Moto 360 (3rd Gen) review: The pioneer of Android wearables is back, sort of

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Back in 2016, Motorola made the decision to abandon the smartwatch market, citing it didn’t “see enough pull in the market” for another one. The original Moto 360 and even the 2nd Gen version were major strides in a relatively small Android wearable ecosystem. They were (and still are) pretty beloved devices by (as it was called then) Android Wear users. Fast forward to now and we now have a new Moto 360 running Wear OS, but it’s not exactly made by Motorola anymore.

Left: New Moto 360; Right: Moto 360 Sport

This new Moto 360 (3rd Gen) is made by a Canadian consumer electronics company called eBuyNow. Basically, Motorola granted eBuyNow the license to make a new Moto 360 while still retaining all the name branding of the device. I’ve actually used a Moto 360 Sport from early 2016 and still wear it somewhat regularly to this day. So, just how much better (or worse) is this Wear OS smartwatch? Let’s take a look.

Specs

SoC Snapdragon Wear 3100
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
Display 1.2-inch circular 390×390 AMOLED
Battery 355 mAh
Water resistance 3 ATM, “tested for 10,000 swim strokes”
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Heart-Rate Monitor, Ambient Light
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi b/g/n, NFC, GPS
Measurements 42.8×42.8×11.68mm, 52g, 20mm strap width
Software Wear OS by Google
Price $349.99

The Good

Build quality and design It’s simple, solid, and durable. It also looks good to wear. Even the included straps are great.
Features Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Heart-Rate Monitor, water-resistance, GPS, and NFC.
Battery life It’s been fairly good. Usually about 1-1.5 days of usage. It should last you a full day without any problems.

The Bad

Display It’s not the sharpest and there’s a noticeable border around it.
Charging dock By far probably the worst thing about the watch. It’s flimsy and uses magnetic pins instead of Qi wireless charging.
Performance It’s a Snapdragon Wear 3100, so it’s got about the same, average performance of any other Wear OS watch.
Price At $350, this is certainly on the upper-end for Wear OS watches.

Build quality, design, and display

The build quality and design of the Moto 360 is pretty premium. It’s circular, stainless steel, and comes in three colors: Rose Gold, Steel Gray, and Phantom Black. It’s not terribly bulky either. It’s got two hardware buttons, the top one doubles as a rotating crown and the bottom one can be customized to launch an app of your choice.

The two included watch straps are also pretty nice as well. One is leather and the other is made out of fluoro rubber (silicone). I particularly like how there are many slots (17, to be exact) for the band’s length, which helps people with skinny wrists like me. Compared to the Moto 360 Sport, the straps with the 3rd Gen Moto 360 are a huge upgrade. Firstly, they’re replaceable, which was a big flaw for the Sport. In fact, my Sport’s band tore a few times in its usage and I had to resort to super-gluing it! Secondly, the silicone material in the new Moto 360 bands is a lot more breathable and comfortable to wear than the Sport. It also feels and looks a lot more durable.

Display-wise, it’s good but not the best. It’s actually smaller than the Sport’s display by 0.17 inches. It doesn’t have a flat tire, but it does have a small border around it that the Sport didn’t have and it makes the screen look a bit smaller than it actually is. It’s OLED but not the sharpest or brightest on the market, and its auto-brightness is also a bit dim. I also feel that the Sport’s display was easier to read outdoors in sunlight likely because of its “AnyLight display.” Also, since this is an OLED display, I’m not sure why the rest of the screen is still dimly lit up in the always-on display mode. The rest of the watch face and UI make use of AMOLED black so the pixels will turn off, but on the AOD, they turn back on for some reason.

Features

The Moto 360 (3rd Gen) ticks most of the essentials for a smartwatch. It’s obviously not as feature-packed as, say, the Apple Watch, but it’s still pretty well rounded. You’ve got an Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, and Heart-Rate Monitor. The watch is water-resistant for 3 ATM but doesn’t have an official IP rating which the 360 Sport did (IP67). Also included are GPS, which can be used to track your running, and NFC, which means this can be used for Google Pay.

There’s no speaker, unfortunately, which would have been nice for hands-free calls or Google Assistant spoken responses. There’s also no cellular connectivity, which, personally, doesn’t matter so much to me, but, for the asking price, it probably should have been included.

Battery life and charging

Left: New Moto 360 charger; Right: Moto 360 Sport charger

The new Moto 360 has a 355 mAh battery inside and gets above-average battery life. With the always-on display always on, I was able to get about 1.5 days of usage without needing to recharge. Obviously, with more extensive usage like fitness tracking, that number will likely fall a bit to a day’s use, but if you turn off the AOD, that number will probably increase to roughly 2 days. eBuyNow also claims that it will quick charge from 0-100% in 60 minutes. Any kind of battery would be an upgrade over my Moto 360 Sport since I was experiencing early battery shutdowns on that device after almost four years of usage. Any task that put even the slightest of strain on the processor would cause the whole watch to die and not turn back on until placed back on its charger.

Speaking of charging, the included charger in this thing feels like a downgrade coming from the Moto 360 Sport. It attaches magnetically to the back and lies flat horizontally but can also be positioned vertically somewhat if balanced correctly. However, it feels flimsy compared to the solid dock on the Sport. What bothers me the most, though, is why was Qi wireless charging not used like the Sport? I mean, yes, it charges faster than a wireless charger, but it’s harder to take on and off and, most importantly, it’s not universal.

I wish this was USB-C.

More so, the Sport’s wireless charger at least had a detachable micro-USB cable connected to the dock. The new Moto 360’s charger is non-detachable out to a USB-A connector. I’d have liked to see a detachable USB-C cable to the dock so that would be one less cable to carry when traveling.

Performance and software

Now, this is more of a gripe with Google’s software than the watch itself, but setting up a Wear OS watch is still not a fun and smooth experience. With the several app updates to go through, the watch lagged considerably during set-up. It also baffles me that Wear OS still doesn’t have a backup system to set up a new watch with an existing backup, so you’ve got to go in and manually reinstall all of your previous apps.

Using Wear OS is fine. For what it’s worth, it’s got all of the essential features you’d want in a smartwatch but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of an Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch. For instance, it’s got heart-rate monitoring, but it’s not going to warn you if your heart-rate reaches dangerous levels like the Apple Watch.

Compared to the Snapdragon 400 and 512MB of RAM on the Moto 360 Sport, the Snapdragon Wear 3100 and 1GB of RAM on this watch is certainly a step-up but not a major one. Unfortunately, Qualcomm’s latest chip for wearables still lags greatly behind the competition. It’s still based on ARM Cortex-A7 cores on a 28nm process. It’s not an entire laggy mess like previous Wear OS watches, but it’s not winning any performance awards either.

The upcoming Snapdragon Wear 3300 is supposed to be the biggest upgrade for Android wearables in the last five years. This begs the question: for the asking price, maybe it would have made more sense to wait for the launch of the new chipset. Instead, this watch is left with the same, average performance of any other Wear OS watch on the market right now.

Value and verdict

Should you buy this watch? Probably not right now. At $350, this is certainly on the upper-end for Wear OS watches. There are many smartwatches in the $200 range that have pretty much all the same features as the new Moto 360. Therefore, I would either wait until the price drops at least under $300 to buy one or just go for another similar Wear OS watch — that is, if you are looking for a Wear OS watch in particular.

However, maybe you’ve been holding onto your original Moto 360 still and haven’t yet found a worthy upgrade, or maybe you’re still looking for a well-rounded, uncompromising smartwatch. Then, this new Moto 360 (3rd Gen) might be just that. It’s definitely one of the top Wear OS watches on the market, and, for nostalgia’s sake, eBuyNow has done a pretty good job with reviving a Wear OS favorite.

Purchase the new Moto 360 on the Moto 360 Store ($349.99)

Note: Watch provided by eBuyNow for review.

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