Moto 360 (2019) Evaluate: A stable enchancment, however not the right improve

Four years after the last Moto 360 was released, the smartwatch is back – but it’s not made by Motorola this time around. After officially leaving the wearable market back in 2016, Motorola licensed the Moto 360 brand to eBuyNow, a company described in the press release as a “strategic brand partner of the Motorola brand”.

We’ve been supplied with a pre-release sample of the Moto 360 ahead of the launch for review purposes. This gives us an idea of what to expect from the smartwatch, but with a handful of changes expected before launch, it’s not what consumers will be able to buy. We’ve reviewed the Moto 360 as it stands right now, but we’ll be getting a release sample closer to launch to make sure the issues we mention in this review are fixed.  

Sporting the same overall design as the 2015 variant, how does the new Moto 360 stand up against the competition in 2019? Find out in our review.

Pricing and availability

The Moto 360 is now available to buy in the UK, US and Europe via the likes of Amazon along with the Moto360 website, following a delayed launch. 

The downside is that it’s much more expensive than its predecessor in the UK, coming in at £299/$299 compared to £229/$299, putting it firmly in place at the high-end of the WearOS-enabled smartphone market. 

If you want something a little more budget-friendly, take a look at our selection of the best smartwatches available right now.

Enhanced design

The new Moto 360 might be manufactured by a new company, but it looks much the same as the 2015 Moto 360 – although with a handful of changes that enhance the overall experience on offer. It’s still largely minimalist, featuring an aluminium body with a brushed finish, but you’ve now got a premium shimmer thanks to the inclusion of a SUS 316 stainless steel bezel surrounding the 1.2in display.

You shouldn’t have to worry about marking it either, as Motorola claims the stainless steel components are coated with PVD to resist scratches and keep shining.

The new range is available in three colour options – Rose Gold, Steel Grey and Phantom Black – with a range of leather and silicone straps to match, further elevating the premium look of the new Moto 360. What we’re currently unsure of is whether consumers will get to pick and choose a combination, like with the Apple Watch, or whether it’ll be pre-determined pairings.

The rotating crown, one of the key features of the previous-gen Moto 360, is back with a solid feel and haptic feedback to help simulate the experience of using a standard watch. Like with the Apple Watch, you can use the crown to scroll through your notifications and control the volume of music playback, but it’s not perfect.

The main issue is that it’s a little too resistant; we don’t want it to turn when caught on clothing, but at the same time, it’s a little too hard to comfortably turn by rolling a finger over it, even with etchings around the crown to improve overall grip. You can increase the pressure to get it rotating, but that usually ends with you scrolling too far.

Essentially, the rotating crown is pretty much there in terms of functionality, but it’s not ideal for one-handed use.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will also notice that there’s a new customisable action button beneath the rotating crown. This works much in the way that you’d expect; pressing the button opens Google Fit or any other app installed on the smartwatch, giving you quick access to your most-used apps.

The issue is, at the moment, the performance is very hit-and-miss with most apps simply refusing to boot when activated via the action button. Of course, with around two months to go before the smartwatch is released, this is something that Motorola could fix. We’ll keep an eye on performance and will update the review if/when it’s fixed.

A questionable display choice

The new Moto 360 sports a fully circular, always-on 1.2in OLED display that is generally crisp and bright in general use, and the dedicated direct sunlight mode is more than bright enough to use on a sunny day without having to strain your eyes or run for shade.

Unlike the previous Moto 360, the new variant offers an always-on display. It’s not the full experience, displaying a low-res version of your watch face when not active, but it certainly makes it easier to glance at the smartwatch to check the time or incoming notifications without having to rotate the wrist to wake the display.

The infamous flat tyre isn’t present on the new Moto 360, much to the applause of Moto 360 fans, although we’re not sure that replacing the tyre with a chunky bezel surrounding the display is the right move.

We’d certainly prefer an edge-to-edge display with a flat tyre, as with the previous-gen, over the display of the current-gen watch. It’s certainly an odd move to introduce bezels were there were none, and seems like a step back rather than a step forwards.

It makes the premium smartwatch look dated when compared to the likes of the similarly priced Apple Watch Series 5, and we truly don’t understand the reasoning behind it.  

Upgraded internals

It should go without saying that the new Moto 360 offers performance gains compared to the previous-gen smartwatch, which came out way back in 2015. Like most Android-based smartwatches on the market in 2019, the Moto 360 sports Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon Wear 3100 Platform alongside 1GB of RAM.

That’s more than enough to power the smartwatch experience, and although we’ve seen glitches and a bit of lag, we’re confident that this is down to pre-release software and not sluggish hardware.

Alongside the upgraded processor, you’ll find 8GB of built-in storage. With the Moto 360’s ability to install apps independently of a paired smartphone, the extra storage is much appreciated, and it’s double what was on offer from the previous-gen Moto 360.

You’ve also got access to fitness tracking capabilities thanks to the combination of a built-in heart rate monitor and Google Fit. It’s not quite as advanced as some competitors, lacking key fitness-focused features built-in GPS to accurately measure exercise when your smartphone’s not nearby, but Google Fit does provide a wide range of exercise tracking options (including swimming, with 3ATM resistance) for casual fitness fans.

The exercise tracking isn’t quite as specialised as what’s on offer from the likes of the Huawei Watch GT 2 or the high-end Fitbits, but the Moto 360 gives you an overview of your workout along with fairly standard metrics like overall distance, heart rate, calories burned and more (workout dependent, of course).  

With constant heart rate tracking and an always-on display, battery life could be a concern. Motorola claims an “all-day battery life” and while we just about made it through the day without any issue most of the time, there were several days during our testing where it didn’t – and we can’t work out why.

It could be that there were more incoming notifications, a rogue background process or an issue with the pre-release software draining the battery, but we can’t say for sure. We’ll take a look at a release model closer to the December launch to see if battery life has improved, and we’ll report our findings here.

The good news is that when it does require a top-up, the contact charger that magnetically snaps into place provides a full charge in around an hour.

Wear OS smarts

The Moto 360, like its predecessor, features Google’s Wear OS, bringing a variety of benefits and enhancements to the experience compared to smartwatch manufacturers like Samsung and Huawei that develop their own custom smartwatch operating systems.

The biggest plus of Wear OS is the Google Play Store; it’s built-in, requires no smartphone for the installation of apps and offers a wide range of apps whether you’re paired with an Android or iPhone (although there are a few omissions if you go down the iOS route). If you’re the kind of person that uses the likes of Google Maps or Citymapper to get around, the Moto 360 is a great option.

Apps aside, you’ve got access to Google Assistant – whether paired with an iOS or Android device – along with with a variety of great-looking customisable watch faces, Google Fit integration and support for Google Pay too.

The issue is, as it stands, the Moto 360 software isn’t up to scratch. We’ve encountered a number of software issues with the Moto 360 during our testing, ranging from small issues like apps not loading to bigger issues, including a non-responsive notification shade, that are only fixed by restarting the watch itself.

Of course, as we mentioned at the beginning of the article, we’ve been reviewing a pre-release sample and with release not scheduled until December, it’s more than likely that most of these issues will be ironed out – but we can’t say for sure.

As with the battery element, we’re going to take a look at a release sample closer to the time and confirm whether these pre-release issues have been fixed.

Initial verdict

The Moto 360 is a mixed bag; it’s a nice 2019 smartwatch with more features and a largely elevated design compared to the 2015 variant, but it’s not a cut-and-dry upgrade.

The display, while bright and detailed, features a noticeable bezel. Granted, it’s not the ‘flat tyre’ of the original, but we’d prefer the edge-to-edge display with a tiny black bezel at the bottom to the cheap look of the new display – especially with a £300/$300 price tag.

The pre-release nature of the watch means that performance isn’t great, and while we’re confident that this is software-based and will be fixed by launch, we can’t say for sure. For that reason, we’ll be withholding our full verdict and star rating until we get to test out a release sample closer to the launch.

About the author: SubSellKaro

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