The most underrated business phone of last year is getting a complete overhaul for 2014. Motorola unveiled the new Moto X, an Android smartphone that packs all the unique features of the original into a device that's bigger, faster and better-looking. Its standout features include a bright 5.2-inch display, a slick aluminum frame and better hands-free controls. All that comes in a device that's pretty affordable compared to other flagship smartphones. Get a hands-on look at the new Moto X on our sister site Laptop Mag, or read on for five features that make it good for work.
Better voice commands
Always-listening voice controls were one of the best features of the original Moto X, and they're even better with the updated Moto X. In a nutshell, the feature lets you take notes, set a reminder or even send an email, all without ever touching your device. The first Moto X let you wake up your phone by saying, "OK, Google," and then speaking your command to perform a huge variety of actions totally hands-free. The new Moto X lets you set any "wake-up" phrase you want. It also includes an extra microphone that helps isolate your voice from ambient noise, so it's more reliable at hearing and responding correctly to your commands.
Other phones, such as the iPhone 5s, let you activate a voice command prompt by pressing a button, and some devices, such as Google's Nexus 5, let you activate the prompt with your voice, but only when the screen is on. The Moto X is currently the only smartphone that lets you perform actions completely hands-free. It can even help you find your work phone if you left it in a jacket pocket or set it behind a stack of books. Just say your "wake-up" phrase to active the command prompt, and then state, "Find my phone," to make it beep loudly.
When it debuted in 2013, the original Moto X bucked the trend of smartphones with bigger and bigger displays, with a pretty compact 4.7-inch screen. Motorola has gone the other way with the new Moto X, which sports a 5.2-inch screen that's bigger than the average flagship phone; in comparison, Samsung's relatively large Galaxy S5 has just a 5.1-inch display.
Overall, the bigger screen is a plus for most business users, providing way more screen space to work on. It gives you more room for everyday tasks like managing your email inbox, and makes screen-intensive tasks, like editing a document on your smartphone, actually feasible. However, that increase in screen real estate comes at the expense of portability; the new Moto X is significantly larger and heavier than last year's version. It's also a bit harder to use with one hand, so users with small hands might want to pass.
What would a fresh new smartphone be without a processor boost? The 2014 Moto X packs a speedy quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip with 2GB of RAM, compared to the Snapdragon 800 and 1GB of RAM in last year's phone. In practical terms, that means business users can enjoy faster overall performance and snappier multitasking. The original Moto X was more than fast enough for basic tasks, but the new version delivers enough oomph for serious work.
One of the best features of the first Moto X was Active Display, and it returns on the 2014 Moto X. The feature uses the Moto X's display to pulse visual notifications for emails, text messages or missed calls as they arrive, right on the screen, even when the phone is asleep. Since the phone sports an AMOLED display, it can light up only the portion of the screen needed to show the notification, so the feature doesn't drain your battery. You can place a finger on the notification to display more details about it, and then swipe up to jump straight to the corresponding text message or email for a quick reply, straight from the lock screen. In other words, it lets you view and respond to alerts more quickly and easily, so you can stop fiddling with your phone and get back to work.
The new Moto X improves upon the old Active Display functionality in one small way. The phone features a light sensor that can detect when you wave your hand over the device. If you notice your phone pulsing a notification, wave your hand to display more details about it — without ever touching your phone.
The new Moto X is set to deliver flagship features at a pretty affordable price compared to other flagship phones. It will launch on major carriers for $100 with a two-year contract — about half as much as many other premium devices like Samsung's Galaxy S5. Buyers who don't want to commit to a pricey contract have the option to pick up the Moto X for $499 off-contract. If that seems like a lot to pay for a smartphone, consider that the Galaxy S5 costs $599 if you buy it unlocked.
The bottom line is that while the Moto X isn't cheap, it's a slightly more affordable option for budget-minded business users in the market for a flagship phone. And thanks to its speedy internals and attractive metal frame, Motorola's new flagship phone easily stands up to rival devices.