Out Before Apple — Can Moto’s Stylish Watch Win Fans?
Health & Fitness
People who are itching to see Apple’s so-called iWatch will get their wish next week, when the company announces its long-awaited wearable device. In the meantime, competitors are rushing to fill the market with alternatives.
But would you honestly wear them? On a date? With someone you liked?
For the past week, I’ve worn one of these connected watches that looks passably stylish: The Moto 360.
Sure, the 360 is significantly bigger than the thin silver watch I usually wear. But it has a round face that blends in better than geeky rectangular designs. This face can be changed to any one of seven designs. And the watch’s band is made of soft, high-quality leather that I wore comfortably for whole days.
This gadget, available Friday, will set you back $249. Along with the Moto 360, Motorola also announced two phones — the new Moto X and Moto G — and Moto Hint, a $150 wireless, rechargeable earbud that I wore briefly and liked.
The Moto 360 is one of several Android Wear devices, including models from LG and Samsung. This means it connects to a nearby Android phone via Bluetooth, displaying bite-size app notifications from the phone on the watch face. Certain activities on the watch prompt you to tap “Open on phone,” the 360’s way of saying that a watch face isn’t a good place to look at the thing you want to see.
It’s also a pedometer and heart-rate monitor. Pop-up notifications congratulated me when I walked 10,000 steps a day or completed 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a day. A phone app called Motorola Connect lets people plug in their height, weight and age for more accurate tracking, but this app wasn’t yet working during my tests.
On the downside, this watch only works with smartphones running Android 4.3 or higher, which is just 20 percent of Android phones, according to Motorola.
And its interface takes some getting used to: I kept forgetting which way to swipe to do certain things, or opened a screen by accident. At other times, I was frustrated by being forced to open apps on my phone, or felt restricted by the watch when I could only archive or reply to emails — not forward them.
Software challenges aside, this device has some hardware features that are worth mentioning. Its watch face is made of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3, to fend off cracks and scratches. In my testing, the Moto 360’s battery lasted all day — about 14 hours of mixed use. It comes with a wireless charging dock that automatically rotates your watch face to look like an alarm clock — ideal for nightstands. And it’s water-resistant enough to work for up to 30 minutes when dunked in a meter of water.
My favorite feature of the Moto 360 was dictation. Talking into your watch while leaving your phone in your pocket or bag is a freeing experience. It also just looks cool.
When I received new emails or Google Hangout chats that I could respond to using a couple of words or a few short sentences, I swiped right-to-left on the watch face, tapped Reply, and spoke my response into the watch, a la James Bond. My words were displayed on the watch face, and sent off seconds later — unless I hit “cancel” because my words were misinterpreted.
The Moto 360 can also be summoned to do things with an “OK Google” prompt, like ordering a car via the Lyft app, or displaying your current heart rate. This only worked some of the time. More often than not, I got on-screen prompts, and wound up tapping one of them. Without a keyboard, the Moto 360 is forced to rely on speech-to-text.
All Android app notifications can be seen on your Moto 360. But some app developers take this a step further and really integrate their app’s behavior with the watch. One example is Allthecooks, which walks you through recipes. I read through the steps for a recipe called Pig Candy by swiping right-to-left on my Moto 360’s touchscreen. This on-arm ease is a real convenience in the kitchen.
But convenience can cost: Wearing a connected device means that data continuously pops up, and this can be a double-edged sword. When it works well, you cut down on the number of times you rudely take out your phone.
On the other hand (or wrist), notifications can feel like interruptions: A Twitter update appears on your watch as you pour a glass of wine with dinner; a Google Hangout chat message buzzes your wrist while you’re at your child’s one-year checkup.
People who are considering a wearable device like the Moto 360 or Apple’s to-be-named gadget will need to remember that wearing this thing makes it harder to unplug: You’re less likely to take your watch off than leave your phone in the other room.
If you thought you were already always-on, just wait.