After a year of silence while all of their competitors have gotten moving on the smart watch arms race, Apple has finally decided to reveal their plans to launch a smart watch. Dubbed the Apple Watch, the device struts its stuff in typical Apple fashion: it aims to be beautiful, and Apple — as usual — feels like they’re the only ones who have done the smart watch “right.” Whether that’s accurate is a different story altogether and certainly remains to be seen. Let’s take a look at its design and some of its early features up against some of the latest Android Wear smart watches ahead of its early 2015 launch.
Apple Watch Design vs Moto 360 Design
When Motorola set out to make their smart watch they weren’t satisfied with something that just worked. They wanted something beautiful, yet still every bit as functional as anything else. The use of metal outer bands for the watch body and genuine Horween leather for the wrist straps certainly do drive that vision home.
Even better are the steel band editions that will be made available in a couple of months’ time. The device looks like a fashionable accessory more than a child’s toy sitting on your wrist, and that’s probably what caused it to sell out so fast compared to the competition — turns out people care just as much about looks as they do its performance and features. It impressed the pants off us when we first unboxed it and got our first deep look at the thing, and that seems to be a consistent feeling throughout the tech world for anyone else lucky enough to have used one.
For Apple’s bit, they naturally wanted to make sure the design for the Apple Watch was stunning. While they didn’t opt to go with a circular watch face, they did manage to create a squared form factor that looked about as nice and neat as anyone can ask for. It’s made from stainless steel that’s been polished quite well, and features a physical dial — something Apple refers to as the “Digital Crown” — that will be used to help you move through user interfaces without having to touch the display.
Apple’s planning to offer many different wrist straps for the Apple Watch. So far they’ve announced leather, polymer, metal mesh and stainless steel options, though we’re not sure if you can select which one you prefer at checkout (nor are we certain any of these cost more than the others). All of this will come from three distinctive collections consisting of the base collection, the Watch collection and the Sport collection. It all looks pretty nice and it certainly contends for the “best looking smart watch” crown with the same tenacity that the Moto 360 does.
Apple Watch Display vs Moto 360 Display
Motorola made a pretty bold design statement with their Moto 360. While everyone was naturally inclined to use rectangular and squared displays for their smart watches, Motorola was the first to consider a circular form factor. It made it look and feel more like a smart watch, and it was the driving force behind everyone’s excitement for its arrival. LG has since matched Motorola’s form factor with their circular LG G Watch R, though everything else is still largely square.
Motorola’s Moto 360 officially clocks in at 1.56 inches and has a resolution of 320 x 290. It’s a bit odd on paper, but it all comes together nicely on a display that looks crisp and leaves plenty of room for displaying whatever it is you need it to display. Motorola caught a lot of flack for it not being fully circular — there’s an unseemly black strip on the bottom to hide ambient light sensors — but the end result is a lack of an ugly bezel and a form factor that puts the focus squarely on the display.
Apple didn’t go into too much detail about the size and resolution of the display for the Apple Watch, though they did drop the Retina name to speak about its clarity. It’s pretty much a given that Apple will use a display that’s just as sharp as any on the market. Apple also shares one key distinction with the Samsung Gear S — the display is flexible. Not sure that much means from a user-facing perspective, but I’m sure it had to be flexible in order for Apple to create the design they wanted.
Interestingly enough, Apple also has a smaller model alongside it for those who want something a bit more petite. It looks the same and should have all the same features, but the smaller form factor is there for those who are turned off by the physical bulk of most smart watches.
The Apple Watch display is covered by sapphire to provide crystal clarity and durability. Apple’s display can also apparently tell the difference between a tap and a hard push as it’s pressure sensitive. Again, not sure what that would be useful for in the context of a smart watch but it’s neat anyway. We’ll be looking into the nitty gritty hard specs of the display as more details spill out, but it’s one area we’re sure Apple certainly won’t be losing in.
iOS on Apple Watch vs Android Wear
Android Wear, as you know, is the driving platform behind many of the most popular smart watches today. Like the phone and tablet counterpart, Android Wear is open and available for use by any manufacturer able and willing to make a smart watch.
At its core, the operating system is powered by Google Now, the search platform that delivers the information you need whenever It works best when paired with an Android smartphone loaded up with apps that have Android Wear functionality built-in.
For instance, you could control music playback of Google Play Music using small controls on the smart watch. Navigating to Starbucks will bring the directions up on your wrist so you only need to glance at your watch instead of looking down at your phone (this is an area where Google Now would come in handy — searching for local Starbucks locations on your phone would likely automatically prompt you to navigate to the nearest one on your smart watch). Use voice to respond to messages or search for pertinent information.
On watches like the Moto 360, heart rate monitor apps (loaded up at the OEMs’ discretion) and other health-related solutions will help you track workout information without much work on your part. It’s a pretty good mix of value-packed features added by OEMs and integration by the collection of apps already available in the vast Android ecosystem. Google set out to make a platform that wasn’t simply “Android Mini,” and it’s worked out quite well for them in the early going.
Thankfully Apple has decided to do the same with the Apple Watch. Instead of shrinking the iPhone user interface down to bite-sized goodness, they crafted a new take on it that puts emphasis on telling you the time, helping you track your fitness, helping you find your way around your city and more. At the center of it all will always be your favorite watch face telling you the time, and getting to apps and notifications are only a quick swipe away from that initial “home screen,” of sorts.
Siri is loaded up to help you search for information and reply to messages in a non-cumbersome way. The health apps will use the watch’s four LED sensors, accelerometer and gyroscope to give you updates on your heart rate, the amount of steps you’ve taken and other information relevant to a good workout. Incoming notifications display the latest information about everything going on in your digital life, and some of them are actionable in case they require some sort of response.
Apple took things a step further by introducing the ability to use Apple Pay (their new NFC-based payments option) with the Apple Watch. Instead of having to tap your phone against a PoS terminal, you can tap the smart watch that’s already on your wrist.
One annoyance with the Apple Watch is that it requires an iPhone to use. That prerequisite unfortunately ties you to one ecosystem. That’s not to say Android Wear is different — it does require you to pair it to an Android 4.3 or higher smartphone — but at least you have a wide variety of choice in manufacturers. It’s up to the OEMs to sway you to go all in with their products by adding features no other OEM can offer, but if you want to pair your Motorola smart watch with a Samsung, LG or HTC smartphone there’s nothing stopping you from going that route. With Apple, it’s all Apple or nothing.
Both platforms have taken a similar approach to the smart watch — they don’t want to be bigger than they need to be. The phone is where you should do most of your heavy lifting, and the smart watch simply acts as a convenient bridge for quick information and the quick actions you need to act on said information. It shouldn’t be any more inconvenient to use than a traditional timepiece, and we feel both platforms tackle that problem quite effectively. Anything more they feel need to be added will certainly come in the way of software upgrades down the line, and it’ll be interesting to see how these two platforms evolve side-by-side.
Apple Watch vs Moto 360: Battery
Well, this one’s a bit hard to talk about — we have no idea what to expect from the Apple Watch in terms of battery. Apple didn’t touch on many of the specifics, though that information should makes it way to the forefront ahead of launch.
Early reports suggest it shouldn’t be hard for Apple to best Motorola, though: seems a great deal of people are rather unhappy with the Moto 360’s juice. Motorola generously rates the battery life for a full day, though most people claim to only be able to get 12 to 16 hours out of it. That’s likely to be quite unacceptable for many folks’ needs as many people spend at LEAST 16 hours of the day away from home.
At least charging on both of these options are cool, though. The Moto 360 features Qi wireless charging and can simply be docked into a convenient desktop charging cradle or used with a number of existing Qi-based charging mats. The Apple Watch uses a magnetic MagSafe charger for its wireless charging needs. Needless to say we’re very happy about these qualities over the pin-based charging solutions of other smart watches.
Apple Watch Price vs Moto 360 Price
And now we come down to one of the most important factors of them all — price. The Moto 360 comes in at a base price of $250, and the premium steel band option will run you $50 more. Apple, on the other hand, ain’t cheap — a base price of $350 is what they’re asking, and we’re not yet sure if that includes any of the premium wrist band options that showed off at the event.
Apple’s always been known to be a bit on the pricey side when it comes to their wares, but recent pricing trends on the phone side of things led us to believe they’d look to keep it under control for the Apple Watch. Whether a $350 purchase atop the cost of one of the latest iPhone handsets is worth the cost of admission is up to you to decode. Thankfully you have a bit of time to decide as Apple doesn’t expect the watch to go on sale until some point early next year.
Which one gets your money?
Even with all that Apple showed today we don’t know much about the Apple Watch. Questions about water resistance and battery life still obviously hang in the balance, and those are major factors in the worth of a smart watch (just ask all the folks disappointed with the poor battery performance of the Moto 360).
For now, let us know which of these smart watches will have your attention, and since we know many of you won’t be looking to grab an iPhone just for the sake of using the Apple Watch, let us know what you think about its design up against all the rest!