Android custom experiences are the reason I carry a Moto X

Android custom experiences are the reason I carry a Moto X

Summary: There are plenty of new smartphones hitting the street in the next couple of months, but I'll be looking at the latest Android offerings thanks to the experiences that manufacturers offer.

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Android custom experiences are the reason I carry a Moto X
(Image: Motorola)

I am back to using my navy blue and orange Moto X as my primary device and as I looked around my desk at the devices in my collection and under review it is clear to me that Android is my preferred smartphone platform. While I do enjoy the apps and services of the Apple iPhone 5s, Android smartphone manufacturers offer unique experiences that mean more to me that a few apps.

Google's Nexus and Google Play Edition devices offer up a pure Google experience, but even that experience has the Google Now launcher that adds some slick functionality to consumers. It's really the other Android devices from Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony that interest me. Some people are annoyed by customized experiences, but I personally find real value in these devices as I explain below.

Motorola Moto X

I previously listed a few reasons I love my Moto X, including touchless controls, active notifications, Motorola Assist, Bluetooth trusted devices, quick camera flip launch, and more. As Kevin and I just talked about on MoTR #316 we are both using Moto X devices and we agree it is a device that just gets better with time. Kevin recently wrote about the cool What's Up phrase and it really comes in handy.

HTC One

The HTC One was my favorite smartphone of 2013 and I keep popping my SIM back into thanks to the KitKat and Sense 5.5 update. HTC's Sense UI offers Highlight Videos, BlinkFeed, enhanced Exchange client, and more. HTC has evolved Sense over the years to be much more of a helpful interface than a bloated interface that consumes resources.

Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3

TouchWiz used to drive me crazy, but I was much more accepting of what I saw on the Note 3 and found good value in what Samsung is doing. I still think they go a bit too far in many cases and even on the Note 3 I saw regular crashes in some of their custom software. However, experiences like the S Pen cannot be beat and have yet to be matched by anyone else.

Samsung has significantly improved their camera software and I personally think it is the best available on an Android smartphone. I have many friends and neighbors with the latest Galaxy smartphones and they all love the experiences Samsung provides with many of them coming from iPhones.

LG G2

LG has vastly improved their smartphone offerings and the G2 is excellent. While there are lots of ways to customize your smartphone, I think the software is a bit too much and can be overwhelming to folks. The KnockOn, IR remote, and advanced camera software are custom experiences that I find worth having on the device.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony offers a fairly pure Google experience with their latest Xperia smartphones. The waterproof design is unique to smartphones while their camera software is fairly advanced. Their connectivity with the Sony ecosystem is attractive to many users, similar to what Samsung offers with their smartwatches and entertainment hardware.

Do you find the custom experiences on Android to be worth choosing one of these over an iPhone, Windows Phone, or even a Google Nexus device?

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Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Samsung, Smartphones

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20 comments
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  • Well

    IPhone = Zero custom experience so that's not an option.

    Windows Phone, I still like the live tiles where I get to see the weather details, next calendar appt, email messages, facebook updates, and much more without having to open the app. Android provides widgets, but Live tiles seem to fit better within screen space and look more modern and consistent.
    Sean Foley
    • How is Live Tiles better?

      I'm curious. In what way is Live Tiles better. It's limited to a few fixed sizes. Whereas, the Android widgets can be resized to whatever size you want. Plus (at least with Nova Launcher), you can get overlapping widgets. If you want, you can create Windows style live tiles with Android, but not the reverse. Secondly, as far as I know, you can't interact with live tiles. With some Android widgets like HD Widgets, I can open different apps, by clicking on different parts of the widget. Plus add toggles (airplane mode, brightness etc) to the widget.

      I'd genuinely like to know in what way Live tiles are better.
      os2baba
      • Live Tiles

        Live Tiles are better because it's easier to arrange them (they are worse because they are restricted in what they can display). With the default launchers, Android widgets can certainly not be resized to whatever size you want - altough you can probably find a widget that does what you want in the size you want if you are persistent. Among the 3 remaining OSes, WP takes the least amount of work to set up a useful home screen and Android allows the most customized homescreen, while IOS doesn't really allow a useful homescreen.
        Sacr
        • I hve a useful home screen

          on iOS without widgets or Live Tiles sucking my battery life dry or displaying outdated information!
          itguy10
      • Yes, Live Tiles look much better

        Android users talk about the precious widgets all the time, however have you ever seen a screen loaded with them? It looks horrible!!! The side-paging doesn't allow a nice columnar vertical layout like Windows Phone has so you have to side swipe through all the pages constantly. Windows Phone is just a simple vertical flick. My entire point was "Live tiles seem to fit better within screen space and look more modern and consistent."
        Sean Foley
    • WP8 is good but not for the reasons you listed

      A Android widget can be anything you want it to be. There are millions of widgets out there, some even mimic WP8 live tiles. Not only that but most launchers let you resize your widgets and some will even let you overlap them as well. Want more icons on a screen panel, many launchers like Nova will allow you to set row and column numbers of launchers.

      What WP8 is good at is being fluid, clean, and simple. Its basically an alternative to iOS that's cheaper and has live tiles.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • I guess

        I usually agree with most of your comments, but the vertical columnar layout of Live Tiles is way better than Android trebuchet. At most you can fit 4 widgets on a page. Widgets are also horribly inconsistent and seem to be buggy (at least its hard to find a great one). Now having said all that, I would still use a Win Phone or Android Phone over a boring iPhone any day.
        Sean Foley
  • Unremovable crapware

    I liked my S2, and my early S4 better than I like my S4 currently. The constant addition of ever more unremovable crapware with every system update pretty much destroyed my faith in Samsung's future. I'm switching to Cyanogen now, and I look forward to see what's new in WP 8.1.
    Sacr
  • Android is the reason I carry an iPhone

    Started with a Droid X. HORRIBLE experience with all the lockups and junk. Went to an iPhone 4s and it works and works well. Integration is awesome with few lockups and slowdowns unlike the Droid.

    Thinking of switching carriers and picked up an Alcatel Onetouch Evolve as it was cheap. The hardware is nice but the Android experience is lacking. Android is fine for a beater or spare phone but I'd go mad as a day to day phone.

    * To go to the top of a screen you have to scroll. No tap the top like iOS.
    * No alphabet on the left or right side of contacts to get you easily to the point in a list. Typing in search is stupid.
    * No easy way to do voice dial in the handset
    * The bottom capacitive buttons go dark at the weirdest times.
    * No way to unlock via the capacitive button, must use the lock at the top.
    * Menu settings don't really make sense.
    * Media handling is abysmal. To play Slacker in the car I plug my iPhone into the USB port and start playing. With this unit, I do that and Ford Sync says no media. I have it set to MTP.

    It's good and there are a few things iOS could learn from Android but it still feels like a very disjointed system.
    itguy10
    • Configuration

      Given that most of these points are configuration issues which the user can fix by investing time, lets say the real issues are as follows:

      - Amount of costomization options can be overwhelming
      - Most handset makers completely screw up the default configuration
      Sacr
      • So how?

        The One Touch are pretty much plain Android 4.1. So how are the issues configuration issues?
        itguy10
        • How:

          To go to the top of a screen you have to scroll. No tap the top like iOS. - What are you talking about?

          No alphabet on the left or right side of contacts to get you easily to the point in a list. - Configurable, you can install a better contact manager if you don't like the default one.

          Typing in search is stupid. - What are you talking about? Keyboards can be switched if that's what you mean. As can every app which you might refer to with "search".

          No easy way to do voice dial in the handset - You can configure when voice dial is active. You can have it always on, or only after a double press of the home button, for instance.

          The bottom capacitive buttons go dark at the weirdest times. - They go dark based on a configurable timeout. Always on and always off are part of the options.

          * No way to unlock via the capacitive button, must use the lock at the top. - Not correct, unlock is so heavily customizable it's borderline ridiculous.

          Menu settings don't really make sense. - Configurable to some extent by installing config apps, altough admittedly the settings of every OS don't make much sense. Fully customizable by swapping the ROM.

          Media handling is abysmal. To play Slacker in the car I plug my iPhone into the USB port and start playing. With this unit, I do that and Ford Sync says no media. I have it set to MTP. - Configurable, ie there are a few dozen ways to do this so it just works. Not sure about using USB cable with your Slacker App, your phone and your radio, may eiter need a different app, bluetooth, or a 2$ audio cable.
          Sacr
    • Wow

      * Top of the screen? Oh, you mean like the feature in Safari?
      * "Typing in search is stupid." Opinion. I find it easier with my large fingers to use Swype and type in search than to press a tiny button on the list. Of course, in the contacts list, when you press on the right side and slide, you get a popup of the alphabetic letter and when you release, it goes to the letter. Of course, there's always "OK Google..."
      * Can't believe you said "No easy way to do voice dial in the handset." On the Moto X, once it's configured, it can be across the room and you say "OK Google... Call Joe Smith mobile" and guess what? The Moto X will dial the number AND be in speaker phone mode until you actually pick up the phone.
      * On the Moto X, what capacitive button? On some phones (Samsung in particular) there is a button. The Moto X has all nav buttons on screen.
      * Menu settings? Really. I have problems configuring iPhones at work because their menu systems make no sense to me.
      * Media handling? Really? Who uses a USB port? I use the AUX port on my Honda and it does an excellent job of playing my phone music, both local and streamed. Plus, most newer cars can play music via bluetooth.
      benched42
    • @itguy10 "Android" is not a phone.

      The Droid X is the reason I carry a nexus 5.
      Please try such "android based" phones as Moto X, Nexus 5, HTC one, LG G2, and get back to me.

      So - how well does iOS run on the Onetouch Evolve? Hmmm?

      The only reason you don't have a bad experience on iOS is that it cannot be installed on any 3rd party phone.
      drwong
  • Customization

    is the reason why I gave up my iphone 4. The phone worked flawlessly for 3 years (is still working flawlessly for my 13 yr old) but I like to customize my experience. The iphone has so many apps avaialble, but apple wont let you do anything with them other than choose which screen to put them on. Why can't I get a weather app on my lock screen for example?
    2low_tech
  • No mention of Nexus

    Although both the Nexus 4 and 5 were LG models so maybe they're covered in the article. But you just can't beat the price point vs features with the Nexus line. The only reason I would buy outside of it would be for a option like the stylus with the Note 3 or even a WP8 with the great camera on the 1020 (would love to see this phone on Android).
    Rann Xeroxx
  • Moto X convert - wonderful phone.

    My company started looking a demo phones a couple of weeks ago to decide what IT would recommend and pick for ourselves. The first phone I tested was a Moto X, planning for it to be one of many before my decision. A week later I didn't want to pass it on to the other testers, I was hooked. I kept feeling bad that the first phone I tested was the one I wanted but there was no reasoning with myself. I couldn't wait to place my order for one.
    The funny thing is that I carried a Motorola Razr Max for the past two years, learned to hate it, and swore I wouldn't get another Motorola phone.
    The Moto X may not have the top specs but the features it has and the performance easily put it at the top of the list for me.
    rahn@...
    • RAZR maxx to moto x

      Hi there,
      I'm stuck with my razr maxx for another few weeks, and am definitely considering the Moto x when my contact with the razr maxx is up. I'm curious though, what was it about the razr maxx that you hated? Did you have any particular issues? I'd just like to compare notes, as I'm also terribly frustrated with the razr maxx.
      newfers
  • iOS is good but...

    I like all phones. All OSes. But I like to customize my phone. And I really expected Apple to come out with many color options first. After all, they had the first colored computer options. But no...it was Moto. I love to tweak and customize. This is why Android speaks to me. The amount of different launchers available is truly staggering. Some just tweak the basic Android experience while others completely rewrite it. Not so Apple or MS. MS wouldn't even let you use wallpaper in Metro when 8 came out. And my #1 pet peeve with iOS? It drives me nuts that you cant even arrange the icons how you want them. I want 4 across the top and 4 across the bottom. Nope! All pushed up to the top completely covering my sons face in my wallpaper. That's just a ridiculous amount of lockdown.
    p3r3grin3
  • about i phone

    I like all phones. All OSes. But I like to customize my phone. And I really expected Apple to come out with many color options first. After all, they had the first colored computer options. But no...it was Moto. I love to tweak and customize

    Praveen
    http://india.dialus.com/businessdetails/Hyderabad/Mobile-Phone-Accessories.html
    praveen.dialuz