Ten things you need to know about the new Motorola and Samsung smartwatches

With more choice and improved looks and battery life, the two companies are hoping for greater success

The hottest smartwatches at IFA in Berlin are Motorola's Moto 360s and the Gear S2s from Samsung Electronics. Here is how they compare:

Are Samsung and Motorola offering various models of their new smartwatches?

Both companies are giving buyers more choice than in the past. Motorola is offering four new variants of the Android Wear-based Moto 360: there are two case sizes, a Sport version with onboard GPS, and one aimed at women. Samsung’s new Tizen-based smartwatch line-up includes Wi-Fi versions of the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic, as well as a 3G version of the Gear S2. The Moto 360 devices also have on-board Wi-Fi.

How customizable are the watches?

Motorola offers more customization options than Samsung. Using the Moto Maker tool, it's possible to choose among different sizes, cases, bezels and bands. Samsung, on the other hand, will offer the Gear S2 with a dark gray case and a dark gray band or a silver case with a white band.

What about screen sizes and resolutions?

All three Samsung models have a 1.2-inch screen with 360 x 360 pixel resolution. The Moto 360 smartwatches have either a 1.56-inch screen with a 360 x 330 pixel resolution or a 1.37-inch screen and 360 x 325 pixel resolution.

What’s under the hood?

The Moto 360 smartwatches are powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor from Qualcomm. Samsung’s watches have to make do with an unnamed dual-core 1GHz processor. But the performance isn’t laggy, so it seems Samsung's Tizen OS doesn’t need more to run well. The storage and RAM are the same for all Samsung and Motorola models: 4GB and 512MB, respectively.

Has the battery life improved?

On paper, it seems like it has. Samsung promises battery life of up to three days while Motorola says the large Moto 360 has a battery life of up two days. As always, those promises come with caveats, so we'll need to wait for real-world tests done over a longer period of time.

Is there still a black strip at the bottom of the Moto 360 screen?

Yes, that was a conscious trade-off made early on to make maximize the display size of the overall design, according to Motorola. That may very well be the case, but it’s a design quirk that still stands out, and not in a good way.

Why should I get the Moto 360 Sport?

It was developed to let users go on a run without having to bring their smartphone, thanks to integrated GPS and a music player. The smartwatch also has an LCD display that combines a traditional backlit transmissive screen with a front-lit reflective technology. It can switch between the two as lighting conditions change. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to see how well the technology, which is called AnyLight, performs because the units Motorola showed at the launch event didn’t have working screens.

What are the drawbacks of getting the 3G version of the Gear S2?

Ubiquitous connectivity is always nice, but, in this case, it comes with a cost. The 3G version of the Gear S2 has a shorter battery life and is also bigger and heavier than the Wi-Fi version. The price tag is also likely to be higher, so it only seems like a good investment for people who don't own a smartphone.

What will they cost?

Base prices for the Moto 360s range from US$299 to about $429. Upgrading to the bigger version costs $50 as does choosing a metal band. Getting the rose gold or gold version of the Moto 360 variant for women costs an extra $30, and a double leather wrap costs $10 more. The Sport will also cost $299. Samsung hasn’t revealed the pricing for its watches.

When will they ship?

With the exception of the Sport model, the new Moto 360 models will start shipping this month and are now available for pre-order in the U.S. with more countries following soon. So far, Samsung is also mum on when the Gear S2s will start shipping.

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