Ah, the Moto X. The device that many of us felt had to be Motorola’s ‘hero’ device. Dennis Woodside, the CEO of Motorola, even said that it would be their hero device. In 2013, Motorola did not release a single device until August. Then they released four different devices. The Moto X, which is available on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular (US and Canada exclusive). Along with the DROID Maxx, Ultra, and Mini which are all exclusive to Verizon. The Moto X is more about features than it is software. Many of us know about the constant lag that exists on many Android phones. Some people even call it “jank”. Which after you’ve used a ton of Android phones, you get used to it. I know I certainly have. But after using the Moto X for the better part of a week. I can see the “jank” on my Nexus 4 and even on the HTC One Mini and Galaxy Mega. It’s very apparent that Motorola optimized the crap out of the Moto X with their X8 Mobile Computing System.
Before we get started with this review, there are a few things I want to say in relevance to the price and specs of the Moto X. While you may think the Moto X is a mid-range device based on the specs, it definitely is not. I actually have a couple mid-range devices laying around right now, and the Moto X really blows it away with it’s power. Even if it is running a dual-core chip that’s a year old. Remember when you buy a device, you aren’t just paying for the hardware, but also the software. Now let’s get on with the review.
The Moto X is packing some rather disappointing specs for most people, but let’s take a look at the specs:
4.7-inch Super AMOLED display, 720p ~312 PPI
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro dual-core 1.7GHz processor; With Motorola’s X8 Mobile Computing System
2GB of RAM
16GB or 32GB options
10MP ClearPixel Camera on the back
2MP camera on the front
The design of the Moto X is very nice looking. Yes it’s made of plastic. But for some reason it doesn’t really feel like plastic, except for the front edges. It feels pretty solid, but that could also be because the device is packed so solid it’s a bit heavy. It does come in black and white, unless you’re on AT&T, then you get many more choices. But we’ll cover that a bit further in the review.
Actually, I was quite surprised by how much I actually like the display. In the past, I’ve really disliked the AMOLED displays. Which are on most Motorola and Samsung devices. In 2013, Samsung put out their 1080p AMOLED display on the Galaxy S4, and it actually looks really nice. Sure it’s still a bit saturated, but it looked nicer than their previous ones. Even the 720p AMOLED display on the Galaxy Mega looked pretty good to me.
There are two reasons why Motorola chose a 720p AMOLED display. One is the fact that AMOLED displays light up individual pixels on the display instead of the entire thing. Which works great for Active Display. The other reason for 720p is battery life. Motorola says that battery life was much better on a 720p display versus a 1080p. While that is probably true. I don’t think it’s that big of a difference. Then again, at a 4.7-inch display, 720p vs 1080p isn’t much of a difference since 720p is still over 300 pixels per inch, which is supposedly more than the human eye can distinguish.
This is probably the most important part of this phone to many people. The performance of the Moto X was actually quite good in my testing. The device was very smooth, and I didn’t notice a single lag (only stutter was when I wasn’t on WiFi, as this is the Sprint variant and Sprint’s network is not so good in my area, you’ll probably notice the stutter in the videos in the software portion of the review). Say what you will about a dual-core device in 2013, but I think Motorola made the right decision. Not only is performance really good, but so is the battery life, which we’ll be talking about next.
The Snapdragon S4 Pro has a dual-core version, which is what Motorola is using here. But they have actually modified it, and use each core for something different. Since you have the Always-On listening feature and a few other things, it’s great that Motorola was able to accomplish that. This is a big reason why I wrote that editorial shortly before the Moto X was announced, that the spec war is just about over. Now it’s all about the experience, and I think Motorola is pushing towards that.
So far I’ve been pretty impressed. Most of the battery cycles you’ll see down below include mixed network usage. Meaning that part of the time was on 3G/4G and part on WiFi. Overall, I was quite impressed with the battery life considering it’s only 100mAh bigger than my Nexus 4 and the screen’s the same size. It was a whole lot better than the Nexus 4.
Motorola does say you should get 24 hours of mixed usage out of the Moto X. Well, this is as close as I got to that:
We tested the Moto X on AnTuTu and was actually quite surprised at how well it did. Especially since it’s running a Snapdragon S4 Pro dual-core and only 2GB of RAM. You can check out the results above.
The Moto X is one of the only devices sold on contract that is almost stock Android. Motorola has added a few changes to it. Like a new Camera app, signal icon is a bit different, some changes to the settings app, but that’s about it. Literally. This is how Android devices should be. I know some people favor Touchwiz over Stock, or Sense over stock. But I’d like to have the choice, without needing to root. You know what I mean?
However that’s not all the software. Like Samsung, and LG, Motorola has added some features in the Moto X. Unlike Samsung and LG, they didn’t add hundreds of features, that you may never use. We’re going to talk about a few of those features in a minute. But my personal favorite is Touchless Control and Active Display.
This is one feature that I really think will be heading to stock Android soon, at least I hope it does. I actually did a video on the Moto X Touchless Control, and how to set it up. It’s actually quite easy. I thought it might be a little difficult since it only works with your voice. Although, I don’t think I’ll see a lot of people using Touchless Control when they are on the subway or bus. It’s definitely nice to have when you’re sitting at your desk working or in the car. Especially when I can say from the other end of my office “OK Google Now, what’s the weather like?” and Google Now tells me exactly what I want. Another great command is “OK Google Now, Play Pitbull” or another artist/group. After you use that command the first time, it’ll play Pitbull songs from either Google Music or another Music player on your phone. You can change the default from Google Now. You can also use Touchless Control to text people.
Touchless Control does take some time to get used too. But I definitely like the fact that you can ask it a series of questions (although you can also with Google Now, since Google I/O). Which you can check out this video here to see what I mean.
Aside from Touchless Control, this is probably my favorite feature on the Moto X. Instead of there being a notification light on the Moto X. Your display is your notification light. I also shot a video about the Moto X Active Display which you can check out. Basically the display on the Moto X will light up with the time and your notification icon. This is the main reason that Motorola went with AMOLED displays. As they can use Active Display without turning on your entire display. Imagine how much the battery would go down by lighting up the entire display that often.
The display will periodically light up and show you the time and notifications then go away for a few seconds and come back. It’s what Motorola calls “Breathing”. You can also put your finger on the screen and swipe up to open to the notification or swipe down just to unlock. It’s something that’s pretty simple, but a great feature that’s pretty innovative in my opinion.
Motorola Assist is a rather interesting app. Since the Moto X can tell when you’ve taken your phone out of your pocket, and when you’re driving, the Motorola Assist app takes that one step further. There are three activities Sleeping, Driving and Meetings. I’ll explain what each one does in a second.
Sleeping: This will pause all your notifications during the time you designated as your sleep time. For example, I have mine set to 11pm to 6am. So my phone will be quiet during those 7 hours.
Driving: With this one, your Moto X can tell when you’re driving (I’m guessing via GPS?) so there are a few actions here. You can have your Moto X talk to you, and read text messages and tell you who’s calling. You can also just have it resume music play.
Meeting: This one actually uses your calendar to tell when you’re in meetings. The actions here are to silent your phone and and send an auto-reply text message to missed calls from contacts in your favorites.
A lot of you aren’t like me, and only have one phone that you probably use for months or maybe 2 years, before you buy another one. WIth Motorola Migrate, you can actually choose to copy over your text messages, call history, SIM contacts, Media, Volume & Screen brightness, all to your Moto X. All you have to do is download the Motorola Migrate app on your old phone, then open up migrate on your old phone and scan the code shown on the Moto X. It’s pretty simple, and really the first transfer tool I’ve seen from a manufacturer that works like it should.
A lot of you may not think Moto Care is a big deal. But it is to me. And here’s why. Moto Care is the first real support app I’ve seen on a phone which has built in chat and calling. Not to mention the usual FAQ’s. They have some tutorials, FAQ’s, How-Tos and Moto Care tips. Which the Moto Care Tips are kind of cool. It analyzes how you use the Moto X and will give you tips on how to make your experience better and make your battery last longer. Which I think is pretty cool.
This is probably the killer feature for the Moto X. It’s just a shame that it’s exclusive to AT&T right now. With Moto Maker, you can choose what color backplate you want on your Moto X. Right now there are about 20 different color backplates to choose from. Above you can see the customized Moto X that I would buy.
On the front you’re limited to black or white (I chose black because then the sensors and camera don’t stick out like they do on the white one). You can also choose the accent colors for the camera and buttons on the side. There’s about 7 different color options to choose from there. You can also choose a case, but I usually go without one anyways.
Next up is features. You can choose 16GB or 32GB. You can also choose what Moto X shows on the boot screen below the Motorola logo. Additionally you can choose your wallpaper. Finally you can choose if you want your Google account signed in, so when you boot up your device, you’re all set to go.
This is a great thing, especially since they are being assembled in Fort Worth, TX, and they are making 100K per week right now. Which is great for Motorola. They also have plenty of space to expand.
The camera on the Moto X isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. Now it isn’t the best camera out there, but for a 10MP camera on a smartphone, it’s pretty good. The Moto X unit that I have has not gotten the latest software update that rolled out to the T-Mobile Moto X earlier this week. So this is how it looks pre-software update. The overall UI of the camera app is pretty nice and minimal. Swiping from the left gets you your settings, swiping from the right you can get into your gallery and see pictures you’ve just taken. There’s no photosphere option on the Moto X, but there is Panorama. There’s not a ton of features in the Moto X camera like there is in say the Galaxy S4, G2 or Galaxy Note 3’s camera. But there’s enough to keep you busy.
Battery Life: It seems like this is a good thing on every phone lately. And that’s a GREAT thing. I really need to do a battery test on the G2 vs the Moto X. So stay tuned for that.
Display: Much better than I thought it would be. While it is 720p, it’s still quite nice to look at and use.
Look & Feel: This is probably one of the most good looking phones this year. I know, I know “just put a case on it”. The Moto X’s display is basically the entire front of the phone, and I dig that
Software: Yes, I love stock Android. So naturally I’d love the Moto X. But combined with Touchless Control and Active Display, the software on the Moto X is better (in my opinion) than the Nexus 4. However, I’m sure Android 4.4 will change that.
Pricing: While I do think the pricing is right on target for the Moto X, I would have liked to see it on contract for $99/149. I know it would have sold like crazy then.
Camera: The camera on Motorola phones are always pretty sad. And the Moto X is no exception
Bootloaders: The T-Mobile and Sprint ones are unlockable, but as usual AT&T and Verizon’s are not, unfortunately.
The Moto X is one of my most favorite devices of the year. Now sure it doesn’t have a Snapdragon 800, or 3GB of RAM, or a 5.9-inch 1080p display. But it is however very smooth, and still pretty powerful. I’ve been using the Moto X for a little over a week and it has yet to lag or stutter at all. That includes playing games, running benchmarks, etc. As far as battery life goes, it’s great. I’ve been about to get on average around 20 hours with about 3-4 hours on screen time on WiFi and about 15 hours with 2.5-3 hours on screen time on 3G/LTE (remember this is the Sprint version). Which in my opinion, is not bad at all. Many phones can’t last half that long, even with the same size battery.
So should you buy the Moto X? Yes and No. Yes you should buy the Moto X, but unless you’re on AT&T I’d say wait for MotoMaker to make it to other carriers. MotoMaker is the biggest feature to me. Being able to customize what my phone looks like is really a big deal. And I hope this happens to more phones in the future.