What's right (and wrong) with the Motorola Moto X

What's right (and wrong) with the Motorola Moto X

Summary: What does Motorola's latest Android handset bring to a market already saturated with already awesome Android-powered handsets?

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TOPICS: Android, Smartphones
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(Source: Motorola)

The lid has been lifted off the first fruit of Google's assimilation of Motorola with the début of the Motorola Moto X. But what does latest Android handset bring to a market already saturated with already awesome Android-powered handsets?

Does it have what it takes to make a splash?

What's right with the Moto X?

  • Almost pure Android experience – Closest to the Nexus experience short of getting a Nexus. If you want a crap-free Android experience, this is certainly a selling point.
  • Great-looking screen – 4.7-inch, 720 x 1280 pixels, 316 pixel-per-inch, AMOLED display. Very nice.
  • Custom architecture – the X8 architecture makes use of a dual-core Snapdragon S4 Pro clocked at 1.7GHz, a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, and two specialized cores one that are used for natural language and the other for contextual computing. This deviation away from using a single chip to do everything is innovative.
  • Great battery life – 24 hours of battery life is certainly a huge win!
  • Smooth UI – There's enough performance crammed under the Moto X hood to make Android run silky-smooth.
  • Sleek, ergonomic design – Fits nicely in the palm of the hand.

What's wrong with the Moto X?

  • Contract price of $199 – Yikes, I'd prefer to see this handset available for $99 to those willing to be shackled to a multi-year contract.
  • Untested custom architecture – While the X8 architecture is innovative, it is highly untested.
  • Voice control – I've yet to come across a voice control system, no matter how good it is, that people continue to use once the novelty has worn off. While the Moto X's voice control is again an innovative feature that makes use of a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, whether it is "sticky" remains to be seen.
  • Performance – The Moto X can't keep up with Snapdragon 600-equipped handsets in the benchmarks.
  • No card slot – Motorola's passive aggressive way to sell you the 32GB version over the cheaper 16GB handset.
  • Android 4.2.2 – Not the Android 4.3 that powers the new Nexus hardware.
  • Build quality – The Moto X is plasticky, with buttons that rattle about. Not a huge issue, but this is a handset that's costing you $199 on top of a contract.

Bottom line

I like the Moto X, but I think that it's not enough phone for the $199 plus contract price tag. Drop that price to $99 (plus contract) and the Moto X becomes quite compelling.

There's a lot of interesting technology crammed inside the handset, and it is certainly worth taking a look at.

Topics: Android, Smartphones

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67 comments
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  • "Almost pure Android experience"??

    "Almost pure Android experience":
    what does that mean or not mean?
    captainhurt@...
    • Topic: Android

      Captain,
      Manufacturers sometimes use their own software for things like the camera. I have a Motorola Droid 4 (love it BTW) with a great camera, but it is not the same software that comes with Android natively. That means that books, helps, tips, tricks which address the Android camera app don't apply to my phone. No big deal to me but it annoys some folks.
      Bill Housley
      • Topic: Android as if there is one...

        Bill that is a mis-nomer, "Android native" only means one company's version of Android... and that company has something like 4 major releases, that apps do not work with, all of which have similar market shares, and the latest version isn't even the largest market share...

        what that means is there is no "native Android" not even close... 9 of 10 apps will fail to run or run badly on any one of the 400 or 500 different devices out there... and that is just in the last 5 years...

        and that 1 app will have trouble with the processor and the screen size too, so it is a goldilocks experience except there are 1000 different bowls to choose from...

        a testing company set up a test that was unrelated and got literally 2000 different versions of android recorded on an open port......

        THERE IS NO NATIVE ANYTHING about Android. there isn't even an Android "market share", ask someone what they think that means? and you will get about 200 different answers... including people including kindle readers in there, a Reader that can't run hardly any Android apps.
        Honk Jhonk
        • for example:

          for example: "Adreno 320 GPU, and two specialized cores one that are used for natural language and the other for contextual computing. This deviation away from using a single chip to do everything is innovative"

          yet somehow this is "native" not a single app that you can download from the "android market" can use any of this. nor have any of them been put through a test on the new main chip...

          literally this just added yet another headache for any app writers (that are left) trying to write "good software".... let alone the headache this leaves consumers when their apps fail...

          the reason you buy a smartphone at all is for the apps... without them it is just a dorky brick (and a very large brick at that) in your pocket....

          Android is destroying Android... you get to pick which one of those is "native"....
          Honk Jhonk
          • another example:

            ------Android 4.2.2 – Not the Android 4.3 that powers the new Nexus hardware-------

            soooo.... which one is "native" Android 4.2.2 or Android 4.3?

            or is it the market share leader in Android "nativeness", which is Android 2.3? on phones that can't be upgraded to 4.2 or 4.3? which is the vast majority of Android devices out there....

            heck even Android 3.x has 25% of the "market"... of android devices... many of which can not be upgraded to 4.2 or 4.3....

            hows that working out for apps? even though they are "native" apps to "Android"....
            Honk Jhonk
          • Fractured OS

            Wow! You just highlighted how fractured the Android OS really is....
            Zippinglou
          • Holy Inaccuracies Batman

            You obviously have zero idea what you are saying. Let's start with the factually innaccurate:

            Neither Gingerbread leads the Android OS numbers nor does Honeycomb have a 25% share of all Android devices.

            Source: http://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html

            Next, you are trying to figure out what native android is by comparing versions of android? I use Windows XP (Windows 5.1). Does that mean I do not run native Windows because the most recent version is Windows 8? (Windows 6.2) Or is mine not native because the most popular is Windows 7? (Windows 6.1) Obviously your assessment of what is native is off.

            Now to actually answer the question of what native Android is:

            Google releases the initial Android software for distribution. As the code is open-source, all companies reserve the right to modify it within guidelines set forth by the AOSP (Android Open Source Project). Most companies choose to modify the UI so that the Android on their phones "looks" different than on someone else's phone. "Native" means the original release from Google.

            Now, I mentioned that the modifications must stay within the AOSP guidelines. If they do not, you are removed from the Open Handset Alliance and you cannot have Google Apps or the Google Play Store with your OS. The best example of this is the Kindle Fire.
            CorranHorn421
          • Thanks For The Moment of Clarity Corran

            Reading Honk Jhonk's comments I was ripping my hair out. Yes, there are several versions of andriod out there but what does that have to do with what is "native" android?

            Native android is like Adam and Eve before they took a bite out of the apple. No pun intended. Pure, untarnished, and directly from the creator. As soon as a handset maker wants to mess with perfection and add their own twist on a version it is no longer native. Even the Google Play edition S4, and One aren't native anymore because each manufacture wanted to have their own special kernel that sets them apart from others. Which in turn delayed the phones from getting the 4.3 update as soon as the Nexus devices that are supposed to be running the same software.

            Sounds to me like Honk has been reading too many iOS threads and is regurgitating things that he is not an expert about. I'm not an expert, but I do know that if buy a android device from a cheap manufacture, regardless of the android version it is running, don't expect everything to run perfectly. It's not the fault of android, it is the fault of the snake that tainted the native OS in the first place. I'm running an 2 1/2 year old HTC Evo 3D that has seen it's share of updates, and I haven't had any problems running apps on any of the android versions I have run.
            Ryan Barber
          • Honk Foolishness

            Native means original! Native American = Original Americans

            The Moto X runs 4.2.2 which is very close to the original Google OS thus it is close to native. Samsung, LG and HTC have skins that are not anywhere near close to the original Google OS, and Amazon is very far removed.

            All OEMs test hardware before shipping it, and US carriers test all new hardware & software that will run on their network. BlackBerry had to wait until carriers could test their phones before being released, so the Moto X likely won't get an upgrade to 4.3 until Oct/Nov due to the need for carrier approval. Nexus devices are open so there's no need for approval.

            Apps that are incompatible for certain devices cannot be downloaded from Play so only devices that can run an app are allowed to download that app from Google. You can always sideload an apk however. Most apps are designed for Gingerbread and up or ICS and up, which makes sense since Gingerbread is no longer the dominant Android OS.
            Sim Lash
        • Issues with Backdoor Viruses, access to all information, no Anti-Virus!

          Stay away from this phone until they release a good Anti-Virus Program which protects your personal conversations with people over lunch.

          There was a very serious vulnerability disclosed earlier that allowed backdoor access to virtually all information, including pictures, and phone calls made or recieved.

          All it takes is one rogue app to have all your information, and possibly even business people over lunch, to turn on the recorder capability and send your business meetings to people at the NSA, or even worse, someone in another country.

          Also, if you happen to want to track your children this way, please check out these helpful apps, available for purchase on the ANDROID App Store.

          It's best to know whats out there. Also, if your data service runs out quickly, and before the end of the month, it's possible that you have a SPY application installed. You should call the carrier and tell them you need more data. If it happens again, the following month, you better call and tell them you think the ANDROID is defective, and dropping calls. See if you can get it replaced under warranty!

          http://www.crazyandroid.com/top-10-android-spy-apps-you-dont-want-to-miss/

          Just Beware! This is for your own good!

          http://www.f-secure.com/static/doc/labs_global/Research/Mobile%20Threat%20Report%20Q4%202012.pdf
          MalcolmTucker
          • There's an app for that?

            I'm fairly certain the NSA doesn't need an app to monitor your data, voice, and ambient off-air conversations. I'm also fairly certain an antivirus will do nothing to prevent this and all carriers and smartphone OSes are susceptible. In fact, you probably don't even need a smartphone for the NSA to listen to conversations even if your mobile is powered off (with the battery still in). I hear tinfoil works, though.
            mojojojo7
  • Storage

    Huge issue on a phone with that price. The 32gb option is only available on AT&T. I, like many, have a large library of music, videos and photos. A flagship device that does not provide storage options is plain stupid, especially in light of the other less functional "customizable" areas.
    flyguy29
    • Storage

      The SD card that I put in my Droid 4 hardly gets used it is so tiny compared with what it comes with. I haven't filled it up yet, even though I'm a storage hog. 32 gig? What would I do with it all? Try to fill it of course!
      Bill Housley
    • Storage

      Phone will provide user with an additional 65 GB of cloud space on Google drive. With your Gmail account you will get 15GB plus for buying Moto X you will get an additional 50 GB for two years at no cost. Phone manufactures including Samsung will be eliminating expandable hardware storage like micro SD slots. In addition to that you will have Google All Access music which will allow you to play just about every song ever professionally produced. You say you want your own iTunes library fine store 20,000 songs from your iTunes library to Google All Access music. Cloud storage is and will be the storage of the future.
      brablamotoagent@...
      • You must work for the carriers

        Cloud storage would be the future if there weren't data caps. 65 GB cloud storage, how much would that cost you to use without wifi? And what does it cost you when the 2 years is up if you do commit to using that 50 GB free for 2 years? Your entire post is so PRO Carrier and extra charges, you really do seem like you are trying to sell people on it. The cloud is great when you have unlimited data or wifi available all the time. But when I'm driving to work and back 30 minutes each way I don't have wifi, I don't even have reliable 4G the entire trip. There is no reason besides screwing the customer to have less than 32 GB in a phone that has no expandable storage. We've been at this storage point for over 2 years! While processors and GPU and screen quality are all doubling or more each in performance we get stuck with the same old storage and more and more phones are losing the expandable storage. If you think the carriers aren't encouraging this to charge more for their data/overages to people with a lot of storage needs then you are dumb or work for them.
        JoeNM84
        • Don't buy the phone under contract

          If you are worried about data overages my suggestion would be to either move to carrier that has unlimited data or buy the phone outright on Verizon and keep your unlimited data plan. I agree with you that the shared plans are only a way for the carriers to charge excessive overages. I've bought my last two phones on Verizon without a contract and I continue to keep my unlimited data plan. I wouldn't be to worried about what happens after the two years because likely cloud storage will be so cheap that it won't matter.
          brablamotoagent@...
          • Under Contract

            That's good for you, but you're the small minority that has unlimited data. The trend has been to move to limited data with data caps: This Alone has killed the cloud's growth right now... and as terrestrial providers play with the idea the cloud itself will die out completely.

            It's nice to offer Cloud storage, but on a mobile device for an average user? Yeah, I hear "Cloud Storage" and go "Awww... can't use that but it's nice."

            But yeah.. No sale for me: No access to the battery AND no SD Card slot? IF I wanted that kind of experience I'd already be using an iPhone.
            zithero@...
          • REALLY?

            Only Tmobile and Sprint currently offer real unlimited data. Sprints is only while 'on the Sprint Network" - not roaming and most people say the Sprint network is not very good. Tmobile may have decent coverage, which is getting better, in urban areas but once you get out of big cities, its spotty or non existent. Most people do not have unlimited data coverage so all the cloud talk is great in an ideal world. Same with all the phones fancy features and updates and widgets and notifications. Thats great but by mid afternoon, my phone is dead
            MatRod6
        • agree

          this totally sounds like a corporate shill, working for a carrier. Samsung have said nothing about moving away from sd storage, & this is, incidentally, one of the reasons they're doing so well. I have a 64 gig card in my S4, and only about 5 gigs of that is free right now. I shudder to think what it'd cost to access it on 3G or, god forbid, 4G.
          agenius
        • exFat license fees

          Do you know that MS get money for every android phone sold with a micro SD thank to their exFat patent. Do you believe Motorola or Google want to pay exFat license to MS? Google proposed cloud storage as alternatives which are for me fine since all my data, music, photos are already stored in Google drive. For other android phone makers, instead of paying MS, I believe their new smartphones will come with more internal storage ( 256 GB) and no external storage. Anyway the more internal storage , the more backup storage you will need. Google Drive, Google play musics and Google plus photos are the most integrated cloud storage for android smart phones. Imagine what happen if you loose your smartphone with 128 GB of valuable data without backup? I personally believe that 32 GB of internal storage and much more cloud storage are smart alternatives to micro SD.
          oldman60