One of the most popular first-gen Android Wear watches has finally gotten the refresh it so desperately needed.
Plans for a refresh to the Moto 360 have leaked from every possible direction over the last couple of weeks, but today Motorola has made its new Android Wear lineup official. Instead of one watch, we now have four — a 46mm and 42mm Mens duo, a 42mm Womens Edition, and the Moto 360 Sport.
Motorola isn't quite ready to show off working versions of the Moto 360 sport, but we've got plenty to talk about now that we've had the other three on our wrists for a bit.
If you were hoping for a radically different design from Motorola this year, you're barking up the wrong tree. As we saw in the leaks, Motorola has kept the imperfect circle design from the original Moto 360 and added lugs on the top and bottom instead of hiding the strap connectors inside the casing itself. This change makes it significantly easier to swap out the strap with whatever you want, but also makes more room in the casing for things like a beefier battery. The single button on the side of the watch has moved to the 2 o'clock position, making it significantly easier to reach for and use. Curiously, this button now has the Motorola M emblazoned across it.
These physical adjustments do little to change the feel of the Moto 360 on the wrist, compared to the original. None of the external changes here are particularly mind-blowing, and if you ask Motorola they will tell you that is the point. Despite the "flat tire" look, the Moto 360 offers a noticeably better screen to bezel ratio when compared to most other smartwatches. Perhaps more important, this "display ledge" as Motorola calls it allows for a light sensor so the 360 can continue to offer auto brightness, something no other round Android Wear watch is offering at the moment.
Of course, this is just the 46mm version of the Moto 360. If your wrists are in need of something a little smaller, and we know you are out there, two 42mm versions of this watch exist. This decrease in overall size means a 100 mAh drop in battery capacity, but you also get a slight increase in pixel density. The 42mm Mens variant looks and feels like a slightly smaller Moto 360, but the Womens Edition restricts strap size to 16mm and the lugs on this version are slightly smaller to better suit those who need less space consumed on their wrist. Motorola promises these smaller versions won't do much to the overall battery and performance, but a more thorough evaluation will be required to make that judgement for sure.
It couldn't be more clear Motorola's focus for this new launch is refinement and personalization.
With a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 and 512MB of RAM, the Moto 360 performs noticeably better than its predecessor. Load times are noticeably decreased and animations are significantly smoother. It's a great overall experience, but not a new one. Motorola has joined a long list of Android Wear watches with the same internal hardware, and with that comes a certain inescapable similarity in performance. This is far from a bad thing, especially with Google keeping a tight grip on the underlying OS.
Each of these watches is using a backlit LCD display, with always-on mode enabled by default. Motorola warns this mode comes at a considerable loss in overall battery life, and makes it clear you can get upwards of two days on a single charge with this mode disabled. As you'd expect, this mode flips the watch into the black and white ambient display mode so your watch is a watch all the time instead of just when you move your wrist. In our brief testing this worked the same as it does everywhere else, though it's clear in darker rooms the whole screen is being lit to display this information, rather than just the active bits like you'd see with AMOLED.
Motorola's big contribution to software in this release comes in the form of significantly more complex watchfaces. Dubbed Live Dials, these faces take advantage of the new interactive capabilities baked into Android Wear 1.3 and offer some unique software partnerships. Like many interactive faces, you can set up quick glances for fitness tracking, email, and calendar access, but Motorola has also included shortcut access to apps that are already installed on your watch. Current partners include IFTTT, Shazam, Spotify, Kevo, and several others. These icons show up in the Live Dial, and tapping on them immediately launches the core feature in the app. Motorola plans to make it easy for any app to integrate with Live Dials in the near future, but as an initial offering it's impressive.
It wouldn't be a Motorola product if Moto Maker wasn't somehow involved, and with this new line of Moto 360 watches the company has truly gone all out. There are 300 different options available in Moto Maker for these watches, and the degree with which you can customize is far beyond anything we've seen on a smartwatch so far. The Mens versions have access to black, silver, and gold casing, but you can also customize the bezel itself. You can opt for alternate colors on the bezel if you want a two-toned look, or you can choose bezel treatments and go with an entirely different look to the face of the watch. The Womens Edition offers much of the same, but instead of black there's a rose gold option and some bezel treatments that are only available on this edition for now.
Watch bands are a big part of the customization, and Motorola has expended their offerings from last year to include blush leather for the ladies and a redesign of the Tylt band that quickly became popular with the previous Moto 360. Nearly every strap Motorola showed off in our demo included a quick release pin, so there was no need for any tools to swap a band out.
It couldn't be more clear Motorola's focus for this new launch is refinement and personalization. Fans of the Moto 360 design have a lot of great reasons to consider upgrading, and everyone else can take a look at the $299 starting price and seriously consider what matters to them most in a smartwatch. Either way you look at it, the new Moto 360 is a worthy successor and a welcomed addition to the 2015 Android Wear lineup.