Motorola's sophomore effort in the Android Wear space is a solid refinement of the original, solidifying its position as one of the more function-focused manufacturers out there today.
Much in the same way we struggle to call one Android phone the best year after year, Android Wear watches have reached a point where we're seeing manufacturers choose their audience and focus specifically on those users instead of aiming for the best. As the first mostly round Android Wear watch, the original Moto 360 did a great job capturing the world's attention and encouraging the competition to step up their game.
Now that we're deep into the second generation of Android Wear watches, Motorola has surveyed the field and made some decisions regarding the direction they want the Motorola watch brand to go. Rather than focus on form and worrying about being the most watch-like smartwatch out there like we're seeing with so many other Android Wear watches, Motorola seems to be focusing on features and functionality.
Here's our review.
About this review
Motorola provided Android Central with the Moto 360 2015 that I (Russell Holly) have been using for eight days. During this time, the Moto 360 2015 was paired to a Moto X Pure Edition and an iPhone 6S Plus. This 46mm Moto 360 was customized on Moto Maker to include the gold casing and black micro knurl bezel, which is currently $399 on Moto Maker. Android Central was also provided a standard $349 silver body model for comparison. This watch included a black Horween Leather strap, and is running Android Wear 1.3 build LLA44S.
Moto 360 2015 hardware
If you've ever seen an original Moto 360 before, it won't be hard to spot a Moto 360 2015. Motorola has taken their round casing with the display glass passing just above the bezel and basically added lugs to the top and bottom. The single button on the watch has moved from the 3 o'clock position to the 2 o'clock position, but otherwise there's not a whole lot of visual changes. While the addition of lugs makes the total body of the watch take up more space on your wrist, the ability to use whatever strap you want without worrying about damaging the casing or the strap is a much bigger deal. In doing this, Motorola created more space inside the watch body as well, which is important for a whole mess of other reasons.
This 46mm model we're using for this review is a big watch, but due to the curvature of the sides and the angle of the bezels somehow manages to feel smaller on the wrist than the Huawei Watch. It sits nicely on the wrist, even if you have a medium-sized wrist, and despite being plastic and glass on the bottom it feels like a decent piece of hardware. This still isn't going to look great on small wrists, but Motorola claims the smaller 42mm version of this watch helps address that. Once we get our hands on one, we'll know for sure. It doesn't feel like a high quality watch, but that's got more to do with the tiny computer inside than anything else.
Looking at the watch after powering it on, you'll notice Motorola has kept their Display Shelf. The LCD display on this watch looks nice and round right until it isn't, something many users refer to as the "flat tire" look on this watch. Like its predecessor, the Moto 360 has an ambient light sensor in that black wedge. No other round Android Wear watch has an ambient light sensor, making the Moto 360 line the only round Android Wear watches that will adjust brightness automatically. Unlike the previous Moto 360, the brightness shift on this new model works really well. It shifts quickly when it needs to, and saves you from being blinded when you raise your wrist to eye level in the dark.
You read that first part right, by the way. In an ocean of AMOLED displays for tiny wrist computers, Motorola went LCD for this new watch. It's easy to dismiss an LCD screen in our ultra high resolution phones, but since none of the Android Wear watches out there today have figured out how to compete with the sun without draining the teensy little batteries under those tiny screens, LCD offers a distinct advantage over AMOLED displays in direct sunlight. Where the AMOLED display in the Huawei Watch got crushed by direct sunlight in always-on mode, the Moto 360 2015 is still sort of visible. It's still not a great experience, but notably better than AMOLED in this situations. The tradeoff here is the maximum brightness isn't anywhere near what you usually see with AMOLED, and the always-on display isn't quite as nice as you'll find elsewhere, so you'll rely on this always-on trick a little more often than you would need to with another watch.
The included Horween Leather strap feels similar to the strap included with the original Moto 360, which isn't necessarily a good thing. The top and bottom of the strap feel like nice leather at first, but wearing it on your wrist for a few hours on a hot day quickly turn the experience into something itchy and uncomfortable. It's also not particularly attractive, since this strap is multiple pieces of leather that have been pressed together instead of some of the better stitched straps we've found included elsewhere. You can always change the strap, something Motorola has made more convenient than ever with their quick release pins on the included strap, but the experience is still less than spectacular. There's a good chance you'll want to shop for a nicer strap before too long.
All told, the Moto 360 2015 feels like a healthy upgrade from the original.
As "crown" buttons go, the one you find on the side of the Moto 360 2015 is just sort of there. On top of not adding anything to the already too short list of things you can do with buttons on Android Wear, the physical button is rigid and feels very mechanical. There's also a great big Motorola M covering the whole button, just in case anyone stops you and asks what watch you're wearing and you forget. It gets the job done like it's predecessor though, and you never have to wonder about whether you actually pressed the button.
All told, the Moto 360 2015 feels like a healthy upgrade from the original. It feels nicer on the wrist, looks nicer on the wrist — especially with Moto Maker options — and generally speaking is of superior construction when compared to the original. It stands out in a crowd, and while it's not the perfect circle many have come to appreciate it gets the job done and doesn't appear to compromise in the process.
Moto 360 2015 software
Software is the great equalizer with Android Wear watches, since Google controls the keys to the kingdom and it's up to the manufacturers to figure out little ways to make the experience unique. What you see on one watch is, with few exceptions, what you see on all watches. For the moment, that means everything is running Android Wear 1.3. Where Motorola has separated themselves is by getting the jump on interactive watchfaces, a clever charging UI, and a handful of Moto-made apps.
Not that it should be surprising, given that a Snapdragon 400 processor and 512mb of RAM is what you find in almost all Android Wear watches right now, but the overall user experience on the Moto 360 2105 is great. The UI handles well, with no noticeable lags or jumps in the interface. Compared to this generation of Android Wear watches it's basically the same experience you'll see everywhere, but compared to the original Moto 360 this watch flies. More than anything, this new watch highlights how poorly its predecessor has handled the software updates that brought us to this point.
While most of the watchfaces included in this new Moto 360 have been carried over from the original, many of which have gained customizeable components since their original launch on the first Moto 360, Motorola released this watch with two interactive faces called Dials and Dials II. These faces include three bubbles that can be filled in by a variety of information points on your watch, including heartrate, battery, pedometer, calendar, and a handful of others. Motorola has also partnered with a number of Android Wear app developers to give them the tools to include their information in these spots, and more are expected to be rolling out over the next couple of months. For the most part, however, it's similar to what you see with a lot of third-party interactive watchfaces, which is great.
Motorola's health monitoring tools, which used to be separate apps for heartrate, step counting, and general fitness, have all been rolled into Moto Body. This new UI includes a quick glance at any fitness tracking you're interested in, but the main event is getting you to install the Moto Body app on your phone so all of this information can be tracked over time. If you're using Android Wear for fitness tracking, it's a solid option that covers all your bases. If this isn't your thing, it's easy enough to ignore.
It's a fairly trivial thing overall, but the charging interface is still something worth appreciating about the Moto 360 2015. Because the charger included with this watch sets it up like a bedside clock, the charging screen is perfect for glancing up at night to see what time it is, or glancing across the room to see how charged your watch is before picking it up. This design was one of the best things about the original Moto 360, and with its slightly altered design to support the lugs and "crown" placement it's one of the better parts of the off-the-wrist experience in this new version.
Motorola's software extras are subtle, well built, and thoroughly enjoyable. They take the Android Wear experience and enhance it without getting in the way, and while it's hard to credit Motorola with all of that given Google's grasp on the Wear ecosystem, it's a nice overall experience all the same.
overdelivering like whoa
Moto 360 2015 experience
Looking at the outside and fiddling around with the software on a smartwatch only gives you part of the overall experience. These watches need to be explored for days, and in the process you pick up a little bit of the story left behind by the creators. The Moto 360 2015 doesn't come in particularly fancy packaging, and it's not positioned to act like a nice watch on your wrist. It's a small watch-shaped computer on your wrist, and Motorola makes few attempts to convince you otherwise. From the moment it leaves the charger, the Moto 360 2015 is clearly focused on being comfortable enough to wear but not necessarily something for the person used to wearing a nice watch on their wrist every day.
For my wrist, the curve of the lugs on this watch and the curve of the base complete a comfortable feel in most situations. If my wrist is bent all the way back, the casing gets in the way and it quickly becomes uncomfortable, which is expected with a watch this size. It took several days for the included Horween Leather strap to not itch the under side of my wrist, but somewhere around Day 5 the strap finally felt broken in. It's not not a particularly comfortable strap, and it still looks like two pieces of leather scrap were glued and pressed to create something else, but it has gotten better over the last week and that's not something most people can say about the strap Horween offered with the original Moto 360.
The existence of auto-brightness on this watch meant I never once had to bother with brightness controls. Sitting in a theater, playing outside with my kids, driving at different points of the day, the Moto 360 2015 was already good to go when I glanced down at it. Given how frequently I find myself mucking around in the brightness settings or using the triple crown tap to activate max brightness for a moment on other Android Wear watches, it's a little surprising auto-brightness isn't a priority for those who want their watches to fee like watches. While it'd be nice for Motorola to figure out how to get this sensor under the display and move on to a fully round version at some point, it's hard to argue with the decision to include it in the mean time.
Another feature Motorola opts for with their displays that gets ignored on smartwatches that want to be real watches when they grow up is having the display slightly above the bezel. This isn't a watch, it's a round touch screen where every pixel is precious. The decision most smartwatch manufacturers have made to put the bezel above the screen, effectively making it so you can't quickly slide your finger from one side of the screen to the other without bumping into bezel, is a little on the crazy side. When your finger can run up the edge of the Moto 360 display unimpeded by bezel, you see more of the important stuff your finger is usually covering up. Motorola's design just plain makes sense, and to make things even better the new Moto Maker options for stylized bezels doesn't get in the way of this experience.
During their initial presentation for this watch, Motorola promised once full day of battery life with the always-on display active, and two full days with the always-on mode disabled. Given the dramatic increase in battery for this generation and the use of an LCD screen — which is hardly what you'd call efficient when it comes to always-on display modes — those stats were a little underwhelming. It turns out, Motorola was being a little generous. Under the same daily workload that would take a Huawei Watch to 20 percent in a single day, the Moto 360 2015 regularly ended the day with 55% battery with the always-on mode enabled. Setting the watch into theater mode overnight, this watch would start the second day with 52% battery remaining. While that's cutting it a little close based on my personal use, it wouldn't be impossible for someone to get two full days out of this watch with the always-on mode enabled.
Motorola delivered in a big way here, and it's impressive to see what 400mAh can get you in Android Wear with the right stuff under the glass.
Disabling the always-on display on the Moto 360 2015 turned a day that normally left me with 55 percent of my battery and extended it to 71 percent of the battery remaining on a day where no GPS navigation was used. It's entirely conceivable that someone could get three full days out of the Moto 360 2015 with notifications hitting the watch roughly every 15 minutes during the day and always-on mode disabled. No other Android Wear watch has been capable of delivering this experience for me yet, which is impressive. Motorola delivered in a big way here, and it's impressive to see what 400mAh can get you in Android Wear with the right stuff under the glass.
It's also important to remember that a couple of minutes on a wireless charger, just about any wireless charger anywhere, will keep your watch going. While a full charge on this watch takes nearly 2 hours, you never have to worry about whether someone has your special charging cable if you left your charger at home and need a spare somewhere.
function over form
Moto 360 2015 The Bottom Line
There's a lot of people very excited about smartwatches right now, and just about all of them have an opinion on what the ideal watch should look like and how it should feel. Ultimately it's all about walking that intersection of materials, technology, and style. Motorola opted to give users the ability to customize a highly functional Android Wear watch with a lot of different options instead of focusing on the most stylish wrist computer you can put on your wrist. There's very little about the overall experience with the Moto 360 2015 I'd consider lacking, and most of that list can be fixed with a better watch strap.
The big question to answer now is whether this experience is worth the $349 starting price tag, which increases little by little as you move up the Moto Maker change list. For the most part, it's easy to answer yes. I found the original Moto 360 lacking at launch, and quickly passed judgement including a strong desire to see Motorola make some of the very changes they made with this version. The only thing holding Motorola back at this point is the included strap, as it's going to run users another $30-$50 to find something mostly enjoyable to complete this experience. A $400 wrist computer is hard to justify, especially when that's the same starting price as Motorola's really great new smartphone. While what we're seeing with this price tag is largely the cost of miniaturizing a premium experience, it's a little hard to justify the price tag when it looks like the strap on this watch will start separating at any minute.
Should you buy it? Probably
I would recommend the Moto 360 2015 to anyone who wants a highly functional Android Wear watch they can customize to look exactly the way the want, and know it's going to last them a while. Google has clearly navigated their partners to this hardware profile, and with software updates largely controlled by Mountain View this is something you will be able to keep and appreciate for a while, which helps justify the price tag.
On the other hand, if you're the kind of person who prefers form to function, you'll find there are other Android Wear options out there that have swapped out some features for a premium look and feel.
Without a doubt, the best place to pick up a Moto 360 is from Motorola, especially if you want to personalize the look to fit your style. Motorola offers the Moto 360 2015 in three difference shapes and sizes, and each has their own selection of color choices for the body, bezel, and whatever strap you want to include with the purchase.
If you want to grab a Moto 360 2015 without customization, but also without a waiting period, Best Buy has you covered. Select stores will have the watch available for purchase alongside a small selection of additional strap options, starting at $299.
Like all Android Wear watches, Google has a special place for you to make a purchase directly from them. The Google Store frequently has offers you won't find anywhere else, like gift cards for the Play Store or discounts on other hardware, so be sure to check the prices and sales at the Google Store if you're looking for the best bang for your buck.