Name: Moto X
Carrier: AT&T and Verizon
Price: $200 (16GB) or $250 ($250) w/two-year contract
The Back Story: One can argue that Motorola has never truly created a flagship smartphone of the same caliber as the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S3/S4. That’s only because the mobile pioneer has yet to introduce a revolutionary handset capable of wowing consumers and critics like its competitors. Granted the Droid seris has been instrumental for both the Android platform and the industry, it's pretty evident the company lost its swag along the way. With a billion-dollar acquisition by Google, the company has been hard at work introducing a new handset that it believes is “designed for you” on all levels: the Moto X.
Highlighted by a dynamic UI catered towards hands-free interaction, strong processing speeds, and a bold, customizable design, Moto looks to forever change the way we personalize and interact with our smartphones. Is all that enough to make the Moto X a serious contender for the holidays or has the Google/Motorola marriage gotten off to a rough start?
• Striking design and customization options: Motorola is tapping into a different market with the Moto X, gearing more towards appearance and personalization. The ergonomics present on this handset are impressive to say the least, as the company’s engineers took the creation process a step further by measuring users hands to obtain the best length and width measurements, assembling what is arguably the most comfortable smartphone on the market. Its distinct curved rear molds into your hand and provides better grip control, and the polycarbonate shell has a soft-touch texture that feels sleek and durable in-hand.
That’s all good, but where the Moto X really outshines the competition is with Motorola’s new MotoMaker customization system. Owners have the luxury of decking out their backplate by choosing from a large selection of shell colors, accent colors, and even materials. The company announced plans to offer a variety of different wooden casings for consumers sometime in Q4 2013. So in reality, Motorola’s creating the first wooden smartphone ever. Crazy.
• The touchless experience: The Moto X was made to listen to you. And thanks to Google stepping up its voice activation game with the introduction of some new hands-free features, the phone delivers a slightly better voice-command experience than the Samsung Galaxy S4. Google Now runs the entire show by assisting users with Google searches, launching apps, making calls, scheduling meetings, and performing all other commands thrown its way. Only difference here is Motorola optimized the phone to listen all the time, even in standby mode.
All this is handled mostly by Motorola’s new custom X8 processor, which focuses primarily on the phrase “OK Google Now” and executes commands without draining battery life. A separate language recognition processor manages accuracy and voice familiarity, helping the phone differentiate your voice from other people. Google also includes a couple of other exclusive features to its flagship device like the GPS-centric Motorola Assist app for drivers. There might be a few kinks to work out here, but overall, it’s a fresh (and improved) start for the service.
• Surprising benchmarks: Most mobile experts are calling the Moto X a mid-range device. So not true. Powered by a solid 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU with a quad-core graphics processor, on top of an octocore-equipped Moto X8 chipset, the phone exceeds all performance expectations. Games run smooth, on-screen navigation is speedy, and multitasking is a breeze. Multimedia playback is pretty responsive as well. No lag or stuttering here.
• Great battery life: We’ve praised Motorola for introducing the best battery saving solution with its Smart Actions software. Ironically, the program is nowhere to be found on the Moto X. Crazy part is we still managed to achieve long vitality rates during our test run. The built-in 2,200mAh cell should get you a good 10 -12 hours on heavy use and several days of power on standby. Motorola attributes this to its performance upgrades like soft-pulse notifications and on-screen alerts, which conserve energy and require little to no power from the touchscreen.
• Same disappointing camera: Motorola's made some notables strides with its mobile shooter, but all the fancy features and functionality can't make up for the Moto X's failures to capture high-quality stills in low-lit environments. Most of the images we took in such conditions produced awkward color arrangements and washed out results.
• Google Now needs polishing: Having the opportunity to shout commands at your phone comes with some compromises, such as unperfected text-messaging dictation and note taking. On top of Google Now struggling to record more than one sentence at a time, there are some issues present when activating the program via built-in microphone on a wired headset, too.
• Customization exclusivity and limited content mirroring: The Moto X will be available on multiple mobile carriers, though AT&T is the only one offering customizations at launch. Expanding on the phone's limitations, owners are also requred to utilize a wireless Miracast adapter to project content onto their TVs. And while the Moto X supports Google Chromecast, the wireless media streamer isn’t capable of playing content saved on the handset.
Final Say: So is the Moto X this game-changer Google hyped it to be: not exactly. If anything, the smartphone stands out more as a trendsetter that stays true to the manufacturer's distinctive design heritage. The luxury of choosing your back plate in different colors and materials, along with the option of engraving it is such a huge draw for today’s fashion-forward mobile crowd, especially for those who match their gear around tech accessories. But even when looking past the phone's customization options and its exclusive software features, the Moto X still manages to hit its mark on most of the prominent areas—endurance, performance, and style. For the sake of sounding cliché, we can easily say the Moto X marks its spot amongst the Android elite.