Motorola Updates Assist, Contextual Services for the 2013 Moto G and Moto E

September 5, 2014 - Written By David Steele

Motorola have followed a classic approach to rolling out features across it’s smartphone portfolio. The flagship device – in this case the Moto X – is the first to receive new feature updates. These then trickle down into the other devices in the range, in this case the Moto G and Moto E. Until relatively recently, new features had to be baked into the devices via a software update but since the introduction of the first generation Moto X in the summer of 2013, Moto have built their functionality into bespoke apps available via the Google Play Store. This is a great way to roll out improvements to device functionality without relying on carriers to approve software updates. It also uses Google’s established Play Store infrastructure to smooth the update process across the entire globe without overloading Motorola’s download servers for new software updates!

Today, motorola have updated the Motorola Assist and Contextual Services apps for both the Moto G and Moto E. These applications are exclusively available to Motorola devices and whilst both are useful, Motorola Assist is the more interesting one to write about with Contextual Services as being a little less glamourous. If you’ll remember from the original Moto X, part of the appeal of this device was that Motorola designed and build a custom processor module called the X8 Mobile Computing System. As a refresher, the X8 is a marketing name to imply that the device has eight processor codes. Okay, it does; but there are two application cores (the 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU), four GPU cores and two low power cores to contextual awareness and language processing. This is how the Moto X could be always listening without running down the battery, or how Active Display worked when you moved and looked at your device. As readers will appreciate, neither the Moto E nor the Moto G have the X8 Mobile Computing System. This has and will continue to limit what additional features Motorola can build into the cheaper handsets.

On to Motorola Assist, then; this is the application that allows the device to adapt to the situation they and the user are in. In the case of the Moto G and Moto E, the update to Motorola Assist enables Home and Driving modes on the devices. With Home mode, your device recognizes that you are at home and will read out incoming messages so that you don’t have to be bothered with picking up your device. Driving mode is arguably more useful, as the handset recognizes that you are in a moving vehicle and therefore assumes that you are unable to handle it, so will read out messages and makes it easier to reply using your voice. In Driving mode, you can tell the device that you are a passenger if you need to to spare you the embarrassment of a potentially inappropriate text message being read aloud when on the bus!

The reason why Motorola Contextual Services is the less interesting application to write about is because this is the framework that allows Motorola Assist, Active Display, Motorola Touchless Controls (now superseded by Motorola Voice) to operate. You won’t find the Contextual Services app in the drawer but instead you’ll find it in Settings. As I’ve already written about, you won’t find Moto Touchless Controls / Moto Voice included in the Moto E and Moto G, but the new Home and Driving modes are certainly welcoming.