Motorola might have had a very short lived time under the ownership of Google (in under two years Google bought Motorola Mobility, then sold it to Lenovo) but during that period it has turned out a couple of exciting handsets and the Moto X is one of them.
The Moto X is not quite the potential game changer that the low cost Moto G was. The G has given every other budget handset maker a really difficult standard to try and match up to. The X doesn’t quite set the bar as high, but it is still worthy of more than a second glance.
The headline points of note are that this is a 4G handset that runs Android 4.4, and a pretty much unskinned version at that. Access to the very latest Android version comes as a result of that relationship with Google. But there is a lot more to the Moto X than these headlines.
One of the neatest features is the double flick that launches the 10 megapixel camera. It worked for us first time, and every time, which is not something you can say often about gesture controls in other devices. Here it is consistent, efficient and easy.
Once you are using the camera it is easy to zoom by dragging a finger, or do continuous shooting with a tap and hold. These features make it possible to control the camera one handed and get in and out of it quickly so you stand a chance of getting candid shots.
Motorola is keen on pushing its ‘touchless control’ concept. This amounts to letting you say ‘OK Google Now’ and then a command, and have that complied with.
It’s not a complete voice control system, but you can do a range of things – ‘send a SMS to Bob’, ‘set alarm for 5:30am’ for example. It undeniably adds an extra level of useability to voice controls. It had always seemed odd that you needed to activate it with a screen or button press first, but now it is moving closer to a full hands-free solution.
There’s also what Motorola calls Active Display on board. This delivers detailed alerts when the phone’s screen is off – so that you can see if you really do need to open up the handset and respond to that incoming email or text.
The idea is that because the Moto X has an OLED display it is able to light up only the pixels that are needed rather than powering the entire screen. Thus it can show you notification alerts with almost zero hit on the battery. It’s one of those things that seems so obvious you wonder why it has taken until now for anyone to think of it.
Another goodie is Motorola Assist, which you can use to set up automatic functions. It can automatically turn the Moto X to silent mode overnight and only let through callers you tag as important or those who ring persistently – so that you can get emergency calls. And going off-handset there’s a Chrome plugin that tells you about incoming calls and lets you see SMS messages and even reply to them.
The Moto X doesn’t put a foot wrong in the design department. The backplate doesn’t come off, so your nanoSIM fits in a slot on the left edge. The back is curved outwards to its center, which helps the Moto X sit very comfortably in the hand. There’s a 4.7-inch screen in this handset, and the screen bezel all round is relatively tight, so that the phone feels like it is all screen and is relatively small for the pocket.
The screen’s resolution might disappoint some people being 1,280 x 720 pixels while other handsets go higher. The very popular and lower cost Google Nexus 5, for example, has a 4.95 inch screen with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
But then this phone is not designed to compete on specs; instead you get highly optimised software that ensures you won’t really notice the difference.
The processor is dual core and runs to 1.7GHz. It won’t smash any benchmarking records, but it does provide perfectly acceptable performance, and it doesn’t place a huge strain on the battery. We found we could get a day out of the Moto X fairly easily. With MHL and NFC on board there are plenty of opportunities to extend functionality beyond the handset.
The 16GB of internal storage actually provides just 10.5GB of accessible memory. Whether this is enough for you is something you’ll need to consider carefully as there’s no microSD card slot for adding more storage. That’s probably the only area we’d quibble about the specs. For what is still a relatively expensive handset we’d want a bit more than that.
Written by Sandra Vogel