Moto's new devices

Moto X (2014) deep-dive review: Android done right -- again

With a distinctive and customizable design, superb software and exceptional features, the new Moto X shows just how good an Android phone can be.

Moto's new devices

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Second, they allow you to wave your hand over the phone to silence an incoming call or alarm. It's a simple and intuitive gesture, and it works consistently well.

The new Moto X also continues to excel in hands-free voice control: While other Android devices can respond to "Okay, Google"-style voice commands while their displays are turned on -- something that was unique to the original Moto X when it first launched -- the Moto X takes things a step further by being able to detect and respond to your voice even when its display is off.

The new Moto X allows you to set your own custom launch phrase, which means you can simply say that phrase anytime your phone is in earshot to wake the device and start asking it questions or giving it commands. In addition to all the usual commands you can issue, the new Moto X enables a few new tricks -- like the ability to say "Take a selfie" and have the phone launch a three-second countdown with its front-facing camera.

new moto x software JR Raphael

The new Moto X offers a variety of software upgrades, including the ability to choose your own custom launch phrase.


The Moto X includes an updated version of Motorola's Assist app, too, which makes it easy to have the phone detect when you're in a meeting, at home, sleeping or driving, and then adjust its behavior accordingly. The driving mode in particular is something I've come to appreciate: Anytime you're in a moving vehicle, the Moto X can read aloud incoming text messages, tell you who's calling when the phone rings and allow you to answer, respond or ignore a call or message without ever having to look down or touch the device.

The common thread with all these features is that they're simple, intuitive and legitimately useful. They're focused on value for the user, and they're the types of things I really miss when I'm using a non-Motorola phone.

Upgrades and future support

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the importance of the method to Motorola's software: The company provides all of its add-ons as standalone apps that are updated via the regular Google Play Store. That means the features receive frequent upgrades and improvements all throughout the year, independent of full-fledged OS releases.

It also means that when OS upgrades do arrive, Motorola is able to push them out almost instantly -- because it hasn't mucked up the core software with unnecessary modifications. The new Moto X ships with Android 4.4.4 (KitKat), the most current version of the operating system available. And if you look at the company's recent upgrade history, you'll see that it's typically gotten Android upgrades out to its flagship devices within days of their release, sometimes even beating Google's own Nexus phones to the punch.

With the exception of HTC, which comes in a distant second, no other manufacturer is anywhere near that efficient -- and with the major Android "L" release right around the corner, that's something you have to keep in mind.

Bottom line

With its new Moto X, Motorola has shown again that it knows how to do Android right. The phone has a distinctive and customizable design with the option of interesting materials like leather and wood. It has an outstanding display, superb performance and a fast and easy-to-use camera that's capable of capturing great-looking photos.

Even without all of that, Motorola's spot-on approach to software would make this phone worth considering. No other company comes close to providing the type of cohesive and compelling overall user experience Motorola manages to deliver.

Given the choice, would I have taken this same phone in the more ergonomic size of the original model? Without a doubt. But truth be told, I'm quickly getting used to the new Moto X's form. The larger display has its benefits, and the phone is actually quite light and comfortable compared to other current flagships.

Ultimately, you have to think about what matters the most to you. If you want the best possible battery life or the most exceptional camera, the new Moto X may not be the right option. As with the first-gen model, there are absolutely individual areas where other smartphones come out ahead.

But if you want a distinctive device that's full of genuinely useful features -- with thoughtful software that'll get timely and frequent upgrades in the future -- you'll be hard-pressed to find another product that matches what the Moto X provides. Factor in the lower-than-average cost both on contract and unlocked, and the new Moto X is a tough all-around package to beat.


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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