Motorola's new flagship Android phone is a big, powerful device that costs half as much as competing smartphones. It also includes a slew of productivity-boosting features you won't find anywhere else. But how does the new Moto X stand up against other flagship phones?
The Moto X has been reimagined as a 5.2-inch (13.2 centimeters) smartphone that dwarfs the original 4.7-inch (12 cm) version, which launched last summer. That's a plus for business users, since the big new screen gives you a lot more room to work on. Motorola also packed in a speedier processor and added metal trim to up the phone's premium appeal. But unique software features are the real highlights of this smartphone. That includes the best touchless controls you'll find on any mobile device. And all those features come on a device that starts at just $99 with a two-year contract.
But the new Moto X isn't for everyone. Compared to the original 4.7-inch model, the big phone is harder to use in one hand. It delivers decent battery life, but can't quite compete with the longevity of other flagship phones. And it lacks a microSD card slot, so you can't add extra storage later on. So is the 2014 Moto X good for business? Read on to find out.
The original Moto X was less powerful than competing smartphones of the time, but Motorola wasn't content to lag behind this year. The company's second-gen flagship is on par with flagship Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8. Under the hood, the new Moto X boasts a powerful 2.5-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. Overall, this phone delivers extremely snappy performance and smooth multitasking.
Compared to the original, 4.7-inch display on the first-gen Moto X, the 5.2-inch screen on the new model seems positively huge. But is it too big? First, the good: The new Moto X gives you a lot more space to work. Editing documents and spreadsheets in Google Docs was a lot more comfortable on the bigger phone, and so was managing my email inbox and browsing the Web. The 1920 x 1080-pixel panel delivers sharp, colorful images on par with competing flagship phones.
Now for the bad: The Moto X is a big phone, and that makes it harder to hold and use with one hand. I frequently had to awkwardly tilt the device in my palm in order to reach across the big, 5.2-inch display, especially when reaching up to pull down the notification tray. Still, the Moto X is actually more compact overall than other flagship phones, despite having a larger screen than the Galaxy S5, which sports a smaller, 5.1-inch (13 cm) display, and the HTC One M8, which has a 5-inch (12.7 cm) screen. Users with small hands might want to opt for a smartphone with more manageable dimensions, so try before you buy.
The original Moto X was a pretty slick smartphone, with a smooth, rounded back. It also gave users the ability to customize the colors and materials via Motorola's Moto Maker website. The new Moto X delivers a similar design, though scaled up and with a few notable improvements. That includes a new aluminum frame around the edges of the device, which gives it a more premium feel compared to its all-plastic predecessor. In other words, it's a smartphone that business users can take seriously.
And the expanded Moto Maker website lets you order your Moto X in the exact combination of colors and materials that will match your personal style. You can select from 25 different backs, which come in 17 different colors. That includes four leather backs and four backs made from real wood; you'll pay a $25 surcharge to upgrade from the standard plastic back to a premium material. You can also add an accent color for details like the phone's power and volume buttons.
The real highlight of the Moto X is its always-listening voice commands, a feature you won't find on any other smartphone. Just say, "OK, Google Now," to activate the voice command prompt, then issue a command such as, "Remind me to meet Joe at 3 p.m. on Thursday," to automatically receive an alert when the time comes. Since the Moto X is always listening for your command, you can complete all sorts of tasks without ever touching the phone, even when the display is turned off. And the new Moto X actually lets you set a custom command to activate the voice prompt; the original Moto X only recognized "OK, Google Now."
And the feature is not just a gimmick. The ability to save a note in just a few seconds using voice dictation, instead of typing it out on a tiny touch screen, makes note-taking apps feel relevant and useful. And the ability to pull up turn-by-turn directions while driving by using the "Navigate to" command will let you get where you need to go, without compromising your safety. Other handy voice commands include "Find my phone," which makes your device beep loudly; "What's up," which prompts your phone to give you a rundown of your latest notifications; and "What's the weather," which makes your phone state the day's forecast out loud. Doling out commands while your phone is sitting on your desk is satisfying, and since it lets you perform small actions without fiddling with your phone, it can make you more productive.
Like the original Moto X, the updated model lets you view and act on alerts and notifications more easily than on other smartphones. That's thanks to a feature called Moto Display (formerly known as Active Display) that lets you see your alerts without touching the device. When a new email arrives, for example, the Moto X pulses an image of your email app, showing a white icon on a blank background to conserve battery power. Pressing and holding the icon shows a preview of the message right on your lock screen. You can slide up to jump straight to your email app, or swipe to the side to dismiss the alert. The functionality is intuitive and streamlined, since you don't have to pick up and unlock your device to check your alerts every time your phone buzzes. And it lets you act on incoming messages quickly, so you can spend less time fussing with your smartphone and more time working.
Motorola packed in a few extra software features that will give business users a boost. The first is Moto Assist, which lets you set up rules for how you interact with your Moto X. For example, you can set your device to automatically silence alerts every day at the same time, so you're not interrupted during recurring morning meetings.
Wave to Silence is another useful feature that lets you quickly quiet incoming calls and alarms by waving your hand over the display; the Moto X uses a light sensor to detect your waving. That way you can minimize interruptions when they do occur. Meanwhile, Moto Assist can automatically detect when you're driving, using your phone's built-in GPS sensor, and read your emails aloud to you. That way you can stay up to date on incoming work messages, even when you're on the road.
And while other flagship smartphones from Samsung, HTC and LG come with tweaked versions of the Android operating system, which add new menus and layouts, the Moto X runs on a nearly stock version of Android 4.4 KitKat. It's clean and attractive, and free from most of the useless manufacturer-installed apps that come on other devices.
The new Moto X offers decent longevity, with more than enough battery power to get most users through the workday. In tests, the phone lasted about 7 hours and 30 minutes with continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's about on par with the smartphone average, and shorter than some competing devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5 (8 hours and 40 minutes) and the HTC One M8 (9 hours and 40 minutes). More-active users can invest in the Motorola Turbo Charger, a separate accessory that the company says can add up to 8 hours of average use with just 15 minutes of charging.
The new Moto X is a big, fast smartphone with a slew of standout features. And its extremely affordable $99 price tag makes it one of the best bargains in mobile tech. It's not perfect: In addition to middling battery life, it packs a lackluster camera, though that feature might be less important for business users who are in the market for a new work phone. Buyers who want a smartphone that can actually make them more productive won't be disappointed, and the phone's affordability is just icing on the cake.