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Three Weeks with the Moto 360

IMG20141002143252As much as I want to be annoyed by wearables, I can’t help but be intrigued by the endless possibilities a smartwatch presents. While Samsung’s and LG’s clunky first stabs at Android Wear failed to garner much respect or attention, Motorola’s Moto 360 simply rounded its watch face to steal all the applause. As an ardent vintage watch wearer, I was won over by the “classic” appeal of the 360’s round face and its simple and elegant design. Having worn it for just over three weeks, I’m neither blown away nor disappointed.

From a build standpoint, the Moto 360 looks and feels premium, which separates it further from the competition. It’s heavy without weighing down your arm like a hockey puck, and the much touted Horween leather strap’s supple feel on the wrist enhances that high-end experience. The casing is brushed stainless steel with a slightly protruding crown that functions merely as a power button/screen dimmer.

Functionally, Android Wear has a long way to go, but out of the box it’s still pretty useful. Google Now functionality makes more sense on the wrist. The cards that Google Now chooses to show you are based on your search habits, calendar, and email (and further enhanced by your customization). Google’s ability to monitor your life is dependent upon your reliance on its Android and web eco-systems, of course. If you don’t use Gmail, or Google to, you know, Google things, then you won’t find the watch very useful. But chances are, if you have an Android phone, you’re already neck-deep in Google’s data mining kingdom.

The complaints about the Moto 360’s battery are wildly overblown. Yeah, it barely lasts a day, but so, too, does my phone. I can’t really gripe about a battery cycle I’m already accustomed to. I use my Android phone to the hilt. I expect a lot out of it. The fact that the battery is running on fumes by the time I crash suits me just fine. It charges next to my phone (wirelessly, I might add). For those who expect multiple days of use without slapping this thing on a charger will obviously be disappointed. But what land of delusion are you living in, anyway, with such lofty expectations?

Speaking to your wrist to initiate actions sounds kind of cool in theory (and probably looks ridiculous), but how often would you feel comfortable enough yapping a personal text into your watch without someone hearing your thoughts verbalized? The car is just about the only time this comes in handy. But, then again, I have to turn off my music so as not to confuse Google’s voice recognition in order to speak to it. So, calling it “handy” may be a stretch. The voice recognition engine has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, but I still barely use it. The watch is more for consuming data than it is creating it.

Notifications are the key to Android Wear, and I’m amazed how the context of seeing certain notifications on my watch make me pay more attention. My only criticism about the notifications is that there is no way to dismiss them all with one swipe. You have to close each notification individually. This is not convenient. Surely to God, this will be fixed in a future update. And, if there is a way to do this now, please enlighten me.

And the slice of dead space at the base of the watch? I forgot about it after exactly ten minutes of use. A non-issue. One area that could actually use some work is the wrist action to engage the screen. When you make the motion to look at your watch, the screen is supposed to light up. This happens maybe 70% of the time. So, if the screen does not light up, you then have to touch it. And even that doesn’t always work, but it certainly has a much higher success rate. As a last resort, pressing the crown will wake up the screen without fail.

Is the Moto 360 essential? Well, it depends on your level of enthusiasm for not checking your phone quite as often. Being able to respond to texts, controlling your music player (replete with album art backdrops), and seeing your heart rate with just a glance at your wrist are cool features indeed. But you’re not exactly being subtle. This watch is not easily overlooked. And people tend to notice when your wrist lights up with notifications. So, until smartwatches becomes as ubiquitous as mobile phones, you’re drawing attention to yourself just to make your life infinitesimally more convenient.