Motorola Challenges Apple With a New Moto 360 Smartwatch

Android Wear makes a move toward becoming fashionable with customizable, stylish watches—coming to a Nordstrom near you

So far, Apple has been the only smartwatch maker to think deeply about its devices as fashion accessories. That changes today, Wednesday, Sept. 2. With the second generation collection of Moto 360 smartwatches, Motorola is doubling down on design while claiming that it has drastically improved on the technical side, too. 

The new Moto 360 isn't a single watch with a few small variations, as the first edition was. This watch comes in three basic variations, each with a number of customizable details.

Two watches are intended for men, one that's 46 millimeters across and a second that's 42mm. They take 24mm and 20mm straps, respectably. Because the watches have lugs this year (the bits that jut out to hold the strap), all 360 models can use any properly sized watch straps, not just those from Motorola. There is also a special women's watch, which is still 42mm but uses slimmer 16mm straps to give the illusion of a smaller size.

By mixing metals, bands, and sizes, you can get hundreds of different Moto 360 versions.
By mixing metals, bands, and sizes, you can get hundreds of different Moto 360 versions.
Source: Motorola

The men's watches come in silver, black, and gold; the women's watch swaps black for rose gold. There are multiple bezel options (knurled, chamfered, etched), and the color doesn't have to be the same as the main body of the watch, either. Take leather and metal straps into account and you can get hundreds of possible combinations, very much in line with the Moto X and Moto G smartphones.

The watches have  premium look that comes with a premium price tag: from $299. By comparison, the 2014 Moto 360 currently starts at $149. Since Android Wear now works with the iPhone, Motorola seems to be positioning this smartwatch in direct opposition to the Apple Watch, and doubling the price now puts the Moto 360 in the same bracket as the Apple Watch Sport—and still well below the tariff for the standard Apple Watch.

The biggest performance complaint with the original Moto 360 concerned battery life. A lot of consumers were unable to get a full day's use out of the device without a midday top-up. This improved some via software updates, but Motorola says the new watches will perform much better right out of the box: The 46mm watches can get up to two days on a single charge, while the smaller, 42mm watches will get between a full day and a day and a half. While Moto's software is Android Wear with special watch faces and flourishes, everything is meant to look clean and minimal.

Each watch comes with a wireless charging cradle, whatever style you choose.
Each watch comes with a wireless charging cradle, whatever style you choose.
Source: Motorola

To buy the Moto 360, you can access the full collection at Motorola.com, and certain models will be for sale through the Google Play store and via Best Buy online. Preorders begin today through all three retailers, with watches scheduled to reach Best Buy and Verizon retail stores later this month. You can also preorder through the Moto Maker customization tool. This lets you design every component to get just the look and feel you want, instead of having to pick up an off-the-shelf design. For now, Moto Maker for the Moto 360 is available in the U.S., Mexico, the U.K., France, and Germany; availability may expand.

Also coming is a retail partnership with luxury department store Nordstrom, a big sign of confidence that smartwatches can achieve mainstream penetration. 

From 50 to 80 Nordstrom stores across the U.S. will start selling the Moto 360 later this month. This is the first smartwatch stocked by Nordstrom, demonstrating that Motorola is trying to market and sell the 360 as a lifestyle product (just as Apple has done with the Apple Watch). Each store will carry from 12 to 15 variations on the watch, more than any other brick-and-mortar retailer. They will be merchandised alongside traditional watches in the stores' jewelry departments. 

A new Sport model comes with a few extra features and different bands.
A new Sport model comes with a few extra features and different bands.
There's a new Sport models that has a few extra features and different bands.

Outside the main collection will be a special Moto 360 Sport edition. This watch has a fully integrated silicone rubber strap and a special screen mode that combines backlighting and reflective viewing to make it more readable in direct sunlight. It is meant for those who want full smartwatch functionality in a style more like that of a fitness tracker. Details remain sparse, with a release date yet to be set.

The Moto 360 can be preordered directly from Motorola beginning today, including custom models through the Moto Maker site. Prices range from $299 to $429. Delivery begins later this month, when the watches also hit stores.

Motorola has updated the Moto 360 to include two sizes, as well as multiple colors and strap choices.
Motorola has updated the Moto 360 to include two sizes, as well as multiple colors and strap choices.
Source: Motorola
Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE