Moto 360 Review: Possibly 2014’s Best Smartwatch

MOTO 360

Motorola makes top-notch phones. But at Google I/O they announced the Moto 360 alongside Google’s Android Wear. It’s the world’s first circular smartwatch display, apart from a little notch a the bottom for display drivers and light sensors. It also has the best design of a smartwatch, with a full stainless steel body. I got to use one for a while; here’s what I think.

MOTO 360 2


I’m a huge design freak, and I’m in love with this watch. Besides having a round screen, it’s on of the first wearables that actually looks good. I’ve never been one for gaudy gear, and my black version offers a welcome sleek, minimalist design. The all-metal design, with a Horween leather strap is gorgeous and really sharp. It definitely looks like a gadget as opposed to a watch, and I’m cool with that.

The screen is probably one of the most interesting features of the watch. It’s nearly bezel-less, and interestingly enough, it actually goes past the chamfered edge of the glass, creating a weird effect where you can see distorted pixelation through the edge. Something people won’t like is that the display isn’t totally round. It’s got a little sliver cut out of the bottom for light sensors and display drivers. I really didn’t notice, but you might care. Anyway, the round face creates a device that looks a lot like a real watch.

That being said, the 360 still feels like a gadget as opposed to a watch, but I don’t think as many people will be staring at your wrist as opposed to something like a G Watch or Gear Live. With a circular watch, you have a circular body. There’s a textured crown on one side with a brass ring around it. On the other side is a microphone, but no speaker. Personally, I’d like to have some form of internal audio.

On the bottom of the 360  is an awesome holographic backing with a grille containing a heart rate monitor and the inductive charging receiver. Interestingly enough, the watch never seemed to read my pulse. Believe me, I’ve tried, but it took forever.

MOTO 360 4


The hardware isn’t super-new, but on a watch, specs don’t matter. Us nerds check below to see the specs, but Android Wear is super-smooth and responsive. It brings in notifications, and interactions are all fluid, with no lag.

Moto X
Price $249
Display 1.56-inch 320 x 290 IPS LCD
Battery 300 – 320 MaH
Storage 4GB

MOTO 360 3


I’ve already done a full review of Android Wear, so I won’t go super in-depth with this bad boy. It’s simple: a single press of the crown takes you to your watch face and notifications and a long press on the crown takes you to settings. But I will say, that after a while, the newness of this system wore off and it began to feel kind of limited. Notifications come in alright, and that’s fine, but I wouldn’t say navigation is fluid, and there aren’t that many apps and watch faces.

Luckily enough, Motorola decided to drop their Motorola Connect software into the mix. It allows you to tweak watch faces provided by Motorola with background and accent colors. My favorite is face is Basic. It’s super simple, and I think it matches the body perfectly.

Also worth noting is that the circular screen offers a far better experience than a square one. For example, the screen actually has more real estate than a square device because screen size is measured in diameter, not diagonal width. Diagonal is the longest measure of a device, but with a circular display, every way is the longest measure. The circular display also just feels fun, magical.

MOTO 360 5


Pure graphics and computing performance was great on the Moto 360, easily handling everything I threw at it. Google Now responds almost instantly (my only gripe being no audio feedback) and launching apps is fluid. There is one problem – the heart rate monitor. It doesn’t actually work, or at least, not quickly. It took about 6 minutes to get a reading out of my unit.

Finally, battery. For most people, this is usually the deal maker or breaker. The battery was definitely iffy on this device. For most people, you’ll be seeing your watch to sleep with about 10% each day. Battery seems to improve over time, though, so whatever you get is going to change. Charging is super fast, and super cool. Just drop it on the bundled Qi charger and see the super slick animation progress toward 100%.

Final Thoughts

Rating: 8 – Great

The Moto X seems to be alright, but battery has some issues. At first, you’ll be ending the day with about 10% capacity. After a week, it’ll increase to around 25%. The device seems to perform alright; scrolling, swiping, and general interactions are all fast and fluid.

The design is beautiful and slick. The chamfered circular glass, milled steel body, and leather band all make this watch a gorgeous timepeice. Although Android Wear isn’t there yet, this wearable definitely is. The only gripes that I have are the battery and yes, the OS. The little sliver from the display doesn’t bother me, but I can see why it would.

So if you want Android Wear now, the $249 Moto 360 is the best wearable around.

Moto X (2014) Review: They Nailed It

Last year Motorola released the Moto X, and it seemed they were back in the game. Motorola, the company that kickstarted the premium Android, then got lost in an endless swarm of gradual yearly DROID updates, had a pulse. The Moto X sure wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a great start. And now the X has been updated, with a better processor, screen, and camera. It’s amazing.

Moto X 2


This phone is straight up beautiful, with an ergonomic swooping backplate and a gorgeous screen. The front face is dominated by the 5.2 inch 1080p display. The side bezels are slim, but there are ample top and bottom bezels. Both the top and bottom have long, slim stereo speakers that rise about 2mm from the body and pump out awesome audio. On top, the phone also sports a 2 MP front facing camera and a variety of sensors. My particular model had a white face.

The backplate swoops more dramatically than ever before, probably to accommodate the enlarged screen. It’s super comfortable to hold, despite its size (I have small hands) and single-handed use was fine. My model had a bamboo back. Anyway, up top is the 13 MP camera surrounded by a dual LED flash, in case you need to add more photons to your shots. Below it is the signature Motorola dimple, now bolder than ever, surrounded  by a stainless steel ring.

Moto X 3

The phone’s ditched the all-plastic trim, instead going for an aluminum band, reminiscent of a certain iPhone. This was a wise choice; it makes the phone feel dense and high-quality. On top of the band is a headphone jack and to the right of it is a SIM tray. On the right of the band is the volume rocker, with a ridges power button atop. It’s now way easier to tell them apart. On the bottom of the band is a micro USB port.

Although I tested the white-and-bamboo version, the X has a slew of customization options. You can choose from 17 rubbers, 4 woods, 4 leathers, 2 front plate colors, 10 trims, and optional engraving. It’s one of the first phones you can truly make yours.

Moto X 4


Well the stuff you can’t see – a 2.5GHz processor, for example, makes this phone truly great. The display uses AMOLED, but it’s now 1080p HD. With its Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2 GB RAM, and 32 or 64 GB of storage, there’s nothing separating this phone from an iPhone 6 or GS5. And all these technologies mean that the X will handle anything you throw at it. Battery life’s alright, too, with a 2300 mAh ticker that easily lasts a day.

You can peek at the benchmarks, geeks, but everything boils down to the fact that this phone screams. Apps launch quickly, swiping between webpages is smooth, and the general experience is great. The point is, the Moto X has more than enough horsepower for anything you’ll do. Even so, battery was fine. In a video-loop test, the phone lasted 10 hours 30 minutes.

Quadrant 2.0 22,721
Vellamo 2.0 2,093
3DMark IS Unlimited 19,568
SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms) 787
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 11.9
CF-Bench 39,018


I can hear the hallelujah bells here: they are chanting stock Android. Motorola’s version is almost exactly the way Google intended it, except for a couple useful features, and… carrier bloatware. That’s right, my Verizon model had Caller Name ID, Mobile Hotspot, NFL Mobile, QuickOffice, Verizon Tones, Voicemail, Setup, My Verizon, and VZ Navigator. But all is not lost, because what you can’t uninstall, you can disable.

Moto X 5

Now back to the useful features. There’s Moto Display, Moto Actions, and Moto Voice. Moto Display shows your notifications at a glance on the dark lock screen. Swipe to get to the app. Moto Actions uses the IR sensors on the phone’s face to enable gesture control. Swipe your hand over the phone (Jedi style) to activate Moto Display. Then tap your notifications to get the information at-a-glance. But the star of the show is Moto Voice. With Google Now you can say “OK Google” to enable it, but with Moto Voice, you can customize it into anything you want. I went with a casual “Hey Moto X”, and it worked flawlessly.

Moto X 8


Well, the first X’s camera defintiely wasn’t amazing. But this year, it’s 13 MP, up from 10. In good conditions, the camera will deliver vibrant colors and plenty of detail, but change the conditions, and autofocus becomes painfully slow. It’s really frustrating just waiting for the phone to snap into focus.

The Bottom Line

The Moto X is a gorgeous phone. It combines the signature Motorola curve and dimple, now bolder than ever, with a premium design and a great screen. It feels dense and premium, and it really is a flagship, with a 2.5zGHz CPU and tons of memory. It has gestures and software features that are actually useful. The only shortcoming on the phone is the camera. It is slow to autofocus, and it sometimes comes out grainy. The phone is infinitely customizable, with plenty of great materials, but it’s gonna cost you – the phone goes up to $575. Ultimately, this is undeniably one of the best Android phones ever made.

Acer Chromebook C720 Review: Tons of Bang for Your Buck

Acer Chromebbok C720 1

Every student in my school has recently received an Acer Chromebook C720 to do assignments online and learn. I was extremely interested in this computer in and of itself, so after doing some research, picking up a Chromebook of my very own, and using it for a few days, the verdict is out. Although it’s intended as a low-cost netbook, the C720 actually amazed me with its rich feature set.


Well, I can’t say it’s the most beautiful computer I’ve ever seen, definitely not an aluminum unibody Macbook… but Acer’s industrial design team did alright for the materials. It’s very thin and light, just 2.8 pounds. On the top cover is the Acer and Chrome logos. The cover is smooth, cool, grey plastic, not glossy, not matte. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world.

The screen is small, but bright, and it’s got a pretty high pixel density. It’s surrounded by a glossy plastic bezel that tends to be a dust magnet and a VGA webcam. The keyboard is alright, but there’s less travel than I’d like. The trackpad is also great, with full multi-touch gestures. The same material as the cover is used here, and creates very nice palm rests. On the front right are two lights that glow if the computer is on or charging.

The sides curve around, then flatten out to accommodate the I/O ports. On the left is a barrel charging port, HDMI output, USB 2.0, and a 2.5mm headphone jack. On the right is a Kensington lock (not sure why), a USB 3.0 port, and an SD card slot. On the back is a grille for the fan. The bottom is again plastic, but this time it is matte, and textured, making it grippy, but also nice to run your finger along. There’s grilles for the fan and speakers.

Acer Chromebook C720 2


The C720 runs on some pretty generic, albeit powerful hardware. It has a Intel Celeron CPU with HD Graphics.

Operating System – Chrome OS (Linux)

CPU – Intel 4G 1.4Ghz Celeron-2995U dual-core

GPU – Intel HD Graphics

Display – 11.6in, 1366 x 768, 135ppi

Memory – 2 GB DDR3L SDRAM

Storage – 16GB SSD

Battery – 8.5 hour 2600mAh LiPo battery

Camera – Low-rez VGA

Acer Chromebook C720 3


The Chromebook runs Chrome OS, a custom version of Linux. It differs from the traditional operating system in that it is browser-based. This is a double-edged sword, making the system super-simple, but it can’t do anything without an internet connection. I’m beginning to like the simplicity and ease of use of Chrome OS, and I think with some modifications, specifically more offline capabilities, this computer could go a million miles. Chrome OS is constantly updated though, and automatically at that.

I’m also a real design freak, and I really love the transparent app bar, but I don’t like all the gradients used. The icons are alright, but gradients and shadows bug me. All the transitions between elements are very natural and playful, and text is bold and intentional. Again, the interface needs to ditch the muted colors and really go for bright and bold. That’s my suggestion.



I’ve performed several benchmarks on the C720, mainly the Peacekeeper and Sunspider browser speed tests. They measure a lot of things: render speed of different square blocks, render speed of different types of encoded video, 2D and 3D rendering, and JavaScript performance. Overall, the Chromebook was superb on all parts of the test: Earning over 3000 on Peacekeeper and .003 seconds on Sunspider.

  • Peacekeeper: 3008
  • Sunspider: 370.2ms +/- 5.8%

On the battery side of the spectrum, there’s a 2600mAh lithium-ion battery in it – actually the size of most cell phone batteries. It is unclear how the computer actually managed the battery life it did on such a small cell. However, it doesn’t matter, as this particular unit is expected to achieve 8.5 hours on a single charge! Under normal use, I can confirm this time. However, sometimes I’ve been able to exceed this expectation, getting around 9 hours.

The Bottom Line

Although the Acer Chromebook C720 is intended a budget computer, it’s probably best in its class. It combines the portability and battery life of a tablet with probably one of the greatest screens in a mid range. The laptop is very thin and extremely light. I must gripe about the design, because it’s not all that: the plastic isn’t very creative. But the true beauty is on the inside, namely the 4th generation Intel processors and 8.5 hour battery life. Software is easy to use, and a $199 price tag make this machine one of the best in its class. It’s no Mac, that’s for sure, but I find it superior to most Windows PCs, and for your average Joe, it’s one of the best computers for the cheapest price.

HTC Unveils Desire EYE With 13MP Front-Facing Camera and Flash

In the past two years, HTC has released the HTC One (M7) and (M8). They were both great phones in their own right, but now they’ve updated their low-cost phones to pull in more profit. They’ve added an insanely powerful front-facing camera with flash. Overkill, you might ask? I think so.

HTC Desire EYE 2


The EYE sports two versions, a red-and-white version and a black-and-blue version. They have a kind of two-toned look, which looks kind of sporty. The sides are red or blue rubberized plastic, offering a grippable surface. The front sports a big 5.2-inch HD screen, an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, dual LED flash, a 13-MP camera, and a microphone.
On the bottom is a micro USB charger and microphone. On the left are the micro SD and nano SIM slots and an unidentified button. On the right is a volume rocker, another unidentified button, and again, an unidentified button. The top yields a headphone jack. The back packs another 13MP camera, dual LED flash, and a microphone. It’s a slippery plastic hard coat finish, a stark contrast to the sides.


Although the EYE is supposed to be a budget phone, it actually sports pretty good specs.
SoC – 2.3Ghz Snapdragon 801
Memory – 16GB Storage, 2GB RAM
Battery – 2400 MaH Li-Ion Battery
OS – Android 4.4.2 KitKat + HTC Sense 6
Cell Networks-  2G, 3G, 4G LTE
Dimensions-  151.7 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm (5.97 x 2.91 x 0.33 in)
Display – 5.2 Inch 1920×1080 Resolution
Front-Facing Camera – 13MP AF f/2.2 Aperure Dual LED Flash, HDR
Back Camera – 13MP AF f/2.2 Aperure Dual LED Flash, HDR


The phone runs HTC Sense 6, a custom Android skin. It’s integrated with BlinkFeed, HTC’s custom news and social feed reader. It has all the features of stock Android, and it seems it’s kind of improving on the system, not getting in its way. It’s basically the same software as on the One.
The EYE camera suite adds a lot of features to the camera app, specifically, selfies. The camera will automatically snap selfies for you just by holding it still two seconds or by saying “say cheese”. When you’re video chatting, face tracking stabilizes the video and keeps you in the frame. You can take split captures with the front and back cameras at the same time. You can crop yourself into a picture from the back camera, although the lighting kind of seems off. There’s also a creepy feature that lets you take a picture of two people and see what their kid will look like. The suite is pretty big, actually.
The ZOE app is available for iOS and Android. It lets you create videos akin to iMovie and share them to HTC’s homegrown social network. Other people can remix them with their own videos from that place. It’s supposed to be like having everyone’s perspective on the event.


HTC touted the EYE’s front-facing camera as its big innovation, but I still have mixed feelings about it. It dominates the top bezel of the display, and seems like a little overkill. With 1 – 2MP, you can get full HD videos and photos, but I guess the 13MP allows for photos with higher dynamic range?
The camera seems to perform alright in ample lighting, but its low-light performance leaves something to be desired. Photos usually end up gray, or just barely visible. Either way, this phone is definitely for those selfie-crazed people.

The Bottom Line

The EYE combines a powerful camera and hardware with an OK build quality, a cheap price tag, and a great camera suite. The HTC EYE is great if you are really serious about your selfies. However, for the average Joe, it’s doubtful you’ll really ever need that powerful camera. None the less, The EYE seems like a great choice for the money.

Google Earth: Flight Simulator

Concept: 100%        Content: 100%        Techniques: 75%        Spelling: 98.6%        Total: 93.4%

If you use Google Earth, you may or may not know that it has its own hidden, or rather unknown, features. One of which is their flight simulator. The flight simulator uses the regular Google Earth map to create a smooth realistic feel.



Below is the F-16 HUD. To the left, a speedometer, the right, altitude, and at the very top, a digital compass. Google Earth’s navigation features also show up on the map, which provides an easy way to get from point A to point B. You also have the choice to take off from either an airport or the current view you are on.



The “features” aspect of flight simulator is left barren. There are some controls used to view the aircraft from other viewpoints, which can provide a content feeling as per the view.


The simulator also lets the user have full control of the aircraft, from throttle to landing gear to braking.




Final Thoughts

Google Earth’s flight simulator is certainly fun to play, and most definitely, free. I thoroughly enjoy roaming the planet in a plane’s perspective.

Google Earth’s flight simulator can be accessed by going under “Tools” and selecting “Enter Flight Simulator” or by pressing Ctrl+Alt+A on Windows or Cmd+Alt+A.

iOS 8: Release date, first impressions, and more.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months (and I hope you haven’t), you should’ve heard that Apple’s newest iteration on their mobile OS, iOS 8 is coming out soon. When? What’s so special about it? We’ve heard your cries, and we have answers.



Design between iOS 8 and iOS 7 is roughly the same. And although it’s still a huge departure from iOS 6, which I loved, it is still beautiful. It has bright, bold colors, and the font, Helvetica Neue, is always very legible and crisp. Visually, iOS 8 is completely identical to iOS 7. However, there are myriad improvements under the hood.
The performance between iOS 8 and iOS 7 is comparable. Which is to say it is perfect. It is fluid, responsive, lightweight, and it just works. iOS 8 is supported on the iPhone 4S and up. But none of this is important. Why? Because everything here pales in comparison to developer improvements and UI additions.


This new version of iOS add some pretty incredible features. A couple examples are active notifications, new multimedia in iMessages, new predictive keyboards, iCloud drive, health, and finally, continuity.


The photos app has been updated. You can now search your whole library for images based on location, time, and other factors.
There’s smart editing. You can select from cropping, rotation, filters, and smart adjustments. The most notable is smart adjustments. Smart adjustments lets you change two settings: light and color. Light basically lets you increase or decrease the brightness of a scene. Color makes images more or less vibrant. No need to touch saturation, highlights, contrast, or any of that.
There’s third party filters and a new shooting mode: time lapse.


iMessages is new and improved with multimedia improvements, group messaging improvements, and location sharing.
The aforementioned “multimedia” refers to the ability to send voice messages along with text and photos. In the place of the original single camera icon to the left of the text field, there’s also a microphone icon on the right. Tapping and holding each of these brings up a clever radial menu and begins recording. When done, the audio or video, or photo message is sent. Audio auto-deletes after a little while, but you can opt for it to save.
Group messaging now features the ability to name groups. You can kick people out, go on do not disturb, or leave altogether. You can also view all attachments in the conversation in one place.
Finally, you can share your location for a set amount of time — useful if you’re trying to meet up for a picnic.


Also new and noteworthy is the keyboard. It has been upgraded with Android-like predictive text suggestions, support for third-party keyboards, and adaptive typing.
Similar to *gasp* Android, there is now a suggestion field above the keyboard. However, it is better than Android, because it is contextual. Example: in iMessages, your friend asks you if you want to go to dinner or a movie. Your keyboard will recognize the choice, and before you ever start typing, it will suggest “dinner”, “a movie”, or “I don’t know”! It also learns your typing styles to different people.
Now third-party keyboards is pretty obvious: you can download special other keyboards from other sources.


iCloud Drive

iCloud drive is similar to the current iCloud setup with one key difference: it allows you to access every file in your cloud and add new ones manually. Think Dropbox, but native to your device, with no setup.


Health is an awesome addition. There are four main sections: Dashboard, Health Data, Sources, and Medical ID.
Dashboard shows a collection of cards representing different health metrics. These can include your calories, your weight, how far you’ve run, or even heart rate taken from an Apple Watch. You can tap each card to display a menu with more information.
Health data is a menu that shows all the different data you’re tracking and lets you add or remove them. This can include your fitness, your vitals, or different body measurements.
Sources shows all the different source apps for health data.
Medical ID shows your medical conditions, your doctors, your daily medications, and is accessible from the lock screen just in case, you know, something happens.


Active Notifications

My favorite by far, active notifications let you interact with apps without leaving the one you’re in. For example, you get an iMessage from your Mom. You’re watching a video. Instead of clicking the notification, leaving the video, replying, then going back and having to start the video over, with active notifications, you just pull down on the notification, and a text box will appear. You can click on it, then type your reply, hit send, and go back to watching the video. All without leaving the app.

Speaking of notifications, Notification Center has been revamped, with the unread and notifications panels joined. You can now dismiss individual notifications by swiping them away, eliminating the old target practice method of hitting little “x”s.
The neglected notification center “today” view has also been upgraded. Now it has widgets. Basically, a widget is a little menu projected from an app that is accessible outside the app. You can customize “today” by moving, adding, and removing widgets.


Continuity is a collection of features. It used Bluetooth, Point-to-Point WiFi, and iCloud to seamlessly transfer tasks between all your devices.

Example: you start writing an email on your phone. When you get home, you want to finish it on your Mac. You put down your phone and your Mac automatically figures out what your iPhone is doing, automatically launches Mail, and picks up where up you left off!
There’s also automatic hotspots, calling from Mac, and texting non-iPhones from your Mac.


Now here’s a couple of things I’m drooling over.

  1. Swift: a new programming language for making iOS apps. It’s fast, fun, and easy to use.
  2. Extensibility: apps can now extend themselves into other apps, projecting UI elements, etc. example: custom camera filters
  3. Over 4000 new APIs (application programming interfaces)


Final Thoughts

iOS 8 is being released Wednesday, September 18, 2014. It’s got tons of cool features we’ve wanted for a while, like active notifications, and some great new developer toys. I would have liked for something like home screen widgets, but overall, a very solid release.

Apple Watch Review & First Impressions: Insanely Great

Yesterday,  September 9, was MacWorld 2014, and we got way more than we bargained for. In addition to two new iPhone 6’s and Apple Pay, a digital wallet, there was “one more thing”. And it blew me away.
That was the Apple Watch. An exquisite, precise timepiece that had my class drooling, saying “I want one!”

First things first: this watch is absolutely gorgeous. There are three different versions, plain Jane Apple Watch, a beautiful ticker, the Apple Watch Sport, a scratch-and-dent-proof version with rubber watch bands, and Apple Watch Edition, an incredible 14-Karat gold watch that is absolutely stunning.


The straps are all interchangeable. For the plain one, there’s several varieties of leather, metal, and rubber. The Sport is rubber. The Edition is leather. The bodies are available in stainless steel, aluminum, and gold. The watch is rounded off on the sides.
The watch face is dominated by an always-on screen. It will display a customizable watch face. It slopes down gently at the edges to meet the body. To the right are, furthest from you, a knob that is used to zoom and scroll. Pressing it will send you to a home screen filled with circular apps that can be navigated by tapping different app sectors. Holding it will evoke Siri. Closest to you is a button that will access your contacts for quick communication. On the bottom of the watch are various sensors.

Usually I’d talk about specs, but this area is clouded. The whole system has been condensed into a sealed chip called the S1. There is a big battery and something called a “taptic engine”. The display is also pressure sensitive, easily distinguishing a long press from a tap. The watch is waterproof, so you can swim with it.


The watch is centered around well, time! The display is always on and always shows your custom watch face. Swiping up from the bottom of the display produces a “glance” – a view of your day. Pressing the knob will bring you to your home screen. There are lots of apps, like health, which helps you set health goals and work toward them.
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are a few of the apps that are already on the watch. There is also Apple Pay, a way to pay for things without a physical credit card. Once your info is entered just tap the register and you’ve paid.
If you receive a notification, you’ll have the ability to reply to them using some default responses. Typing emails, texts, and social media is enabled using speech-to-text technology.
Now on to the taptic engine. It’s like the vibrator motor already in your phone, but it “taps” you. If you receive a notification, the engine will go off and you’ll feel a “tap on the wrist”. You can also message people by drawing images.


Bottom Line
The Apple Watch is simply magical. It just works, it looks great, and it’s $350. If it was out now, I’d buy it. Alas, it comes out January next year. I firmly believe it’s worth the wait.