Saturday, February 22, 2014

Moto X - Was It Worth the Wait?


In 2011, Google made a move that no one expected, they bought their own OEM: Motorola Mobility. Now it took about a year for that purchase to become realized and official, but the geek world could hardly stand the wait to see what would come out of this newly united couple.

Jump forward to August 2013, just a hair over two years since that acquisition, Motorola takes the stage to announce the Motorola Moto X. There is back and forth controversy as to how much influence Google had on the development of this phone, both hardware and software. Motorola continues to point out that they run independently of Google, but truth be known, there is only a firewall that separate the two. They even shared a Google officer to be the new the CEO, Dennis Woodside.

I read all the rumors and leaked info on this phone for almost a year. The hype was building up for so long. I even debated on dropping my Verizon unlimited data plan to go to ATT (because they released the custom version first). The question is though, was the wait for the Moto X worth it? Hang around after the break, and I'll give you my answer to that question.


Again, the Motorola Moto X was the first smartphone developed and released while Motorola was owned by Google. Motorola had others that were in the backlog prior to the Google takeover, and then released after the fact, but the Moto X was the realized and released during Google's 2 years and 5 months of owning Motorola.

The Moto X has plenty of proprietary features and apps that we will talk about. But to begin this review, Lets talk about it's number 1 selling point, MotoMaker.




MotoMaker allows you to order a customized Moto X phone. This is truly an industry first. MotoMaker will allow you to choose a variety of options such as backplate color, accent color, storage capacity, custom engraving, wallpapers, front faceplate color, and signature on the boot animation. There are a variety of colors to choose from for the backplate and accents. In the recent months just before Christmas they even added four choices for wood grains.

Software
The Motorola Moto X was released on the most recent version of Android operating system at that time: Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. All in good timing, just like they do every year, Google released a newer version of Android in October 2013, only 2 months after the release of the Moto X. However, Motorola set a new record. In only 3 weeks time, Motorola had tested, certified and started pushing out a working version of Android 4.4 Kit Kat update to all Moto X's on all carriers.

Aside from the awesome customizations of MotoMaker, the Moto X brings forth 4 new great software features: Active Display, Touchless Control, Quick Capture, and Moto Assist.


Motorola Assist

Active Display


Touchless Control

Quick Capture
Motorola Assist is an app that uses different sensors on the phone to automatically do things that you programmed it to do. There are three built in "activities" it assists with: Driving, Sleeping, and Meetings. For example: When the GPS locations change at a pace that only can happen when traveling, or driving, Assist can automatically play the last music you were listening to and/or automatically read any incoming text messages aloud. That last feature also works with phone calls. It can say out loud who is calling you. The cool part about the read-aloud feature is that it's handsfree. It will say "You have received a new message from Paige. Would you like to listen to it now?" It waits for your reply to command it "listen" or "cancel". If you say "listen", it will read it aloud to you and then ask if you would like to reply to Paige. Then if you say "yes", it listens to your message, confirms what it thinks it heard you say, and if it got it right, you tell it to "send." 100% handsfree.
Tech Geek Tip: The lights behind the pixels in an amoled display do not light up if the color is black saving battery power, unlike LED displays which light up for all colors including black.
Active Display is a feature that takes advantage of the Amoled displays lighting. Whenever you get a new notification such as a text message, the active display will show the time and the icon for that notification in the center of the screen in white. Why white? because it uses less battery power. The rest of the screen remains black and doesn't use any battery power at all. When you touch that icon, you will see a preview of the message across the top of your screen. You now have 3 options: swipe up to unlock your phone and jump right into that app, swipe down to unlock the phone and go to the homescreen, or swipe left or right to dismiss that notification.
Tech Geek Tip: Most all phones have an accelerometer. This sensor allows the phone to know which way it is facing. It tells the phone when its in portrait mode (vertical) or landscape mode (horizontal) and flips the screen accordingly.
But that's not even the cool part. Active Display also takes advantage of the accelerometer in your phone. It will show you the clock and notifications I spoke of before without you having to turn on the screen of the phone. For example: I keep my phone in my front pocket. When I get a text message all i have to do is pull the phone out of my pocket and look at the blinking Active Display. I don't touch the power button, I don't unlock. I just pull it out of my pocket, and look. If I chose to ignore it, I can put it back into my pocket and it turns off automatically because it is smart enough to know it is back in my pocket.


With Touchless Control, Motorola has expanded on Google's Search app, the one where you talk to your phone and it replies back to you either in voice or with Google search results. But with Touchless Control, as the name suggests, you don't even have to touch your phone to use this feature. During the setup of your phone, you are asked to "train" your phone to listen for your voice, this way it can pick out your voice from all the other noises around it. When you are ready to ask your Moto X a question, say the hot phrase "OK, Google Now". This will wake up the device. Now continue to ask your question. You can say "Help Me" for a list of all acceptable commands. My favorite command is "Send a text". You can actually send a text message to one of your contacts without touching the phone at all. As my Mom would say, "Too Cool!"
Another cool app that comes on the Moto X is Quick Capture. This is a an easy to jump right into your camera so that you can quickly capture your memories without fumbling through apps looking for your camera app. To access the camera through Quick Capture, simply hold your phone horizontally and twist your wrist twice, as if turning a door knob or screwing a screwdriver. Then your Moto X will vibrate and the camera will open right up.

Hardware
Something for the geeks, but important for everyone
The hardware of the Moto X has been one of the most controversial conversation in the smartphone industry, why, because the geeks think Motorola missed the mark with the choice in processor. The Moto X does have a processor that was released in late 2012 (Qualcomm SnapDragon S4 Pro dual core) while competitor phones released in 2013 have a more recent processor such as a quad core processor. But I believe that this makes no difference in the processing for the Moto X. Because Motorola did more to the processing power. They implemented a new combination of cores to total 8 cores in all. They call it the X8. Take a moment to read my take on the Motorola X8 processor.


The Moto X also features this list of additional hardware options:

  • storage: 16GB or 32 GB
  • RAM: 2GB 
  • 2MP front facing camera
  • 10MP rear camera
  • 4.7 inch screen
  • 2200 mAh battery

Pros

I love the dimple in the back of this phone. The Motorola symbol on the back is sitting in a small dimple that pretty much falls perfectly under the index finger of the hand you are holding it in, just under the camera lens. 

To me, the camera is just fine. Both the front one and the back one. You can see a few samples below. However, you will see across the internet that this is the least liked part of the Moto X. I must have low smartphone camera standards. Now, I can compare this camera to the LG G2 13MP camera which also has a 1080P screen. Those pictures are beautiful. But please, don't be mistaken in what I'm trying to say. Yes, there are better cameras, but the Moto X camera is just fine for a smartphone, its not meant to be a DSLR (one of those cameras professional photographers use).

It packs a larger screen in a small chasis. In a world where screen sizes continue to get bigger, the trick is limiting the size of the phone itself. The Moto X has hit a sweet spot. The phone still fits perfectly in your pocket or purse with a screen that is beautiful and large.

I have to mention MotoMaker one more time. It is by far the #1 selling point for this phone. 

Gallery Samples 

front camera
front camera
rear camera


rear camera
rear camera


Cons
I'll mention the camera one more time, but only because most all tech geeks believe it is the one thing Motorola could have done better. But think about that for one second. This is the "cons" section and the majority of all tech geeks think the camera is the ONLY thing they could have done better.

On my personal device, I don't necessarily care for cases. Also, since I waited for so long to get the custom colors, I didn't want to cover them up. Alas, about 1 month of ownership, and in and out of my pocket, the royal blue color on the corners and sides started to turn dark grey. Motorola did say that they would replace the device for me. I chose to buy a clear case instead. I felt that the new one would probably suffer the same symptoms.

Final Thoughts
Was the Motorola Moto X worth the wait to be my new smartphone? The answer is yes. Actually the answer is "Oh yeah it most certainly was!". This phone really is great. when I bought mine, I bought one for Paige too. She's never had a smartphone and she loves the Moto X. She can't put it down. Her teacher friends wish they had a pink phone. And then together we talked her cousin into getting one. Lastly, I talked my mom into getting one. You see, the Moto X is great for both heavy users and light users. It will do what you want with the command of your voice. It snaps great photos quickly and with decent clarity. I've held and used both the LG G2 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Both great phones, but I would not trade in my Moto X for either one of them.



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