The Moto 360 smartwatch has finally been unveiled at IFA in Berlin, alongside a handful of other watches like the ASUS ZenWatch and Sony Smartwatch 3. By far Motorola’s entrant has been the most-anticipated wearable device of the year, but can it live up to the months of hype?
The Android Wear operating system (OS) delivers a similar experience, no matter the device. Unlike with smartphones, there are no proprietary user interfaces (UIs) or clever processor designs. Manufacturers are restricted to using similar internals and specs in order to keep the whole ecosystem functioning with uniform smoothness.
Device-makers have had to concentrate solely on physical design and hardware features to differentiate themselves, as demonstrated by the main reason that the Moto 360 has been so sought-after: its round screen and classy look.
We’ve already discussed why a round smartwatch is such a big deal for Android Wear, now it’s time to see if and how the Moto 360 actually holds itself apart from its contemporaries as a piece of wearable tech.
Case Study: Moto 360 vs Smartwatch 3
Unlike a phone, a smartwatch is always on display. It’s a fashion accessory as much as it is part of your gadget arsenal and what it looks like says something about you.
The Moto 360’s familiar round design mirrors the classic wristwatch staple. This blending of old-school style with new-age tech is fitting and sensible. The watch-face itself is stainless steel and the wrist-straps are real leather. In short, a watch like this shows that your understanding of classic style doesn’t get in the way of your keeping up with modern trends.
The Sony Smartwatch 3 is a bit more of an in-your-face gadget. Everything about it screams “tech”. The rectangular watch-face mirrors the then-high-tech digital watches of yesteryear, and the rubbery watchband itself looks like something destined to be worn by divers or sports enthusiasts. Doubly so if you opt for the 80s-esque Sports Lime model.
Neither design is necessarily “better” per se, but the Moto 360 is definitely going to appeal to a larger audience.
We know that the screens are different shapes, but they’re also driven different technologies. Both use LCD panels, but the Moto 360 is LED backlit where the Smartwatch 3 is TFT. On paper that should mean the Moto 360 is more easily-visible in direct sunlight and provides better viewing angles, although real-world use may differ.
The Moto 360 also has a light-sensor tied in to an auto-brightness setting. It can turn up the intensity when you’re out in the sunshine, then tone it back when you’re indoors again. Considering that the major complaints against the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live earlier this year was that they were difficult to view outside, this could be a make-or-break factor.
Wet 'n' wild
The Moto 360 has the ‘look’ side of things down, but the Smartwatch 3 is going to take it in aquatic versatility. Motorola’s smartwatch is IP67 water resistant, just like every other Android Wear smartwatch. The Smartwatch 3 is IP68 water proof.
In plain English the Moto 360 can be submersed in water for around half an hour, while the Smartwatch 3 can go on an indefinite underwater adventure, so long as you don’t dip far below 1- to 2-metres (3-6 feet).
Going back to the design, the Moto 360 also has those real leather straps. That’s great for land-lubbers, but if you spend any amount of time in the pool or with your hands submerged then that leather is going to stiffen up real fast. Not so with the rubbery bands from Sony.
No-one wants to add yet another device that needs daily charging to their life unless it’s totally necessary.
Sony has made its watch last a little longer. The official specs on the website specify “up to 2 days normal use”. Two days would be great, but Sony’s choice of words doesn’t inspire confidence. There’s far too much that can be implied by “up to” and “normal use” to make any judgements before people actually start taking it for a test drive.
The Moto 360 has only a single day’s charge. A shame, to be sure, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Motorola has built wireless charging right in to the watch and provides a charging station in the box. When you pop your watch off to sleep at night you only have to make sure that when you place it on the nightstand it’s also on the station.
Of course, the lack of USB charging port on the actual phone itself means you can’t use any handy micro USB cable to charge. If you go travelling, or spend the night anywhere outside of your normal sphere of activity, you’ll have to bring the wireless dock along for the ride.
Ultimately we’re still big fans of the Moto 360. The Smartwatch 3 looks like a great device, but its appeal targets folk who are a bit more out-doorsy than we can truthfully admit to being.
The Moto 360, with its round face, stainless steel finish and leather straps is more our style. Calm, classy and understated all the way. We’d like to have seen a little more out of the battery, but its other merits are enough to keep us happy. At least on paper.