he Moto X is really the first Nexus handset to come out of the company since Google gobbled them up last year. It’s heading to all carriers, and has already arrived on both AT&T and Verizon, with Sprint and US Cellular to follow. That said, AT&T is the only carrier to offer the handset with customization options, and as it so happens that’s what I got a hands on with today.
My version boasts a green back. And while I know it’s plastic, to the touch it feels as though it’s almost made of some sort of ceramic thanks to the matte finish and what is a solid sound when tapped with a finger nail. Like the One Mini it too has a curved back, though it curves less towards the bevel making it less susceptible to rocking back and forth when laid down. And like the HTC One Mini it feels very at home in my hand.
By now you’ve probably read that the Moto X has some relatively nascent features not yet seen in other Nexus or Android handsets, barring the newest Motorola devices (the Droid Maxx, Ultra and Mini).
The first thing I noticed was the new “Active Notification” system that displays the time when the handset is picked up. In my attempts to “force it”, I quickly discovered that it won’t display again and again if moved, which could prove a bit frustrating since this will require you to turn on the screen of the device and thus defeat the purpose of the feature – smartphone users apparently eat battery life from the checking the time on their device. Don’t believe me and look at what is consuming most of your phone’s battery. It’s likely the display.
Swiping down from that screen unlocks the phone, provided you don’t have a PIN or gesture in place, and from there it’s the usual state of affairs that a Nexus phone has to offer. It’s up to you what active notifications will appear, much in the same way you can choose what apps show you a notification, or blink the phone’s LED when you’ve received a new text or Facebook comment. That said, there is no LED light on the Moto X. Instead the phone’s screen will display the notification every 5 seconds, which begs the question if it’s really saving battery life over a traditional LED light notification.
Also new to this handset is something Google is calling Touchless Controls. Traditionally speaking, Android requires you tap the keyboard’s microphone icon, or activate Google Now and say “Google” so use Google Voice. Now, you simply need to say “Ok Google”, even when the phone is in sleep mode, and it will listen to your commands. First, though, you have to teach the handset your voice by repeating the phrase “Ok Google Now” three times. In use, you can actually just say “OK Google” and the phone will react.
The “always on” Google feature is surprisingly accurate and responsive, though my testing occurred in a quiet room. Of the 10 trials, 90% were almost spot on, though if I paused a bit too long it tended to miss part of what I said. However, this is actually more indicative of Google Voice and not so much the hardware. It should be interesting to see how it works in loud environments.
It’s not easy to over look Moto X’s exploding reds, which can be attributed to the AMOLED display technology. Whites are whiter than the Galaxy S4′s display, which boasts the same screen tech, and even though it’s 720p vs the Galaxy S4′s 1080, it’s hardly noticeable, if at all.
In reviews the Moto X’s 10MP camera isn’t getting top scores. And while I’ll leave a final assessment for a review in a few weeks time, I’m impressed with the interface and speed, which is a marked improvement over the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S4 – both of theirs feel laggy and anything but polished.
For the most part everything moves fluidly and just as quick as the more powerful Galaxy S4. In fact, you would be hard pressed to be able to discern between the two of them, though in all fairness the Moto X is only rocking a 720p display versus the Galaxy S4′s 1080 at 5-inches.
Comparison’s aside, the Moto X just doesn’t feel or look high end despite the $200 asking price from AT&T. I know looks aren’t everything, and the suite of features available, as well as the speed is most certainly representative of such a price. But there is no disputing it’s some what lackluster appearance, especially when compared to handsets like the One which is clad in metal and includes a 1080p screen.
Update: I also had some hands on time with Motorola’s Skip. It’s a belt clip that adheres via a set of magnets, and unlocks the Moto X just by touching it. Also included are three stickers (Skip Dots) that perform the same function and can be placed around your house or in your car. The Skip(s) work, though they take some acclimation to figure out the sweet spot on the back of the Moto X.