Capability and ease of use earned MOTOACTV a place on my wrist (review & gallery)

For those looking to have a device that tracks workout details and serves multiple key functions, then the Motorola MOTOACTV is a device to consider.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I posted an article in March discussing three life tracking tools that are really designed to provide you with some basic motivation to get out of your seat and a means to track this activity. After reading his post and then discussing my fitness plan with my MobileTechRoundup podcast co-host Kevin Tofel, I decided to order my own Motorola MOTOACTV and have been using it now for over a week. You can check out some photos of the device in my image gallery, a video discussion of it below, along with written thoughts and links to a couple very detailed reviews online.

While Kevin pointed out that the MOTOACTV can be used as a life tracker in place of a Fitbit or Nike+ Fuelband, it is much more focused on the more active person who wants to track specific physical activities such as runs, elliptical sessions, bike rides, and even golf outings. If you just want something to track your short walks around the office, then stick with a Fitbit. However, if you want to replace a GPS watch, MP3 player, and fitness manager then seriously think about the Motorola MOTOACTV.

Image Gallery: Check out photos of the MOTOACTV and a couple accessories.
Image Gallery: MOTOACTV retail box
Image Gallery: MOTOACTV in hand

MOTOACTV box, accessories, and first impressions

The MOTOACTV comes in either 8GB or 16GB standard models and since I wanted to make sure I received the golf software and future proofed my purchase to support upgrades for other sports I went ahead and purchased the 16GB model. I bought it from Amazon instead of Motorola to save myself about $40. I bought the Sports Wrist Strap ($18) and the Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap ($50) as well to complete my kit.

The MOTOACTV comes with everything you need to get started in a compact well-designed package. Yo will find the MOTOACTV device, dual USB port charging adapter, USB cable, Motorola SF200 wired stereo headphones with a mic ($50 value), belt clip ($20 value), and Quick Start Guide. The headphones are decent, but I only used Bluetooth ones with my MOTOACTV. The belt clip lets you slide in the MOTOACTV and clip it to a piece of clothing rather than just placing the MOTOACTV in your pocket.

The Sports Wrist Strap (free right now if you purchase a MOTOACTV directly from Motorola) lets you slide the MOTOACTV into the opening and then wear your MOTOACTV as a large watch. It fits well on my wrist (I am 6'-1" and 250 lbs) and I wear it most days as a watch and fitness tracker. It is red and black and constructed with a very durable material that looks and feels great.

I just purchased the Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap ($50) and will be using it this weekend during my workouts. In some basic tests, it works well connected via ANT+ and seems to monitor my heart rate accurately. Unstretched this strap is about 35 inches long and stretches to about 45 inches. I had to let out the strap all the way and it just fits so keep that in mind.

There are several other accessories for the MOTOACTV, including a Sports Armband, Bike Mount, Bluetooth headphones, and Bike Speed & Cadence sensor. I rarely ride my bike and like the wrist strap so don't think I need anything else at this time.

I was extremely impressed with the quality of the MOTOACTV after I took it out of the box and really did not expect it to be so nice. It is well constructed of quality materials and the screen is incredibly responsive to touch. Motorola states that the device is sweat-proof and rain resistant, which is essential for someone like me who sweats quite a bit and often runs in the rain in the Puget Sound area.


Specifications for the Motorola MOTOACTV include the following:

  • 1.6 inch 176x220 pixels resolution color display with Gorilla Glass
  • 8GB or 16GB internal memory
  • Android OS
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
  • ANT+ and BLE connectivity support
  • FM Radio (wired headset serves as antenna)
  • 258mAh battery (20 hours playback and 9 hours outside workout battery life)
  • Dimensions of 46 x 46 x 9.6 mm and 35 grams

As you look through this specification list, I think you will agree there isn't really anything more that should go into such a fitness device. It actually has more capability than anything else I have seen in the fitness space and with the Android foundation Motorola is able to continue to improve the device through simple updates.

Walk around the hardware

The Gorilla Glass display on the front has stylish beveled edges and really feels great when you run your finger across it. The is one capacitive button on the bottom left of the display for the Back functionality.

The only thing on the bottom is a plug for the headset jack. With my MOTOACTV mounted to my wrist I had no desire to run headphone cables down to it and stuck with Bluetooth. On the left side you will find a large rubber door that swings out to reveal the microUSB port that is used for charging and connectivity to your PC or Mac. I was very pleased to see such a common port available on the MOTOACTV.

On the right side you will find the power button down low with small volume down and up buttons above this . They protrude far enough where they are quite easy to manage on the run.

There are two buttons on the top with lines to make it easy to use them while working out. The left button is for starting, pausing, and stopping workouts while the right button is for managing the play of your music. One press is used to play or pause, two presses to advance forward, and three to go back a track. Again, both of these are very easy to access and use on the run.

The back looks to be stainless steel and is raised above the back just a bit so you can securely slide it into one of the accessories and exercise without too much worry.

Walk through the software - on device

There are five main displays on the MOTOACTV and to see all of the different fields/settings/options available to you I recommend you check out the tables in the DC Rainmaker review since I won't rehash all them here. However, here are the five main panels, as follows:

  • Settings: You manage default behaviors, attached accessories, wireless connection, profile, notifications, and many more.
  • Workout: This is where you go when you wish to actually start a workout. Tools are included for setting parameters.
  • Home/Time: The main/center display shows the time, steps taken, calories burned, etc. and this watch face can be customized.
  • Music: In this area you will find your music and FM Radio. When playing music the album art will appear with several other options related to the chosen song.
  • Notifications: In this area you will find notifications for text messages and phone calls. Without a vibration function, this is a bit limited.

While you are working out you will also be able to choose to view a map of your workout. Maps are preloaded on the device and after connecting it to my Mac I saw that these maps take up about 1.4GB of onboard storage. I paired that down to just the likely states I would visit (knocked down to 380 MB) and then saw that you can download all the maps you wish later.

I have read that some people have hacked up the MOTOACTV to run Honeycomb and even have Angry Birds running on it. The MOTOACTV is a device for fitness and I have no desire to hack it up so I won't be looking at this aspect in any detail.

Walk through the software - in web browser

As you can see in my image gallery, Motorola is actively supporting the MOTOACTV through their web-based portal that lets you view your workouts that are synced via WiFi, plan future workouts, set and view progress on your goals, and even connect and share with others. I understand there are ways to fairly easily export MOTOACTV data to other services, in case you already have a service you are beholden to and don't want to switch.

You can join existing challenges and competitions or even create your own for others to try out and participate in.

Daily usage experiences

I ran the day the MOTOACTV arrived so there was very little music on it (they give you several songs to start with) and I didn't really have the workout screen setup like I wanted. However, after my fourth exercise session, I had the music blasting and display showing me just what I needed to see.

The JayBird Freedom Bluetooth headphones have been my companion and I could not believe how flawlessly they worked with the MOTOACTV. I never heard any skips and enjoyed music all the time. In the past I used my smartphones and they would skip quite a bit over Bluetooth.

Previously, my typical routine consisted of getting geared up and then putting one arm in my sweatshirt while I went outside to try to get my phone connected via GPS. I then had to launch a music app and then switch back to my running app before inserting my phone into my armband and covering everything up while making sure my headset was in place. While on a run, I was unable to switch songs, see what my pace was, or do anything other than run.

So you can imagine my pleasure at how easy everything is now with a simple wrist band and BT headset connected and controlled without any problems whatsoever.

I have already lost 3 lbs in a week (watching my eating as well) and been able to shave about 20 seconds off of my mile time thanks in large part to the MOTOACTV. I can now see the details as I run and push myself further when I need to. All of this Motorola gear is top notch and I look forward to many more workout sessions motivated by the MOTOACTV.

MOTOACTV reviews

I found a few good reviews after I finished checking out the MOTOACTV, but keep in mind all of these were also written before the latest firmware updates that improved the device.

Editorial standards