How the Moto X+1 could end up being the smartphone of the fall

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Last year, Motorola took everyone by surprise.

After months upon months of rumors, Motorola’s 2013 flagship wasn’t at all what it was cracked up to be. Rumors suggested it would be the phone everyone had been waiting for – all the best specs, the best display, killer everything.

Turns out, the Moto X was not any of that. Its display was only 720p when practically every other flagship came with a 1080p display. It came with a custom processor configuration – not a Snapdragon 600 or 800 – which Motorola called the X8 mobile computing system. Nothing about it was overpowered or excessive.

Motorola was proving a point. The Moto X still managed to provide a more consistent, reliable experience than practically all its competitors. The software was exquisite, not overdeveloped. It had truly useful features that worked in real world use cases, such as Touchless Control, Active Display, and Trusted Devices. Otherwise, it had mostly stock Android software.

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michael-moto-x-6On top of that, the Moto X came with a handful of customization options through its online customization portal, Moto Maker.

Users could choose custom back colors, a black or white front, accent colors (for power and volume buttons and trim around the camera), and other tiny details like a custom signature around back or custom boot text. While Moto Maker wasn’t quite the widely rumored pick-your-own-parts style of hardware customization, for the most part, it allowed users to make their phones look how they wanted them to. That’s more than can be said for the cookie-cutter competition, which typically comes in two to four color options.

Something about the Moto X was truly endearing. I carried one for nearly eight months, give or take a week, and never once regretted the decision to buy it. Michael also carried a Moto X for the same time, and I’m pretty certain he still carries one when he isn’t reviewing devices.

Point being, the Moto X was a meager device that was worth every penny. From the gorgeous design which crammed a 4.7-inch display in a package not much larger than the iPhone 5 to the complete user experience, the Moto X was outstanding.

Still, it wasn’t without fault. The camera was admittedly bad; the 720p display left me wanting more; and the speakers were far from the best (loud, but not that great and poorly positioned).

Those problems, paired with Motorola’s practically nonexistent marketing campaign and the alleged expansion of Moto Maker, give Motorola plenty of room to improve.

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Even the Moto G was a standout device, capable of so much more than it should have been.

Now that we understand what Motorola is capable of with a modest smartphone, it’s time to see what it can do – once again, mind you – with a truly high-end flagship. And if the rumors are to be believed, that’s exactly what it looks like Motorola is doing. Pre-production benchmarks and other sources have come together to build a seemingly beefy list of specifications: a Snapdragon 800 SoC with the quad-core CPU clocked at 2.3GHz, 12-megapixel camera, 2GB RAM, 32GB fixed storage, and a 5.2-inch 1080p display.

If these specs are true, this would mean the Moto X+1, assuming it’s called that, still won’t come with the best specifications around, but it will theoretically have great enough specs to snuff out all the tiny little idiosyncrasies of the Moto X.

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The camera on the Moto X was … not good.

We can only hope the 12-megapixel camera is better than the 10-megapixel Clear Pixel camera on the Moto X. It was originally one of the highlight features, but it turned out to be a giant waste of time on Motorola’s part. The camera was (and still is) horrible in most situations.

The 720p display, for one, was one of the biggest issues I had with the Moto X. It’s not that it was horrible, but after having used 1080p smartphones for the better part of two years, dropping back to 720p at 4.7-inches was noticeable and it was always on my mind. It wasn’t pixelated or bad in any way, but it was noticeably less sharp than other phones.

RAM and storage options were par for the course at the time of the Moto X. For now, keeping 2GB of RAM is not a problem, and starting the storage options with 32GB is a nice change (though I wouldn’t hold my breath). But it appears as if this year’s Moto X will come with a microSD card slot – a welcomed improvement.

The other notable improvement is in computing power. The X8 mobile computing system is what enabled many of the Moto X’s coolest features. The two, dedicated contextual computing cores allowed the phone to be always listening for voice input and keep the motion sensor on to help power Active Display and Assist. The Snapdragon 800 technically has similar features built-in, which is nice. Hopefully, we won’t see the best features of the Moto X disappear. Rather, I’d love to see Motorola build on them.

However, there’s a greater advantage to all of these rumored specs which seem to corroborate the most likely scenario. All of these specs are just above par and at least a year or two old now, meaning the components are much cheaper than they were a year ago. Motorola can use all the specs from last year’s best flagships while keeping costs down and maintaining its awesome user experience.

The biggest misstep Motorola made last year is getting the pricing of the Moto X wrong. It launched at roughly the same price as all other 2013 flagships, but when Motorola ran its first $150 off promotion, the Moto X started flying off the virtual shelves. The same thing happened when Motorola permanently dropped the price to $350 for the base model.

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Provided Motorola passes those cost savings down to consumers, it could have the phone of the summer on its hands. I know I’d give it a serious look, even over the Nexus 5 or OnePlus One, especially if the camera is notably improved.

The biggest hurdle now is timing. Rumors are pointing to a September release, not the August release we saw last year. On one hand, that’s a good thing. All the buzz from the One M8, Galaxy S5, and G3 will have waned by that point. On the other hand, the Moto X+1 will be competing for mind share among the iPhone 6 and Galaxy Note 4 – some serious heavyweights.

One thing is for sure, though. I’ll be keeping an eye on Motorola and the Moto X+1, especially as this Lenovo purchase progresses. If the rumors pan out, the Moto X+1 could be one serious smartphone.

What say you? Is the Moto X+1 on your radar? Do you have your sights set on another device? The Note 4? iPhone 6? G3? Or have you already pulled the trigger on something already out, like the S5 or M8?

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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+