Has Google given up on Wear OS, its smartwatch operating system? The last big update was in 2017, leaving manufacturers such as Motorola to try and breathe new life into Wear OS with revamped hardware. Enter the third-generation Moto 360, which has long been one of the more stylish models on the market.
Moto 360: what’s in the box?
The first way Motorola distinguishes itself from the crowd is by providing a choice of straps in the box, something you’re normally forced to pay extra for.
The classic steel grey version I was sent for review comes with tan leather and black silicone straps, giving you suitable options for leisure and sports activity. The rose gold and phantom black designs come with their own matching strap options, and Motorola says more straps will be released over the summer.
Changing straps is straightforward, with even a fat-fingered lummox like me able to dig my nail into the tiny clasp on the reverse of each strap that pings it clear of the watch. I wouldn’t want to change straps on a daily basis, however, and I do worry about how long the fragile-looking pins will last with repeated strap-swapping. Good job I don’t do daily exercise.
You can tell I don’t do daily exercise, because the built-in heart-rate monitor tells me I have the pulse rate of a 84-year-old amphetamines addict. That’s but one of the many sensors inside the thing, with an accelerometer, barometer, gyroscope and ambient light sensor also on board.
The ambient light sensor is perhaps not sensitive enough, because after a day or so of peering at a dim screen I switched off the auto-brightness and set the watch to a medium-grade brightness of 3, which now proves perfectly visible both inside and out.
Connectivity wise, there’s the full barrage of sensors: Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11n Wi-Fi, NFC for those who like to pay with stuff on their watch and GPS for those who want to track exercise without lugging a smartphone around with them.
It’s 3ATM water-resistant too, which Motorola says means the watch can be submerged in water 30m deep, making it suitable for “casual swimming” with the silicone strap. Given the lockdown restrictions, I’ve not been able to test how it copes in the pool, so will have to take Motorola’s word for it.
The only obvious omission here is a speaker, meaning the watch can’t be used for calls, nor to answer any Google Assistant voice queries from the built-in mic.
What’s the performance like?
Performance is very slick indeed. The watch is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 and that appears to be light-and-day smoother than the 2100 inside my three-year-old Huawei Watch 2.
Whereas menus on the Watch 2 often judder under the finger, everything on the Moto 360 is gloriously smooth. There’s no half-second delay to wait to see who’s calling when the phone rings nor pregnant pauses when opening apps. It’s immaculately responsive.
That slick navigation is aided by the uppermost of the two buttons on the Moto 360 doubling as a spinnable crown. Spinning allows you to scroll through notifications and menus with ease, and you can press down on the crown to select options. It’s often easier than touch scrolling and, of course, means your fingers don’t obscure what’s on screen.
The screen itself is lovely, once you’ve manually taken charge of the brightness controls. It’s sharp, well backlit and the colour balance is just right.
Battery life provides no cause for concern, either. I’ve been using it for a week now and most days have ended with 30-40% of battery life remaining. The supplied charger (note this doesn’t come with a plug but can be inserted in any powered USB port) will fully top up the battery in a shade over an hour, if you don’t want to charge overnight.
Moto 360: verdict
There’s a lot to like about the new Moto 360. It’s versatile, with the supplied straps catering for both sport and casual wear. It looks nice, it’s just the right side of bulky, performance is flawless and the battery life is respectable. At an already reduced price of £269, it’s not desperately expensive either, although the availability of the similarly-equipped Apple Watch Series 3 for £199 does stick an ugly dent in its value-for-money score.
But largely through no fault of Motorola’s, the Moto 360 does nothing to move the smartwatch market on. If you’ve got a reasonably recent smartwatch and there’s no problem with the battery life, it’s unlikely the Moto 360 is going to bring you anything ground-breaking.
Wear OS seems stuck in a rut, and while Motorola has done little wrong with the Moto 360, it’s not a must-have either. I can’t think of any similarly priced Wear OS watch I’d rather have, but I wouldn’t fight you in a pub car park for it, either.
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Moto 360 (third generation)
An elegant, versatile Wear OS device that’s appeal is dampened only by Google’s disregard for its own watch operating system
- Two straps in the box
- Slick performance
- Elegant design
- No great leaps in functionality
- Pricey compared to even Apple rivals