First Impressions of Moto 360 and Android Wear

Posted: October 6, 2014 in Android, Apps, Wear
Tags: , , , , ,

So I bit the bullet and bought a Moto 360 over the weekend. I was without a watch for about 3 months. The current watch I was using needed a new battery but they were very hard to find, the watch is only like 3 years old which is another rant for another day. I had been debating between the black and the stone color options for the Moto 360 for a few days. I decided on stone since the black on black on black I thought might get to be a little too much. Overall the watch was easy to pair with my phone and within about 15 minutes I was through the short tutorial and using the watch. Read on for more details and my first thoughts on both the Moto 360 and Android Wear.

The first thing I noticed after even reading a few other early reviews was the watch comes with a dead battery. I found this to be untrue. While I was unable to power the watch on when I opened the package as soon as it was on the charging cradle it started up and had 40% battery. I assume there is a hard power off that Motorola used to ensure the watch didn’t turn on and drain the battery fully in transit or something like that. I did not use the watch until it was 100% charged because I knew there was an update that was coming as soon as I got it fired up. I patiently waited for the next 40 minutes, which seemed like 400. I was able to do all of the initial pairing and go tutorial items while the watch was charging though. Once it was charged I installed the update, this took a lot longer than I expected it to, or it was me just wanting to starting using it again.

I’ll start with my biggest complaint. You cannot get a swiped away card back. Saturday afternoon I was watching the Badger’s lay an egg and was sick of seeing the score card every time I looked at my watch. I swiped the card away so I could see the full watch face during halftime thinking it would come back when the score changed. It did not. This is not only a problem with the Moto 360 but with Google Now in general. You can watch the card swipe away on Google Now and there is no good way to pull up a card when you want it back. I was done with the score for now and according to Google they come back when they are relevant again which they did not. This has also happened with other cards such as TV show cards. I got the card for The Big Bang Theory last night and again wanted to see my full custom watch face and couldn’t so I swiped it away and now I will never see that card again even when I need it. There are a few ways I can think of to remedy this on Android Wear. The first is to make the notification card smaller so that you can still use the watch face, the second is to hide them except for a logo such as the disconnect logo and allow you to swipe to bring them up similar to the notification tray on a phone. I actually had to start using the pre-installed “Retrograde” face that only uses half of the watch face.

Second biggest complaint is message handling in its current state. I hate when I accidentally swipe away a conversation card and now have to pull my phone out to open hangouts and start the conversation over. I will not dwell on this because I think it is very easily solved as more apps get better Android Wear support and the platform matures.

On to the good. The size of the watch is not overwhelming, granted I am 6’3″. I was immediately prompted at work with a compliment by a co-worker that new I picked it up over the weekend. He mentioned that the watch looks great and is not as large as he thought it would be. The weight is also very balanced and it is easy to forget you are wearing it. I think a lot of that comes from the leather band. I will be impatiently waiting for the steel band since this is the first watch I have owned in about 10 years that had a non metal band.

The display is great. I was outside for a while and was happy with the over all readability in direct sunlight. The auto brightness settings has been just fine for my limited use so far. There is however a slight “rainbow” affect around the edges of the screen where the glass meets the bezel but it is not in the way or taking away any of the readability of the watch. The text display size is easy to read for most applications.

The current application set is pretty limited and even the applications that are available are lacking some serious features and have some design flaws currently. The biggest design flaw is that I saw was in navigation. It appears to take a portion of the phone display and put it on the watch before navigation starts. The problem I ran into is that the part that is displayed on the phone doesn’t include anything that is related to where  I am going. It just shows me a portion of the map that appears to be the upper left area which is completely unhelpful. The built in pedometer is nice but you will want to shut off the step card since it is always there. The heart rate tracking was fun and I did about every hour on the hour for the first few hours then got bored with it. I honestly can’t see myself wearing this when I play softball so that means I will not be using the heart rate tracking much. Taking notes in Google Keep is easy and works as I would have expected. I did set an alarm but without a speaker they are not exactly designed to replace your alarm clock and the only feature alarms have over reminders is the option to set them to repeat. I also had a hard time getting the watch to show me my agenda for the day. It was easy to get it to show tomorrow but whenever I tried to get it to show me the current day’s agenda it wanted to launch a Google search. This may have been because the only item I had was an all day event and there was nothing new coming up on the day.

Voice commands are great but again there is a lot of room for growth. Simple replies are nice but a small feature that would have made them better is something as simple as capitalizing the first letter in a reply. I think it looks sloppy when I bounce back and forth between the hangouts extension and the Moto 360. Also my wife has already noticed when a reply comes from my watch compared to my typing it for that simple fact.

My favorite feature though that I am sure will get fully underused is the remote camera shutter. When you use the Google Camera app a card pops up on the Moto 360 and all Android Wear devices allowing remote capture. There is a slight delay making it great if you have some sort of tripod setup for your phone. I am hoping to find a remote release for my DSLR in the future.

I am sure I am missing a lot of things that I have used the watch for and hope to post a few more times about things I learn and apps that I try as I keep using it. Let me know if there are any features you have heard about and are interested in and I will give them a try.

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