Review: Motorola Moto X

2013-08-02 08:01
The Motorola Moto X smartphone, using Google's Android software, is shown at a press preview in New York. (Mark Lennihan, AP)

The Motorola Moto X smartphone, using Google's Android software, is shown at a press preview in New York. (Mark Lennihan, AP)

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New York - With Google as its new owner, Motorola is introducing the Moto X, a phone notable for innovations in manufacturing, as part of an attempt to regain its stature.

Yes, there's plenty the Moto X offers in terms of software, including the ability to get directions, seek trivia answers or set the alarm without ever touching the phone. There's good hardware, too, including a body that's nearly as slim as the iPhone 5, but with the larger, 12cm screen that is comparable to those found in rival Android phones.

But what's really special about the Moto X has nothing to do with making calls, checking Facebook or holding it in your hands. Rather, it breaks from the pack by allowing for a lot of customisation. You can choose everything from the colour of the power button to a personalised message on the back cover.

To make those special orders possible, Motorola is assembling the Moto X in Texas, making it the first smartphone to be put together in the US Motorola promises to ship custom designs within four days, faster than it would be able to if the company had chosen to make the Moto X halfway around the world in Asia, as other phones typically are.

(Phones for overseas markets will be made overseas.)

Voice feature

Meanwhile, the Moto X advances hands-free phone use. Although hands-free options are available elsewhere to make a call or send a text, Moto X opens the door to the entire web.

It relies on Google Now, the virtual assistant that retrieves information when you speak into the phone. Normally, you press something to activate Google Now. With Moto X, you simply say, "Okay, Google Now."

That command is specific to your voice. I asked three colleagues to speak "Okay, Google Now" into a phone I trained by repeating the phrase three times. The phone ignored my colleagues, but responded to me instantly once I spoke from the same distance.

Even in a quiet room, Google Now made a lot of mistakes responding to requests to call specific people. When I asked Google Now to "call Bob", it offered me "Emily", ''Dave" and "Super" - for the superintendent of my apartment building, who's not named Bob.

I can see this feature being useful to motorists, but it's imperfect. And if you protect your phone with a PIN code, you'll need to type it in to unlock the phone, except to make a call. Motorola says it tried voice recognition for passwords, but couldn't get it to work properly.

There are two things that will work without entering your PIN: You can get a peek at text messages and other notifications by pressing the centre of the screen for a second.

If you want to respond or see more, then you'll need the PIN. You can also access your camera by twisting the phone like opening a doorknob. You can browse through shots you have just taken, but you'll need the PIN for older ones.


Speaking of the camera, Motorola did a good job of keeping it simple. With Samsung's Galaxy S4 and HTC's One, I've often hit the wrong buttons for gimmicky features I don't want. With the Moto X, you have to swipe the screen from the left to access the settings. That way, the buttons aren't there to hit accidently.

To access your gallery of photos, you swipe from the right. Again, you won't be getting old images accidently and miss the chance to snap a new one.

The camera also lacks a shutter button. Instead, you tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo. Keep pressing on the screen, and the camera will take a series of shots in succession.

Held like a skyscraper, the phone is narrower than most leading Android phones. The edges are curved, but the middle is thickened more than the typical phone. That actually fits nicely in my hands, as the palm isn't flat when in a grip position. It's not heavy either, at 130g.

Although Motorola has released other phones since Google bought the company in May 2012, the Moto X is the first to be designed under Google. It's an impressive offering that could make Motorola a contender in phones again.
Read more on:    google  |  motorola  |  mobile

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