I’ve owned two smartwatches powered by Android Wear, the LG G Watch and the first-generation Motorola Moto 360 – the latter of which is on my wrist right now. Both are great watches, but both leave a lot to be desired. Before we jump into what those are, keep in mind that this is just about the hardware. Things I want in the next version of Android Wear, the operating system that runs on the Moto 360, is an entirely different article. Having gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the 800 pound gorilla in the room, shall we?
Initially, battery life on the Moto 360 was sub-par and completely insufficient for use as an everyday timepiece. Thankfully updates came along that were able to resolve those issues. When Android 5.1.1 came to Android Wear it was called Android Wear 1.1.
Among other things, this update brought WiFi support to watches with WiFi hardware, which meant turning on that radio (in addition to the Bluetooth radio) – which required even more power from the battery. The update came to almost every smartwatch before the Moto 360. The delay was reportedly because Motorola had rejected the original update, pushing back on Google to help extend the battery life. As it turns out, that was a good call.
Today, even running with WiFi on, Ambient Screen on (which we’ll come back to), and a custom watch face I get a full day of use, from 8am to at least 9pm – when I put my watch back on the charger for the night. It almost always has entered “battery saving mode” by that point, but generally has a bit over 10% left.
One full day is the bare minimum. I’d like to be able to wear my watch to bed at night. There are a few apps out there that can help monitor your sleep patterns, wake you up at optimal times, and wake up you “gently”. Alas, I can’t do that with the current Moto 360. Perhaps the Moto 360 2015 will give me three days of battery life? Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
A watch is first and foremost a timepiece – despite how “smart” it is, or is not. As such, the time should always be displayed on the watch face. Motorola calls this feature “Ambient screen” and it’s basically a reduced color, reduced brightness, reduced data version of your prefered watch face.
Right now Motorola defaults this setting to “off”, and warns you that it’s going to take extra juice if you’re bold enough to think that your watch should display the time all the time. I’m one of those people who glances at his wrist to check the time more often than raising my wrist. Only the latter gesture “wakes up” the display, making my watch just a black circle when Ambient screen is turned off.
Whether this feature is enabled through the inclusion of a much larger battery or a screen technology that only sips power, I don’t care, just make it happen!
The transitions I’m talking about here are the subtle animations to and from ambient screen – which aren’t very subtle at all. When I tip my wrist up to check the time I should have a nice, gentle animation from whatever the ambient screen was to a full-brightness active display. It should be quick, but it’s got to be smooth. Right now it takes about half-a-second to go from ambient to active, and it’s got a hiccup right in the middle.
This needs to be as smooth as butter. Think about how smooth and almost invisible the transition is when you hit the power button on your Android-powered smartphone – just like that, only in reverse.
Last, but certainly not least, the whole thing needs to be just a bit snappier. This includes the accuracy of voice recognition, which is sadly lacking.
The smartwatch really doesn’t have to do that much, we shouldn’t be struggling over speed here. Let’s hope a little extra power (perhaps a Snapdragon 210?) will help make the Moto 360 the killer product that it has the potential to be!