By Dan Seifert
Just over a year ago, Motorola introduced its new brand and identity and launched the Moto X, a different kind of smartphone than anything before it. It could be customized differently for each and every person that bought one, something no other smartphone maker had done before (or since). And the Moto X was a critical darling, packed with innovative and user-friendly features.
Despite the critical acclaim, the Moto X didn’t turn out to be a great seller. Motorola quickly discounted the device and held frequent sales in attempts to garner interest in it. Motorola told us that specs don’t matter for a great smartphone experience, and for the most part, it was right. But they clearly did matter to the people buying high-end smartphones, and the Moto X’s smaller, lower-resolution display and older processor were easily overshadowed by the bigger, faster Android smartphones occupying store shelves.
Now Motorola is releasing an all-new, second-generation Moto X. The new, cheaper $99.99 Moto X has the same name as last year’s phone and carries over many of the same features and design traits that worked so well before. But Motorola has significantly upgraded virtually everything in the device. The new Moto X has a bigger, higher-resolution display, faster processor, premium metal frame, and improved software. It can now sit next to the Galaxys and Ones of the world and not be instantly dismissed as a smaller, slower option.
But the game has changed from last year. HTC’s One M8 is one of the nicest, best-designed smartphones ever made. Samsung still dominates the industry and its Galaxy S5 is as big a seller as it has ever been. Even LG is making better hardware than ever with the G3. And Apple is expected to announce the most radically different iPhone in years this week. Motorola’s challenges have never been bigger.
Fortunately for Motorola and its new parent company Lenovo, the new Moto X is a home run.
Last year, the Moto X’s smaller display made the phone great for one-handed use, but it didn’t stand out against the Samsungs and HTCs on store shelves. But the new Moto X is a different animal. It has a 5.2-inch, 1080p AMOLED display that’s bigger than what the latest from HTC and Samsung offer. And it’s a high quality screen: it’s sharper, brighter, bigger, and just nicer to look at than the previous model. It has tremendous viewing angles, punchy colors, and can be seen in bright sunlight without issue. It’s everything the display on a flagship smartphone in 2014 should be.
Motorola couldn’t increase the screen size of the Moto X by a full half-inch and not make the phone itself bigger. But even though it’s not the same one-handed ergonomic miracle as last year, the new Moto X is shorter than the HTC One M8 and the Galaxy S5, while still having a larger display than either of them. It’s big, but not nearly as big as I normally expect a 5.2-inch smartphone to be.
Part of that is because Motorola has maximized the screen’s footprint and shrunk the bezel surrounding it even further than before. Even so, it’s still managed to find room for a camera, light sensors, a new speaker, and new infrared sensors on the front of the phone. (All of those things make the front of the white model look rather busy, but the black version hides them quite well.) The speaker isn’t the same stereo setup as HTC’s One M8 (it’s located at the bottom, the earpiece occupies the top grille), but it’s clear and loud and better than any speaker mounted on the back of a phone.
The other reason the new Moto X feels smaller than it should is because of the new, metal frame that replaces the plastic on last year’s model. The metal frame is thinner, harder, and nicer feeling than the plastic one, and it actually serves more than one purpose: Motorola is using it to boost wireless signal strength and quality. Sure enough, the new Moto X grabbed onto AT&T’s LTE network better than other phones in the same area. But more importantly, it makes the new Moto X feel like the premium smartphone it should and not some mid-range, lower-cost device. The volume rocker and power button are metal too, but like last year’s phone, they are still a little too small. Fortunately, the power key has a new texture that makes it easy to find by feel.
The new Moto X looks and feels like the premium smartphone it should
The back of the phone has the same sloped design as Motorola’s other phones, and it makes the Moto X rest comfortably in my hand. The trademark dimpled finger rest is larger and more prominent with a metal ring around it, but it serves its purpose just as well. Above the dimple is a new 13-megapixel camera and dual LED flash that Motorola has arranged into a circle around the camera, aping the ring flashes used by professional photographers. My review unit has an optional bamboo finish, a carryover from the natural options Motorola introduced last year. It’s grippy, organic, unique, and just plain cool-looking. Motorola’s going even further with its custom backs this year with real leather options that also look and feel great. The Moto Maker customization program is soldiering on with more options than ever, but Motorola’s moved the actual factories that support it to China, essentially killing the dream of a US-made smartphone.
With all of those things added up, the Moto X is a well-designed phone that’s comfortable to use and looks great at the same time. It’s easier to hold than the One M8 and nicer feeling than the Galaxy S5. And you can still get it in nearly any color combination you want, which no other smartphone maker has been able to match.
Source The Verge