Moto X: The First REAL Smartphone?

The Moto X (Verizon | AT&T | Sprint) is smart, beautiful, solid, quick, slim, and (most?) importantly, a phone. I’ve had mine for a week and a half now, and I’m ready to sing its praises. First take a look at my unboxing video, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Backstory

The Moto X is the first device made from start to finish by Motorola after their buyout by Google. It’s assembled in a former Nokia plant in Fort Worth, Texas, and it’s running a very nearly stock build of Android Jelly Bean (4.2.2). It has been criticized in the media for having lower specs than the competing flagship, but I haven’t seen that be a problem yet, and it almost definitely helps with the battery life. One of the primary reasons I chose the Moto X over the HTC One and Galaxy S IV is that I wanted a phone that felt good as a phone first and a computer second. I think I hit the jackpot.

Basic Features

  1. Phone Calls[Disclaimer: I switched from Sprint, where I had to use a microcell just to get spotty coverage in my house, so any improvement is massive in my mind] Call quality is great, the only place I’ve been out of service is in an elevator, and I can clearly understand everyone I talk to, and they can understand me. The Android phone & contacts interface is not the greatest, but luckily most of my call list is in my favorites. The narrow width of the phone makes it easy to grab and the curved back means it’s comfortable to hold for long calls, like ones to Sprint customer service. 😀
  2. Battery Performance – I have to charge it every night, but considering some of the features and gimmicks it’s running at the moment, it’s a huge win that I even make it to bedtime on a single charge. Also, because it’s so new to me I’ve been using it pretty heavily, so once the shine is off the apple I figure the battery life will see moderate improvements. The last time I remembered to check the discharge time, it was around 16 hours with about 8% left.
  3. Camera – It’s a phone camera, deal with it. I know that most reviewers care deeply about the quality of their phone’s photos, but to me the quickness and simplicity of the camera software are far more valuable than being able to adjust the exposure and manually focus. I have a big boy camera for that. The user interface is all taps and swipes, and while it seems like an overly-complicated break from the norm at first, I got used to it, and it does let you take pictures very quickly. Seeing as I pretty much exclusively take pictures of beer for Untappd and quick shots at parties, it’s great for me.
  4. Hardware – The slab is solid, no give whatsoever. As I said, the curve of the back is nice, and before I had my case, I also liked the dimple on the back. It’s a nice place to rest a finger when holding the device. The soft-touch casing feels nice, but is a little slick. I got a Bear Motion case for it, and I feel much safer. The case is minimal and grippy, but not so much so that it clings to my pocket and won’t come out. The speaker is mono and on the back next to the camera, but it’s loud enough, and I don’t plan on hosting an impromptu rave with just my phone speaker anytime soon, so I don’t miss the HTC One’s front-facing stereo.

Gimmicks

  1. Speech Recognition – Obviously speech recognition isn’t exclusive to the Moto X, but they did take it another step with this phone. Once you set it up, it’s always listening for you (and I mean YOU) to say some variation of “OK Google Now,” at which point it wakes up and starts actively listening for your command. You can launch apps, navigate, make calls or texts, set alarms, and search (obviously). If what you’re searching for is deemed relevant enough, the phone will read that aloud. For example, if I ask how many cups are in a gallon, search pops up and the phone says “1 US gallon is 16 US cups.” Pretty cool.
  2. Camera Flick-twice-to-open – I like it. It’s a fast way to get the camera going, and it’s only missed my cue a couple times, I think because I flicked it too quickly. More importantly, I have never accidentally launched the camera.
  3. Active Notifications – SO much better than a blinking light. I got to the point where I hated that thing because on my old phone I couldn’t change it, and there was no telling whether it was a poke on Facebook or an urgent text. The active notifications are subtle, highly informative, and totally customizable. With just one tap, you can see where the notification comes from, a snippet of text, if there are any stacked up behind it, and view or dismiss them as you please. Even better, the phone senses when I pick it up and pops up the time even if there are no notifications.

Final Thoughts

It’s been over a week now, and I still find myself consistently using the gimmicky features, which is more than I can say for the Galaxy S II gimmicks, which I turned off almost immediately. The speech recognition isn’t perfect, but it’s far more accurate than I expected it to be, and even works with significant background noise. The phone fits perfectly in my hand and the battery lasts as long as I need it to. Best of all, I can make calls from wherever I want, which is simply a wonderful feeling.

Tech Specs

  • Display: 4.7″ diagonal – 1280×720 – AMOLED RGB
  • Camera: Rear 10.5MP w/flash; Front 2.1MP
  • Storage: 16GB non-expandable
  • Processor: Dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Radios: WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 4G LTE
  • Battery: 2200 mAh
  • Weight: 130g (4.59oz)
  • Dimensions: 129.3mm x 65.3mm x 10.4mm (5.09″ x 2.57″ x 0.41″)

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