Google & Motorola look to revolutionise watches

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Google’s Motorola division officially launches its Moto 360 smart watch in the United States today; a timepiece with a combination of functionality and style that could change the watch industry as profoundly as the digital revolution of the 1970s.

Google bought Motorola’s mobility division back in January, and information about its new smart watch started emerging in March.

Today’s launch comes ahead of a keenly anticipated press conference from Apple next week, which is widely trailed as a platform to launch the company’s iWatch.

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The Moto 360 joins LG’s G Watch R, which has a similar circular face, as gadgets that combine classic aesthetics with modern intelligent features. Click here to see an extensive gallery of images.

Traditional watch brands and retailers will be wondering whether the latest gadgets will appeal only to technology geeks, or could they completely replace traditional watches as quickly as smart phones have replaced early mobile phones.

The Moto 360 is expected to hit UK stores in October with a retail price of £199.

It has a 1.5-inch screen in a 46mm case, and runs Android Wear, a version of Google’s operating system optimised for wearable technology.

It is being offered with a black or grey leather watch strap for its US launch. Metal straps are expected later this year.

Google Motorola’s president Rick Osterloh, says that the Moto 360 has the potential to take smart watches mainstream, despite relatively lukewarm take up of early models from competitors.

"I think the first watches that shipped have been really bad," he said in an interview with the BBC.

"A number of manufacturers were willing to ship products that I felt were not appropriate for consumers. The biggest problem consumers said they had with them was that they really didn’t look appealing. The difference in our initial approach has been to focus on that problem and solve it," he added.

The Moto 360 will offer Bluetooth connection to a mobile phone or other devices such as earpieces. As a standalone device, it is expected to make use of Android’s ever-improving voice-recognition functionality so that can customers can activate functions such as satnav, weather forecasts, fitness and other apps by speaking to the gadget.

A review by Joanna Stern, personal tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, said that the Moto 360 is the first smart watch she has tried that properly looks and behaves in the way she wants from a watch. “The beauty of the 360 isn’t just its classic round screen, it’s that you aren’t stuck with the same face forever. Motorola offers an eclectic selection of eight faces, including a chronograph layout, a black face with a bold red second hand and, my personal favourite, a clean, white Tissot-like design with the date. Even better, unlike LG or Samsung’s models, those vibrant faces are easy to read outdoors,” she says, although she does go on to complain that the overall size is too big for her female wrist.

The Moto 360 is initially expected to sell from tech shops, mobile phone stores and web sites, and no announcements have yet been made about broadening distribution to traditional watch retailers and jewellers.

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