One of the features unique to the Moto 360 is the ambient light sensor, which detects how bright your environment is and adjusts the display brightness accordingly. The idea is to maintain a balance between being able to see the display well, and not overpowering it and wasting battery life. You can see the watch do this, and it’s not a seamless move from one level of brightness to another. But then again, you’re probably glancing — not staring — at your watch.
Additionally (and somewhat confusingly), there’s an “Ambient Screen” option in the settings – and turning it on pops up a warning that doing so will significantly impact battery life. This setting is the same as the “Always On” option in the other Android Wear watches in that it allows for a a dimmed watch face to appear. Only on the Moto 360, the watch still goes completely dark after a spell.
The best news with all this is that finally we have an Android Wear watch that you can see outside, in the sunlight. Not perfectly in direct sun, but good enough, and far better than anything else we've used thus far.
All this leads into the discussion about battery life and the Moto 360.
On any device there are any number of variables that affect battery life. Display is a big one. Processing power and thermal control is another. (Cooler is always better.) On a device like a smartwatch, these variables add up quick, especially one that’s designed to be force-fed notifications.
We’ve had sort of a hard time pinning down battery life on the Moto 360. We’ve had occasional days where we had to stretch to get 10 or 11 hours of it. But we’ve also had a good number of days where the same amount of time left us with more than half the battery remaining.
On paper, the 320 mAh battery of Moto 360 has 20 percent less capacity (not to be confused with battery life) than the LG G Watch (which I was using full-time before the 360 became available). That's important to remember when you're comparing one of these watches to another.
Most days the Moto 360 lasts all day. Some days it’s a stretch. Some it falls short.
What we’ve found is that the amount of time we’ve spent outdoors, as well as the influx of notifications we receive, can greatly affect battery life. On a slow Sunday, the watch will likely last longer than an on-the-go Monday, when everyone’s catching up on e-mail. A morning spent outside at a soccer game is going to affect things much more significantly than a morning spent in meetings under fluorescent lights. We've left the brightness set to auto, and the ambient screen setting turned off, which is the default.
This much remains true, however: You’re going to want to charge the watch overnight, every night. And you might well want (or need) to top it off at some point during the day. If that’s a deal-breaker for you, it’s understandable. But the Moto 360 starts with a smaller capacity than LG’s watch, and it appears to be a bit more susceptible to hard use.
The good news is that on its stock charger, Moto 360 charges at just under 2 percentage points a minute, taking a little less than an hour to get from dead to 100 percent capacity.
We’re of the belief that smartwatches need to last a “full day," from the moment you pick it up to the time you put it back down. Most days the Moto 360 meets that criteria. Some days it’s a stretch. Some days it falls short. That’s a consideration you need to take into account when purchasing. But we've not seen a cause for concern in two weeks of use.
The flip side is that the Moto 360 does charging right. It’s using the Qi wireless charging standard. You can use the excellent charging stand that comes with the watch — and note the cool charging face you get when the watch is taking on power. Or you can use any old Qi charging pad you have laying around. And that makes having one for one and one for the office (or in your car, or in your gear bag) so much simpler. (It took LG a number of weeks to put its proprietary charger on sale separately, for example.) If you want to top off during the day, it's pretty painless to do so.
And one quick word on performance, which until now hasn’t really been a thing we needed to discuss. The animations on the Moto 360 at times seem sluggish. It’s easy to look at the specs and say that the aging (but still custom) TI OMAP 3 processor likely is to blame there, but at the same time you have to wonder just how much processing power is necessary for a device this small. It doesn’t ruin the experience at all, but the occasional lag and stuttering of animations is noticeable, and unfortunate.