The most sophisticated Android Wear watch is here: Hands-on with the Moto 360

Google disappointed some early (or would-be early) Android Wear adopters by announcing that the rounded Moto 360 wouldn't be available alongside the first round of smartwatches this summer. But the wait is finally over: Motorola's wearable device comes out in the United States Friday, September 5 at noon eastern time.

moto 360 wrist Andrew Hayward

Priced at $250, it's the most expensive current Android Wear device, but it's also the most sophisticated, delivering a gorgeous circular screen—albeit with a bottom sliver blacked out—along with a refined build and a rugged leather strap. Motorola handed out final hardware today at its announcement event in Chicago for the new Moto X and Moto G, and I've had a chance to wear the device for a few hours for a last pre-launch hands-on.

Elegant design

Both the Samsung Gear Live and the LG G Watch—the first two Android Wear options on the market—look like, well, smartwatches. The square screens, plastic frames, and rubber straps really sell the fact that you have an electronic device strapped to your wrist. But the Moto 360 goes in a different direction. Simply put: it looks like a real watch. And it feels like a real watch. The stainless steel circular design is fetching, with a real leather strap sourced out of Chicago.

moto 360 flat Andrew Hayward

Stainless steel, leather straps, and minimal design—the Moto 360 is a looker.

After wearing it for a few hours, the Moto 360 feels pretty comfortable on the wrist and is certainly sleek, but while the overall watch is lighter than its competitors, the core unit itself does feel a bit heavy, especially if it's worn loose. Additionally, the leather strap is difficult to get out of the loops at first, but that should ease the more you take it off and put it back on.

moto 360 leather Andrew Hayward

You might fight the straps at first, as they're pretty stiff out of the box.

While the pixels do reach right up to the edge of the circular frame, as advertised, the glass atop it is chamfered right before it meets the metal, which does make some of those outside pixels look a bit distorted from certain angles. It's a strange effect, but hopefully not something that continues to grab your attention after a few days.

And as previously discovered, a small section at the bottom of the display is blocked off with a black, unusable strip of screen real estate, which Motorola says is necessary to house all of the components inside. LG's upcoming G Watch R promises a circular display with full use of the screen, but the trade-off is a sportswatch-like aesthetic and a seemingly bulkier build. Initially, the blacked-out gap isn't strongly noticeable in use—you won't be paying much attention to the small part of the circle that doesn't display when the rest of the image is so bright and attractive.

Hardware perks

The Moto 360 uses stock Android Wear, so aside from distinctive watch faces and a few more pixels around the edges, the experience is largely the same as on other Android Wear watches. Like the Gear Live, the Moto 360 features a heart rate monitor on the back of the watch, but it also allows you to track heart activity across the day or several days, with the watch pushing you to log at least 30 minutes of moderate activity during each 24-hour span.

moto 360 apps Andrew Hayward

Apps like Allthecooks have Android Wear support for on-the-wrist interactions. You can see how the chamfered glass distorts part of the image here.

Another hardware component, the wireless charging dock, proves completely effortless in use. There's no specific contacts to line up: simply pop the watch vertically into the slot and it'll stay put with a light magnetic pull and start charging, with the time and battery charge displaying on the screen. It's perfect for a bedside clock at night. With no charging port, the only external part of the Moto 360 build is the single physical button, which manually turns the display on and off.

moto 360 charger Andrew Hayward

Charging the Moto 360 is a total breeze, and it looks nice to boot.

The leather strap gives the Moto 360 a nicely understated look, but if you want something a bit more premium in design, Motorola revealed that a version with metal straps will follow later this year for $300 in light and dark variations. And even if you can't wait until then, the straps will also be sold separately for $80 apiece, so you can buy the watch now and upgrade its look later. Additional leather bands will also come later for $30 a pop if you want to shake up the style.

moto 360 metal Andrew Hayward

A version of the Moto 360 with metal bands is coming later this year, although you can just buy the bands and swap them out on the standard model.

The Moto 360 goes on sale in North America in a matter of hours, and will initially be available at Motorola.com and through Best Buy and Google Play, with a wider international release still to come. Initial buyers will be able to choose from a limited edition grey leather version with a suede finish or a standard black leather version.

It has been the most anticipated Android Wear watch thus far, and my initial experience hasn't generated any major reasons why it won't live up to that excitement—but that could change after days of regular use. Be sure to check back for our full appraisal soon.

Updated on September 5 with a video report from IDG News Service.

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