New Motorola ‘Moto X’ Stands Out as Best Smart Phone Today
As 2014 comes to a close and the holiday season approaches, the terms “revolutionary” and “innovative” have been dished out like candy on Hall-o-ween to describe the variety of phones that have come out in the past couple of years. And yet, it’s difficult to find better terms when talking about the newly released the Moto X. Perhaps just “kick-ass.” Motorola is displaying once again some of the thinking that led to them make the first ever commercial mobile phone. They have been a busy bunch, quietly secreted away and crafting some well thought out technology. More than the gimmicks you see coming from other players, here is what you need to know about the best phone on the market today.
In the debate over metal, glass and plastic, Motorola threw out the rule book and went back to the days of classic luxury, reintroducing premium natural materials like bamboo, teak and leather.
My unit is made of Walnut. The back of it reminds me of long summer drives as a kid. Getting into my Dad’s car I’d first be greeted by the distinctive smell of leather that had baked in the warm summer sun, followed by the sight of the brown, orange, golden and glossy walnut dashboard underlining the windshield.
It was a great choice by Motorola, not only does it look beautiful, the individual wood grains on each unit provide individuality, no two are alike. Just like your fingerprint your walnut (or teak or bamboo) Moto X is unique.
The less you can say about a design the better. The simpler it is, the cleaner it is, the greater its attention to detail, the less there is to mention, and that is a good thing. Also known as minimalism, the design trend has a solid grip on the smartphone market, and for good reason. It moves the technology out of the way and lets the customer focus on the exceptional stuff going on behind the screen.
The MotoX 2014 is a beauty to behold. Gazing upon the phone from the back is somehow strange, because you know you’re looking at a phone, but it looks rather like a smoothly curved sheet of wood, a material you’re not used to seeing in this context. The walnut is perfectly finished and smooth to the touch, it feels like… polished wood.
The camera flash on most phone is just an after thought, thrown in next to the camera lens with no consideration to design. Motorola decided to more thought into this design challenge and designed a translucent ring around the camera lens; inside the ring are 2 flash LEDs. This not only helps even out the light falling on the subjects in the picture, it also looks super cool and maintains the symmetry of the device.
The back of the phone is perfectly symmetrical when held vertically, giving it a clean, minimalist appearance. I’d go so far as to say that from this angle this is the most beautiful phone I’ve seen, much less owned. It looks stunning.
Motorola also allows you to have an etching on the back of the device. I had my nickname “Tidy” engraved onto my unit, after much internal debate as to how it might look to have engravings in the real wood backing, fearing that it might chip, or otherwise look cheap. It turns out the fears were unfounded: the edges are crisp and sharp, the font clear and the surrounding wood unaffected, adding a nice touch of personalisation on the already unique grain of the walnut.
Walnut, walnut, walnut–if that isn’t your thing I understand, and so does Motorola. You can have real leather, different woods, or a soft touch material that comes in a range of different colors. Combined with the other customisation options Motorola say you get over a thousand possible combinations once you stack them all up.
Using the Phone
Not content with having invented the mobile phone, Motorola are now seeking to change how we interact with them. Using our fingers and multitouch are the defining methods of using our phones today. But Motorola may well be ushering in the next wave of innovation for getting your phone to do just want you want it to without even touching it.
A new suite of technologies that allow MotoX users to control the phone or for the phone to control itself, without any physical interaction from you.
Initially I wondered what might have already crossed your mind: how often do I really need or want to control my phone without using my hands? But like any new technology it isn’t until you start using it regularly that you begin to notice that there are many scenarios in which it is it is useful and after not too long you can’t imagine going back to a phone that doesn’t have it. Not because you’re necessarily speaking commands at the phone all the time, but because those times when you do use it, it’s a real life saver.
Moto voice is the first and most prominent piece It allows you to command your device by voice, even if it is locked. I’ve found this to work even when the phone is hidden away in a pocket. Google now powers the feature, and according to some recent research, it can answer most questions reliably. It also does all the other things you’d expect of a phone based assistant (phone calls, messages, reminders, directions, etc).
The big difference with the MotoX is that you can do it all without having to physically touch the phone, which has already come in useful for me on more than one occasion. Eating ribs, hands covered in sauce. Doing dishes, wet hands. Shaving. Phone lost down couch. Phone in pocket, hands full of groceries, and others.
Moto Assist is the second part of the Touch free puzzle. It changes your phone settings for you based on what you’re doing. So, if you’re sleeping the MotoX will silence itself so as not to disturb you from your peaceful slumber. If driving it’ll read your messages aloud and if in a meeting it will mute your phone and auto reply to folks who try to get in touch. The one feature I didn’t find a use for (it was mildly annoying so I switched it off) is the setting for ‘At Home.’ ‘At Home’ reads your messages aloud if you are at your house, which may be useful for some, but the random loud interruption of the phone announcing messages wasn’t for me.
The MotoX comes with three small infrared sensors clearly visible on the front of the device. Maybe a little too clearly visible, which is the one reason I almost opted for the black fronted option, as it renders them almost invisible to a glancing eye.
First and foremost, the sensors let you wake up in a hazy stupor and simply wave your hand over the phone to gain another 10 minutes sleep in tacit contentment, knowing you just used some cutting edge tech to snooze your alarm clock. In fact anytime your phone makes a sudden noise to alert you of something (alarms, reminders, phones calls, etc) a quick wave over the phone will silence the noise for you.
Not only that, the sensors are also used in something called ‘Attentive Display,’ a feature that detects when you’re looking at the phone. The MotoX can use this to keep the display on when you’re reading a long article and for saving your battery by keeping the display off when you’re not around to see it.
Do you ever look at your notification light and wonder what it all means? So did I once, but along came Moto Display and that light went away.
In its place faint, white pixels light up front and center on the screen, bringing a glimpse into which apps are notifying you and about what. Touching the icon causes a little more of the screen to breathe into life, showing you a richer snippet of information, enough to know whether you need to swipe up to open the app instantly or swipe to the side to get rid of it. You can also drag down to padlock icon to unlock to the home screen.
One understated but really nice feature is that the screen also comes on automatically when you nudge or pick up the device. It sounds so basic, but this one thing brings something unique to the MotoX. When you pick it up, it is ready to use. You don’t need to press the power button. Every. Single. Other Phone requires you to press the power button before granting you access to even the most basic of functions.
If your phone has a lock screen that behaves as normal, kicking in whenever something requires actual device or home screen access. The power button still works like every other phone, granting access to the regular lockscreen and associated Google Now and Camera shortcuts common across Android devices.
On the screen you’ll see up to three notification circles; placing your finger onto one and dragging downward will open the corresponding app, allowing you to address the notification quickly with just a swipe.
It’s gorgeous, we could stop there, but everyone seems to love the numbers here so here goes. The screen is 5.2 inches across and has the pretty much the same resolution as your TV (1980×1080) That gives is a pixel density of 423 ppi. To put that in perspective, just a few years ago everyone was raving that your eye couldn’t detect any difference once you got above 326ppi.
The debate over screen size will rage on for a long time and will be dictated by both the size and depth of your pockets for eons to come, so we’re going to focus on something not often mentioned but probably a more important consideration. The size of the actual device, Motorola have been shaving valuable millimeters from their bezel to get larger screens into smaller bodies. The 5.2” MotoX is a good size smaller in height and slimmer in width to most other phones and more comparable to some devices with smaller 4.7” screens.
The whole device is edged with a solid aluminum frame, giving it strength and adding to the visual appeal of the device. And was the primary reason why the MotoX didn’t skip a beat in the bendgate comparison tests.
Everything else is a phone is a phone is a phone. I’m not going to dive into specs. Just covering all of Motorola’s additions made this article long enough. Specs are specs and numbers are numbers. In my view, a flagship phone from any manufacturer is going to have amazing specs, more than enough power to do anything you need. Remember, you have a full on multi-core supercomputer in your pocket. If you’re still worrying about the specs you’re probably missing that the significant differentiation lies in how the manufacturers are taking the super computer in your pocket and making it into something that works for you.
In an industry where making a new screen size is touted as a revolution, Motorola is taking a refreshingly new approach to giving users what they need, even if it isn’t necessarily what they think they want. With fresh and beautiful materials to build devices with thought out software comes a new breed of device, adding a new means of touchless control. The Moto X (2014 Edition) is already well regarded as the best Android phone today, but having recently migrated from iOS to Android, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s the best phone period. The back buttery smooth, the screen gorgeous, the sound clear and crisp, and the touchless controls new and ever-improving: it all stacks up to put this phone in the top spot.
Find the Moto X here.
Zachery Bridgeman | News Cult