You’ve been waiting for two years to see what kind of magic that Google and Motorola would create together. Now, with the new Moto X, we know what the brains in Mountain View have been cooking up.
You can talk to it. You can flip it around to tell you information. You can do just about anything an Android smartphone can do and maybe a bit more. So, what’s all the fuss? What exactly is this smartphone that Google has been teasing us with for the last month?
Here are 10 things you need to know about the Moto X.
You Can Talk To It With Touchless Control
“OK Google Now, open Spotify.”
With Touchless Control, you can operate the Moto X by talking to it. Start with the command, “OK Google Now” and tell it what to do. This morning I sent a text message to my mother, opened Spotify (but only opened, I would have to click with my finger to start music), asked about the weather, searched Google for an article about StackOverflow, set a reminder to buy more cold medicine and called a friend.
Touchless Control will work if the phone’s display is off and you are across the room. Today I have been practicing by shouting at the phone from across the apartment. The range is about 12 feet or so. Touchless Control will not work if the Moto X is in your pocket or laying face down on a table (or if you deactivate it).
The Moto X is specifically tuned to the users voice, so it should not respond to other people giving it the “OK Google Now” prompt unless they have a very similar voice.
Touchless Control works better if you have opted into Google Now, the search company’s semantic search engine that attempts to tell you pertinent information before you require it (such as time to get home from where you are or the score of the Red Sox game).
Touchless Control needs to be connected to a data network or Wi-Fi to work, because it funnels requests through Google. It works in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese upon launch.
The Moto X "Breathes"
Google estimates that people check their phone between 60 and 100 times a day. Be it looking for a text message, status update or just the time, people are always clicking on their phones.
Moto X employs what Motorola calls “Active Display.” When the phone is sleeping, it will show the time on the device by fading in and out. If you get emails or messages, you can access them from the sleeping display by pulling up or down. This is called “Active Notifications.” The Active Display only uses the pixels on the screen it needs to display the information, leaving the rest dormant, thus saving battery life.
You Can Connect It To Your Chrome Browser To See Messages
The Moto X can perform a function called “Moto Connect” that syncs the messages on your phone to Google’s Chrome browser. So, if I am getting a text message to my Moto X while working on a laptop or PC, it will pop up in a window. I can then reply to that text straight from my computer. Moto Connect will also show a caller ID on your browser when somebody is calling you.
You Can Sync It To Your TV
Google just came out with its Chromecast TV streaming device that lets you stream Netflix, YouTube or Google Play from your phone to your TV through a HDMI dongle. The Moto X can do something similar with a “Wireless Display” feature that enables you to put whatever is on your phone on your TV screen.
The only hitch with the Moto X Wireless Display is that it only works on a wireless connection standard called “Miracast” that some newer smart televisions have built in (or you can buy a dongle to plug into your TV to enable it). Chromecast does not support Miracast, so you cannot use the Moto X Wireless Display feature with Google’s popular new dongle (though you can still use the Chromecast app and connect through Wi-Fi like you can do with any other Android smartphone or iPhone).
The Camera Is Designed To Be Easy To Use
2013 is really The Year Of The Smartphone Camera. The HTC One came out with the concept of “ultrapixels” for its flagship smartphone along with a variety of sharing features. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has every possible setting a point-and-shoot camera could desire. Nokia’s Lumia 1020 is the best damn camera in a smartphone, ever. Even BlackBerry has some interesting photo editing capabilities in its Z10 flagship device.
Motorola thinks that all of these cameras, while being good, are just too hard to use. In some cases, this is very true (looking at you, Samsung and Nokia). So, the camera on the Moto X is purposefully stripped down. You can activate it from a sleeping display with a corkscrew motion in your hands and tap anywhere on the screen (as opposed to a dedicated shutter button) to take a picture. The advanced features are available by pulling the controls out from the sides of the camera app's screen.
Motorola employs what it calls a “Clear Pixel” technology that is not dissimilar from what HTC did with the One and what Nokia does with “oversampling” of light in the sensors of each smartphone. If you are a camera junkie, the Moto X employs an RGB-based system that it calls “RGBC” (the C stands for “clear”) to take its pictures.
You Can Migrate All Your Stuff From Your Old Phone
When setting up your Moto X, the phone will prompt you to migrate all of your stuff (text messages, contacts, photos, videos, call history) from your old Android. You do this through an app in the Google Play store called “Motorola Migrate.” It works by giving you a QR code on your old phone that you then scan with the Moto X, starting the migration.
I prefer not to use a function like this as I often have way too many pictures on an old device and prefer not to clutter the storage of a new device with them. Android, by default, can move all of your contacts from phone to phone and there are a variety of photo services where you can save old pictures in the cloud without migrating them from one device to another.
You Get 50GB Of Google Drive For Free
By buying a Moto X, you get 50 GB of storage in Google’s personal cloud product for free. This is similar to how HTC has partnered with DropBox to give users 50 GB of cloud storage when they buy HTC devices.
Its Hardware Is Comparable But Not Super High End
The Moto X is designed as a mass market device. Hence, it sacrifices some top-end specs in favor of keeping the regular $199 (on two-year contract) price point that consumers are used to through the carriers. It has a 4.7-inch AMOLED screen with 1280x720 resolution (316 pixels per inch), which is well below the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 in terms of pixel density. It has a 2200 mAh battery, also behind HTC and Samsung but ahead of the Lumia 1020.
The “Clear Pixel” camera is 10 megapixels, while the front camera weighing in at a decent 2 MP. It comes in two internal storage varieties, 16 GB ($199) and 32 GB ($249). It does not have a removable battery.
In terms of size, it is about the same as the HTC One, without the unibody metal casing. At 130 grams (4.5 ounces) it is light but not as light as the iPhone 5.
Where Motorola didn’t skimp was on the processors. The Moto X has four graphical processing units (Adreno 320 GPUs). A SnapDragon S4 Pro 1.7 GHz (dual-core Krait CPU) and two processors that run nothing but the natural language engine for Touchless Control and one for the contextual computing engine that responds to how you hold the phone or where it is.
It Won’t Interrupt You When You Are Busy
Motorola has an “Assist” feature that will know when you are driving or in a meeting or sleeping. It has a “Talk To Me” feature that will read incoming messages to you while you are driving. In a meeting you can silence the phone or have it auto-reply to a incoming call or message. These are features found in other smartphones as well, such as the iPhone 5.
You Can Design It Yourself
Want a Moto X with a pink back, a white front and blue power and volume buttons? Or maybe a dark green back with a black front and red buttons? Motorola will let you choose the color of your phone with almost 2,000 different varieties through a website called “Moto Maker.”
The back of the phone has more than a dozen different colors to choose from. The front of the phone can be either black or white. You can add a custom start-up screen message and a printed message on the back of the device.
How will this work, exactly? If I walk into AT&T and want a Moto X, the store should have a computer where I can customize the phone. I would customize it, buy the device like I normally would and then Moto Maker will send an order to Motorola’s Fort Worth, Texas plant to build the phone. Motorola promises that phones will then arrive within four days. The Moto X will be available on five U.S. carriers including U.S. Cellular. The Moto X will work on T-Mobile's network but the carrier won't sell it in stores for the time being.