Sep 11 AT 10:53 AM Sean Riley 32 Comments

Moto 360 versus Apple Watch

moto-360-vs-apple-watch

This week Apple released their long awaited smartwatch, the simply-named Apple Watch, to great fanfare from the Apple faithful. Journalists and Apple employees alike gave the watch a standing ovation – or perhaps that was just for Tim Cook’s use of “One more thing….” – and then they were treated to an overview of the watch, which will be released sometime early next year.

Despite the fact that the Apple Watch requires an iPhone and therefore likely precludes most of you from owning it, we wanted to do a quick overview of some of the features and choices that Apple has made versus the Moto 360. It’s important to remember that the Apple Watch software shown at the even was far from final and that Android Wear will be in a much different place about 6 months from now when the Apple Watch is likely to launch.

Obviously there are many Android Wear options out there and more coming before the Apple Watch launches, but we are going to use the Moto 360 as the comparison point since it is has been one of the most anticipated Wear devices.

Design

Shockingly, we weren’t extended an invitation to Apple’s event, so we have to take hands on impressions of the device from those that were there.

Most indicated that the watch and its bands feel well-constructed and expensive, and at least the aluminum version is reportedly remarkably light. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes, 42mm and 38mm, compared to 46mm for the Moto 360. There are no other official specs related to the size or weight of the Apple Watch, but it appears thicker than the Moto 360 in pictures.

The body of the watch is fairly standard: a rectangular screen with a thick body constructed of stainless steel, anodized aluminum or 18-karat gold, depending on which model you choose. While the basic design isn’t a huge departure from what we’ve seen in other smartwatches, the majority of journalists seemed to agree that the fit and finish is superior. With that said, I think the Moto 360 and its circular face remain the more striking design.

The single unusual hardware element found on the Apple Watch is the “Digital Crown” located on the side of the watch. This functions as a rotating dial and home button and is the primary means for navigating the device other than touch.

Navigation/UI

Apple made a big point of the Watch’s Digital Crown and how much more logical it is versus a watch relying on pure touch. As no one has true hands on time with the Crown, save for Apple employees, it is impossible to say how well this will work. For Apple to stick with something this skeuomorphic after steering the entirety of their OS away from it, they must think it’s a winner. This is the aspect of the watch I’m most curious to see in practice as it could be make or break for the ease of use.

apple-watch-navigation

image credit: FastCompany

I think that this and a few other aspects of the watch may point to a fundamental misunderstanding of how people will want to use a smartwatch. Apple shows you navigating through dozens of apps or hundreds of photos by zooming in and out with the crown and then panning around the screen with touch. This all seems like far more than I want to be dealing with on my watch. If you’ve moved past the 10-15 second mark in any activity with your watch, I feel like you should have just pulled out your smartphone instead.

Android Wear takes a very different approach here and is instead designed to surface what you need without having to ask for it. There are apps that allow you to pull them up, but for the most common uses you are simply given the information you want and you can deal with it quickly and move on. This makes considerably more sense for a device on your wrist and with the screen size that is able to rationally fit on your wrist.

Bands

This is one area that I have to say Apple knocked out of the park. The Apple Watch allows you to easily slide new bands in and out without any special tools. Prior to seeing their announcement, I had already written my Moto 360 early impressions post and said that I wish it had an easier mechanism for swapping bands to deal with different use cases. I really enjoy the Horween leather band on the Moto 360, but I can’t easily change bands and I’m not inclined to wear the watch while working out due to that nice leather band.

The Apple Watch will offer leather, polymer and metal bands with either a magnetic closure or a more standard buckle closure.

Battery life

Reports are that users should expect about a day out of the Apple Watch, so it’s likely a dead heat with the Moto 360 in this regard. And like the standard setting for the Moto 360, the Apple Watch powers the screen down most of the time, only lighting up when you turn your wrist to look at it or interact directly with the watch.

Charging

Apple went with a MagSafe-like wireless charging method for the Apple Watch. It simply attaches magnetically to the back of the watch to charge. It appears more portable than the Moto 360 dock, but a less useful implementation. Given that the Moto 360 uses the Qi standard, it is also offers less flexibility than the 360 in terms of third-party charging solutions.

moto-360-apple-watch-charging

Apps

Both platforms have apps coming from hundreds of developers so I’m not going to try to cover that, but I do want to touch on the Apple apps as they are interesting to say the least.

As you would expect there are messaging, mail, maps and phone apps. They all look pretty well done, although the maps app looks like it could be better tailored to the small screen experience. There is also a Friends app that is accessed by the hardware button located below the digital crown and takes you to your most frequent contacts.

Then Apple got a little crazy with things, and I’d love to hear your reactions to these apps in comments.

The first is Sketch, and the best description I’ve come up for it is “Draw Something: Watch Edition”. You draw on the screen with your finger and send that directly to your friend.

Walkie-Talkie, as you might guess, is just a quick way to chat using the microphone and speaker on the Watch without resorting to an actual phone call.

Tap literally allows you to tap your watchface and have it vibrate that pattern on the other watch.

And finally Heartbeat records your heart rate using the sensor and then sends that to your loved one.

Honestly I don’t think these are all terrible ideas for apps, but the amount of attention given to them again shows me that Apple is perhaps not entirely sure that they should be doing with their watch. I’ll just go ahead and compare these to Google Now on Android Wear, which surfaces relevant information for you from around the web based on your interests and location. The central concept of Android Wear (and Google Glass before it) is to deliver information to you, but ultimately try to keep the technology out of your way rather than burying you in it, Apple appears to have gone the opposite way with their watch.

Price

No surprise that Apple is setting the high water mark for price on a smartwatch. The base model will start at $349, so $100 beyond the Moto 360 asking price. They have not indicated what the “Sport” or “Edition” models will cost, but suffice to say they will be significantly pricier than any Motorola option.

Conclusion

As Android Wear is dependent on Android and the Apple Watch requires an iPhone, I don’t expect this to really be a decision for any of you. But as we have learned over the past several years, there is substantial “borrowing” of ideas that goes on with both sides, so it is worth paying attention to what Apple thinks a smartwatch should be.

Is there anything here that you would like to see an Android Wear spin on either from a hardware or software perspective?

Sean has been with Android and Me for over 6 years and covering mobile for the last 7. He occasionally muses about gadgets and tech outside of the Android universe at Techgasms.

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  • Steve

    I won’t buy a smart watch until one comes out that answers calls and text messages. The new Samsung doesn’t count because it uses its own sim

    • Nate B.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think on Android Wear you can answer calls and respond back to text already. Not actually talk on the “phone” through the watch, but answer the call with an ignore or answer and your phone picks it up. I know you can respond to text with voice though.

      • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

        You’re right Nate, no one has done a speakerphone through the watch on Wear yet. The Gear 2 with Tizen does do that and the Apple Watch will offer that. And yes tesponding to texts is already a part of Wear.

        • freediverx

          I can’t imagine anything more obnoxious than the idea of people having conversations in public with their watches. That reminds me of those obnoxious cell phones that were popular a while ago with the push to talk feature.

    • æý╝

      Whole campus and my families will buy the apple watch, and the new iphone 6 of course (with the excellent apple pay innovation). I dont think anyone knows about 360 either, and most people hate the 360 name from xbox.

    • Ksen

      I’m pretty sure there are smart watches that have this ability. I myself have a Hot Smart watch (http://www.hotsmartwatch.com). Who has patented technology on speaking through your wrist; and privately. Im actually planning on selling mine unopened from my kickstarter funding. Really nice piece of gadget.

      • hp420

        No android??? Sorry, but that’s an instant and unequivocal no in my book

    • hp420

      A dedicated sim actually seems like a far better implementation to me than just working as a bluetooth device.

    • Daylen

      This year, Android Wear will has an update so you can answer calls and talk using a Bluetooth earpiece!

  • tmoore4075

    I agree with pretty much everything here. Apple wins with internals and the bands for sure. Android wins with the OS. It’s simple and gives you everything you’ll need I think. I don’t want a smartwatch personally, but if I did, I’d want it to be an accessory like the Moto 360 is and not another smart device, the way Apple Watch seems to be.

    • thel0nerang3r

      What they show was a prototype, we can’t compare it until retail units are shown. From not until release date, it can better or worse. I think at this point the comparison is useless. Also, as far as I know Android Wear watches will not work with Apple devices, and Apple watch will not work with Android devices…so, comparisons are useless.

  • jamal adam

    I definitely feel that one area that Android Wear devices can improve is on the availability of different straps and the ease to change them because then individuals can have it tailored to them and make it more personal. I also think that GPS is something that needs to be added on the hardware side as well.
    I think that in terms of the software being showcased, Apple is going the route of old Google and putting everything they can think of on the watch while Google is focused on information and providing said information at the right time when the user needs it. Then again was was stated this isnot the final software of the Apple watch and thus things can change and we are only at version 1 in terms of smartwatch software and ui.

    • Jens

      @jamal adam: why GPS in the watch? It only works in connection with a phone and this has aleady GPS build in. What for would you need two GPS units?

      • Jason

        GPS in the watch would be nice if you wanted to track your walk/jog/run and didn’t want to carry your phone on you.

        • hp420

          That was the case with phones and tablets when the motoactiv was out 4 years ago, too. I wouldn’t discount the TRUE android wear prototype simply because of a technology limitation that existed in most mobile devices at the time.

        • freediverx

          GPS takes forever to get a fix and so it’s extremely inconvenient most of the time. What makes it useful is augmentation with cell tower and wifi hotspot triangulation, which only takes seconds. All of the above would kill the tiny battery on a smart watch.

      • mattcoz

        That’s not true, the new Wear update will enable it to use GPS on the watch without the phone. Unfortunately none of the current watches have GPS built in.

    • Jason

      The new Sony Android Wear watch has GPS. I really wish the Moto 360 did. :-(

      • David Knowles

        I’m sure version 2, will, it will probably be thinner and lighter as well, I wouldn’t bet against them being able to remove the bottom black bar either.

      • freediverx

        How’s its battery life while using GPS?

  • ari-free

    It comes down to app-centric versus information-centric. It would never occur to Apple to have some of your favorite pictures as icons on your homescreen instead of digging through the apps in order to display one.

  • Ian B

    I love my mac desktop PC and IPad Air but the Iwatch looks like an iPod nano w a cheap band w an overpriced $350 price. None of its features makes me want to drop my OPO or Note 3 to get an iPhone and Iwatch. Pass!!

    Ian B

    • freediverx

      It’s funny you think their bands look cheap, considering they’ve been praised by executives at expensive Swiss watch companies.

  • ttf

    I have two doubts on Apple Watch:
    1. how to efficiently locate an app among hundred of them? the app don’t seem like arranged according to alphabetical order and they are tiny.
    2. How to use apple pay on the watch? i don’t think it has a touch id sensor.

    • freediverx

      The Watch will only enable payments in conjunction with an iPhone. In other words, with your iPhone in your pocket, the watch can be used to make a payment with little or no interaction. When the user dons the watch they have to authenticate using a PIN or Touch ID on their iPhone. The watch enters a trusted mode of sorts until it breaks contact with the user’s skin.

  • Rick

    As a lefty, and one who wears his watch on the right wrist (as lefties do), the crown on Apple’s watch will be almost impossible to use without bending your left hand completely around the top of the watch to access it, and still see the display. Lefties are completely out of luck with this device.

    • Gomez

      Im sure it could just rotate the screen.

  • Rick

    I just saw that the Apple Watch will have a left handed mode after all.

  • hp420

    If i could have an android wear watch that looked as aesthetically pleasing as this does for a fair price, I would instantly snatch one up!!! Their software, firmware and crown button are all extremely poorly implemented, clunky, and even gimmicky. The basic overall idea of their charger seems to be a better implementation. If it were QI it would be hands down the best option so far. But without QI, it’s just a pathetic attempt. Sorry, Apple….you almost had me until you opened your mouths!! If you just held it up and didn’t say a single word, I may seriously be drooling right now!!

  • mattcoz

    Gotta say, I was a little worried that Apple would come up with a watch that would just blow away Android Wear. I breathed a nice sigh of relief after seeing the Apple Watch. In fact, I actually laughed a bit when I saw the picture of someone pinching to zoom a map on it. It just seems to me that they really missed the mark with this. Not that Wear is perfect, far from it. I think both sides are still trying to figure it all out and there will be big changes for the second round of devices.

  • freediverx

    “They have not indicated what the “Sport” or “Edition” models will cost, but suffice to say they will be significantly pricier than any Motorola option.”

    I think you’ve misread Apple’s product positioning. With its aluminum and glass enclosure, it is the Sport model that will start at $349. The standard model, boasting stainless steel and sapphire crystal, will not only cost more than the Sport model, but will likely start at double that price or more.

    I suspect that when Apple reveals their price list for straps, bracelets, and the Edition watches, the Android community will have a collective shit fit. Apple’s not targeting Samsung and Motorola. They’re going after Tag Heuer, Omega, and Rolex.