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Hands on with the Moto 360, the Android Wear device you actually want

What a tease. After lathering a crowd of 6,000 developers up into a frenzy with the promise of a free Moto 360 smartwatch at I/O, Google revealed that the round-faced miracle watch would arrive later this year. Cue sad trombone.

Of course, a free Samsung Gear Live or LG G Watch made a nice consolation prize in the mean time, but let’s not beat around the bush: The Moto 360 is the Android Wear device everyone’s waiting for. That perfectly circular display is just too novel — and perfectly watchlike — to settle for anything else.

Fortunately, Motorola was on hand at I/O to tease us with a preview of what’s to come, which we gladly slung around a wrist. It’s not a functional model, but since it’s running the same version of Wear as everything else, it really doesn’t need to be. This thing’s all about the look.

And it nails it. The incredibly simple round watchface almost hearkens to the halcyon days of Motorola’s original Razr flip phone; it doesn’t need all sorts of design flourishes because the shape alone does all the talking. You get a milled steel ring, cloaked in black, with a single button on the side that almost looks like the knob you would use to set the time on an analog watch. The top glass sits just a hair above the surrounding metal, with a chamfered edge that reveals just enough depth to remind you that you’re tapping on glass, not a plastic veneer.

The 360 has the same tight construction and heft you would expect, too. A Suunto dive watch it is not, but we would feel as comfortable taking this tough little clam of a watch hiking or camping as we would to a business meeting.

A black leather wristband rounds out the overall classiness of this device. It’s telling that Motorola has been the only manufacturer to reach for leather when every other smartwatch maker seems unaware that there’s any option other than silicone.

The round shape of the screen will undoubtedly force some design workaround on the user-interface side (we saw some text that came harrowingly close to the edges), but that’s not why you buy the Moto 360. Now let’s just hope Motorola can get these on our wrists by Christmas as planned.