Why the Moto X is cooler than you think

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We’ve heard about the Moto X more than a few times now, and we’ve seen it a million times over. Weeks ago, we discovered the Moto X was not going to be the superphone the initial rumors alleged. And now that it’s truly official, we can finally confirm that.

The Moto X, in all its mystified glory, is actually a rather tame device. It features a 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display (not PenTile), 2GB RAM, 16GB or 32GB of built-in storage, 10-megapixel Clear Pixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front-facing shooter, and a 2,200mAh battery. It also comes with a host of connectivity features: Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, NFC, Miracast, and, of course LTE connectivity. It’s slated to come to T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and US Cellular.

Other than that, the most recent rumors were spot-on. The buyer of a Moto X has a choice in either a black or white face, paired with up to 16 choices in materials for the backside. More options will continue to be added to the mix, and buyers have a choice of seven different colors for the power key, volume rocker, and camera ring.

And the very same Motorola X8 Computing System we first saw on the Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini is present on the Moto X. This means it equips a dual-core 1.7GHz Krait CPU, quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, a dedicated processor for natural language, and one more dedicated core for controlling various sensors.

Yet, to little surprise, the overall reaction to the announcement is disappointment.

I wrote at the beginning of this month, without knowing all the details, that the Moto X would become a victim of its own hype. It was inevitable. It’s inevitable with practically every oft-rumored phone. Anticipation and excitement grows with every vaguely worded rumor. Details are missing, so we naturally draw our own conclusions. And, after a few rounds of rumors, the holes are filled with our own machinations of what would make the perfect device.

wood-moto-xThis is, in a nutshell, exactly what happened with the Moto X. The fact that Motorola didn’t hold an actual press event didn’t help matters. And the lack of presentation gave the entire announcement a smoke and mirrors feel.

In the minutes following the embargo lift, I read dozens of tweets and comments lamenting over how disappointing and upsetting the Moto X is, that Motorola will eventually tank, and other various gloom and doom remarks.

Admittedly, the Moto X isn’t the most exciting news ever. It’s not even the most exciting thing to happen in the last few weeks. But I’m hardly convinced the Moto X was a complete fumble on Motorola’s part.

No, “hardware customization” to the degree Motorola is offering isn’t revolutionary. And it shouldn’t have taken years for consumers to choose what color or material their phone is made of. Kudos to Motorola, though, for assembling these things in the US.

Skimming through some notes Michael made and one of the several official press releases, one particular quote grabbed my attention each time: “Today, smartphones are unbelievably powerful … but not very smart.”

That statement couldn’t be more true. At the end of May, I wrote an editorial which explains why smartphones are overkill. A quick synopsis is that most of us use our phones primarily for communication and social media. Why do we need quad-core CPUs and bleeding edge technology to post a photo to Instagram?

We don’t. It’s all a bit silly.

There’s more to it than that, however. While specifications have greatly improved, smartphones haven’t actually gotten all that much smarter. Yes, my smartphone is a little smarter now with Google Now. It suggests things that I may find important without any sort of interaction from me. It learns me. It knows me and what I like. But it doesn’t know the sort of things it should or could know if battery life wasn’t such a major issue.

The Moto X, along with the X8 Computing System, aims to change that.

Speaking “Okay, Google Now,” to your Moto X will immediately queue up a voice search via Google Now. This can be done without ever touching the phone, from up to 15 feet away. The phone listens for your voice – not anyone else’s – all the time, using a low-power processor.

moto-x-frontHonestly, that makes for a neat parlor trick. But that’s just scratching the surface. The other dedicated processor, which monitors various sensors, could easily make the Moto X environmentally aware. It can detect motion – without killing the battery – and determine whether you’re walking or driving and recommend different things accordingly. In the car, it could switch to driving mode, where things are geared towards keeping your eyes and attention on the road.

The fact of the matter is: Moto X isn’t meant to be groundbreaking on paper. It’s not meant to wow the tech crowds with benchmark scores or blow other phones out of the water. It’s meant to make a point – that phones should and can be much smarter than they currently are.

More than anything, the Moto X is a statement. And I’m hearing Motorola loud and clear.

Frankly, I’m tempted to pick one up myself. That said, Motorola got one thing wrong: price. The Moto X is not worth $199 with a two-year agreement or $575 full retail for the 16GB model. However, there is still hope the Google Play edition Moto X will see pricing closer to that of the Nexus 4, assuming the Google Play edition HTC One and Galaxy S 4 are not indication otherwise.

I’m not blown away by Motorola or the Moto X. No one is. But its the underlying message that’s so intriguing. I leave you with two questions for discussion. Why aren’t phones smarter? And in what ways can we make them smarter?

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+