In the slow march towards smarter everything, one specific space has been tough to take on: sports watches. No matter what anyone tells you, a very basic, very usable Garmin or Fitbit still beats smartwatches by a mile for usability and accuracy. However, products like the Motorola 360 Sport are quickly catching up.
First the bad news: this isn’t quite the sports watch you’re looking for. It is basically a standard Android Wear smartwatch in a more sweat-resistant case but you could get the same experience with nearly any other watch including pieces with metal cases and bands. It does support phone-free runs and has GPS and Wi-Fi built-in but, in general, it is hobbled by phone-free app compatibility and usability.
On its own, 360 Sport is primarily a running watch and it works best with Motorola’s own Body app. If you want to track other sports – a bike ride, for example, you would need to pair the watch with an app on your phone and treat the watch as a data gathering device. This, in theory, allows you to use apps like Endomodo and Strava but in practice Motorola’s own solution still works best.
The Body app gives you vital statistics including steps taken, calorie burn, and heart rate and lets you track runs. It has a dual AnyLight Hybrid display which allows you to read the time and some event details using a low power display and then activate the color display when needed. This increases usability to a degree but it still dies in about a day and a lot quicker if you activate the GPS.
The idea of a standalone Android Wear running watch is certainly compelling and I find nothing to discourage a casual runner and die-hard Android from picking up the $299 piece. However, given the low battery life the phone agnostic casual runner will probably be better served with something like a Fitbit Charge HR or Surge while the true fanatic will want something from the Polar or Garmin family. Because the 360 Sport sits in that netherworld between absolute simplicity and prosumer complexity it’s a hard sell.
You get the sense that this smartwatch is an experiment. The original sports watches were made of steel with steel bracelets – they were supposed to survive spirited squash matches between captains of industry – but Casio soon changed that perception by creating the truly rugged wristwatch. Years of refinement have brought us to our current state where true sports watches can run for weeks after a dunk in the ocean and then survive being run over by a tank. The average smartwatch (like this one, incidentally) is barely waterproof.
Eventually we will want smartwatches that are rugged, usable, and great for sports. This isn’t quite that watch… yet. I could definitely see this as a second watch for runners who like to carry their phones while they jog but it is a hard sell as a standalone sports watch and an even harder sell for folks who already have a running watch that provides phantom coaching, reminders, VO2 Max, and the like. Sometimes the old ways are better – until someone makes something far better than the incumbents. The Sport 360 isn’t quite there yet but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.