Moto 360 5.1.1 Forced OTA & Performance Impressions
Those of you who follow my Wear posts will know that I am often in a bittersweet relationship with my watches. I love the additional functionality, but at the same time, I see plenty of wasted potential. Since acquiring my Moto 360, my thoughts on the platform have changed for the better, but not my actual user experience. The 5.1.1 update brings back some of the hope I had lost.
We must keep in mind a key fact: the Moto 360 has an old TI OMAP 3 processor, which is not only power-hungry but also causes stuttering in general UI operations. While performance has been increased throughout the Wear software revisions, it still paled in comparison to devices featuring the Snapdragon 400; having a Gear Live, I can attest to the performance of the 360 having been much inferior. The 5.1.1 update was delayed and came much later than it did for other watches, presumably because of this very processor, as Motorola claimed that they needed extra optimization. I forced the OTA (steps below – at the XDA office we tried it on 3 different 360s) and tried out the latest update.
How we forced the OTA:
- Make sure phone and watch are connected
- Reset watch, and as it boots up into the Motorola logo (the first time) unpair your watch through bluetooth settings
- As your device resets, go to your Wear app, “forget” your watch, delete data and cache, then uninstall the Wear app
- Reinstall the app (if your Moto 360 is remembered, something went wrong) and set up your watch again once it hits the language selection screen
- Head to the System Update menu – the update should begin downloading!
After letting the watch rest post-setup, I began playing with the new software and immediately noticed something: the watch is now much smoother. In fact, it performs similarly to my Gear Live running 5.1.1. There are still a few frame skips every now and then, but overall they are much shorter and infrequent stutters than previous versions. One thing to note is that wrist gestures and wifi come toggled off by default, as does ambient mode. Once you turn those features on, you can enjoy them.
Another thing I noticed is that the wake-up gesture seems slightly faster, and this coupled with wrist gestures makes notification peeping much more efficient than ever. The gestures work really well, and while they are somewhat confusing at first, after half a day of usage I can trigger them to perfection. I had tried these on the Gear Live and they remain just as solid. If you are a Moto 360 owner, I cannot overstate how good these gestures are for the user experience, so be sure to turn them on. Wear should have had these from the get-go.
The user interface is not only refined in terms of performance, but also in terms of aesthetics. Much like with the other watches, this interface looks sleeker than it ever did. However, one thing worth noting is that the bottom cut-off of the notification drawer present in the latest version actually benefits the 360, as it matches up with the “flat tire” perfectly. Apps still don’t fire up as faster as I would like them to, but the new launcher makes them easy to access without needing third-party launchers.
The ability to have dimmed-mode apps does not work as well as it does in other watches here, as the Moto 360’s dimmed state is not always-on. Wi-fi works as it should, and this has proven extremely useful as well. The screen-lock function is thoughtful, albeit I personally won’t be using it. I can’t comment on battery life yet, however, as my usage throughout the past day has been filled with atypical usage that would make my results yield no practical information (I’ve been using the fleshed-out Maps quite a bit, as it’s great).
All in all, I am satisfied with the performance bump and feature-set of this latest update. I can’t say it was worth the wait until I see how the battery performs under traditional scenarios. If you have a Moto 360, feel free to try out the method detailed above. I can’t state with absolutely certainty that it will work for you, but it worked like clockwork for 3 of our devices. I commend Moto for finding a way to tune the performance to this level, and I am now enjoying Wear more than ever. And with recent reports suggesting that the battery bug present in other watches’ 5.1.1 builds was fixed for this 360 update, the watch just gained a lot more love from me as well.
Have you tried 5.1.1 on your Wear smartwatch? What do you think about it so far? Sound off below!