Everything about this phone has grown over the past year. The screen of the 2014 Moto X 2nd Gen grew respectively from 4.7 last year inches to 5.2 inches this year. The display is also bolder with a 1080p resolution. As expected, images, games, text, and movies are nice and crisp and without any unfocused shots at all. The screen is covered with a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 coating which helps protect from the everyday scratches such as laying it face down or putting it in the same pocket as your keys or pocket change. Let us not forget though that 2 of this year’s competitors have jumped to 1440p (or QHD) resolution. The OLED display allows for truer blacks and also saves energy because when displaying “black” the LEDs are actually off. This is how Moto Display is successful. More on that in the software section.
The front is mostly all screen, as the Moto X dons on-screen navigation keys; there are no hardware or capacitive soft touch keys at all. The bezels on the tops and bottom are minimal. However, the bezels along the sides seem to have grown ever so slightly with the screen. They aren’t unsightly, but not as minimal as the first generation. The new speaker grills, both on the top and bottom bezel, give the new Moto X an industrial look. These are the grills that can be customized to 1 of 10 different colors. The top grill covers the speaker used for phone calls, while the bottom grill covers the only media speaker. Though they look the part, these are not dual front facing speakers for audio stereo sound. Both grills are slightly raised. This means the phone will not lay flat on its screen when you set it face down, helping to keep the glass scratch free.
Then there is the renaming of Active Display, which is now called Moto Display. Pulling the phone out of your pocket or waving your hand over the screen, notifications will slowly blink on and off using only white pixels to save battery. Instead of a limitation of one notification to interact with, now you have up to three. And If there isn’t one, at least the unlock icon will appear. The option to pick and choose which apps breathe notifications still remains in the settings.
Next up is Moto Assist. Something about the ability for the phone to just KNOW when I am in my car and read text messages to me, allow me to dictate replies, and remain hands free. Well that’s just awesome! And it keeps my kids and me safe on the road. You can also do the same thing when you are at home, like relaxing on the couch and you don’t want to actually get up to reply to your wife’s text. Also, Moto Assist will silence your notifications and calls so that you don’t get loud interruptions while in a meeting, at least not from your phone. Your friend’s iPhone will probably still interrupt. Lastly, The sleeping mode lets you set a time to silence everything before bed and turn it back up as you wake in the morning, by itself, meaning you can set it and forget it.
Moto Actions provides three simple ways to interact with your New Moto X via gestures. This is where the infrared sensors come into play. The infrared sensors on the front act as a beacon to help Moto Display work properly. Those sensors also allow you to wave your hand over the phone to silence a call or notification if you can’t address it immediately. Lastly, Moto Actions provides a way to launch the camera app with a simple twist of your wrist. This can be done, even with the screen off, by holding your phone horizontally and twisting your wrist twice as though you are turning a doorknob or a screwdriver. You’ll feel a vibration, as feedback, to let you know the command was registered, and then the camera will open without having to unlock your phone. If you use a security lock on your phone, this will only allow the camera to be used. If you were to try to get out of the camera, you would then be prompted to enter the proper unlock code.
Moto Connect is pretty much the same thing as Motorola Connect in the original model. This app allows the phone to push notifications to your computer via a Chrome browser extension. For example if you get a text message, you will get a pop up alert on your computer screen, therefore the phone can remain in your purse or pocket and you don’t have to pull the phone out to read the message. This also allows you to reply to text messages from your computer. Most all notifications can be seen on the computer through the Motorola Connect app and browser extension, but you won’t be able to interact to each of them.
The New Moto X sports a 13 MP camera on the back and a 2 MP camera on the front. There is a minimal settings menu, so you will not get overwhelmed as I think one would by using a Samsung camera for instance. It incorporates a tap anywhere to capture function, records in slow mo, and in 1080p resolution for both video and pictures. There is a burst mode, featured by holding down in the center of the screen, and you are allowed to record video and snap pictures at the same time. All these functions are also allowed on the front 2 MP camera as well.
The camera housing and LED flash is a bit more interesting than last year. Instead of the dual LED flash being off to the side like most, these are on either side and surround by a ring which will help diffuse and disperse the flash, providing better lighting.
The pictures on this year’s Moto X are clean and clear, but not very crisp. They still lack that something that you can get from LG or Samsung. The colors are flat and not vivid at all. When zooming in to capture a shot they quickly turn grainy. An unsteady hand will cause blur and it doesn’t do very well to capture action or other motions. It’s pretty good for taking organized group shots or selfies. It worked well when going through a museum with static objects, but not as well going through a zoo where animals won’t stand still. The HD video capture is impressive. Again, an unsteady hand can make a bouncy video.
Low light performance is not the best. Although I’m not one to go clubbing and take lots of rave pictures, I did attempt to capture pics and vids of the kids as they dance around the living room enjoying some music with strobes and colored LEDs.
Here are a few sample shots from adequate lighting to low lighting, from stills to motion. You can help be the judge.
The New Moto X originally launched in September 2014 for $449 for the 16GB variant and $499 for the 32GB variant. This is significantly lower than the competitors which are around $600 for the smallest variant. When signing a 2yr contract at various carriers it will cost you $199. However, over the past few months the 2yr contract price has already begun to drop. You can pick it up today from Verizon for $49 or AT&T for $99. You will not be able to use the New Moto X on Sprint at all, and T-Mobile no longer has contracts, so you are looking at the full retail value from them. Other smaller carriers are also offering it. It’s currently 1 penny at US Cellular for the 16GB model and Republic Wireless also has the 16GB model for $399 (no contract). Don’t forget that each of the three major carriers have their own monthly payment plans as well if you choose not to sign a contract.
The Motomaker.com website is the best place to start where you can pick and choose the color of the back, front and accents, as well as engrave your name on the back. Motorola is also selling a “Pure Edition” of the New Moto X. This version comes free of any carrier apps and is available with GSM radios, which means it will not work on CDMA carriers such as Verizon. It will, however, work on AT&T or T-Mobile and it supports their LTE frequency bands for faster (than 3G) LTE data. If you are a developer or one who likes to really enjoy the power of Android, the Pure Edition has an unlockable bootloader and it’s said to expect faster Android updates than the rest of the Motorola family.
Pros and Cons
Motorola has really paid close attention to how we use our phone and made software to improve upon that. As opposed to coming up with new ways and gimmicks to make us use a smartphone for other things. I really enjoy the Moto apps. The Moto Assist is my favorite, and then Moto Display is a very close 2nd place. Those two alone are so much help. There are no other apps out there from any other smartphone manufacturer that compare to Moto Assist and Moto Display. They keep us safe and show works of innovation towards a future where smartphones truly are becoming smarter. In addition, the motomaker.com website helps your stand out in a crowd (if you want to) with a gorgeous array of colors to customize your phone. The addition of leather to the mix makes for a very classy and tasteful piece of hardware. Motorola has two very cool accessories to go with the new Moto X, the Moto Hint and the Moto 360. A Bluetooth earpiece and a smartwatch, both of which will enhance the New Moto X experience to the fullest. Which, I’m sure is exactly what Motorola is trying to do. I beleive they’ve succeeded. Again they all help you use the phone the way you already do today, they don’t try to sale you on using it in new ways and become a gimmick or a waste if you can’t adapt to it. You adapt easily and quickly to all these Motorola perks and then when you don’t have them, you miss them.
The screen is beautiful. The increase in screen size didn’t drastically increase the size of the phone overall. That is a big win for those who fell in love with the original Moto X and were scared of the rumors of the new one with a larger screen. It still feels good to hold. The dimple on the back helps to do so.
Sadly, I must say the camera is a downer this year. You would think that with the increase in megapixels it would be better than last year, but I’m thinking the more MP’s and the same software only enhanced any issues last year’s camera had. The battery life is respectable, but it’s no 24 hour battery. My wife can go a day and half on a full charge, she us a texter and Facebooker. But I could only make it 15-16 hours tops. I’m a medium to heavy user.
Overall, I am happy with the way the New Moto X turned out. I’m not a huge picture buff because I have a DSLR for those memorable moments. My smartphone pics are social media quality only. But tell me what you think. I’d like to hear your comments and feedback on the new Moto X and let me know if I left any questions unanswered.