(Pocket-lint) - When Android Wear - Google's operating system for wearables - was announced, three devices lined up for scrutiny: the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live and the Moto 360. Of the three, the Moto 360 was heralded as the best of the bunch, the apple of Android Wear's eye.
Samsung and LG delivered their devices first and Moto 360 bided its time, perhaps trying to resolve some problems, or perhaps waiting for a more grandiose launch. That it got, with availability announced alongside the launch of a new Moto G and Moto X handsets.
But is the Moto 360 still the poster boy of Android's wearable platform, has it already missed the boat, and is the talk-to-your-wrist Android Wear platform really what anyone wants anyway?
Premium materials, simple design
On paper the Moto 360 does everything right. It's got a round watch face, for starters, setting it aside from the rectangular Samsung and LG watches already in existence. That gives it immediate appeal.
So too does the choice of materials: Corning Gorilla Glass, stainless steel bodywork and a Horween leather strap gives you the impression that Motorola is setting about this whole wearables movement in the right way.
But we're not sold on the design because it's just bland. We said the LG G Watch looked like a generic device and we think the Moto 360 looks like a generic watch that we've failed to get truly excited about.
READ: LG G Watch review
The only real nod to premium design is the chamfered edge to the display, but apart from that, when the display is off, the dark metal Moto 360 is just a black circle held onto the wrist with a black strap. The only relief from the invasion of noire is the gold-coloured trim around the side button. We're not sold on the Horween black leather strap supplied: it feels pretty cheap and we found it got sweaty quickly.
However, the "light metal" model looks better because, if nothing else, the colour adds some interesting detail. The steel bands also look better than the leather, but are not yet available, so if you're determined to get the Moto 360, we think the light metal with matching steel band would be the best combination.
As to the size, the Moto 360 isn't massive and sits comfortably enough on a average sized gentleman's wrist.. It has a 46mm case that's 11.5mm high, but we don't think it's too big. That £3,000 Rolex is probably the same size or bigger, but it looks dominating because of the uniformity of colour, especially on the black model, as well as the lack of any sort of detailing.
The round display is one of the most appealing features of the Moto 360 - and we actually quite like it. It's a 1.56-inch panel with a 320 x 290 pixel resolution, or 205ppi density, and it's detailed enough to do its job well - so we've no complaints in that department. There's plenty of detail and punch to colours and we found that the brightness well suited to use both indoors and outdoors, setting it above some other devices. Of the devices available at the moment, this is our favourite display of the bunch.
Except for one niggling issue, which might kill the Moto 360 stone dead for some: Motorola has chopped the bottom off the display, so it's not actually a round display. There's no 6 o'clock, but instead a kind of "black bar".
But it's a black bar with purpose: an ambient sensor is housed in this intruding section across the bottom. We wish the design could have incorporated it elsewhere, because while we like having that sensor, we really wish this was a proper round display. And it isn't.
There's another feature that Motorola has introduced called ambient screen. Essentially this means that the display is on all the time but dimmed, so you can read it as a watch whenever you like.
Some will argue this is unnecessary, that it's just a drain on the battery - which it is - but we like the option and have found it useful. Being able to read the time, like any normal watch, is great for those days when you're never far from the wireless charging dock.
The Moto 360 also has the motion illumination that other Android Wear and Pebble devices offer. Turn the watch towards your face and it will illuminate. Like the LG G Watch we found this a little slower than we wanted it to be.
Thankfully there's a hardware button on the side of the Moto 360. This adds to the watch-like looks (whether you think that's generic or not) and acts as a button to wake the display up from sleep. Or a long press takes you through to the settings.
In these settings you can adjust the brightness, set ambient display, change the watch face and so on, including restarting the watch if you need to.
The Moto 360 is also water resistant with an IP67 rating. That means you can sweat into it, shower in it, do the washing up in it - but do remember that water and leather is an uncomfortable mix. You might have wanted a rubber sports band instead - but no can do, as the 360 is only compatible with specific Motorola straps. And right now the only strap it comes with is the Horween one, with an alternative steel band slated for the future.
Powering the Moto 360 is the rather old TI OMAP 3 processor. There's 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM also on board. We didn't find the older hardware to be a slouch, but we suspect that the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor - found in most rivals - is more power efficient.
Android Wear and Moto Connect
If you're unfamiliar with Android Wear's premise and what it can do, then take a look at our deep dive separate review for more details. In a nutshell it's the platform that feels like an adapted Google Now - so there's a lot of vocal interaction rather than just button- and screen-based interaction - to receive notifications from a paired smartphone and interact with applications. Some will find that voice element plain weird, others will think it's cool.
READ: Android Wear review
The interface of the Moto 360 is the same as other devices on the Android Wear platform. It's been adapted for the round screen and that works well enough, with only the occasional notification missing something in the corners, which we're happy to accept.
However, we would still like to see more apps and services offering support from the platform. Being able to control Netflix playback over Chromecast is very cool, but all too often Android Wear is about notifications only.
Motorola hasn't added much either, only those heart rate apps and round watch faces. So you're basically looking at a feature set that's the same as elsewhere, delivered in the same way, with the same shortcomings.
As we've mentioned, Android Wear is heavily dependant on voice interaction to get things going. As with all Android Wear devices there's a microphone on board, but there's no speaker, so you won't be placing any calls using only the Moto watch. Some of the other voice integration is very smart, like asking it what your next appointment is, or it giving you travel information from Google Now, but there's still plenty of areas that could be improved.
For example, directions feel like they need to be more dynamic. It would be great to get better mapping on the watch. You can ask "where am I?" and the wallpaper will show a map based on your phone's GPS location behind the text. We just want access to those maps, rather than having to rely on navigation's simple visuals. On navigation, we've also sometimes found a new navigation request directing us to our last destination. Check before you start driving!
We also found some calling oddities, with calls arriving on the phone and the Moto 360 not vibrating until after we had answered the call. We also found that the Bluetooth connection dropped fairly frequently on some devices, so we'd get errors returned when we asked it to do something.
To get the most out of the Moto 360 you'll want the Motorola Connect app. This gives you more controls over the Moto 360, such as the ability to customise various watch faces, enter more details for your "wellness profile", as well as see where your watch was last seen on the map.
Designs for an active life
The Moto 360 includes an optical heart rate sensor on the rear, along the lines of that found on the Samsung Gear Live or Apple Watch. The lenses appear smaller than some we've seen and we've not found it to be as effective as previous heart rate sensors we've used in Samsung's Gear Fit or Gear 2.
There's a corresponding app to deliver your monitored heart rate. You simply say "what's my heart rate?" and the app will fire-up and try to deliver it. Motorola has supplied its own Moto 360 Heart Rate app, although we found this failed to deliver the results on most tries. Android Wear's own Fit app, however, seemed more reliable.
There's also a corresponding heart activity section in the Moto 360 Heart Rate app. This monitors your activity to ensure you're not just a sedentary lump, and it seems happy with any degree of movement - like walking - rather than wanting you to get into heart rate training regime. We're not convinced this aspect uses heart rate at all, we suspect it's just using the motion sensors, as all it is looking for is 30 minutes of activity across five days of the week.
You can add additional information to your "wellness profile" (height, weight, age) in the accompanying Motorola Connect app, but there seems to be no reason to do so. It seems as though Motorola is partly aligning the Moto 360 as a fitness device, but not really following through with it just yet. If you want it to be a fitness device, you'll need to use a different service, like Strava, in conjunction with your phone.
Battery and charging
With the Moto 360 having a sealed body there are no ports for charging, so you have to use the wireless charging feature. We like this a lot because it's simpler than clips, pogo pins or plugging in a cable - but naturally means you can't just power it up with the same cable you'd use to charge your phone.
But the wireless dock is an elegant solution, as it switches your Moto 360 into a clock mode, showing you the time and the charge status. It's ideal for beside the bed or on your desk in the office, so it's worth having two chargers.
You'll probably want that arrangement because the battery life on the Moto 360 isn't great. It will get you through a day if you don't spend too much time fiddling around with the display, but in reality it's a watch that will need charging each night. Leaving the watch overnight without charging will see it drop about 20 per cent of its battery and that's with no movement, no display illumination, just the regular Bluetooth LE connection on.
We've managed to flatten the Moto 360's battery during the day under heavy load, but we've also left it alone and returned to it the next day to find it still alive. Motorola only lists the battery life as "all day" and in this it's not too different from other Android Wear devices. As with all of those thus far - save for Pebble - we're left wishing for greater endurance. Thankfully the 360 will charge fully in just a couple of hours.
The Motorola Moto 360 arrives at an unusual time for Android Wear. Announced at the outset, but slower in coming to market than its peers, it's facing second-generation devices like the LG G Watch R that may very well eclipse it.
However, we like some of what Motorola has done in the 360, such as the round face being far more watch-like in appearance than its rectangular competitors. But that black bar across the bottom impairs that roundness.
Other features such as the heart rate monitor app also need to be better defined - right now it adds visual flair to a stock function, but fails to give consistent results. We feel that devices like the Moto 360 will adapt as Android Wear gets more support from apps and developers - and there is some clever stuff happening, but we're yet to see that eureka moment just yet. Some people will never get on board the idea of talking to their wrist, which may see Android Wear on the whole stalled for a section of the market.
Then there's the battery life. Just like the other Android Wear devices the 360 lacks endurance, but it can survive a normal day's use. At least the included wireless charger - which implements as desk or bedside clock adaptation when docked - is a cool way of getting juice back in the battery.
For now we just have to sadly accept that if we want the convenience of this type of connected companion then battery life is one day maximum, not as long-lasting as the Pebble. We can only pine for Android Wear to adopt alternative, more power efficient technologies as and when they arrive.
Overall the Motorola Moto 360 has some likable moments, but there's that residing sensation that it can still be bettered. It may have been the poster boy of Android Wear, but it feels like a smartwatch that's just marking time.