Apple Watch vs. Moto 360: Quick look

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Gizmag takes a quick hands-on look at the 42 mm Apple Watch Sport (left) and the silver Moto 360 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

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The Apple Watch was the most popular smartwatch in the world from the moment it was announced, and we'd imagine the Moto 360 is the most well-known Android Wear watch. We have both in-house right now, so let's take a quick look at two different approaches to the smartwatch.

Before we jump in, keep in mind that the phone you own might make your decision for you. The Apple Watch requires an iPhone (5 or newer) and the Moto 360 needs an Android phone (running Android 4.3 or higher).

Also remember that there are multiple styles to choose from for each watch. We're handling the 42 mm Apple Watch Sport in space gray color (US$400 retail price), and the silver Moto 360 with silver steel band (technically $300, but on sale at the time of publication for as little as $230).

Plop these two smartwatches down next to each other and one of the first things you'll notice is how much bigger the Moto 360 is. Apple made the smallest advanced smartwatch we've seen: it's around the same size as Pebble Steel, but with much more going on inside.

Want specifics? Okay then, the Moto 360 is 10 percent taller, 28 percent wider and 10 percent thicker than this 42 mm Apple Watch.

The Moto 360's size does give it one advantage: that big screen. The Moto's almost-round display (see that cut-off point at the bottom?) is roughly 69 percent bigger than the Apple Watch's screen.

The Apple Watch does have better screen quality. It's noticeably sharper (a 302 PPI pixel density vs. 205 PPI for the Moto). The Apple Watch also has better contrast and richer colors. But the size of the Moto's display, combined with those narrow bezels, still gives it an immersive quality that you don't quite get from the Apple Watch.

Both watches' software centers around notifications and quick access to other glanceable info that you'd normally whip out your phone to quickly look at. Google's Android Wear takes the simpler approach, with its UI revolving around flicking through Google Now cards. The Apple Watch OS has a more complicated focus, along with more of a learning curve.

Right now Watch OS is more app-oriented than Android Wear, with Apple enjoying more early enthusiasm from developers. Wear has a decent app selection, but even after being around for nearly a year, the Apple Watch had it beat in the third-party app department on Day One. An upcoming Android Wear update, though, will try to give it a boost in this department – by giving users easier access to their app libraries.

Apple's app situation isn't perfect though. Load an Apple Watch app, and you might be waiting for as long as five seconds while it loads. In today's world of zippy mobile devices, it stands out ... and not in a good way.

The two watches alert you to notifications in slightly different ways. The Moto 360 gives your wrist a little buzz, similar to what you'd get from a vibrating smartphone, while Apple used some advanced technology ("Taptic Engine") that feels like the Watch is tapping your wrist. If you know someone else who has an Apple Watch, you can virtually tap each other's wrists or even share your heartbeats (a little gimmicky, but it does add a human element).

Battery life is an advantage for the Apple Watch, but not by a wide margin. With moderate use, we can finish a day with the Apple Watch having around 50 percent battery left. On the Moto 360, it's more like 40 percent left.

Just keep in mind that those numbers are with the watches' screens set to turn off when you aren't actively using them (that's the only option for the Apple Watch). Several smartwatches, like the LG Watch Urbane and Asus ZenWatch, can last almost two days with their clock faces always turned on – so neither of these is going to win any battery life awards.

So which smartwatch do you go with? Well, the Apple Watch has a more refined feel to it, with software that spreads a bit wider and has more third-party app support. And unless you want a large watch, the Apple Watch's compact size could also be a plus.

But the Moto 360's Android Wear is a damn good wearable OS, and its Google Now card-based approach may be all we really need from a smartwatch OS. When you add up all the nooks and crannies of Apple's Watch OS, you could argue that it's a little overthought for a device that you'll usually only glance at for a few seconds at a time.

Of course you have to take pricing into account, and the Moto 360 has a big advantage there. It starts at $250, and the steel band version you see here costs $300 (and again, those prices are currently cut by $70 at places like Moto Maker, Best Buy and Amazon). When you consider that the cheapest Apple Watch costs $350, and a model with stainless steel link band starts at $950, you could argue that the Moto 360 is the much better value.

The last big thing to keep in mind is that this first-generation Moto 360 might be getting ready to retire. We wouldn't be surprised to see a second-generation version at Google I/O later this month and, at the very least, we should see some new Android Wear watches from some companies at Google's conference.

There's a lot we skimmed over in this quick look, but we think these were some of the key differences between two of the best smartwatches you can buy today. For a deeper dive, though, you can hit up Gizmag's individual reviews of the Apple Watch and Moto 360, as well as our Android Wear review.

The Apple Watch and Moto 360 are both available now.

Product pages: Apple, Motorola

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