Review: The Moto 360 is the best smart watch on the market—but that’s not saying much

This is a category of electronics still searching for a purpose

Two views of the Motorola Moto 360 smart watch


Let me just say right off the bat that the Moto 360 is the best smart watch out there. Yes, it’s even more handsome than the soon-to-be released Apple Watch. But then again, let me also remind everyone that it is a smart watch. How attractive or useful it is in the grand scheme of things really depends on whether you’re a gearhead or not.

Motorola designers believe a proper watch should be round, not square, and I couldn’t agree more. When I wore watches, back when I was a teenager, I always opted for a round face. Square watches at the time were usually digital, and they seemed dorky to me. I still feel that way.

The 360 itself feels very close to a real watch. The real leather strap is strong and doesn’t feel like it’ll break even with judicious tugging.

The face itself, a 1.56-inch LCD touch screen, is still a tad bigger than I’d be comfortable wearing, but it’s small enough that it doesn’t look or feel hideous, like some other products on the market. The watch feels light and comfortable on your wrist—or, it’s as comfortable as anything can possibly be in that spot.

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It’s with the software that things get wonky. The 360 connects to Android phones via Bluetooth and can be set to displays emails and text messages, whereupon it buzzes slightly when a notification comes in.

It also doubles as a step counter and heart-rate monitor, and you can also speak voice commands to it, like “Tell me where I can buy a real watch.” In each case, the 360 allows you the option of launching fuller actions on your phone.

I liked the customizable watch faces. You can opt for a classic three-hand look on a white background, or go with a sleek digital display on a black background, among others. But that’s about all that pleased me with the experience.

The functions themselves aren’t intuitive. Even after a few weeks of wearing the Moto 360, I still couldn’t figure out how to bring up email notifications or the heart-rate monitor—are you supposed to swipe the watch’s face up, down, left or right?

Worse still, after a period of disuse I had trouble getting to any of the functions, at which point I had to resort to the voice command to start the heart-rate monitor. It was enough to turn me—and it—completely off.

In the end, I’m still not sure why the average person would want a smart watch. Even the Moto 360’s most basic function—telling time—isn’t as simple as on an analog watch. With a real watch, you can instantly tell the time by glancing at your wrist, even if it’s only slightly peeking out from your shirt cuff or jacket.

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The Moto 360, meanwhile, requires you to either tap the screen, push its side button or lift your arm close to your face to get the display to activate. That’s not a lot of work, but it’s infinitely more than a so-called dumb watch requires.

A certain sub-set of early adopters or gadget hounds might like the Moto 360, but that’s about it. It may very well be the best smart watch on the market so far, but this is a category of electronics that is still searching for a purpose.

Motorola supplied a loan unit for the purposes of this review.

Watch the Android Wear intro video: