Motorola Moto X first look

What you need to know about Motorola's hottest new phone

Published: August 01, 2013 03:00 PM

Motorola today took the wraps off the long-anticipated Moto X smart phone. The company packed it with a nice complement of features, including a 10-megapixel camera and 4.7-inch display, but clearly was more focused on usability than on the features arms race.

Motorola—now owned by Google—optimized Moto X to take full advantage of Google Now, Android's answer to Siri, the iPhone’s personal assistant. The phone also is smart about interpreting simple gestures: You can give it a slight nudge to display the time and other notifications, and a twist of the wrist will launch the camera.

The phone, one of the few to be fully assembled in the U.S. (Fort Worth, Texas), will be available on Aug. 25 from AT&T. With a two-year contract, the 16GB version will cost $200; the 32GB version will cost $250. Other carriers are expected to offer the phone too.

I had a chance to try out the phone at the event. Here's what I found.

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Voice commands

Thanks to natural-language processing, Google Now is always on standby to receive and execute complex verbal commands and to answer questions in plain English. After saying "Okay, Google Now," you can pretty much speak to the phone as you would a person: For example, you could ask it, "Did the Mets win last night?" or say, "Get me driving directions to Jim's house."

While these commands work on other late-model phones running the newest version of Android (Jelly Bean), the Moto X promises a higher level of accuracy through voice recognition, assisted by the phone's three microphones and Motorola's X8 technology. X8 is made up of several components: A Qualcomm S4Pro quad-core processor, natural language processor, and contextual computing processor. The main job of the contextual processor is to make sure the phone consumes the minimum amount of energy while in standby mode to prolong the life of the phone's 2,200mAh battery.

Quick-draw camera

When you pull the phone out of your pocket, just twist your wrist and the Moto X's 10-megapixel camera is ready to shoot. Instead of hunting for a virtual button, you merely peck with your finger anywhere on the display to shoot. The phone’s RGB-C sensor and Clear Pixel technology captures 75 percent more light for better still and video performance, particularly in low light, according to Motorola.

You'll be able to customize the color of your Moto X, among other features

What time is it?

The Moto X's Active display not only saves you the trouble of manually unlocking the screen to view the time and other notifications, but also lets you quickly respond to an e-mail or text from a locked screen. The gestures themselves are pretty smart, as well. Notifications appear when you pull the phone out of your pocket, flip it over on the desk, or just nudge it with your finger.

Motorola says the Active Display feature puts less drain on the battery than traditional methods for waking a sleeping display.

Comfortable to hold, easy to read

The phone is 65 mm wide, 129.3 mm tall, and has a curved back that is 10.4 mm at its apex, which makes it quite comfortable to hold. Yet it manages to include a large 4.7-inch AMOLED display (with 720p resolution), which appeared quite brilliant in the showroom.

Custom made

Motorola confirmed that the Moto X will be available from a variety of carriers, including Verizon and AT&T. AT&T customers will be able to customize their phone at the Make It Yours website, choosing such elements as amount of memory, color of the front (black or white) and rear case (more than a dozen colors), trim colors, their names, and more. More astounding is that Motorola promises delivery of custom phones in four days or less.

We'll have more on the Motorola Moto X as our press sample makes its rounds through our labs. Look for an update soon.

—Mike Gikas

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