NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I really want to like the new Moto 360 smartwatch. I'm of the generation that grew up wearing wrist watches as functional jewelry. And, my life fully revolves around the need to access my smartphone at all times and in every way possible. But, as much as I like the way the $250 Motorola device looks and feels on my wrist, I'm still not sure. At least, until recently.
I've since softened my views on the Moto 360, since posting this video review. But only slightly.
The Moto 360 is more wrist computer than watch. Yes, it does tell you what time it is and, yes, it does provide you with notices about incoming emails, phone calls and messages, but those two ideas don't really come together in an orderly manner.
For instance, say you want to check the time. You move your arm and, hopefully, the screen automatically lights-up to show you the watch face. Sometimes, however, I found I had to move my arm slightly to wake the device from its battery-saving nap. Sometimes, I had to wave my arm a few times to see the time. Real wrist watches perform that function flawlessly. Rarely, if ever, are you greeted by a blank watch face.
Additionally, the Moto 360 has other limitations.
Most of the time, this smartwatch vibrates to tell me that a message has been received on my smartphone. I can see the message on its small watch screen but I need the smartphone to respond. I'm slowly getting used to all the buzzing on my wrist for all the messages I receive, but I'm not sure I like the sensation. The 360 also displays who is trying to reach you with a voice call. It allows you answer the call, but actually talking to the caller also requires using the smartphone.
Other smartwatches I've tried, like last year's Samsung models come to mind, had a microphone and speaker built inside that allow you to hold conversations without having to touch your phone. Cartoon character Dick Tracy's two-way wrist radio comes to mind. Of course, the microphone-speaker hardware adds complexity, cost and size of any wrist computer. And while the Moto 360 does very well listening for your voice commands and can carry them out, it does needs your Bluetooth-connected smartphone to do so.As good-looking as the Moto 360 is, it's not really for everyone. Although it's somewhat thicker in real life than it looks in the photos, it fits perfectly on my wrist but physically could be too large for others.
Despite all these potential issues with the Moto 360, overall, I like this all-black test device. It perfectly matches many smartphone on the market today.
I've also found that the Moto 360 plays well with others - not just Motorola phones. I've linked the test device to the new Moto X, to Samsung's Galaxy S5 and to the amazing OnePlus One smartphone. All worked flawlessly. And, the 360's battery lasts nearly two days on a charge. Kudos go to Motorola for the battery charger. It's also wireless. Rest the 360 in the cradle and everything is handled automatically.
Its other smart non-time-telling functions include telling me what my heart rate is, how many steps I've walked, issuing me notifications of who is calling and what my incoming email says. All of which can be useful at times.
You shouldn't blame Motorola for the device's shortcomings. The problem is the 360 runs on Google's (GOOG) new Android Wear operating system which hasn't impressed so far. I understand it's first-generation software, but because its feature set is limited, the Moto 360 isn't all that smart at times.
There's also the competition to think about. The Moto 360 is the first Android Wear device to sport a round face -- expect Samsung -- and LG and others are expected to quickly follow. And, after the first of the year, add Apple (AAPL) to the mix. The Apple Watch is rumored to be a little more expensive in base form and much more expensive clad in gold.
Bottom line? The Moto 360 is the best Android Wear smartwatch you can buy right now - and one of the best smartwatches available period. In a few months the situation may be very different.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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