The IFA 2014 was the show where we though smartwatches had finally got their aesthetic act together. However, IFA 2015 is the event where they genuinely have achieved that. Both the Samsung Gear S2 and second-generation Motorola Moto 360 have come out of the blocks with fresh new designs, making them more acceptable than ever before.
It's a shame that the devices are only currently appealing to the geeky few who bought their predecessors, but that is the early stage the smartwatch market is still at. The Moto 360 hasn't changed a great deal since the first version: it's still a big round watch with an almost-circular touchscreen running Google's Android Wear. But by giving consumers more options, both in terms of size and design, Motorola has taken the Moto 360 up a gear – and comfortably into the same league as the Apple Watch. There are four different models of Moto 360: both large and small for men, a women's model and a sport version. Include the Moto Maker customisation website and there are a potential 300 variations available.
The larger men's model has the same 46mm diameter as the original Moto 360, while the smaller version is 42mm – a common size across many regular watches. Both have regular 20mm straps that use industry-standard lugs, with a quick-release mechanism so you can fit almost any traditional watch strap. The women's model is also 42mm, but comes with 16mm straps.
The Sport model is different from the others, as it has a silicon strap that is bespoke to Motorola, so you can only swap it for others that the company will sell. Also unique to the Sport model is a brighter screen designed to be readable in direct sunlight – in other words, when you are partaking in physical activity outside on a sunny day. Based on the smaller 42mm model, the Sport is generally chunkier and has its own GPS chip to record runs; the other models will rely on your phone's GPS via a Bluetooth connection. All versions work with Android and iOS.
Motorola showed IBTimes UK a range of different models in all sizes. The case is available in stainless steel and gold (colour, not material), and with a metal link or leather strap. A 46mm watch will be too big for many – myself included – but the 42mm men's Moto 360 looked and felt great on my wrist. One of the biggest compliments I gave the Samsung Gear S2 is that it feels like a regular watch, and I can now say the same about the Moto 360. It's lovely to look at, but now needs Google to pull its finger out and give Android Wear a revamp to match the features and design of Apple and Samsung.
Another small yet welcome improvement is moving the Moto 360's button from the 3 o'clock to the 2 o'clock position, making it easier to press with your right index finger and less likely to be pressed by the top of your left hand.
Motorola says that the battery life has been improved from the original's one-day length. The large model will last for "up to" two days, the company said, while the smaller version will last a slightly awkward 1.5 days. This is with the screen switched on all the time, but in a simpler and more power-efficient state when you aren't using the watch. Turn it towards you and it lights up fully. You will notice I said earlier that the screen is not entirely circular: just as with the first 360, there is a small flat piece at the 6 o'clock position, being called by many the 'flat tyre'. This is the ambient light sensor, which adjusts screen brightness to save battery life. Motorola says placing it here is a key reason for it having much smaller bezels than most of its rivals.
The new Moto 360 can be pre-ordered, both in its standard state and through the Moto Maker website, in the UK from mid-September, and will go on sale here before the end of the month. Prices start at £229, with more specific price points yet to be disclosed.