AT&T Moto X Review: Finally makes Android specs irrelevant

AT&T Moto X Review: Finally makes Android specs irrelevant

Summary: The Moto X is a solid Android smartphone priced a bit high, but helping bring voice control to the masses.

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  • Moto X in hand

    I posted my Moto X first impressions last week and have spent quite a bit of time with the device since then. I still think the device is priced a bit high, am not pleased that only AT&T customers can buy one, and prefer my HTC One and even another new Motorola device instead. That said, the Moto X is a nice device and I recommend you check out the stock models in the store.

    Hardware

    I covered most of my thoughts on the Moto X hardware in my first impressions and my feelings haven't changed. The display, even at 720p, looks fantastic and I think a major reason is the AMOLED display technology. The Moto X has a rather dense feel to it and the volume and power button remain a bit loose in the slots.

    I have not noticed any performance differences between the Moto X and my HTC One and am pleased with the flawless performance of the Moto X. I read that the camera is not that great, but in taking some comparison shots I have to say I find the camera seems to take nice photos so far. I'll continue to test it out, but it should be fine for social networking photos and standard smartphone pics.

    I love the stereo front facing speakers on my HTC One, but Motorola surprised me with an excellent mono speaker on the back of the Moto X that nearly equals that of the One. I understand there is some advanced audio technology in the speaker and am sure many will be pleased with its performance.

    Moto Maker customization process

    The real differentiating factor with the Moto X, over other mid-range devices, is the Moto Maker service. You cannot yet purchase your phone online and have to first visit a retail store and buy a Moto X card to then place your order. You can design your Moto X now and save it for later when you can purchase it from your select carrier.

    Motorola states that they will build and ship your custom Moto X as fast as possible with a plan to get the time frame down to four business days. I placed an order with an evaluation code on the 20th and the current status shows it has not shipped yet and this is the fifth business day. I'm not sure how much patience people will have for the customization option, but it was kind of fun to go through the process.

    There was supposed to be custom engraving support, but it seems Motorola didn't test this out enough before launching the Moto Maker service as that option has been pulled from the customization options. I learned my lesson regarding customization and won't do it anymore so that I can have a phone that retains some resell value.

    Software

    The Moto X runs a fairly pure version of Android 4.2.2 and for the most part I enjoy that experience. I don't like that I cannot remove the space consuming Google search bar from the top of each home screen panel though. This is especially annoying given that "OK Google Now" touchless controls work so well.

    Active Notifications are pretty slick, but also quite limiting. If you get multiple notifications, you can only take action on one that the Moto X deems is most important. Others can be previewed towards the bottom, but you can't drag into them or move them around to become the active notification.

    The Motorola Assist utility that lets you control device actions while driving, in a meeting, and sleeping are great and very well done. Screenshots of this utility are shown in the image gallery. I would love to see such an Assist utility in all future Android devices.

    Motorola also provides a slick Migrate tool, similar to what HTC provides for the One. With Migrate you can copy text messages, call history, SIM contacts, Media, and more from another Android phone. HTC lets you move data from other platforms as well.

    Pros and Cons

    To summarize my experiences and the specifications of the Moto X, here are my pros and cons.

    Pros

    • Attractive AMOLED screen
    • Great use of minimal screen bezel
    • Innovative software functionality
    • Solid battery life
    • Excellent form factor and in-hand feel

    Cons

    • High end smartphone price
    • Limited internal storage capacity
    • Couple hardware quality issues
    • No wireless charging

    Pricing and availability

    The Moto X is available now in white and black from AT&T for $199.99 with a two-year contract. You can also go online and order a custom one, but plan to wait a week or so for it to arrive. Unfortunately, you have to actually go into a store first to initiate the Moto Maker customization process, which is one way to further discourage the custom experience. Word is now out that Verizon will be launching the Moto X later this week and other carriers may be soon as well.

    I don't see a 32GB model on AT&T, but understand it may add another $50 to the price. The full, no contract, but still SIM locked 16GB model is available for $579.99. Many of us were hoping for Nexus-like pricing on the Moto X to show that Motorola was serious about competing with this new handset.

    While the Moto X is a fine handset and I am sure many will be pleased with the hardware and nearly pure Google experience I personally think the subsidized price should have been at least $50 to $100 less at launch. We may see this happen soon, depending on the pace of sales.

    The competition

    The HTC One, Galaxy S4, and Apple iPhone 5 are all available from most major US carriers at $199.99 priced for the 32GB, 16GB, and 16GB models, respectively. All of these phones have more functions, features, and higher specs. You can pay more for the fantastic Nokia Lumia 1020 and also find other lower priced Lumias.

    Specifications

    With the latest Android operating system and minimal phone specs, it looks like we are finally going to be able to get away from the need to directly compare specs on Android devices. We don't have to talk about specs on Windows Phone or the iPhone so I welcome the move to forget about specs on Android as well. The following are the specifications of the Moto X 16GB AT&T model I evaluated:

    • Customized dual-core 1.7 GHz processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 16GB internal storage
    • 4.7 inch 1280x720 pixels resolution AMOLED screen
    • 10 megapixel camera and 2 megapixel front facing camera
    • 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE
    • 2,200 mAh battery
    • Dimensions of 5.09 x 2.57 x 0.22-0.41 inches and 4.59 ounces

    Conclusion

    The Moto X is a fine Android smartphone and will likely please many people. If I used the Google Now touchless controls more then I would probably find it more compelling as well. I am pleased to see Motorola launching better hardware outside of their Verizon Droid only lineup and appreciate what they are trying to do.

    I was hoping for a lower price, but at the current high end smartphone price I personally would not choose it over other devices. The Moto Maker customization option seems like a good deal, but implementation of the service remains to be fully tested.

    Contributor's rating: 8 out of 10

    Further reading

  • Moto X home screen

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Reviews, Smartphones, AT&T

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14 comments
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  • 8 out of 10...

    but the other reviewer gave the Lumia 520 a 7 out of 10. Features/performance to price comparison, based on this review, should have the Lumia 520 at 12 out of 10. I guess when actually using reviews to help a buyer make a purchase decision, it is best to stick with the same reviewer.
    kstap
  • We SHOULD talk about specs

    The specs don't matter crowd want to ignore specs because they have an inferior product priced HIGH. The iPhone does not even have an HD display, only 640p. 720p is the minimum for HD resolution, while 1080p is full HD. Top tier Androids have had 720p since 2011 and now in 2013 entry level is 1080p. iPhone is still stuck at 640p.

    Don't confuse pixel density with resolution. 720p is the minimum to be legally called "HD resolution".

    Same with CPUs. Last year's quad core CPU international Galaxy S3 beat the iPhone 5 dual core CPU in all benchmark tests.

    Apple made the decision to go non-HD and slower CPU to lower costs and still charge higher prices to cheat their customers. Of course they don't want you to talk about specs!
    ChazzMatt
    • Moto X is mid-range phone

      In the same vein, within the same 7-day period the 5.2" 1080p LG G2 with quad core Snapdragon 800 was announced, so was the 4.7" 720p Moto X with dual core CPU. The Snapdragon 800 BEATS anything on the market right now, and Motorola has access to the same resources LG does. So, the Moto X could also have had top tier specs, not mid-range specs. Oh, but it has pretty colored cases! Wow.

      There was so much hype with the Moto X but it's not a 2013 top tier Android phone, even though it's priced like one. If the Moto X had been released last year or even six months ago, it would have gotten a lot more respect. But in the 2nd half of 2013, the LG G2 presents a very high bar.
      ChazzMatt
    • Motorola Moto X - high video & photo quality

      I agree with Chazz: the Motorola Moto X is definitely better than iPhone 5 when it comes to video/photo quality and display. The video recording quality of Motorola Moto X twice as good, the resolution is higher and the number of megapixels is also slightly higher.
      There´s a detailed comparison here:

      http://www.versus.com/en/motorola-moto-x-vs-apple-iphone-5
      AdelaP
    • iPhone Obession?

      The review is about the Moto X and how it functions, not a comparison to the iPhone. Yes Apple products tend to be spec'd conservatively, so what? They work nicely and to your childish outrage, people buy a lot of them. IOS is not my cup of tea but who cares Apple did not ask for my input, nor did Google for that matter.
      jjniss
      • I replied to the article

        You can't read? The author mentions iPhone TWICE in the article, talking about specs. Read before you reply.
        ChazzMatt
        • "author mentions iPhone TWICE"

          There are 1,216 words in the article and iPhone is mentioned 2x. WOW. Can't imagine what you're reaction would have been if iPhone had been mentioned say ... FOUR times.
          jjniss
  • "... helping bring voice control to the masses."

    How wonderful...NOT!

    As if listening to the inane conversations of people in public spaces such as restaurants, businesses, schools, public transportation, etc., etc., who are too inconsiderate...or too stupid...keep their voices down isn't annoying enough...now we get the added "feature" of having these mouth-breathers talk to their phone to have it do anything?

    I can't wait.
    IT_Fella
  • Build quality?

    Cheap plastic case? Aluminum? Durability?
    Techboy_z
  • atleast Nokia is getting recogonized!

    Thanks for shooting the Lumia 1020, and other Lumias a compliment there.
    c0ldbr3w
  • I love Moto..But sorry, after 3 the affair is over

    It's enough pain they aren't going to update Droid 4 with another qwerty phone, and nobody else makes a decent slideout qwerty anymore...so that being even...Why has Motorola decided to leave MicroSD slots and HDMI connectors off their new round of phones? This seems to be a trend among manufacturers, maybe cutting costs, or following Apple in upselling an additional 16GB of memory for $100 instead of a $20 card. It makes me sad...Its also going to make me a Galaxy S4 buyer. I was excited about the Droid Ultra and Maxx, I really was.
    NotMSUser
  • The Elephant in the Room

    Most Moto X reviews make a big deal about the customization of the phone. However, not much, is anything is said about the fact that customization is only available on AT&T, a carrier that is consistently listed last as far as user satisfaction is concerned. I think this was a gigantic marketing mistake by Google/Motorola. AT&T must have forked over big $$$ to get the exclusive. Great (in the short-run) for Motorola, but that will prevent me from even considering the Moto X.
    hubsm
  • HTC One or MotoX

    Which one do you recommend. i am looking at handset which is good at taking photos, browsing, navigation (as i travel a lot), battery life and ofcourse a good phone

    Ben
    Ben_rockwood
    • HTC One or MotoX

      I have an LG Optimus G. Except for maybe the battery, recommend LG. IMHO
      Jimmy Jackson