Moto X Review

The latest smartphone from Motorola, fresh off their acquisition by Google, is the Moto X. While the raw specs are a bit behind the likes of the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, this phone has done a lot right. The highest praise you can give a phone is that it simply does everything you want it to do! The Moto X does this, with one minor exception. More on that later.

The Screen

Let’s start with the screen. At a 720 x 1280 screen some would say that is an inferior resolution compared with the “modern” smart phones of today. If you were just looking at the numbers, yes. But in the real world 720 or 1080 makes no difference on a smart phone screen. It’s a beautiful screen and more than adequate for every kind of application (video, email, pictures, etc.). The benefit of the lesser resolution is improved battery life. Let’s go there next.

The Battery

The 2200 mAh battery, again is not the largest capacity on the market today, but it is a nice compromise between performance and battery size. Larger batteries mean larger phones. Moto X doesn’t need the extra capacity due to some of the other “concessions” they have made to make this a complete phone and associated experience. One of those concessions and benefits, at the same time, is the processor technology the phone uses. Motorola has pioneers the “X8” processor technology that takes less power and provides one of the best functions on the phone…it is always listening to you. The X8 processor has “just” two cores, but it is redesigned from the ground up to make the always-on speech awareness of the phone possible without the extra cores that other phones have. In laymen’s terms, one of the processors does only a few things while consuming almost no battery — I can get a day and half of regular use on one charge. I haven’t owned another Android phone that comes even close.

I’m Listening

One of the most useful and admittedly “coolest” features of the Moto X is it’s handsfree operation. All other phones require you to “wake” it before it can respond to your voice. Even the almighty Siri on the iPhone peacefully rests until you physically wake it by long pressing the home button. Not so the Moto X. You simply say “OK Google Now” within earshot of the phone, can it now is ready to respond to your vocal commands. This is a wonderful feature, especially if you are in the car. A simple “OK Google Now, call Debbie on cell” wakes the phone, searches my address book and makes the call. The same works for navigation, general questions like weather, sports, etc. Competitors call it a gimmick. I just call it plain useful.

Apps, Check

The Apple versus Google apps argument is pretty much mute now. The iTunes app store and Google Play stores are on equal footing, at least for the apps I need/use. The Moto X comes with the stock Android user interface which Google users will appreciate. The Google apps like Gmail, Google Plus and Hangouts are nicely designed and very useable on the phone. Just a word about Google Hangouts. If you haven’t tried it, you should. It basically beats Skype in almost every category — reliability, multi-video conference (for free), screen sharing, add ons, recording, live streaming. The list goes on. It is the tool I use for our WELSTech Podcast, for connecting with family members when on the road, and for meetings in general.

In The Hand

The final positive impression I’d like to provide is simply the physical phone itself. It feels well made. BTW, made in the USA is one of their selling points. The speaker is very good if you prefer not to use headphones (not provided). The build quality is much better, in my opinion, than my last phone, the Samsung Galaxy S3. While you don’t get a removable battery, you really don’t need to given the great battery life of the enclosed one. Call quality is excellent, and you can get it in many different colors and color combos.

The Uh…Camera

While this is the best phone I’ve owned to date, it does have one rather major shortcoming. The camera. In a word, it’s “terrible.” If you are wanton to take a lot of pictures in various lighting situation, this may not be the phone for you. I have been unable to take a picture that even rivals the rather marginal camera on the Galaxy S3. Sad. The camera is fast, and the controls are easy to use, but those are irrelevant kudos if the picture itself is dull, grainy, blurry, etc. This is not a showstopper for me since I don’t take many pictures with my phone. I leave those I care about to my Canon. The news, however, may not be all bad on this front. Motorola has begun to roll out a “fix” for the camera that for some has significantly improved the 10 megapixel camera. I don’t have that update yet, as it is being rolled out by carrier. I will provide an update once the update is in place and I’ve been able to run a few comparison tests.

In The End

As you can tell my impressions of the Moto X are very positive (sans camera). But the true test of any phone is not it’s features or screen or camera on their own merits. It’s the package. Does the phone do everything you want it to do? Is it the productivity and communications tool you need it to be? In the case of the Moto X, it does everything I need it to do.

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