(Pocket-lint) - The original Moto 360 smartwatch was the poster boy for Android Wear. It was the first round-faced watch to run Google's operating system, making it instantly more appealing than the rectangular alternatives. Sadly, the black-out bar at the bottom of the display, which encroached on that circular face, left some bitterly disappointed.
The new Motorola Moto 360 is the sleeker, smarter second-gen successor that embodies a number of tweaks and enhancements. Motorola has invested in variety, offering two watch face sizes and three band sizes in 2015, but it hasn't invested in delivering a truly round display as that black-out bar at the bottom of the screen is still very much present.
The smartwatch market is becoming a tough battlefield and Motorola is faced with a lot more competition this time round. Has it done enough with the Moto 360 (2015) to get ahead of the game, or does the disappointment return for the second time?
Motorola Moto 360 (second-gen) review: Smart and stylish
The new Motorola Moto 360 offers a much more refined design to its predecessor. It's still not slim, with a thickness of 11.4mm, but the new colours available help retract from some of the chunkiness. The original Moto 360 offered Moto Maker for enhancing finishes and bands, but many of those options are available from the off with the second-gen device.
There are two watch face sizes (42mm and 46mm) and three band sizes (16mm, 20mm and 22mm) to target a more focused audience. The men's 42mm comes in silver, gold and black with a 20mm brown or black leather strap. The women's 42mm comes in silver, gold and rose gold with a 16mm grey or Blush leather strap. The 46mm comes in silver, gold and black with a 22mm strap in black or cognac leather. All the straps are removable but Motorola isn't encouraging switching them for a non-Moto strap.
Aside from the colour choice, the difference between the men's and women's 42mm models is the positioning of the lugs, with the men's versions set wider apart to allow for the wider straps and to help the device sit better on the wrist. The women's model has narrower lugs and therefore looks more feminine, while also allowing for it to sit comfortably on a smaller wrist. We had the women's 42mm with a rose gold case and the Blush leather strap in for review.
It's a smart, stylish device that looks good on - and more like a watch than a smartwatch, meaning wearing it with smarter clothing is less of an issue than most competitors. Motorola deserves a great deal of credit for that. It has addressed the need for variety, appealing to both genders and different tastes.
The command button on the right-hand side is positioned higher up on the new Moto 360 to avoid accidental knocks, and it makes the design feel more considered and a lot less simple compared to the original. There is even a Moto "M" symbol on it, which is a nice touch. This button allows you to turn the smartwatch on, as well as dim the screen - but you can do the latter by placing your palm over the display until it vibrates too. If you press and hold this button, you can also access apps.
Where the new Moto 360 lets itself down slightly is build quality. The case itself is made from stainless steel which is great, but the back of the watch, where the optical heart-rate sensor sits, has the same plasticky feel as the LG Watch Urbane and it feels disappointingly cheap. Traditional watch manufacturers pay as much attention to unseen elements as they do to those on show and we see no reason for a smartwatch to be any different.
The new Moto 360 is very light. If anything a bit more weight from a metal back would have made it feel more like the £229 it costs. Like the original, the new Moto 360 is also IP67 rated, though, so it can take a splash but not a swim.
We found the Blush leather strap comfortable to wear and especially liked the way it looked with the rose gold face, but it quickly became grubby. When we first got our hands on the new Moto 360, we picked up a model with a metal link strap and we would say this is the best route to take in terms of overall finish. You pay a bit extra for it, but such a strap makes the new Moto 360 feel more plush, while also adding to the stylishness of it.
The metal link bracelets are available within Moto Maker where it's also possible to change the bezel surrounding the display to a micro cut finish rather than smooth, in any of the three colours available for each model. It means you could have a gold case, with a black bezel if you wanted to jazz things up.
Motorola Moto 360 (2015) review: Display, black bar
The new Moto 360 42mm models have a 1.37-inch display while the 46mm model has a 1.56-inch display. The smaller display offers a resolution of 360 x 325 pixels for a pixel density of 263ppi, while the larger has a 360 x 330 resolution for a pixel density of 233ppi.
Motorola opts for a backlit LCD so the colours aren't quite as punchy as what you'll find on devices with an AMOLED display, such as Samsung's Gear S2 for example, but it does a good job. The colours are vibrant enough, blacks are deep and details are sharp in the smaller scale watch we've had in for review.
That black bar at the bottom of the display though. Ugh. We complained about it in the original Moto 360 and nothing's changed this time around. Select a black face and this "flat tyre" isn't as noticeable, but we like the lighter faces and they highlight the lack of a truly round display. It ruins the otherwise lovely display and overall look.
Thankfully, the black bar has a purpose: it houses the ambient light sensor that allows the display to adjust its brightness according to the surrounding conditions. It may not bother some, but for us we'd opt for a truly round display over the light sensor function, especially as the ambient function reduces battery life. That said, not feeling like we had a torch on our wrist when in a dark room - which has happened with earlier Samsung wearables - is a benefit.
Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protects the Moto 360's display and our unit still looks as good as new with no scratches. This glass has a chamfered edge, a design detail that appeared on the original model, but that we found has a tendency to create unwanted reflections. We do like how it looks, though, so it's something we can get over, unlike the black bar.
Moto 360 (second-gen) review: Smooth experience, average battery
The new Motorola Moto 360 switches out the TI processor within original Moto 360 and replaces it with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 400 chip, which not only gives the new device a power boost but it puts it inline with the competition. Like the original, 512MB of RAM is on board, allowing for a smooth experience in use.
There's 4GB of internal memory too, providing the ability to house your music or other content. We suspect voice-control to Bluetooth headphones will be the most common use but it is handy either way and a common feature of other Android Wear smartwatches.
In terms of battery capacity, the 42mm models have a 300mAh battery which Motorola claims will offer one-and-a-half days of mixed use with ambient off and a day with it on. We were able to make it to the end of most days - not everyday, but most, so it's good to see Motorola hasn't over-promised on battery life. The 46mm has a 400mAh battery, said to last two days - but we can't verify that, as we've only been using the smaller model for this review. We would still like to see smartwatches make it at least two days without needing to be recharged, but for now, a day seems to be the average.
Charging is simple enough and it takes around two hours to refill the new Moto 360 from empty. The watch comes with the same wireless charging dock as the original, which looks good - although it might be frustrating for anyone who travels a lot as the smartwatch sits on the dock while a Micro-USB powers it.
The new Moto 360 also offers dual digital mics, an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a haptics engine that powers the vibrations. There is also an optical heart-rate sensor on board, as we mentioned previously, but no GPS. Many Android Wear devices offer a heart-rate sensor, but few offer GPS, with the Sony Smartwatch 3 being on its own until the Moto 360 Sport appears.
New Moto 360 review: Nice activity tracking, stand-out features lacking
Other than how it looks (or can look), there is no real stand-out feature in the new Moto 360 over one of the other Android Wear smartwatches. Several competitors offer a heart-rate sensor, while currently only one that provides GPS (or look to the Apple Watch instead). Besides, Motorola put the proper fitness angle into the Moto 360 Sport.
The heart rate sensor in the new Moto 360 is the same as the one in the original model and is accessed via the Moto Body app by swiping right on the watch itself. We found the reading was always a little high, assuming it was able to find a pulse, so bear that in mind.
There is activity tracking on board too. Count your steps, monitor your heart rate, measure resting and active calories burned and this new Moto will analyse your averages after a couple of weeks. It's great for beginners who want to know how many steps they are doing a day, or in a week, as well as general stats. However, the Moto 360 is no Fitbit replacement, but it's a good start and it will be enough for some.
All the information gathered is presented in a good-looking, easy-to-read format within the Moto Body app on the watch itself, with more useful information also presented via the Moto Body app on your smartphone including graphs and goals. This data will also link to Google Fit, which is handy.
Motorola Moto 360 (second-gen) review: New features
Google announced Android Wear's compatibility with iPhone earlier this year so we tested the new Moto 360 with both Android and iPhone. There is much less functionality with iPhone, which you can read about in our separate, linked below.
Motorola has a separate Motorola Connect app that complements the Android Wear app, but it isn't available for iPhones, nor is the Moto Body app. Motorola Connect allows you to customise various elements of your Moto 360 including faces, accent colour and background colour; you can also design your own watch face, change the dock mode screen colour and see the last known location of your watch should you lose it.
In terms of Android Wear, the updated OS software means Wi-Fi compatibility so Android users don't need to have Bluetooth constantly running. It also means easy access to notification settings such as brightness boost and cinema modes so it's quicker to switch the watch into a more sociably acceptable mode - you'll need to swipe down from the top, then left for cinema mode and another few left swipes to get to brightness and other settings. Another addition is a feature called Together which allows Android Wear users to connect their watch face to another Android Wear device in order to share messages or emojis.
Everything else remains more or less the same and Android Wear is still far from perfect. Saying "OK Google" will still allow you to use voice commands such as sending a text to your partner to tell them you're running late, while Google Now cards deliver useful information when appropriate. Although it's not always useful: Google Now alerts are to excess, which is sometimes just too much. There is a new undo button, however, which comes in handy for notifications when you get carried away swiping right.
In terms of basic functionality, holding down on the watch face will allow you to change the face by swiping left and right to view your options. You can customise watch faces by clicking the settings symbol on the face, as well as Live Dials (what Apple calls Complications in its Apple Watch) that make up the various features on a face.
The new Motorola Moto 360 is without a doubt an improvement over its predecessor. The company has taken performance up a notch and coupled it with a much more stylish and appealing design. The customisation on offer helps sets it apart from other Android Wear devices, too, and Motorola has really considered the variety of people who could potentially wear this device.
But it isn't perfect, and that isn't just because of Android Wear's imperfections. The black bar at the bottom of the watch face is a big design flaw in our eyes, especially given how good the rest of the Moto 360 device looks. The plastic back could also do with some love and, aside from being pretty, there is no standout feature that truly sets the Moto 360 apart from its competitors.
So while the second-generation Moto 360 moves on from the original significantly in some areas, there are still a couple of points that hold it back - and they're too important to ignore. Yes it's pretty, but still isn't perfect.