In a smartphone market that’s largely dominated by Apple and Samsung, it can be hard to stand out. With its Moto X, Motorola plans to do this in two ways — by offering more customization options and creating an experience that truly makes the Moto X feel like a phone powered by Google.
The second-generation Moto X builds on its predecessor in all the right ways. Complete with a better screen, more attractive design, and upgraded processor, the Moto X is poised to take on the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, and LG G3 for the title of best Android phone.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the new Moto X compared to the previous model is that it’s larger. The second Moto X comes with a 5.2-inch screen compared to the first Moto X’s 4.7-inch display. Not only is the screen bigger, but it’s also sharper since it has a 1080p HD resolution versus the original Moto X’s 720p display.
Motorola has generally left the Moto X’s design untouched, but there are a few minor tweaks that make a big difference. The new Moto X comes with metal edges that make the phone feel more premium and durable than the last model. It’s a small addition, but it really does make a huge difference.
There’s also a newer quad-core processor on the inside, which means the new Moto X should be better at multitasking. Motorola has bumped the camera’s sensor up to 13 megapixels rather than 10 megapixels, so expect the newer model to capture clearer photos.
Like the original Moto X, the second-generation version specializes in listening to your voice commands. Even when the screen is turned off, you can summon the phone to answer a question or set a reminder. The phone is also specifically trained to recognize your own voice, so you won’t have to worry about other people dictating commands to your phone.
Again, Motorola is really promoting the customization aspect of its new Moto X. Motorola lets you choose the color of even the tiniest, most minuscule accents for your phone in addition to choosing between black and white colors for the front panel. For the back, you have the option of choosing between different colored soft-touch backs, four different types of genuine Horween leather, or wood. My review unit came with a black soft-touch back.
What It’s Like To Use It
The new Moto X truly feels like a phone powered by Google. It runs on the pure version of Android, which means there aren’t any skins over the interface. Other manufacturers such as Samsung and LG add extra features to their phones, like the ability to open more than one app at a time and access certain settings by swiping down from the top.
Although some might argue that pure Android is limiting, I find it to be cleaner and more intuitive than skinned versions of the software. The user interface is very barebones and minimalist — there aren’t any unnecessary apps or widgets cluttering your home screen.
One swipe to the right will pull up a second home screen for storing apps and widgets of your choosing, and a swipe to the right or up from the bottom pulls up Google Now, the digital assistant for Android. As is the case with other Android phones, pulling down from the top shows you your most recent notifications and includes a button for navigating to your phone’s settings menu.
The Moto X also has a vibrant, colorful screen that’s easy to read in sunlight. It’s not quite as bright as the iPhone, but its certainly luminous enough to remain visible in outdoor conditions without sucking power from your battery.
More importantly, the screen is incredibly colorful. When playing games like Deer Hunter 2014, the scenery and wildlife really popped.
The Moto X’s voice controls continue to be one of its strongest features. The ability to ask a question or request information without having to interrupt what you’re doing can be extremely helpful. There’s no need to hold down a button or even turn the display on to summon Google Now.
For example, as I prepared to get my day started on Saturday, I asked the Moto X what the weather was like and if I should bring an umbrella. My Moto X answered almost instantaneously, providing the answer as I continued on with my morning routine.
Before you can start issuing commands to the Moto X, you need to train it to recognize your voice first. It’s an easy and quick process, and Motorola walks you through it. You choose your own trigger phrase, and repeat it to the Moto X in a quiet space numerous times so that it can analyze your voice and remember which words you chose.
The Moto X’s touchless voice controls worked well in general, but you do need to make sure you’re in a quiet place for it to pick up your speech. I asked a question while I was sifting through my closet facing away from the phone, and the Moto X couldn’t understand my request over the sound of my shuffling and the loud creaks of my closet doors. That being said, the phone can hear you even if you’re several feet away from it in a quiet space.
The Moto X’s battery life lasted for a decent amount of time on a single charge. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it’s more than enough to get you through the day. After moderate to heavy usage, the phone lasted for a little over a day, but it’s important to remember that battery life varies depending on your settings and how you use it.
The camera on the Moto X is decent. It’s not the sharpest I’ve seen, but it’ll do for taking casual photos. When compared to the Galaxy S5, I actually preferred the image taken with Samsung’s phone. Take a look at the photos of flowers and leaves below. The green in the photo taken with the S5 looks a little more lush, and the red flowers look sharper too.
It’s not an exaggeration to call the Moto X one of the best Android phones to come out of 2014. Its clean interface and tight Google Now integration make it truly feel like a Google-powered smartphone. Fans of stock Android that don’t particularly care for Samsung and LG’s skins will enjoy the Moto X.
Motorola improved the Moto X in all the right places. Its bigger, sharper screen and more premium design make it well equipped to take on the Galaxy S5, HTC One, and LG G3. Strictly in terms of aesthetics, I still prefer the HTC One’s all-aluminum build. But even a basic, non-customized version of the Moto X still looks and feels better than the Galaxy S5 and LG G3, in my opinion.
If you use Google Now a lot and are looking for a phone that’s simple and has a great screen, the Moto X is a great choice.