By: Rohan Naravane
I have had a history of swinging between iOS and Android as my primary device. I was fairly happy with my iPhone 5 during the August of 2013, till the time the Moto X launched. Motorola has always had a special place in my heart and the Moto X hit all the right spots, making me look at my iPhone 5 with a bit of discontent. Sure, it is a fine product with a slick interface and a number of rich apps developed exclusively for the iOS platform. But iOS lacked (still does) some basic functionality that Android users have been enjoying for long.
The Moto X is far from a commercial success. Mostly because it doesn’t pack a top-of-the-line quad-core chip, 1080p display or 13+ megapixel camera like its competitors, while still being as expensive. Motorola keeps saying that they’ve deliberately steered clear of a spec war and have rather focused on the unique things that make the Moto X better than a top-tier Android phone. But alas, the market doesn’t share that belief, resulting in many price drops (from a $600 initial sale price in the US to the lowest being $329).
Now that it has come to India for almost as much as it costs in the US currently, I decided to finally give in to this fascination that I’ve had with this phone for months now. Here are my experiences:
1) There are three features that are still unique to the Moto X: Touchless Controls, Active Notifications and did I mention Touchless Controls? While you can say “OK Google” on a Nexus 5 to summon Google Now from the homescreen, the phone still needs to be awake. On the Moto X, saying “OK Google Now” even when the phone is on standby wakes it up, thanks to the third microphone and a co-processor. In my experience, the phone was able to recognise my command roughly 8 out of 10 times. That’s good enough for me! Funny thing is though, it also responded to some other people who don’t really sound like me. I drive a lot, and this feature is extremely useful as I’m able to place calls, send text messages, make it read my notifications, navigate to a place, look up a phone number and more; all without taking my eyes off the road and my hands off the steering wheel. Not to say it’s always accurate; but at least it understands my Indian accent far better than Siri on my iPhone ever did. And it’s not just about recognition, it’s also about the ocean of data that Google uses to find what I exactly want and put it in a neat little card (Knowledge Graph). For example, asking for “Dominos in Goregaon” presented me with not only the address and map, but even its phone number that I could just tap and call. Beware JustDial, beware.
Next comes the Active Notifications. At first glance, it reminds you of the clock and notifications that used to show up on AMOLED-screened Nokia phones like the N8 even on standby. But the Moto X does more. Instead of a multi-coloured LED light found on typical Android devices, the Moto X’s standby screen keeps breathing with the time and the icon of the last app that received a notification. Press it and you get to read the notification. Swipe upwards to jump right into the app, swipe sideways to dismiss — all possible without even pressing the power button. The Moto X uses sensors to turn on Active Notifications right after you pick up the phone from a surface or take it out of your pocket. This glanceable information is quite useful as it reduces the number of redundant button presses to check the overflowing notifications that typically arrive on my smartphone. Although it worked as advertised most of the times, there was an instance or two when I just wanted to look at the time and the screen didn’t light up. I hope this is refined further with a software update.
2) Speaking of the physical aspects, Motorola has this incredible knack for packing well-sized display into a compact body. Whoever has handled a Motorola Defy will know of this. And it’s no different with the Moto X — it’s only marginally larger than my iPhone 5, yet holds a screen that’s almost an inch bigger. Although it’s no match for the aluminium-wrapped enclosure of the iPhone, it’s built really really well. With respect to battery life, it runs as long as any typical Android phone today would (about 14 hours of heavy use, can touch up to 24 hours with moderate use). Considering how pathetic battery life has become for iPhones after the iOS 7.1 update, this is pretty acceptable.
3) Somebody asked me why I didn’t buy the Nexus 5 instead of the Moto X? I told him, “I bought a Moto X because I wanted a Moto X. Android was just a consequence of that action”. There’s no denying that the polish that you generally find on iOS and its apps is still missing from Android. But having said that, I’m also glad for not being subjected to some limitations of iOS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into rooting phones or changing to a new launcher every week. But there are things like notifications that I can just swipe away, or the fact that I can share data across 3rd party apps easily (for e.g, add a URL to pocket from the Chrome browser). Or, how there’s a cellular data manager built-in, or how Google Now offers contextual information (like the traffic situation on my way to work and home). No more opening of stupid Apple Maps when somebody shares their location on WhatsApp, only to then click the ‘Open with Google Maps’ option. No more scrolling through the entire camera roll to find a screenshot because Android puts ’em in a separate ‘screenshot’ folder.
4) A lot of people have been lambasting the Moto X because it only has a ‘dual-core processor’. But after having used the phone extensively for a couple of days, I cannot remember a single moment when I felt the phone was laggy. Maybe because it’s got a powerful Adreno 320 graphics chip coupled to a fast 1.7GHz chip and an ample 2GB RAM. Maybe because it has 99% stock Android, without any manufacturer UI customisation. Maybe because it’s running Android 4.4 KitKat, which boasts of faster performance than previous Android versions. Maybe it’s a combination of all the three. My father uses a two-year old Galaxy Nexus which was launched with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and has become only better speed-wise, with each version update (fairly usable even today). Even if the Moto X phone runs the way it runs today for the next two years, I’d say I’ve got my money’s worth.
This may sound like a typical iPhone to Android convert story that people way more famous than me have written about. But this is not just that; this is the story of a really unique Android phone that swayed away an iPhone 5 user.
About Author:Rohan Naravane is the Product and Content Head at PriceBaba. He loves to express his views about Technology on Twitter @r0han.
Awesome story which I will use to sway my friend who is an iPhone user…
I totally agree with you about google now-understands my indian accent very well on my black moto x
Really a very very nice article bro… Whatever you have told is cent percent correct… But the only one small problem with Moto X is relatively smaller battery life. I am using DroidMAXX, actually Moto X with 5″ screen + JUMBO 3500mAh battery + wireless charging. Now I have unlocked its BL and rooted the same.. Its better than any phone in market now, imho…
Especially the active notifications is mind blowing feature. How many times it has saved the power button presses is countless…
Another thing you forget is twist your wrist twice for camera… Nice one too… That 10MPx Camera is also better than many 8MPx Sammy phones, especially in low light.. (But in bright outdoor light, Sammy beats it — still a good camera, imho)
Hats off to you bro…
Rohan, are you the same who was with techtree? Coz if yes, i had bought moto defy on your recommendation and review. Missed you, now found on pricebaba, will follow to get your logical views.
Yes Depp, it’s me. 🙂
Glad to have reconnected with you.
I too bought Moto G last month and am happy with my purchase lot. With the price point, this is the best phone one can get.
didnt mention anything about the camera?
Sorry. Well, I’d call the Moto X camera as above average. Definitely a step down from my iPhone 5’s camera. For those wondering about its comparison to Moto G’s, it’s definitely a lot better than that.
Hey, good article. I’m very happy with my moto x as well. While I agree with everything you said, you forgot to address the quality of the camera with its clear pixel technology. The camera is the only thing that’s sub-par with this phone. It’s not bad, but it’s nowhere close to the rest of the flagships out there, especially in low light. Colors are muted even in good light. I’ve found that 3rd party camera apps are a must if you like to take pictures. However, the overall experience of the phone more than makes up for the camera.
Couldn’t agree more. I bought this phone based on the reviews combined with the price offering after my galaxy died. I now feel like I upgraded…
Why didn’t you try #ART instead of dalvik which a normal use can do.. I bet you would never want to go to iPhone anymore.. IPhone played a sick life with always navigating to its own app and not giving an option to go with my own favorite apps..