New Moto 360 first look: Comeback smartwatch gets insane price tag

After four years out of the Wear game, Moto is doing smartwatches again
New Moto 360 first look
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In arguably the biggest smartwatch surprise of the year, there's a new Moto 360 smartwatch in town. Running on Wear OS and costing a (frankly outrageous) $350, it features a familiar design upgraded to the latest technology.

This new Moto watch isn't exactly made by Motorola. It's been built by a company called eBuyNow, a partner brand of Motorola that has licensed the Moto 360 brand to bring it back to life.

The last time we had a Motorola smartwatch on our wrists was 2015, when the tech company launched the second generation 360. We were still calling Google's OS Android Wear and we had to live with smartwatch screens featuring flat tyres.

Read this: Best Apple Watch alternatives

Motorola discontinued the 360 in 2017 and then it all went quiet on the wearables front. As big Wear updates arrived, the company opted against rolling out the new software to its watches, seemingly signalling a decision to back away from the space altogether.

We're happy to say there is no flat tyre this time around. It's still got an always-on display, as well as new, beefed up storage for your apps and music, all running on Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset.

We've been fortunate enough to spend some time with a pre-production unit, ahead of its December release, to see if a Moto comeback is really what the smartwatch world needs right now.

New Moto 360: A divisive design

New Moto 360 first look: Moto is back, but not with a bang

When Motorola launched the original Moto 360 in 2014, it's fair to say that it was a decent-looking, albeit chunky, smartwatch. It came in two style options, had that stainless steel case and felt like a smartwatch made for men.

The second iteration gave us a smaller size option that was a better fit for women, and, with this new version, well, it doesn't feel like the watch has come on leaps and bounds from its predecessor.

It's available with steel grey, rose gold or a black stainless steel case with a range of different color leather and silicone straps to choose from. All measure in with 42mm watch cases and include 1.2-inch, 390 x 390 AMOLED touchscreen displays. Crucially, as we say, there is no flat tyre.

You also get two physical buttons instead of just the one, like the old Moto watches. That second button essentially functions as a shortcut for your most frequently used app. So, in our case, it was defaulted to Google Fit Workouts.

New Moto 360 first look: Moto is back, but not with a bang

Original Moto 360 (left) and new Moto 360 (right)

We've had a mixed response from people who have spotted the watch on the wrist. Some have said it looks like a really nice watch, others who've seen the previous Moto 360 watches actually think the older generations looked nicer. To us, it still feels like a tech brand making a watch and not a beautiful watch with smarts that lie inside.

When you look at what Fossil has managed to achieve on this front with its many partners, it's hard not to feel like this a smartwatch stuck in the past.

New Moto 360 first look: Moto is back, but not with a bang

From a build quality point of view, it feels like a nice watch to wear, and the black leather strap and grey stainless steel case combo does create the look of a dressy watch.

Somehow, it actually seems a tad thicker than the previous versions, and, ultimately, it just lacks the character and uniqueness that you'll find on other smartwatches right now.

The touchscreen display, though, is a solid one and is the kind of bright, vibrant screen we've come accustomed to seeing on most Wear OS smartwatches. It's not a best-in-class screen, but it's certainly not going to let you down.

New Moto 360: Let's talk about Wear OS

New Moto 360 first look: Moto is back, but not with a bang

Even with its drawbacks, hardware has never really been the biggest issue for the Moto 360. Instead, it's been the software that we've really had to battle with.

The new Moto 360 runs on Google's Wear OS operating system. So, you can expect to see dedicated watch faces for Google Fit and the new Tiles (widgets) that are designed to make it easier to glance at the information you care about most.

Powering performance is Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon Wear 3100, while RAM has been beefed up to 1GB with a 8GB of storage. We expected a ramp up in the overall feel of interacting with Wear, and that's what we got. Swiping through screens has a nice zip and there's no signs of lag in performance.

Essential reading: Top Wear OS tips and tricks

Like other Wear OS watches, the Moto 360 plays nice with Android and iPhone devices, though we encountered issues pairing it with a Pixel. We had no problems doing the same with an iPhone, though, and the issues with our Android device could be down to the fact it was a pre-production unit (we were warned there would be some bugs).

Aside from one instance where we couldn't swipe back to the watch face, it's been a relatively bug-free experience using it. Notification support works well, and the addition of Tiles makes a world of difference and is something Google should've done a long time ago.

Google Fit still feels like a bit clunky, and it's still something Google needs to do a better job of when it comes to implementing it on a smartwatch. Sticking on the health and fitness front, there is a heart rate monitor and built-in GPS, though you'd definitely be advised to swap the leather band for a silicone one before you hit the gym with it.

New Moto 360: Battery life

New Moto 360 first look: Moto is back, but not with a bang

While we haven't throughly completed our testing to give you our full verdict, we've had enough time to get a feel of what the new Moto 360 has to offer on the battery front.

There's a 355mAh battery designed to give you all-day battery life, and, in short, it delivers exactly that.

On a full charge in the morning, it was usually down to about 40% at the end of the day. If you are a little less liberal with how you use it, you can eke out around a day and a half.

The inclusion of Qualcomm's Wear 3100 Wear processor also brings new battery modes to the fold, in a bid to improve performance, though it's not enough to really push things to anything like you'd get from a Fitbit.

Comfortably, though, you're going to get what is pretty much the battery norm for Wear OS watches right now. There's the promise of getting you from 0-100% battery from just a single hour of charge, and it definitely lives up to that claim.

0-100% in 60 minutes
0-100% in 60 minutes

Initial verdict

The new Moto 360, as we've explained, isn't from the same Motorola that launched the first two versions. This is another tech company that's taken what Motorola did and given it a revamp to bring it into line with the latest Wear OS smartwatches.

At $350, however, this is a smartwatch that puts itself into steeper pricing realms than most other Wear OS watches, and Samsung's latest devices, too. It is at least cheaper than an Apple Watch Series 5, but only slightly.

On the whole, there's not a lot here to get excited about. You could spend less and get a really nice Fossil watch, or a slimmer Samsung Galaxy Watch, and get smartwatch experience that's on par, if not better, than what the new Moto 360 has to offer.

For those that wished Motorola stuck it out with Wear, the new 360 may well have appeal. But when you consider how much more it costs than the last 360, and what you can get for less, maybe this was comeback that we could've lived without.

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