Moto 360 second gen review

Motorola's new smartwatch goes big on customisation but doesn't change the game

The original Moto 360 was the most hyped smartwatch of 2014, not to mention the poster child for Android Wear. In many ways, it was destined to disappoint. This time around the spotlight has split, and Motorola has been offered some room to breathe.

Overhaul: Android Wear 2.0 update for your smartwatch

With a big focus on customisation but no new standout features, can the $299 second generation Moto 360 deliver something special?

Moto 360 2: Design and build

First up, if you're a woman who's interested in smartwatches, the 42mm Womens Moto 360 is the wearable you've been waiting for. Not the Apple Watch, not the Huawei Watch. It's the first Android Wear watch this (female) reviewer has put on her wrist and not thought it looked a bit silly. Sure, it's still fairly chunky at 11.4mm and that might put off some, but overall it's a compact, jewel-like piece that looks just the right amount of boyfriend watch. It just works on a woman's wrist.

And for that matter, a man's wrist. Put the new 46mm Mens Moto 360 next to the first-gen Motorola watch and you can see the subtle differences that really turn this design into a 'watch' rather than last year's circle on a strap.

Smartwatch showdown: Samsung Gear S2 vs New Moto 360

The crown has moved up slightly, the bezels have been refined and the watch has stylish lugs either side of the body to attach the straps. These actually now differ between models, with the two styles tailored to men and women and to fit different widths of 16mm, 20mm and 22mm straps. Smart.

Motorola mentioned the new levels of Moto Maker customisation and we got to see some of this at IFA, with plenty of the rose gold and gold-plated models on display as well as new pale pink and cream leather bands. After tinkering with finishes, bezels and accents in Motorola's customisation tool and seeing different versions together in a presentation box, the watches don't look like some outdated one size, one look fits all gadget.

Read this: Our updated Huawei Watch hands on

There are gold, rose gold and silver cases and bands, and the same colours again but 'peaked' for the bezels (with micro cut versions on offer too). In terms of strap, it's stone gray or blushed brown for the Horween leather ones (double wrapped leather available for the brown one); silver, gold or rose gold for a metal lug. Put it this way, you wouldn't feel embarrassed turning up to a party wearing the new Moto 360 if someone else has the same idea. Chances are they'd look totally different.


Part of the reason for this is the very reasonable price.The second gen Moto 360 starts at $299 and tops out at $450 depending on how you customise it with Moto Maker.

Compare that to the Apple Watch (up to around $1,100, forgetting the Edition) and the Huawei Watch (up to $799) and there's much less chance you'll get a nasty surprise when you try to recreate a smartwatch design you've seen in swanky lifestyle shots. With a narrow pricing system, Motorola is putting personalisation for 'the masses' into action, making its customisation service viable for everyone, and that's a very good thing.

Moto 360 2015: Display

Everyone knows that the Moto 360 was the world's first round smartwatch without actually having a fully round display. And if you were bothered by the flat tyre last year, you'll be irked to know that it returns for a second outing.

Now, opinion is split in the Wareable office about whether this was a good move. On the one hand, companies like LG, Samsung and Huawei have made fully round smartwatches with compact designs and in Huawei's case, 0.6mm bezels. On the other hand, nothing has yet come close to the modern, edge-to-edge look that the Moto pulls off with even more style in this edition.

Read this: Asus ZenWatch 2 first impressions from IFA

Motorola has never actually over-promised on the quality of the smartwatch display itself but it is quietly bringing this up to scratch. The second gen 360 ups the pixel count to 360 x 325 for the 42mm model and 360 x 330 for 46mm but doesn't dazzle when compared to say, Apple and Samsung screens.

The backlit LCD isn't quite as punchy as AMOLED in colours or contrast, for starters. That's not a dealbreaker now but as more apps bring images, GIFs and even video to the (really) small screen over the next 12 months it could start to get irritating. It's plenty bright enough and the ambient light sensor, which is responsible for that flat tyre, auto dims or brightens the screen and isn't quite so blinding in darker rooms as it was on the first Moto 360.

Moto 360 2: Features and fitness

No-one will buy a second gen Moto 360 for a functional edge. There is no such edge in Android Wear, apart from the inclusion of GPS on the Sony SmartWatch 3. But with Motorola's pro fitness vision set firmly on the Moto 360 Sport, there are no real standout features on the company's classic smartwatch.

So what has Motorola done to spice up the standardised wearable OS?

There's a range of classy, first-party watch faces available and this time, there's more granular customisation – of backgrounds, accents and live dials, Moto's answer to Apple's complications. And of course, there's now a fully fledged selection of stylish Android Wear watch faces to download, many designed for a round display. The Moto Connect app lets you muck about with watch faces and the dock mode on your smartphone but complements, rather than replaces, the main Android Wear app.

Aside from watch faces, Motorola has again included an optical heart rate monitor on the inside of the watch body. The 360 Sport, with its UV coated display and built-in GPS, will be the smartwatch/running hybrid for enthusiasts but Motorola is still going after casual or beginner fitness quantifiers with its built-in Moto Body features.

Wareable verdict: Moto 360 Sport review

You can take on the spot readings of your bpm via the heart rate reading in the Moto Body Wear app – it's generally accurate but we'd trust the second reading over the first one which is often way too high.

On the watch you can also see at a glance progress for daily and weekly 'heart minutes', steps, activity and, once you've completed 14 days of tracking, analysis of your averages. We'll update this review once Moto Body has worked its magic on our stats.

Head to your smartphone and the lovely UI details continue with cues from the circular Apple workout apps. With daily dashboards, goals and graphs for calorie burn, steps and heart activity, the set-up is very Fitbit-esque and there are both weekly progress emails and chirpy motivational alerts to the smartwatch throughout the day.

Moto Body also hooks up to Google Fit so you can feed your everyday activity into Google's health and fitness platform and switch to a running watch or GPS tracker for workouts. There's the beginnings of an app that wants to really see results for its users, but nothing that we haven't seen done better by dedicated fitness tech developers.

One last note on features and function. One method that the likes of the Samsung Gear S2, with its rotating bezel, is using to differentiate devices is controls – the consensus being that we don't much like prodding small touchscreens. Android Wear has some gesture controls but here Motorola sticks to the touchscreen and single hardware button approach. Again, this is not the manufacturers' fault but it is a missed opportunity for Google's OS.

Moto 360 2015: Android Wear

Alongside Motorola's own efforts, there's also the updated Android Wear to look forward to – the same as you'll get elsewhere but in a somewhat prettier package. We won't go into too much detail but there are some fresh features to play around with. We'd say Android Wear is about halfway to being an intuitive, useful, delightful smartwatch OS – it gets better the more we stick with it but there's still some way to go.

We still find ourselves swiping away too many context-aware Google Now alerts, but the smartphone notifications and controls are reliable and easier to manage with more recent functions like the 'undo' button.

With update after update, navigating the OS has been made easier with menus of apps, contacts and actions, plus new quick access brightness boost and cinema modes. The Wi-Fi compatibility is helpful for wandering around big houses or offices, away from your smartphone, and – less so – connecting to networks on the go.

New additions such as Together steal tricks from the Apple Watch by allowing you to connect your watch face to another Wear user. It works a treat at speeding up the process of sharing messages, activities, scribbles and emojis with a partner or housemate. We tried it out with our boss which, you know, we wouldn't exactly recommend.

Lastly, a big new addition to Android Wear is the iPhone compatibility – we tested the Moto 360 2 with an Android device but it's simple enough to set up with iOS. Just bear in mind there's no third party app support and voice commands are limited to Google's own apps.

Moto 360 2: Hardware

One of the slight disappointments of the first Moto 360 was performance. In most smartwatch reviews, you'd take it as a given that the hardware is capable enough but Motorola's decision to use an old TI processor didn't do it any favours. The occasional spot of lag when navigating the OS and switching between apps and actions let it down.

Well, consider that lesson learned – the second gen 360 runs on a Snapdragon 400 and is as zippy as you'd expect it to be. Plus the Qualcomm tech helps to account for some of the bump in battery life. As with last year, there's 4GB of storage – for music, say – and a fairly standard 512MB of RAM. It doesn't need any more than that.

The whole device is also water resistant to IP67 (but not dust proof) which means it can be immersed in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It's not to be used when swimming though and obviously don't dunk a leather strap – that's what the Moto 360 Sport will take care of when it arrives.

Moto 360 2015: Battery life and charging

Our favourite thing about the second gen Moto 360's battery is, again, the cute wireless charging dock. It's not ideal for frequent travellers but the neat and tidy bundled accessory is almost identical to last year's and really lets you build charging into your nighttime routine in a way that doesn't have you screaming at a blank smartwatch screen come 7am. Plus you can now choose the colour of the charging display in dock mode via the Moto Connect app.

As for the battery life itself, it's a 300mAh unit on the 42mm Moto 360 we've been wearing, which Motorola says is good for a day with the ambient screen turned on or 1.5 days when it's turned off.

We've been wearing the watch in ambient mode and, about half the time, the 360 2 still has somewhere between 5–30% juice at the end of the day. The rest of the time it conks out in the late evening. With the 46mm smartwatch, the larger 400mAh should last for up to two days but to be honest, we really need smartwatches to get to the point where they easily last a whole weekend on one charge. We're not there yet.

One small but important point – now that most Android Wear smartwatches including the Moto 360 2 support Wi-Fi, you'll save battery on your smartphone as you won't need to leave Bluetooth on all day.


Moto 360 second gen
By Motorola
If anything is game-changing about the second gen Moto 360 it’s the level of customisation on offer. Women in particular should get on very well with this smartwatch design. That said, Motorola’s rivals, particularly Apple, are fast catching up and everyone from fashion brands to modular smartwatch startups have realised that personal style is key for wearables. The Moto 360 2 improves on some key problems with the first Moto watch – performance and battery – but there's nothing that really moves smartwatches on. If you’re sold on Android Wear and are willing to accept its flaws the second gen Moto 360 is an affordable, stylish, everyday smartwatch. And maybe it doesn’t need to be more than that.

Hit
  • Classy, light, customisable design
  • Android Wear is halfway there
  • Improved performance
Miss
  • Flat tyre remains
  • Battery is better but nothing special
  • No features to stand out from Android Wear rivals


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