Hands-on: The 2nd-gen Moto 360 is probably the next best Android Wear smartwatch

It's good-looking, has good specs, and you can customize the style to your liking.

I hate to say this, but Motorola just “disrupted” Android Wear. Rather than offer a fixed style of case for its new Moto 360 smartwatch, it announced that you could customize your own.

It was obvious Motorola would go this route. It popularized the idea of customizing your own smartphone with the Moto X, so naturally it’s offering the same for its smartwatch lineup. The result is such a large spectrum of choice that it’s almost too hard just to choose one.

Pretty fitting

When anybody asked me which Android Wear smartwatch to start with, I’d always point them to the first-generation Moto 360. However, after wearing one myself for a few weeks, I couldn’t continue with it on my wrist. The watch was too bulky for me to comfortably wear on a daily basis, and the black leather band it came with was, frankly, kind of ugly.

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Hey! This Moto 360 is small enough to fit my wrists.

I imagine I’d feel differently over time with the new Moto 360. It comes in three sizes: A large men’s size at 46mm, a small men’s size at 42mm, and a women’s model also at 42mm, but with smaller lugs. I handled the rose gold women’s watch and was instantly enamored with it. I’ve been waiting for watch manufacturers to take into consideration a woman’s smaller wrist size, and Motorola listened. Not only is the watch itself as stylish and attractive as a watch you can pick up at Nordstrom’s or Macy’s, but the watchbands that Motorola offers seem to be styled after women’s contemporary fashion. Diane Von Furstenberg could totally try to incorporate these into her runway show—better the Moto 360 than the next Google Glass, anyway.

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The Moto 360 offers easy-to-remove watchbands, so you can swap them in and out as you please without a tool.

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The Moto 360’s heart rate monitor has been whittled down to a peep hole on the back.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to wear the Moto 360 to be able to comment on how comfortable it is. Most of the watches I had access to were tethered to security leashes. I do recall how soft the leather band felt on the women’s watch, however, since sweaty wrists are typically an issue with cheaper, thicker leather.

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This “dummy” model of the Moto 360 Sport was not impressive.

I was not too keen on the plasticky Moto 360 Sport, though, which Motorola offered a dummy of at the Lenovo event. It felt a bit hokey, though I’m not much of a sport band wearer in the first place.

It’s probably a good watch?

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The Moto 360 has all the same workings as other Android Wear watches.

Motorola did a little work on the insides of the new Moto 360, too. It eschewed the OMAP processor in favor of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, though it kept the storage and RAM capacities the same as its predecessor. It was sort of weird to have the Moto 360 be the only Android Wear smartwatch with a different processor than its competitors, so good for Motorola for jumping on the bandwagon along with everyone else. Might as well level the playing field.

I can’t really comment on performance yet. Smartwatches are not like smartphones; I can’t get an inkling of what the interface is like just by toiling with it for a bit, especially if the device is in Android Wear’s demo mode. I need time to wear it out in the wild, have my phone bombard it with notifications, and take it on a trip with me. I believe that the true test of any smartwatch is whether or not it works while you’re running through an airport. The last time I used a Moto 360 was while walking through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and it failed miserably. It didn’t understand a word I was saying and I got so frustrated, I tossed it in my bag and went back to my smartphone. I’m curious to see how this new Moto 360 fares in my airport test.

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The women’s watch on a woman’s wrist.

At the very least, Motorola bumped up the battery to 400mAh—at least in the larger model. The smaller 42mm models offer a 300mAh battery pack, which is about standard for most Android Wear watches these days. Motorola says the larger model should last up to two days with Ambient Mode off, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The bummer of the last Moto 360 was its shoddy battery life, and it’s going to take a bit to convince me that Motorola’s changed things this time around.

Customizing is fun

screen shot 2015 09 03 at 10.49.50 am
This would probably be my Moto 360.

Even if you don’t buy Motorola’s second-generation Moto 360, it’s really fun to pretend to make your own. All three watch sizes have their own bezel texture you can add on for an extra $20, which makes the Moto 360 look more watch-like and less like some techy thing. You can also add a metal chain link band for $50 more, and then choose a watch face so that it’s ready to use when it arrives.

The Motorola Moto 360 is ready and waiting for you to pre-order it for $300, if you’re interested. The starting price is a bit more than what Asus is asking for the ZenWatch 2, but you’re also opting for the round watch face instead.

Motorola has another hit on its hands here, slight pun intended, and it’s up against some really stylish competition. I’m happy to see that manufacturers have upped the ante on watch styles, though now it’ll be a challenge choosing which one to wear.

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