Thursday, 23 October 2014

Two Weeks with the Moto 360 - Device Review

I've had my Moto 360 for a couple of weeks now, so I thought I'd share my experiences of using the device so far. The short version is I'm generally happy with the watch and the few minor negatives are greatly outweighed by the general geeky coolness of strapping a voice activated computer to my wrist. If you'd like the slightly longer version, please read on...



The Battery

Battery life on the Moto has not been an issue for me, though my venerable Nexus 4 has shown the strain of doing much of the heavy lifting for the device, even running out of juice mid-evening on one occasion. If your phone already has issues retaining charge for a full day, I'm afraid pairing it with a smartwatch is only going to make things worse.

The watch typically leaves its cradle around 7am and turns in for the night at around 11pm. The lowest remaining charge percentage I've seen so far is 11%, with between 40% and 70% being typical. Pretty much the first thing the watch did after I paired it was update itself, so I'm assuming I'm benefitting from enhancements in the recent software update described on this Reddit thread.

Wireless Charging

I love this feature, and I don't think I'd consider a smartwatch that didn't have it. The Moto's cradle is nicely designed and effectively turns the watch into a bedside clock, as can be seen in the image below. I also invested in a desktop wireless charging pad, which happily charges the watch and on which my Nexus 4 now spends much of the working day.

Image credit - Ryan Whitwam, Android Police

Voice Recognition

I'm impressed with the Moto's voice recognition capability. I can't think of a particular instance of a mistake it has made, with both Google searches and text messages performing as expected (maybe that should be "as hoped" rather than "as expected").

Text messaging in particular works really well, and in my case is a definite time saver over jabbing at a touchscreen - the first time I sent an SMS merely by talking to the watch was a definite sci-fi moment.

Self consciousness has prevented me from making greater use of the voice interface while in public. Maybe we'll soon see crowds of people roaming the streets while talking to their wrists, but I strongly suspect not. Perhaps subvocal control systems hitting the mainstream will put a dent in the touchscreen interface's dominance, but that's a good few years away.

Health and Exercise

The Moto's health and exercise functionality is interesting, with hardware and supporting apps for heart and step monitoring baked in to the device. I don't have data on the accuracy of the heart sensor, but it has sometimes needed a few attempts to get a reading from me and it seems unlikely to be as accurate as a dedicated strap-on sports monitor.

I downloaded Endomondo, to test its Android Wear integration, at the request of one of my Objectivity colleagues and the results were fairly impressive. The app can be voice controlled, and a UI for stopping and starting workouts is displayed on the watch face. When you've finished your punishing hill run (or gentle stroll from the hotel to our Polish office in my case) you can view your workout stats, which include maximum and average heart rate as provided by the Moto.

My workout stats - I was overtaken by two snails and a tortoise.

Minor Issues

Compromises have definitely been made, the most obvious of which is the "flat tyre" at the bottom of the screen that houses the light sensor and screen driver hardware. The degree to which this bothers you will depend largely on your aesthetic sensibilities, but it clearly wasn't a deal breaker for me. I'll be surprised if this feature is present on any future versions of the device.

I've read reports elsewhere of battery capacity and performance being compromised, though neither has proven an issue for me so far YMMV.

The watch face doesn't always illuminate when I rotate my arm to glance at it, which is obviously a little annoying. Clearly my biomechanical profile is not fully supported by the device. Fortunately I can confirm the beer mitt swing (seen at the tail end of this clip from the British sitcom Men Behaving Badly) works every time for me.

Active notifications obscure approximately half of the watch face. To be fair to the Moto, this is an Android Wear feature and is not specific to this device. Depending on the watch face chosen, a visible notification can make it difficult or impossible to see the current time until the notification is dismissed. The current mechanism for dismissing notifications is a swipe, but if I could dismiss them with a quick shake of the device this would probably work better for me.

Conclusion

I'm happy with the watch. I wear it daily and I continue to find it genuinely useful. It's nicely designed, well made, and comfortable to wear. It also tells the time, which is a definite bonus.

As seems to be the norm for technology products it's a little more expensive in the UK than in the US, but £200 seems just about reasonable for this particular device.

I'm now eagerly awaiting the Android Lollipop update, to see if the 5.0 version of Android Wear will feature the ability use the watch as a beacon. :)


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