September 1, 2013 | by Natesh Sood
Evaluated version: Moto X on AT&T
Pros: Premium Build Quality, Speedy Processing
Cons: High Price, AT&T Exclusive for Moto Maker
The Moto X is one of the more interesting smartphones to launch in recent memory for a couple of fundamental reasons. To begin, it offers mid-range specs (on paper), coupled with a high-end price tag ($199 on contract), and the best customization options currently in the marketplace. Despite the mid-range specs and high-end price tag, many are falling in love with the device simply because of high quality design and ease of use. Without giving too much of the review away, the Moto X is definitely a fun phone to use, but my only concern is whether it can last two plus years.
As you probably know by now, the Moto X offers a 4.7 inch display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, 16GB of storage, 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 10 MP rear facing camera, LTE, and a 2,200 mAh battery. At first glance, the device seems mid-range with its display resolution and processor, but the display is actually quite terrific and vibrant. In fact, it offers a better viewing experience than my stock Nexus 4. On the processor side, it handles multi-tasking and switching between apps with ease — as you would naturally expect from a flagship device. As I mentioned before, the Moto X operates without missing a beat for now, but I do have slight concern how it will fare in two years since most devices currently possess quad-core processors.
The build quality of the Moto X is astoundingly good, as the device is just a joy to hold and use. The curved design was not something thought up by a rookie engineer, it had to be something studied and researched carefully by Motorola. One of the aspects of the Moto X I enjoy the most is how Motorola managed to make it feel small despite owning a 4.7 inch display. My Nexus 4 has the same screen size, but is noticeably bigger than the Moto X. I prefer larger displays, but the device needs to maintain some semblance of being small, which the Moto X has perfectly captured. With one hand-usability being a key feature for some users, the Moto X enables one hand usage for sure.
In terms of the camera, Motorola packs a 10MP shooter into the device. Some say the camera is mediocre and some say it works really well. In my opinion, it gets the job done as smartphone camera. It will not best the Nokia Lumia 1020, but it will allow you snap quick pictures and have them turn out just fine. In fact, Motorola added a gesture sensor to the camera so users can easily launch the camera from a sleeping device with two shakes of the wrist. It does take some time getting used to, but if it becomes a habit, then taking pictures can occur faster.
The battery life is another shining aspect of the device since the Moto X only uses a dual-core processor, it is able to work more efficiently when handling tasks. In my testing, I could almost always get through a day with some power remaining. On a slow usage day, the phone could easily last a day and a half, but heavy operation would require a charge at night. Regardless, it performed better than my Nexus 4 on the battery front, and I imagine most users will be satisfied with its performance. It may not be as powerful as its cousin’s battery life (DROID MAXX), but it certainly gets the job done.
The uniqueness of the Moto X is heavily derived from the software aspect of the device. A couple of examples include Active Display and Touchless controls. Most people interested in Moto X will presumably hear these terms constantly tossed around — and for good reason. Active Display is an interesting way of receiving notifications since the phone will only light up portions of the screen when drawn from the pocket or lifted up from a table. At a quick glance, it shows what kind of notification, and if you press the icon, it will display the message and allow you to act upon it. For the most part, I enjoyed how Active Notifications operated, but there would be times where the screen would randomly light up on its own for no apparent reason. In addition, there were some instances where I wanted to see the notifications, but the screen didn’t light up. Most of the time, Active Display works as you would expect, but I would say it is not completely flawless.
Touchless Control is another superb feature by Motorola that will really come in handy for people who enjoy speaking to their phone. Essentially, the Moto X can respond and carry out actions based on your voice when you say “Ok, Google Now.” I often use my phone in the presence of others, so having to speak something aloud isn’t always ideal. However, navigating in the car is an excellent opportunity to tell the Moto X to pull up directions to location X on a whim.
The last interesting software component is Assist, as the Moto X aims to understand where you are and providing the appropriate notifications. For instance, if you set up Assist to know when you are driving, it will then read aloud text messages and alert you to calls. These features both work great if you drive alone; I imagine you may not want your passengers constantly hearing your texts. Assist can also know when you are in meetings based on your Google Calendar and it will silence notifications appropriately. There are alternative apps that can do something similar, but it is always nice to have the functionality baked into the OS.
Unfortunately, the Moto Maker is an AT&T exclusive for the time being, but it is something I would recommend to all those interested in the Moto X. Essentially, it offers you a free way to customize and personalize your device. There are over 2,000 possibilities, and Moto Maker specifically allows you to customize the back plating, the front color, an accent color, and eventually users will be able to add a custom signature. In case you realize your design isn’t absolutely perfect when it ships to your house, you can return it within 14 days and change the design for free.
In order to really understand how the Moto X can benefit your lifestyle, I firmly believe it is necessary to check out the device in person before purchasing it. To truly understand how the unique software applications work, using it in person will grant you that insight. The premium build quality and in-hand feel cannot easily be communicated through a review, but it is something that is meant to be experienced. If you enjoy the feel, speed, and customization of the Moto X, then I think it will be worth the price. However, keep in mind the hardware is still mid-range and the customization is locked to AT&T for now, so it is hard to completely justify the $199 price tag.