Why I still want the Moto X
Last week, the mysterious and excessively rumored Moto X was finally made official. And as I predicted, at least within the tech crowd, the Moto X became a victim of the hype bubble built around it.
We all managed to fill the information gaps with our own idea of what the Moto X should be, not what it would likely be. And the result was a device that appeared to be more disappointing than it should have been.
The Moto X doesn’t offer the fastest CPU clock speeds or cores; it doesn’t come with a massive battery inside; it doesn’t have the highest density display ever; it doesn’t have the best camera to date; and it doesn’t offer anything out of the ordinary. Most importantly, it doesn’t come with customizable specifications like the first round of rumors suggested.
Instead, it comes with personalized hardware. Moto X buyers can choose between 16 colors for the rear (with more options in the future), two face colors (black or white), and seven different colors for the power and volume buttons.
To make matters worse, it boasts a flagship price tag. On contract, the Moto X will cost $199 or $249 for the 16 and 32GB options, respectively. Contract-free, the Moto X will start at $575, and the 32GB model will carry a $630 tag.
So why would anyone in their right mind actually want the Moto X?
Just moments after the announcement, naturally, a lot of people on Twitter and in comments started paralleling the device with the Nexus 4. The two devices have a lot in common, though the Moto X is certainly not a Nexus. The Moto X ships with Android 4.2.2, not 4.3, and its updates will come from Motorola, not Google.
I continually find myself switching back to the Nexus 4. In fact, until yesterday, it had been my daily driver for a few weeks. But there’s a reason I always switch away, and it only takes a few days to remember why that is. Battery life has always been pretty terrible on the Nexus 4, in my experience. The display is … just okay. And the camera is absolutely horrible.
But I’ve always put up with those things for the sake of having official software from Google and the true Nexus experience.
The Moto X is a lot like the Nexus 4. It isn’t mind-blowing in any way, but it still seems to capture what it takes to make a great phone. It’s like a Nexus 4, made by Motorola, with official LTE support, a better display (contrast, black levels, saturation), more storage options, and truly unique hardware and design.
The camera, from what I’ve read and been told by Michael, is not great. (I, personally don’t care, as I will be carrying the Lumia 1020 as a secondary phone for the indefinite future.) The battery life doesn’t quite live up to Motorola’s 24 hour claim. But I still hear it’s fine.
Frankly, what I find so appealing about the Moto X is that the device stands for something totally different than every flagship from all the other popular manufacturers. Change. Personalization. Optimization. A push into a new contextual realm.
The HTC One and Galaxy S 4, most notably, offer excessively powerful smartphones with little optimization. The Galaxy S 4 comes with a horde of software features that are virtually moot in the real world. And the HTC One is all about design and performance, but doesn’t offer anything radically different than any other smartphone. It’s the same product in a prettier package, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But these two smartphones are telling of exactly what is wrong with the smartphone industry. There’s no real innovation anymore. It’s a cookie-cutter world and “innovation” is building useless software features on top of an existing product composed of other companies’ hardware.
Motorola, on the other hand, has taken virtually the same hardware and done something new with it. Both the S 4 and HTC One use Qualcomm chips, and so does the Moto X. However, Motorola has made a unique architecture with existing parts to create the Motorola X8 Computing System, a dual-core Krait CPU clocked at 1.7GHz, quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, and two additional cores: one dedicated to low-power natural language processing and the other for monitoring various sensors.
A lot of people have called the Moto X’s ability of listen for your voice at all times a gimmick – claiming that this feature isn’t all that useful. But I kindly disagree. Motorola is innovating software and contextual awareness with the aid of hardware. That alone is praise-worthy.
But the ability to use your phone hands-free and control a lot of what is done via voice is a first, at least in the smartphone world. It’s not just a gimmicky feature; it’s a new way to interface with your device.
More than ever before, I find myself reaching for my phone to queue a Google Now search via voice. The ability to do so entirely hands-free sounds fantastic. But the ability to do it entirely hands-free while only sipping battery power is a feat many are glossing over.
It’s also important to remember that this is a Google device. Yes, it’s Motorola-branded and its software comes from Motorola. But Motorola is a Google company, which means Motorola now shares many – if not all – of Google’s views and philosophies.
Motorola has hardly deviated from the core Google experience at all, but it has added some great features, like the lock screen peek feature and Motorola Connect, which allows you to answer your calls and text messages via desktop browser.
Judging by that, with the additional sensor monitoring, third-party development could be a giant developer playground. There’s a lot of potential for unique things that can be done with those dedicated processing cores.
That leaves two things to hope for: third-party development support and more tolerable pricing when the device is sold direct from Google. Until the latter happens or the wood variant is available, I likely won’t fork over upwards of $600 for the Moto X. But I will keep my eyes peeled for deals and alternative means of getting my hands on one.