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Moto X deep dive review: Hype aside, it's a really good phone

August 7, 2013 06:00 AM ET

The only circumstances under which this did not work were when I used the zoom; in that case, the camera didn't seem quite sure what to focus on, and the photo came out blurry. (When I switched to the usual "tap to focus" method that comes with most Android phones, photos under the same conditions came out fine.)

Moto X
The "quick capture" did sometimes have trouble coping with a zoom.
Moto X
However, it did very well, even in low light conditions, when the controls were changed to "tap to focus."

The phone comes with a number of other camera adjustments -- flash, HDR, geo-tag, etc. -- that are accessible by swiping in from the left; you can access your photo gallery by swiping in from the right. And there are a number of edits you can make to a photo after it's been taken, including cropping, adding color effects such as making it look like a vintage photo or making it black & white, changing the exposure, etc.

You can go immediately to the camera when the phone is off by, according to Motorola, "twisting your wrist twice." It takes a bit of practice and didn't always seem to work for me, but when it did, it was nice to be able to immediately start up the camera, touch the screen and take the photo.

Designing a phone

One of the other selling points of the Moto X -- and one of the things that makes it so obviously a consumer phone -- is the fact that it will be possible to "design your own" through a website called Moto Maker. Consumers will be able to choose from at least 17 colors for the back of the phone, choose black or white for the front, and choose from 7 complementary colors for highlights. They will also be able to add a name or short message to the back. The phone will then be shipped within 4 days; consumers will have 14 days in which to exchange it if they don't like the color combination.

As of this writing, AT&T is the only carrier to support the Moto Maker site; phones purchased through the other carriers (including Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile) will be available in only black or white -- for now. There were hints from the Motorola reps during the press event that this could change.

Bottom line

On the face of it, the Moto X isn't a revolutionary phone: There are plenty of phones around with bigger displays and higher resolutions; several (including Motorola's upcoming Droid Maxx) with longer battery life; others with more powerful cameras or more extensive features that appeal to technophiles.

(Incidentally, according to the company, Sprint, US Cellular and T-Mobile will offer unlockable bootloaders and there will also be a Verizon Wireless Developer Edition and a general North America Developer Edition.)

What this is, however, is a great all-around consumer phone. Some of the newer features add measurably to the experience and usefulness of the phone, yet are easy to learn. I've looked at a number of new phones, and in the case of the Moto X, I felt completely comfortable with it almost immediately -- something that isn't always the case with the more high-end Android phones.

At a Glance

Moto X
Motorola Mobility
Price: $199 (with a 2-year contract with AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile); $250 for 32MB version (AT&T only)
Pros: Slim, attractive design; very good display; useful features such as Touchless Control and Active Display; good camera; configurable body; long battery life
Cons: Comes with Android 4.2.2; rather expensive compared to other consumer-directed smartphones; batteries not swappable

For me, personally, the ability to say, "Okay, Google Now, remind me to call my mother at 5 p.m." and then just go back to what I was doing is becoming a habit. And I was impressed by the camera's ability to take a quick -- and in-focus -- shot, even from a moving vehicle.

Is it the perfect phone? Of course not. A higher-resolution display would have been nice, as would have been a lower price -- and it's unfortunate, to say the least, that it's not shipping with the latest iteration of Android. I'm always looking for a swappable battery for long days out of the house or office, and while the battery life on the Moto X is impressive -- especially considering the always-on nature of the phone -- it could still leave you looking for a power source toward the end of the day.

But if Google was looking for a way to attract consumers with some solid engineering, interesting and useful software features, and the kind of personalization that distinguishes it from the competition, it looks like it's definitely on the right track.

This article, Moto X deep dive review: Hype aside, it's a really good phone, was originally published at

is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).

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