

Unlike other smartwatches in the market, the Motorola model does not have any microUSB port ruining the design. Instead, it relies of wireless charging (magnetic induction type) to recharge the battery. Just plop the smartwatch on the wireless charger and the battery will start charging instantly.

Do I really need it?
Frankly, no wearable device today is good enough to be a gadget that you cannot live without, Moto 360 included. This smartwatch, at least initially, felt like just a complementary device to the smartphone, making it easier for us to check out what's going on with our smartphone. That's what we thought after using it for a week — it's only a convenience that we can live without.

But surprisingly, once we stopped using the smartwatch, it was actually missed. The convenience it provides just makes everything easier. Taking the phone out of the pocket each time to see who called or messaged felt like a huge chore after a week of checking it out by simply turning the wrist. Similarly, using Google Maps on the small screen is also convenient while travelling. It's just so simple!

So should I spend Rs 17,999 on it?

Frankly, you shouldn't. The smartwatch is fun to use and makes keeping track of what's up you're your phone very convenient, but Rs 17,999 is still a lot of money to spend on a gadget that still has room for improvement. Smartwatches, and wearables as a category, are still evolving and the initial version of Android Wear as well as Moto 360 is still not as essential as we would like it to be.