I've always had an admiration for the work that Motorola has put into their mobile phones. Check my [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click Here To Register...]. Save for a Sony Zuma (sort of a flip phone) and a BlackBerry Bold 9000 (the best BlackBerry ever, IMO) issued by work, I've never used anything other than a Motorola as daily driver.
But Motorola couldn’t capitalize on the original Motorola RAZR V3 with it’s variants and Windows Mobile on the MOTO Q wouldn’t be enough to keep up with the explosion smartphone market Apple brought with the introduction of the iPhone. Motorola leaned on Google and Android and has found somewhat steady sales success on Verizon but not much elsewhere.
Eventually, Motorola would be purchased by Google and has now been put in position to compete directly with the flagships of other smartphone manufacturers. Verizon is still going to lean on Motorola for DROID phones - they are now the [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click Here To Register...] (no more DROID Incredibles by HTC, DROID Charges by Samsung). But in an effort to compete on every (U.S.) carrier, Motorola has brought out the Moto X.
Connectivity - Calls//Wi-Fi/Cellular Data - Business as usual
Motorola has long has this perception of using excellent radios in their devices. In my experience, the Moto X lives up to this hype. Testing calls to an iPhone 5 on Verizon, I could hear the caller loud a clear and they had no issues hearing me. I have not experienced calls cutting in and out with my Moto X.
On Wi-Fi, I have had no negative experiences with the Moto X. I stay connected with good throughput. I have not experienced an random drops.
Cellular data appears to be strong. I have the same excellent connectivity I had on my DROID Bionic. The Moto X performs well on Verizon’s 4G LTE network - which I pretty much have access to in my normal day-to-day in Southern California.
Size. Specs. Software.
In many ways, the Moto X is an anti-flagship. It’s very much the iPhone of the Android world. The phone has been slammed for not having a Snapdragon S600, instead going with the “older” Snapdragon S4 Pro dual-core. This appears to have no made a difference in real-world use. Apps open in a quick, timely manner. There’s no lag or stuttering switching through the launcher or the home screens. Looking at the spec sheet, the S4 Pro in the Moto X uses a dual-core Krait 300 likely similar to the quad-core Krait 300 used in the Snapdragon S600. Graphics are powered by a quad-core Adreno 320. RAM is inline with everyone else at 2GB. There’s 16GB of space on the phone and since Moto Maker isn’t yet available for Verizon customers, the only way to get a 32GB version on Verizon is buy the Developer Edition direct from Motorola.
The Moto X also caught some flack for not going with a 1080 display. The Moto X uses a 4.7” 1280x720 SAMOLED instead. The display checks in at around 316 pixels per inch. For comparison, the iPhone 5 is around 326 PPI and tha Galaxy S4 is around 441 PPI. But guess what? The display still looks great. Text is smooth. And anything around 300 PPI is good enough. Some people say that they can tell the difference (on 720 vs. 1080). I’d rather have 720 on a device at this physical size and rather than waste power on pixels that are hardly noticed.
Motorola pushed edge-to-edge in last year’s DROID RAZR M and RAZR i. They’ve taken that philosophy with them to the Moto X. While the display is 4.7”, the bezels have been minimized. Overall dimensions are 5.09 x 2.57 x 0.41 inches. Compare that to the iPhone 5S (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches) and HTC One (5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 inches). Against the iPhone 5S, the Moto X gets you a much larger display (4” vs. 4.7”) while still being pocketable and comfortable to use one-handed. Against the HTC One, you’ll have the same size display, in a tighter package. Granted, the HTC owes it’s height to it’s front-facing BoomSound speakers but Motorola has never been a slouch when it comes to audio quality. Even placed on the back, audio from the Moto X’s rear speaker is loud, crisp, and clear.
Staying thin has been a trademark design of Motorola since the original RAZR V3. Packed into the Moto X is a 2200 mAh battery. It’s not a 3000+ mAh monster that Motorola likes to stick in phones called the MAXX. But it’s more than adequate. To get the curve which makes the Moto X feel great in the hand, the Moto X uses a stepped battery design. I can get a full day’s use out of it but Motorola’s got some tricks up it’s sleeve to help you with battery life.
I’ve already mentioned the Moto X’s AMOLED display. Taking advantage AMOLED, Motorola has introduced Active Display. Gone is the notification LED that has become a standard on most Android phones. The Moto X breathes. When you get a notification with the screen off, the screen lights up - but only the necessary pixels. It’s almost watch-like, glanceable information. This feature is aided by a contextual computing processor, which handles gestures. Need to check the time? Slip the phone out of your pocket and look at the screen. Active Notifications kick in and the time is displayed on the screen. No need to press a power/wake button to turn screen completely on.
The other piece Motorola added to their implementation of Android is Touchless Control. Essentially it’s an upgraded version of existing voice control. “Send SMS to Jerry, I’m on my way.” But instead of needing to touch the phone to activate the voice command features, all you need to do is say “OK Google Now” first. “OK Google Now. Remind me to buy milk the next time I’m at Target”. Without physically touching the phone, you’ve now just set yourself a reminder. Touchless Control is powered by another companion processor - a natural language process that’s always listening. Gimmick? You’re likely to not use it around other people but alone in the car is one of the best use cases for this feature. It’s worked well for me.
Motorola calls this combination of processors the Motorola X8 Computing System - dual-core main CPU, quad-core GPU, plus the the contextual computing processor and natural language processor.
New on the Moto X is Motorola Assist, somewhat of an evolution of Motorola’s Smart Actions. Instead of manually setting your “Smart Actions”, Motorola Assist tries to anticipate what actions to take in a Google Now-like automatic way. Motorola Assist has modes for Driving, Meetings, and Sleeping.
For Driving, the contextual computing processor comes into play here detecting when you’re on the road. It can be set to send a text message automatically to tell your contacts that you’re driving. It can read your text message out loud. The Meetings and Sleeping modes work similarly, checking your calendar and setting your quiet time so that you’re not disturbed while in an important meeting or catching up on beauty rest.
The Moto X also allows for Trusted Bluetooth devices. Passcodes, pattern locks, PINs - people should be using these security measures to lock their phones down. But it gets tedious. Most people find that extra time a waste. With Trusted Bluetooth, your security can be disabled as long as your phone and Bluetooth device are connected. This works great in the car and nice if you like to leave a Bluetooth headset in your ear all the time. I hear it works great with a Pebble as well.
The Android OS that the Moto X has launched with is Jelly Bean 4.2.2, which the Android faithful have had concerns about since Motorola is a Google company. Why didn’t it launch with Android 4.3? If you understand phone development timelines, you’d know why. Google and Motorola are making it clear that a firewall exists between the Motorola and the Android group and that Motorola isn’t getting special treatment relative to Android’s other partners.
There are two key features from Android 4.3 that people should want - and they’re both behind the scenes. TRIM and Bluetooth Low Energy. And guess what? Motorola’s added their implementation of those features into their build of Android 4.2.2. Couple that with Google Play Services plus the fact that Google putting their apps in the Play Store makes it feel like the actual version of Android is irrelevant.
Camera, better than before - but is it good enough?
The Moto X features a 10 megapixel clear pixel (RGBC) camera with LED flash on the rear and a 2 megapixel camera on the front. Both shoot 1080p video. The 10MP rear camera is much better than the 8MP shooter Motorola seemed to be sticking in everything since I believe the DROID X. The camera interface is very minimalist.
According to Motorola, users weren’t going in and change their camera settings often. Motorola’s research indicated users just wanted to get into their camera quickly. Aided by the contextual computing processor, Motorola has introduced a twisting gesture to easily launch the camera that they call Quick Capture. Essentially, you twist the twice phone like you would twist a doorknob. It’s one of the fastest ways to launch a camera on any smartphone - literally you can twist once the phone leaves your pocket and have the camera up and ready once you got the phone in position to take your shot.
Camera quality is generally good though Motorola has released an update that improves image quality (not yet available for Verizon Wireless users). [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click Here To Register...]. You can take good photos with this phone. It just may take some work.
The Smarter Smartphone?
Expectations are high for every new phone. It seems like everyone is looking for mind-blowing innovation when manufacturers are cranking out iterations. But here’s the thing - the Moto X has fundamentally changed how I use a smartphone in significant ways. Active Notifications, Quick Capture, and Trusted Bluetooth have made me use the Moto X in ways I’ve never used a smartphone.
The Motorola Moto X is more than just specs (or lack of specs). It proves you don’t need to have the latest and greatest specs to have a smooth and fluid smartphone experience. It proves you don’t have to be a gigantic phone to have a great Android experience. It feels great in the hand and still works fine in one-handed use. It tries to solve real world issues with innovative software and hardware. It tries to be the smarter smartphone. I think Motorola has succeeded with this product. This is an excellent start for the new Motorola as a Google company.