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Moto 360 smartwatch features revealed in tell-all interview

Carlos Miguel Lasa

MANILA, Philippines — On the heels of Google’s announcement of a new mobile operating system for wearables, dubbed Android Wear, Motorola has taken the wraps off of its first round Android-powered smartwatch, the Moto 360.

Lior Ron, Corporate Vice President of Product Management for Motorola, made the announcement Tuesday on the official Google blog. Ron placed emphasis on the premium and iconic design of the smartwatch calling it a “truly modern timepiece” celebrating the history of its predecessor, the wristwatch, as it has evolved and has been reinvented over the past century.

There is no doubt that the Moto 360 was named after it’s uniquely round design, as highlighted by lead Moto 360 designer Jim Wicks in its introductory video. “This is all about the reinvention of the modern day timepiece. We decided if we were going to do the Moto 360, we must do it round.”

ROUND NOT SQUARE. The Moto 360 has adopted a unique round design to maximize the surface area of the wrist while providing comfort at the same time

This was also acknowledged by product engineer Shakil Barkat, who stated that “most of the technologies that have been created in the past have been for rectangular form factors”, referring to smartwatches in the market like the Pebble or the Samsung Gear 2.

In a live Google Hangout on Wednesday, Wicks provided the context behind the decision to go with the round design, stating, “80 to 85% of the watches sold around the world are round watches, and there’s a reason for that. The circular shape of the 46mm screen makes the most of the surface area of your wrist. If you take the same surface area and do a square, it won’t be as comfortable, it would be poking your wrist.”

Wicks also fielded answers to common questions that arose when the device was first announced Tuesday. Regarding the physical features of the device, Wicks revealed that the Moto 360 was designed to be water-resistant, with detachable and changeable straps to personalize the device (currently announced styles come in metal and leather), and interestingly enough, will not have any USB slot for charging.

Jim Wicks, head of the Consumer Experience Design group of Motorola, is interviewed in a live Hangout-on-Air about the features of the Moto 360

This last point has led enthusiasts to believe that Motorola has developed wireless or kinetic charging capability for the Moto 360. Wicks, however, did not provide further information, only stating that how the Moto 360 charges is “one of the secrets of the watch and part of its special sauce”, recognizing consumers’ preference not to see exposed electronics. A camera is also not embedded on the device, as it was deemed “not essential”.

Wicks also declined to provide any information regarding the battery life of the smartwatch, but acknowledged that “power management is something that is taken seriously and is a known consumer pain point”, a lesson Motorola learned from the MotoACTV, a fitness smartwatch released in 2012. The designer noted that the Moto 360 incorporates many other lessons the company learned from the design of the Moto X smartphone, which in turn came from lessons experienced with the MotoACTV.

ANDROID POWERED. The Moto 360 is powered by Android Wear, Google’s mobile operating system for wearables, which has features such as walking directions with Google Maps (left) and smart reminders provided by Google Now (right).

From a software perspective, it was already announced that Android Wear would power the Moto 360, so consumers can come to expect seamless integration with Google products such as Maps and Google Now, along with the requisite features of Android Wear, which include alerts & notifications, voice commands (“OK Google”), fitness applications and smartphone tethering.

In terms of device compatibility, Wicks shared that the Moto 360 will work with Motorola smartphones, as well as other devices running Android 4.3 and above. The smartwatch is also orientation-free, meaning that it can be swapped from one wrist to another in any orientation and it will adjust accordingly, which suggests that an accelerometer and gyroscope are onboard to detect the motion of the device.

STYLISH TOO. The Moto 360 will be available in a selection of styles this Summer 2014, including leather (left) and metal (right).

The Moto 360 is expected to launch first in the USA later this summer in a selection of styles, with 360-degree views of the leather and metal versions already available on the Moto 360 official site. Wicks did not disclose the price of the device, nor when it will be released outside the USA, only to say that the device will be “globally available at some point”.

Watch the introductory video for the Moto 360:

Watch the interview with lead designer Jim Wicks:


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