Motorola Moto X Review: Top 11 Best (And Worst) Features Of The Google Phone

 @tommylikeyt.halleck@ibtimes.com
on November 16 2013 9:26 AM

The Moto X, along with the Droid Ultra, Maxx and Mini, represents the first set of true “Google phones” since the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant acquired Motorola Mobility last May.  The question is whether the Moto X is worthy of that "Google phone" mantle.

Update: the Moto X has been awarded IBTimes Best Smartphone of 2013. Click here to read why, along with comparisons to the top flagships of the year.

For the most part, the Moto X is a great phone and mostly lives up to the marketing hype. But most ads incorrectly refer to the Moto X’s customizability (through Moto Maker) as its biggest draw, when in reality the true strength of the Moto X lies in its ergonomic design, user-friendly interface and overall build quality.

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I have a few gripes with the Moto X, but most are relatively minor. For those who said “TL;DR” to my full Moto X review, here are the top 11 features of the Moto X, from worst to best.

Moto X review: The Bad

11) No microSD card slot or replaceable battery

Lithium ion batteries lose about 20 percent or more of their charge capacity every year. Therefore, about 18 months into owning a Moto X, users will find that their battery only lasts about 70 percent as long as it did in the beginning, and there is no easy fix, short of cracking it open with specialized tools. Not exactly a user-friendly experience.

And while the Moto X comes with 50GB of free Google Drive storage, cloud access requires Internet connectivity, and most files need to be downloaded before they are useful on a smartphone. A microSD card slot allows for more space for photos, videos, music and apps, and as the little girl in the commercial says, “when you want more, you want more.”

10) Buttons

The design and placement of the Moto X’s volume and power buttons are questionable, at best. They are small, thin and, due to their minimal protrusion from the side of a phone, can be more difficult to locate than on other Android devices.

The volume bar is too short to easily differentiate volume up from down, and since it is placed in such close proximity to the power button, taking a screenshot is a difficult (and uncomfortable) feat. The buttons on the Moto X also offer more resistance than is necessary, making them somewhat difficult to press.

9) OLED Screen

For the most part, the OLED screen on the Moto X is a great feature – it works great even in bright sunlight and offers better viewing angles than standard LCD. However, the OLED on the Moto X is a bit too small to truly enjoy streaming video or games for long periods, and while the colors are bright, they are very inaccurate. Therefore, shopping for clothes on the Moto X is not recommended.

8) Touchless Control

I attempted to train the Moto X to hear my voice several times, but never got one that allowed the feature to work flawlessly, or anything resembling perfection. I find that the LG Nexus 5 even reacts better to its “OK, Google” hotword than the Moto X, without any training whatsoever.

Perhaps training is the issue – having the Moto X specifically respond to its owner’s voice might make it more secure, but less prone to react to changes in pitch or volume. Whatever the case may be, the number of times when touchless control responded correctly to “OK, Google now” versus not responding at all was a big disappointment.

Moto X review: The Good

7) Touchless Control

When it works, touchless control is very helpful. Being able to make a phone call, and playing a song without having to touch the Moto X is cool. Asking a query and getting an answer out loud in that soft, robotic female voice makes me feel like James T. Kirk interacting with the USS Enterprise computer. Sure, it's nerdy, but that doesn’t mean it's not also very, very cool.

An update to Google Search now allows Android users to send a text message without actually having to touch their smartphone, which makes the Moto X's touchless control much more effective. This should have been implemented from touchless control from the get-go, but I feel like a late arrival is better than none at all.

6) Moto Maker is now available for most any carrier

A website where you can design the look of your smartphone, down to the accent colors on the buttons, is fun. Refusing to invite anyone but AT&T to the Moto Maker party, however, cut down on the fun for the majority of smartphone users. Now that Motorola has opened the floodgates, a Moto X can be custom-designed for use just about any carrier.

5) Ergonomic design

The Moto X features a curved back that makes it feel slimmer and also easier to hold. A circular indentation for the Motorola logo, which also happens to be a nice place for your finger to fall, and the soft grip sides are a nice touch. The Moto X might be one of the nicest-feeling Android phones around.

4) Dual-core main processor

The dual-core main CPU saves battery life since it is lower-powered than other devices, but is still more than capable of multi-tasking and running the most intensive Android apps and resource-intensive games.

The Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System, comprising the CPU, GPU and two low-power processors, seemed like it might have been a clever way of downplaying a slightly outdated CPU. In reality, it is an efficient and battery-friendly system.

3) Assembled in the USA

Google is an American company, and although the Moto X is not made in the U.S. in the technical sense, the fact that it is assembled here is a nice step forward. It might just be a PR move, but try telling that to the employees at Motorola’s Fort Worth plant.

2) Active Display

Active display wakes as soon as you pick up the Moto X. It's intuitive, and its way of displaying information from a notification – such as the body of a text message – makes it helpful and fun to use. The black and white notifications are an energy-efficient way of displaying information, and look good in the process.

1) Camera

The Moto X’s wrist gesture, which opens the camera app even from a lock-screen, is ingenious. Two flicks of the wrist, and you are ready to snap – just press anywhere on the screen. It makes taking photos a breeze, and was one of the features of the Moto X I miss most when using other phones. I also like how Motorola incorporated a two-megapixel front-facing shooter, for a selfie-obsessed America.

The Moto X is a great phone, but it's not without its issues. What do you think of the Moto X? Do you have a favorite or least favorite feature? Sound off in the comments section below.

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