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Moto 360 Review

October 3rd, 2014
tech, smartwatch

I've been wearing the Moto 360 watch for the last two weeks, trying it over a range of activities. The idea of being able to handle notifications more quickly without the hassle and distraction potential of getting out my phone was the main draw, and it is good at this. Any notification that shows up on your phone also shows up on the watch, but a watch notification is more intrusive than a silent phone notification so I turned off watch notifications for a few apps like email that were too much. In the case of email, I also felt like the watch wasn't well suited for long messages I might need to respond to. It was at it's best when communicating things I could handle with a glance, and email isn't like that.

For notifications, something vibrating on your wrist is a lot more noticeable than in your pocket. I don't like having my phone make noise because I don't want to bother the people around me and don't like having to remember to turn it off when I go into places where ringing would be embarrassing, but I do sometimes miss texts and pings with my phone in my pocket on vibrate. On my wrist I didn't miss any, which was really nice.

I was initially worried about the battery, with people saying that they were only getting ~13hr out of it, but I was finishing most days with over 50% charge left. To be fair, though, I was a relatively light user: ambient mode off, no custom watch face, not that many notifications. Motorola also just pushed out an update that people are saying improved their battery life a lot, so I wouldn't worry about this. I did run out of charge once, at the end of a day when I spent three hours in the car with navigation running and stayed up four hours later than usual.

I was also worried about the watch's appearance, that it might be too large and bulky, but mostly it just looks like a watch. A few people asked if it was one of those new smartwatch things, but overall people didn't seem to notice it.

Voice control was a bit of a disappointment. On my phone I can say something like "set an alarm for one hour and fifteen minutes: hang up laundry" but the watch instead wants me to say "set an alarm" and then use my finger to select the time. In general voice interaction with the watch is broken up into stages, where you say something, get a prompt, say something else. This may be because when the phone misinterprets you there's a keyoard to fix the part it didn't get while the watch doesn't have this, but the phone does well enough at understanding me and asking for clarification when it needs it that I was hoping the watch would simply act as another microphone and display for the same tool.

The charging display at night is really nice. You set the phone down in its cradle, and it looks like a little digital bedside table clock. Well designed, useful, and readable with my glasses off, unlike the clock on the other side of the room.

The watch has a step counter and heart-rate monitor, and I had initially thought I didn't care about these features. After a few days, though, I noticed that it was getting me to walk more and think more about getting exercise. On the other hand, it did inform me that I had reached my step goal and heart activity goal while I was playing the piano for a dance last night, so it's not completely accurate.

One missing feature that would be really helpful is a screen lock. Normally when you touch the screen it turns on and starts interpreting input, but if you're contra dancing or playing with an infant there are a lot more accidental touches than intentional ones. Several times my baby managed to get the phone into a weird state, sometimes without me even noticing she had turned it on. Requiring a button push or accelerometer gesture to turn on the screen would be helpful in these cases.

The key issue for me, however, turned out to be wrist irritation. I haven't worn a watch on my wrist for years, and from when I first put this one on it bothered the bottom of the back of my hand. I thought I would get used to it, but after two weeks it's getting worse if anything, so I'm going to stop wearing it. [1] In general I have bad wrists and am sensitive about things pushing on the tendons on the back of my hand, and now that I think about this I vaguely remember this was why I stopped wearing a watch before. [2] If it wasn't annoying my wrist, though, I would keep wearing the Moto 360, and I'm sad to be ending this experiment early.


[1] And so craigslist.

[2] I had switched from a wrist watch to a pocket watch, and then to a carabiner that hung from my belt, held my keys, and had an integrated digitial watch.

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