On the surface, Motorola's software seems pretty consistent from one phone to the next -- no surprise, given the company's "stock-plus" approach to Android. When you start to look closely, though, you find a few interesting surprises.
One thing I've discovered as I've been getting to know the new Moto X Pure Edition is the addition of a new gesture command within Motorola's Moto app. It sits alongside existing gestures like twisting twice to activate the phone's camera and moving your hand over the phone's screen to see the current time and any pending notifications.
The new command is called "Lift for Moto Voice." Unlike the other gesture commands, it's turned off by default.
Once you activate it, you gain a new and more discrete way to use Motorola's expanded Android voice command system: In addition to being able to say your launch phrase aloud anytime the phone is within earshot to activate the system and interact with it via the phone's speaker, you can move the phone from your waist to your ear to speak commands and get responses directly through the earpiece -- so only you will hear them.
The gesture is a little finicky and tricky to master, but the key seems to be starting with the phone in an almost horizontal position at your waist, then raising it up to your ear while turning it sharply into a vertical position. The almost exaggerated turning motion (think of it as a rapid pivoting of the wrist) isn't immediately obvious but seems to be the real trigger; once I figured that out, I was able to get the gesture to work consistently.
So what happens next? After you raise and pivot, you hear a familiar voice-command beep -- only you hear it in your ear, as if you were taking a call, instead of hearing it out loud through the phone's main speaker. You can then say any normal voice command you want, and you'll get a response right in your ear so only you will hear it.
Interestingly, this new gesture command actually appears to replace an old one. "Wave to Silence," which allowed you to wave your hand over the screen to silence an incoming call or alarm on the previous-gen Moto X, is M.I.A. on this new device.
I know I had personally received a survey at some point in the recent past (just as a regular user, not as a reviewer) asking me which of the Moto features I used frequently and which I didn't -- and the various gesture commands were among the options being evaluated. So maybe Motorola determined "Wave to Silence" wasn't being used enough to warrant its inclusion. Motorola has always managed to keep its feature additions limited to a small number of genuinely useful items -- and in doing so, avoid the gimmicky bloat feeling you get from many other Android devices -- so I'd imagine the pruning-and-replacing approach was a very deliberate strategy.
In any event, the new "Lift for Moto Voice" command seems like a smart and practical addition to Motorola's already-excellent suite of custom Android features. Voice command can certainly be handy, but I often find myself in situations where I'm not comfortable using it out loud for everyone to hear. This gives you a way to tap into the system's hands-free power privately and discretely -- and like most of Motorola's add-on features, it makes your smartphone a little more useful.
I'm in the midst of living with the Moto X Pure Edition and getting to know it inside and out as we speak. Stay tuned for more detailed thoughts and my full real-world review, coming soon to a website near you.
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