(Pocket-lint) - The second-gen Motorola 360 Android Wear watch has a special edition that's pitched towards sports training. That's obvious enough from its Moto 360 Sport namesake, perhaps bringing some clarity to a segment of wearable technology that's a little muddled at the moment.
Smart sportswatches are nothing new. For many years the likes of Garmin, Polar and other manufacturers have offered smart solutions, giving you lots of data when keeping track of your training. The recent rise of smartwatches - such as the Apple Watch - has seen a bundling in of sports features, like heart-rate sensing, with little practical thought about what such watches are supposed to be primarily for.
This isn't Motorola's first sportswatch: those with a long memory might remember the MotoACTV a few years back, an Android watch that was in many ways ahead of its time. Spring forward to the present day and the Moto 360 Sport is a re-working of the men's second-edition Moto 360, enhanced with a few more sporty features, wrapped in a sporty design, and given a slightly lower price. Is it the sportswatch to plump for?
Moto 360 Sport review: Design
The Moto 360 Sport's biggest change over the latest Moto 360 is that the watch body is wrapped in silicone, giving a body and strap that's much better suited to sport than other Android Wear devices: chrome and leather isn't practical when you're sweating along forest trails or pounding the treadmill.
It's available in black or white and these straps aren't changeable, it's either or. The white model may get grubby over time, making the black a more suitable option for many we suspect. That said, because it's a silicone finish, it will attract a lot of dust and debris, and we found it often needed brushing off because it was attracting fluff from clothing.
But the strap is both soft enough and comfortable enough to wear for sport, with the added bonus that it won't absorb sweat. There are large holes to give some ventilation for the skin underneath, but as the Moto 360 Sport features a heart-rate sensor on the rear, it's designed to be worn fairly tight. It will also withstand the odd knock and comes with an IP67 rating, so is resistant to dust and water.
The size is pretty close to other sportswatches and, indeed, the regular Moto 360: with a 45mm diameter watch face, 11.5mm maximum thickness, and almost negligible 54g weight. The design also throws up the right-hand button in a 2 o'clock position and the "flat tyre" black bar on the display, like the other Moto 360 models. We really don't like that black bar, which will look all the more obvious in the white finish.
Importantly though this design is much better for sport and we've found it really comfortable during the times we've been working out with it. We also prefer this sportier look to the regular Moto 360, which feels as though it takes itself a little too seriously. The Moto 360 Sport is more casual, and better for it.
Moto 360 Sport review: Hardware
The Moto 360 Sport's hardware is par for the course, but makes a few additions to match its sporty aims. There is GPS onboard, so it will track location without being connected to a smartphone, as well as featuring a barometric altimeter.
It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset with 512MB of RAM and there's 4GB of internal storage, for music you might want to take with you. There's Bluetooth and Wi-Fi onboard as you'd expect, which is standard fare for most Android Wear devices.
It's powered by a 300mAh battery, again, the same as the regular Moto 360, and that's a battery that will give you about a day of use, perhaps a little more, depending on what tasks you set it to.
Charging is via the dock, which we like. You can plop it on the stand and your watch will recharge, which is nicer than many rival solutions. We found the Moto 360 Sport would get us through a typical day on a single charge, including a 35 min run.
The optical heart-rate sensor works as it does on Moto's other devices, but as we mentioned previously, it means you have to have the watch fairly tight - a disadvantage compared to chest strap HRM arrangements. The heart-rate sensor will capture data regularly when you ask it to record a run and this will obviously mean that longer runs have a higher battery drain, especially when combined with GPS logging.
The hardware load-out means that the Moto 360 Sport performance is very much as you'll find elsewhere, with Android Wear just about as slick and fast as any other current device.
Moto 360 Sport review: Display
The display is interesting, however. It measures 1.37-inches with a 360 x 325 pixel resolution, with the bottom lopped off to house the ambient light sensor, giving that flat-tyre black bar look that we've come to associate with the Moto 360 (and that we wish would go away). It's topped with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to help repel scratches.
Moto pitches the display as "AnyLight", saying it's a hybrid display that adjusts to the conditions you're in to best effect. The aim is to give you the brightness and visibility from an LCD when you're indoors, and offer transflective properties when you're outdoors. That latter part means it's providing visibility by reflecting the natural light, rather than using back illumination.
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The result is that when you start running, the display switches from the full LCD colour illumination into mono, but keeps updating with the live data. We never found a problem with visibility, having tested the watch in all conditions, including running at night. However, it doesn't seem to stick in one mode or the other: if you lift your arm to view the display it switches back to full colour, as it does when you touch it.
If we had one criticism, it's that the auto brightness is a little on the aggressive side, leaving the Moto 360 Sport a little dull. We've never had a problem reading the display, but it's not as punchy as some when left to its own devices.
Moto 360 Sport review: Sporty software
In many instances, the Moto 360 Sport offers the same software experience as other Moto devices thanks to Android Wear. At a base level, the Android Wear experience is the same across all devices, meaning that this is a very connected watch, serving up all your notifications and supporting all the apps that the platform offers, like Citymapper, Spotify and more, just as it might on the LG Watch Urbane or Tag Heuer Connected.
In that sense, the Moto 360 Sport is a good Android Wear device. It's loaded with hardware, offers typical battery life and has a comfortable design.
But returning to its highlighted purpose, the Moto 360 Sport offers a selection of features to support your activity. Most of this is covered by Moto Body and works with the Moto Body app. This is the same as it is on the regular Moto 360 devices, with the app acting as a central point to view your activity data on your smartphone.
There's a heavy feeling of the lifestyle side of activity tracking in Moto Body, rather than the competitive sports feeling that dedicated sports watch platforms offer. For instance, Moto Body presents "heart activity", steps and calorie burn on the main screens of the app, with your running needing a click through for more information. In essence, a good day looks like one where you've been active, rather than one that's seen a great workout.
On the 360 Sport watch itself and the default face presents this activity information, again displaying steps, calorie burn and heart activity around the edges. This is respectable at-a-glance information, and a tap on each takes you through to a respective section with more information. In that sense the Moto 360 Sport is good, because it's leveraging Android Wear's latest function - interactive watch faces.
Central to this face, under the time, is a start button. A tap of this takes you through to your run tracker proper, prompting you to select whether its indoor or outdoors, before selecting "quick start" to just get going, time, distance or calorie burn to set those targets for the run. Again, this is part of Moto Body, and it's only for running - there's no apps for gym workouts, cycling, or anything else.
During a run, you can swipe through various screens, including distance and pace, heart-rate zone and BPM, and laps data. Laps appear to be recorded automatically every mile, with no options for disabling them. There's plenty of information and it's all visible enough, but we find it annoying that the screens don't carousel, i.e., when you get to the far right, you have to swipe back to the left to see the others again.
If you're a runner, it's a reasonable tracking app for your runs, but there's no option to change the run types, no fartlek, no pace guidance, no intervals training, no way to race yourself. You can set the distance, time or calories you want to burn, but that's it.
And therein lies the Moto 360 Sport's biggest problem: it's not a very good sportswatch from a software point of view. It caters reasonably for running, but other sporting activities are liberally ignored by native software, meaning you'd have to look elsewhere to track a hike, ride or other activity.
With Moto Body being such a core part of the experience, it's worth us diving a little deeper into the offering of the smartphone app. It's important to remember that this isn't exclusive to the Moto 360 Sport, as we've also used it on the second-gen Moto 360. The Moto Body app gives you somewhere to see your activities, presenting a calendar view dashboard as mentioned above. Tapping on an a run takes you through to a report, showing the GPS trace, summary of your achievement, and graphs for pace, heart rate and calorie burn.
You're also given the heart-rate zones that you were in when running, which is perhaps the more advanced side of the app, as you can strive to train within a particular heart-rate zone, although there's no guidance as to why that might be important, or indeed what is desirable for best training efforts.
You can look over your data divided into weeks, months or years, but sadly there isn't a browser companion anywhere. Unlike Fitbit, Garmin, TomTom, Polar and even Google Fit, Moto isn't letting you open up a browser to view your data - it's a mobile only experience.
There is an exit, however, because Moto Body will share data with other fitness platforms. These include Fitbit, Strava, MapMy, UA Record and Google Fit, which might form something of an escape to your favourite platform.
Moto 360 Sport review: Performance
We've mentioned the battery performance previously, as the Moto 360 Sport's performance is rather typical at around a day. That makes it perform like a smartwatch and not like a sportswatch. We get over a week from our Garmin Forerunner 610 without a problem, but the Moto 360 Sport is a charge-every-day device. That's something of a shortcoming. Where we'd happily take the Garmin away for an active weekend without needing the cables, the Moto 360 won't let you do that. The trade-off is the additional connectivity and functionality that a full smartwatch offers.
When it comes to GPS, we found that the Moto 360 was pretty fast at picking up location when separated from a smartphone. The quick run option will let you start running without having to wait for it to lock onto your location (which not all do) and we like that. On a cold morning it's sometimes more important to get going and accept that your GPS trace is going to miss the first few minutes of your run.
The GPS performance is reasonable. Looking at the maps we've seen some anomalies. It's not the most accurate device we've used, and it's outperformed by our regular Garmin model. It's pretty close but we've found the distance is usually a few hundred metres out, which you might (or might not) find acceptable enough.
When it comes to the heart-rate sensor, as we've said, you need to be wearing the watch fairly securely to get a reading - you can't have it slipping around on your wrist. It's more sensitive than some smartwatches we've tried, and more reliable (if it's tightly sealed). Ad hoc heart-rate measurements seem accurate enough - consistent with those we were getting from a heart rate strap on a different device.
On a run, however, we found a great deal of variance. On a consistently paced run, we saw the Moto 360 Sport sometimes reporting about 10bpm higher or lower than we'd expect. We normally run at around 155bpm, and the 360 Sport was sometimes telling us it was 168, or 142, for example. As it happens, the averages often come out pretty close to what we'd expect, but the Moto 360 Sport doesn't seem to be entirely consistent when monitoring runs.
In the Moto 360 Sport you have an interesting device. Moto is pushing the sport angle, although it's not really a strong competitor for a dedicated sports-tracking device. If you're a runner, you'll probably find that something from the Garmin Forerunner family feels better suited to task. At the moment, the Moto 360 feels a little too much like a lifestyle+ device.
The Moto 360 Sport does offers a lot, however, with full Android Wear support. But the cost is in battery life which only lasts around a day. This is a smartwatch playing sporty, rather than a sportswatch playing smart. There's the potential for a better range of native sport support which feels lacking at the moment through the Moto Body app, but the full range of Android Wear app support gives the potential for much more now and in the future.
But with all that said, for those wanting a Moto 360 in a sportier design, you will find the Moto 360 Sport caters to your needs. It's a more relaxed look than the regular model, it's cheaper and it has hardware features the other models don't, which is a good thing. It avoids the design foibles that plague the likes of the LG Watch Urbane or Huawei Watch, by not trying to be more luxury than it actually is.
The result is that the Moto 360 Sport is a good Android Wear device, avoiding the faux luxe landmine, and a reasonable choice for those looking for a smartwatch. But, ultimately, it's no true competitor to a dedicated sportswatch.