Why the Moto X is the best [Android] phone of 2013

The Moto X was not a success, at least not in the United States. The plant in Texas where the phones were assembled will be shut down. What this means for future Moto X type devices and how quick the turnaround is for the Moto Maker is uncertain.

This is a shame. As a diehard Android fan this new Motorola and the Moto X were wonderful advancements. I have used the Galaxy S3, S4, and S5. I have used the HTC One X, One and played with the One M8. I have used all Nexus phones extensively. Quite simply, none of those phones mean as much as the Moto X does to me. I’m not going to explain why. I’m just going to list out the things that make the Moto X so amazing.

What I love:

  1. Size. The 4.7″ screen is perfect. It helps with point #2 (phone comfort). I hear the next one is going to be 5.2″ which I really hope does not impact point #2.
  2. Comfort. The reasonable size means I can hold and pocket it very easily. It is what iPhone users enjoy on a daily basis and Android users are finding less and less of.
  3. Battery Life. All day without concern. I could not get this out of any Nexus phone I used. The ‘mid-range’ specs drain the battery less. The X8 silicon actually allows you to do MORE with your phone (see below) while using less battery.
  4. Fast Updates. This was a major reason for sticking to Nexus phones. (Aside from cost). But amazingly, Motorola updated the Moto X faster than some Nexus devices got their OTA updates! I hope Motorola continues this trend even after they release their 2014 flagship phone.
  5. Call Quality. Motorola made a phone that can make phone calls sound clear, loud.
  6. Build quality. It’s not aluminum like the One/One M8 or the iPhone, but the quality of build is to be praised. It has this heft to it that I truly enjoy. I’ve dropped it a few times without issue. The buttons are very clicky.
  7. Quality Components. The AMOLED display, the 802.11ac wifi module, the bluetooth module, the CPU/GPU and the additional cores which enable neat features I listed below all show Motorola put some thought into what went into the phone.
  8. Smooth Operation. Though it was criticized by many for having 2012 specs when released in 2013, the phone has held up better than any Android phone I have used. You would think the Nexus phones would hold up better since they lack any kind of skin (as opposed to Samsung/HTC and past Motorola phones) but you would be wrong. Now the CPU is slower than most flagship 2013 CPUs were so doing things like editing/stitching photos or loading big apps will be slower, but the user experience in day to day operation is smooth. The engineers at Motorola that thought to develop the new file system were, in a word, brilliant. No matter how full this phone has gotten, it never feels slow.
  9. Motorola Core App Updates. Motorola took a page from Google’s book and began updating its core apps through the Play Store. Brilliant! Everything from the Camera GUI, to Touchless Control, Motorola Assist to the boot screen animation!
  10. Active Notifications. Motorola took AMOLED to the next level. Combined with the information gleaned from sensors, the phone knows when to present me with notifications. Samsung makes AMOLED and they didn’t think to do this with their phones. (Again, what Samsung lacks in software and innovation they do make up with good hardware chops). To reiterate, this feature gives me notifications right when I need them (when I pull my phone out of my pocket, or when I simply face it up) and tells me what I got (email, text, whatever) with MINIMAL drain on battery.
  11. Touchless Control. (made possible by the X8) Google voice commands are nice but I used them rarely with my Nexus phones. I did do a lot of voice search with Nexus phones, but that was about it. However with this Moto X I am, on a daily basis, giving my phone voice commands. Telling the phone to call so and so while driving, asking about the weather, sending a text, emailing a friend. I do all this without any impact on battery life. Which was possible due to the X8’s Natural Language Processor.
  12. Motorola Assist, Driving Mode. (made possibly by the X8) It knows when I’m driving and will intelligently tell me who is calling, read texts to me and allow me to reply by voice. At first it used motion detection. Today, while fixing the Civic though I noticed that updates have made it even more intelligent. I started the Civic while the phone was in my hand and within seconds the phone kicked into driving mode. WTF? I wasn’t driving the civic, it hadn’t picked up any motion. No, the phone was using the X8 system’s natural language processor to detect engine noise and then it kicked the phone into driving mode. Why did Motorola do this? Because although the motion detection was perfect, there was always a delay of 1-2 minutes where, possibly to avoid false positives, the phone would wait to be sure you were driving before enabling Driving Mode. Now it utilizes more of its sensors to more quickly decide if you’re driving.
  13. Motorola Assist, Do Not Disturb. Every phone should have this. Maybe this should be built-in to Android. I only get disturbed if it’s important.
  14. Motorola Connect. I can get phone texts that are not using the Hangouts protocol on my browser with the Chrome extension. So for instance iMessage users love getting iMessages because it goes to their iPhone or Mac. But if someone that isn’t an iMessage user (a Windows Phone, Android or feature phone) texts them it comes as an SMS. That is NOT forwarded to their Mac and other Apple devices. However with Motorola Connect all text messages (true SMS/MMS) can come to my browser, I can view and respond right from there without ever having to pick up my phone. Of course if they’re using Hangouts then I can respond from Gmail/Google+ anyway.
  15. Quick Capture. I use my camera way more because of this feature. Sure the lock screen shortcut on KitKat makes it super easy to open the camera. But what can be easier than Quick Capture? As I’m pulling the phone out of my pocket I just give it a little shake and I’m already snapping.
  16. I designed my phone. The Motomaker is genius.
  17. Trusted Bluetooth. The iPhone 5s brought one of the best security measures to a phone, namely its fingerprint scanner. However this feature is pretty nice too. The phone, when alone, is locked with some sort of passcode or other security feature. However, if I am wearing a bluetooth device (headphones, watch, whatever) that is ‘trusted’ the phone stays unlcoked (or at least has a simple slide to unlock mechanism). Great convenience. Though I don’t use this often, but maybe when I get a Moto360 watch I will use this on a daily basis.
  18. Motorola Skip. Uses NFC to do the same thing as above. Brings convenience to me so I don’t deal with a passcode but when the phone is not near any of my Skip tags I can be rest assured it is locked.
  19. Speaker. It’s loud.

I love the phone. I have never once thought about rooting it or installing custom ROMs for more features because I would miss the Motorola features.

Here is what I don’t like:

  1. Camera is not great. The pictures can be amazing during the day but are noisy at night. I’m satisfied but not happy about the camera’s quality. (again though, the best camera is the one you have and the one you have at the right moment, for that reason I’d gladly give up the best smartphone camera for the smartphone camera that lets me launch it fast)
  2. No microSD. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, but it is a strength of the Android ecosystem and Motorola should play this up. I bought the 32GB phone and I can now use an OTG USB Drive that has one end for regular USB 3.0 ports and the other for micro USB 2.0 to hook into the phone directly, but nevertheless it would be nice if a future Moto X included this.
  3. Price. Specifically, the launch price. You would think with all the features I mentioned it deserves to be priced as it was when released. But no. Sadly the phone did not earn the $579 off contract price it launched with. Motorola had to win over past users of the clunky/slow Droid phones they made years prior and they were competing with admittedly lower specs. To that end they should have launched the phone at the price it sits at now, $349-399 depending on phone storage size. If the phone had launched at that price and they had better advertising, I think it would have been a runaway hit.
  4. Exclusive Launch features. At launch the Moto Maker was only on AT&T. I have AT&T so I didn’t mind but it stymied a bunch of potential sales because people on other carriers who were genuinely interested in the phone decided to wait until they could buy the phone customized the way they want. That was a terrible decision on Motorola’s part. (Granted maybe they weren’t yet ready to accept orders in that volume but the solution isn’t to make it exclusive to one carrier, rather they should have charged extra initially).

My thoughts on how Motorola should launch their next phone.

  1. Better advertisement. I liked the ones w/ the Moto X but they were a little too weird for the mass public. In addition to better TV/internet advertising, they need to convince those spec-crazy Android users that they’re looking at the wrong specs.
  2. Price. Pricing will be ever so important. As U.S. carriers are moving away from subsidized phones, and rumors are suggesting the iPhone’s price may go up, a solid launch with updated specs, better advertising and a reasonable price is all it needs to steal away not just iPhone users but also other Android users. Take the guessing game away and launch a one-radio model in the U.S. (like the iPhone 5s is) and advertise the heck out of the fact that with a feature-rich $450 phone (or whatever price) users can join any major carrier in the U.S. without having to worry about contracts.
  3. Provide bundle deals with the Moto360. The internet is extremely interested in this smart watch. Use it to sell the phone, and use the phone to sell the watch.
  4. Certify the next Moto X as a Silver device. I’m sure the current Moto X could certify as silver given the quick updates and virtually stock Android it runs. If you certify the next device as Silver as soon as Google launches that program you can get free advertising for doing what you were going to do anyway (launch a near-stock Android device).
  5. Continue to stick with the Motorola brand. Lenovo is a great company but mentioning its impending ownership, or mentioning Google, is not necessary. Stick with Motorola.
  6. Target other Android users. iPhone users are always a good target but really you’re trying to compete with Samsung and perhaps HTC and LG. Appeal to current Samsung users by running side-by-side comparisons of a Touch-wiz heavy Galaxy phone against a supposed low-spec Moto X+1 phone to show how much faster the Moto is. Also show another comparison where you have the two phones near-capacity and show how the Moto maintains its speedy interface whereas the Galaxy slows down. You need microSD to compete against the Galaxy line.

I really hope Lenovo does not screw up the wonderful things Motorola is doing. One year’s sales are not enough. It will take some time to earn back the trust people lost with Motorola after the years of clunky phones (RAZR to 2012). Lenovo should give Motorola that time. Motorola should continue doing what it’s doing at the mid-to-low range with the Moto G and Moto E.

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