Moto 360 Sport review: Only runners need apply

I hate running. It’s not just because I have bad knees and it hurts to run—I would rather lift weights and get my cardio on a recumbent bike where I can distract myself playing mobile games. Motorola’s fitness-focused version of the Moto 360 is not for me. It’s for people that get their workouts on the pavement and treadmills. For that specific subset, it’s a good enough Android Wear watch, but if you enjoy broader fitness activities, you’ll be frustrated by its limitations.

The Sport version of the Moto 360 shares much in common with the 2nd generation Moto 360 we like so much. It’s fundamentally the same hardware and software, with a few notable differences. It runs all the regular Android Wear apps and works just as well as a Google-powered watch as the 2nd gen Moto 360 does. As with most Android Wear watches, it works with both iOS and Android, though the Moto Body phone app is Android-only.

It only comes a large 45mm size, with a bulky integrated silicon case and band. So unlike the Moto 360, you can’t opt for the smaller 42mm size if you have smaller wrists, you can't swap out bands, and you can’t customize the style (the Sport comes in black, white, and a shockingly bright orange). This is an odd choice, because the device isn’t any more dust or water-resistant than the regular Moto 360; both are IP67 rated and not fully waterproof. The Sport version is probably better protected against shock damage, but the complete lack of customizability seems a high price to pay for that.

The Sport features a 300 mAh battery—smaller than the 400 mAh battery in the 46mm size of the standard Moto 360, and equal to that in the 42mm size. Motorola claims “up to a full day of use with ambient mode on,” which is about right in my experience, though the battery life varies greatly depending on whether or not you use the integrated GPS or not. On days when I didn’t run with it, I had no problem making the battery last. If I spent an hour running with the built-in GPS tracking me, I probably wouldn't make it through the day without popping it onto the charging cradle for a while.

The Moto 360 Sport’s other chief hardware difference is in what Motorola calls its AnyLight display. In bright outdoor light, the screen switches from the usual backlit LCD to a front-lit reflective LCD display. It’s supposed to make it easier to see in bright sun while saving battery, and it works, after a fashion. When the display is “active” and in full color, it is backlit and as hard to read in the sun as any other LCD. When the watch kicks into ambient (black and white) mode, all the white pixels have a reflective backing that makes them easy to see in the sun.

Therein lies the issue. If you just want to glance at the ambient mode info while outdoors, the AnyLight display works wonders. As soon as you start tapping and swiping to use the watch, you’re back to using the normal backlit color LCD that’s hard to see in the bright sun.

The Moto 360 Sport tracks your heartrate (as the Moto 360 does), and it’s reasonably accurate as wrist-based fitness gadgets go. But the Moto Body software included, while easy to use, is optimized for a single activity: running. It will track distance accurately through GPS, and measure your heartrate while you run, but it’s not really going to give you credit for your P90X workout or weightlifting. All the software’s goals are based around steps, distance, or running pace. The software keeps track of calories burned (including your base metabolic calories estimated from your sex, age, height, and weight), but it never seemed to count calories I was burned unless I was running, too. If I wanted to get credit for calories burned while working out, I had to start a run in the Moto Body app and pound out some steps.

For runners, Moto Body is well-made. It’s clear and easy to use, with simple-to-set timers and goals. You can share data with Google Fit, UA Record, Map My Fitness, Fitbit, or Strava.

In taking a general smartwatch platform (Android Wear) and optimizing it for fitness, Motorola has compromised too much. The elegant style and broad customization features of the standard Moto 360 are gone. Battery life is worse when you use the watch for its intended purpose (tracking runs). It’s bigger and bulkier, but no more dust or water resistant. If you get all your exercise running or walking, it’ll do a good job of keeping tabs of it, but you’re not going to be satisfied at all if you exercise in other ways.

Frankly, most users would be happier just buying a regular second-generation Moto 360 and a sporty band.


Jason Cross

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