See the Moto 360 close-up
Another newly released gadget means it's time to get out the USB Microscope and have a close look at the things that make it what it is. This time around, it's the Moto 360 and there is some neat stuff to be seen when you get in tight.
What looks like just a round piece of stainless steel on a subtle black leather strap is actually made up of some precision parts, as well as some parts that aren't going to hold up as well as we want them to. I'm looking at you, scratched-up plastic back on a watch that's only three days old ...
Let's all take a good look at the screen, the construction, the sensors and the overall parts and pieces (both good and bad) of the latest Android Wear device and see what makes it tick.
Much to-do has been made about the screen on the 360. Not because it's round, but because it's not AMOLED and has a lower pixel density (205 ppi) than the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live, at 240 ppi and 278 ppi respectively. At "normal" viewing distances, you'll notice a bit of pixelation sometimes. When you have a screen element, like the second hand on a watch face, at an odd angle it can look a little jagged.
When you get in close, you really notice the pixels. But then again, you do on the other Android Wear devices when you get that close, too. The Moto 360's 320 x 290 IPS LCD has a full stripe RGB arrangement (as expected from an LCD) and is covered by Gorilla Glass. So far, it's held up to my wearing it all day and all night. Sometimes I see the pixels and wish it were more dense, but on the whole I'm not going to complain.
The outer glass has a beveled edge, and anytime you can see through a bevel refraction comes into play. Most of the time, you'll never notice it, but when a notification with a lot of text comes in, say for Gmail, sometimes the bevel catches the text and things can look a bit weird. The only way to fix this would be to have the sides of the glass be covered, and we'll take the bevel every time when given that choice.
Besides the normal internal sensors we expect on any Android device — like a gyroscope and motion sensor — the Moto 360 has two user-facing sensors we can take a look at. Above, you see the external Ambient lighting sensor. This is the reason the black bar is at the bottom of the 360 screen, because somewhere was needed to put the darn thing so it can see how bright or how dim your surroundings are. Moto chose to cut 3/32 of an inch of the display off at the very bottom of the radius versus putting a bezel completely around the display. And this has people fighting about flat tires all over the Internet. It's not too bad with a black watch face, but there's no way you'll not notice it. Anyhoo, here is the cut-out in the panel and the tiny optical sensor that made it happen. Print it out and use it as a dart board if you need to.
Around back, where it can rest against your wrist, is the optical heart sensor array. It uses light and tiny receivers to catch the exact color of your skin. When your heart pumps (pushes) your skin flushes ever-so-slightly red. When it pumps to pull, that red tinge goes away. These little sensors read that and use it to keep track of your heartbeat. Samsung and LG both use something similar on their Android Wear watches, and they all do a fair job if being accurate. If you just need to know when you've reached a heart goal while exercising, they are great. If you're a cardiac patient who needs an exact beat-per-minute count, don't trust your smartwatch without talking to your doctor.
The build materials
The 360 is a pretty well built piece of 316L stainless steel, Gorilla Glass and really nice leather. All except for the back, which is clearish plastic designed so that a Qi wireless charger can be used — there are no ports on the Moto 360, so you'll not be plugging anything in. The Gorilla Glass front cover sits about 1/32 of an inch above the steel body, and as we saw above has a beveled edge along the entire radius. I can't find any flaws in the bevel cut at 200x magnification, and I am not able to snag a pair of my wife's lacy silk underthings on it. The "pockets" (for lack of a better term) where the strap attaches are square cut, and while the 90-degree edge is easy to feel nothing is sharp.
The strap attaches with standard 22mm springbars, but as we've seen the strap you use has to be thin enough to fit inside the pocket. It's not quite proprietary, but you will have to be a little choosy when picking out a replacement strap. Luckily, the leather band that came with the 360 is one of the nicest you'll find for a plain leather band. It comes from Horween Leather, which is the same place supplying the backs for the new Moto X. they also have been producing leather for watch straps, shoes and wallets and the like for years. The stitching looks good under magnification, and the buckle looks like it's made of the same 316L stainless as the watch body.
The only issue I see is with the plastic back cover. After just a few days of wear, it's already scratched up pretty badly. I'm not using my 360 as a sanding block, either. It's been either on my wrist, on the charger, or on the microscope plate for pictures today. Now these scratches aren't going to hurt anything, and you can barely see them with the naked eye, and they are on the back of the watch where they aren't visible at all. I just don't want my expensive smartwatch to be all scratched up on the back.
The Moto 360 certainly isn't for everyone. For that matter, neither is a smartwatch of any kind. But our curious side had to take a look at a few things, and hopefully answer a few questions about just what we're seeing there.