One month with the Motorola X, the big phone that almost could


Motorola started selling the Moto X last year in the US and brought the flagship phone to Europe starting this month. The smartphone will debut in France, the UK and Germany for a £399 ($650) or €399 ($520), which puts the phone slightly above the Nexus 5 (£299) in price. Is the Moto X worth the hype Motorola has been giving it? Read on to find out.For the past month, I’ve been using the Moto X as my daily driver, and it has made quite an impression on me. First and foremost, the phone has a fabulous screen and a fast processor. The Moto X kept pace with my constant emailing, tweeting and chatting without skipping a beat. The size of the phone is just perfect — it’s big enough for browsing and watching media, but is not too big to fit in a baggy pocket.


What’s Under the Hood
The Moto X comes with an impressive hardware list that includes a 4.7-inch AMOLED display with 720P resolution, a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro dual-core processor or 1.7GHz Dual-Core Krait CPU depending the market, a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Connectivity options include WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC and 4G LTE. The Moto X ships with a 10-megapixel CLEAR PIXEL rear-facing camera with support for 1080P video and 4X digital zoom. A 2-megapixel front-facing camera supports 1080P HD video calling. The Moto X runs Android 4.4 KitKat.


The Moto X is dominated by a gorgeous AMOLED display with plastic trim on the sides. The back is a composite blend that is smooth to the touch, but grippy enough that it won’t easily slip from your fingers. The bottom of the device has a micro USB charging port, while the sides sport a SIM card tray, a power button, and a volume rocker. The SIM tray is flush with the edges, while the buttons are slightly raised.  The top has a headphone jack, while the back is home to the speaker, camera module and LED flash. The back has a dimpled Motorola logo underneath the camera, which I found useful when taking pictures as it let me know where my fingers were in relation to the camera. The construction of the Moto X was quality with the handset only picking up a few superficial scratches after a month of case-free use.


Software Enhancements
One of the best features of the Moto X is its Active Display. This feature detects motion like pulling your phone out of your pocket or picking it up off a desk. It then turns on the display, allowing you to tap the icon and view your recent notifications  right on the lock screen. It gives you a glance at your most important notifications when you need them the most. If there is an item that needs your attention, you can simply slide your finger downwards to unlock the phone.


A close second to Active Display is Motorola’s implementation of Touchless Control and Google Now, which allows you to activate the voice assistant without touching the phone. You can simply use the phrase “Ok Google Now” followed by instructions like “What’s the weather?” As long as you are in a relatively quiet environment and you’ve trained your voice, then the voice assistant works surprisingly well. It’s not perfect, but it is more successful than S-Voice on Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and Siri on the iPhone 5s.

A few other handy features are built into the camera app and include Quick Capture, which allows you to tilt your phone a few times to activate the camera and a touch to focus and shoot gesture, which lets you tap on the screen to pick an object for the camera to capture.


Speaking of the camera, it is the most disappointing feature of the Moto X. Focusing and shooting is fast, but the resulting images are mediocre. The camera UI is easy to use, with a quick toggle to switch from camera to video mode and swipe to pull open the settings. Performance is spotty, with some photos coming out almost perfect (below) and others horribly under- or over-exposed (above).


Dark or low light shots require a flash, but don’t get too close as the brightness of the LED will wash out your subject. The Moto X is not the worst camera phone I have used, but it’s far from the best either. Unlike the Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5s which I would pull out at a moments notice, I’m just not excited to use the Moto X when shooting as most of the photos are dark and bland.


The Moto X is a solid phone for Android users who are not picky about their camera. The build quality is good, and it has a few bells and whistles like Active Display that add to the overall enjoyable experience of using the phone. For UK residents, another drawback is the £399.95 price of the phone, which puts the Moto X among the most expensive in the smartphone market. When all is said and done, I am happy with the Moto X and will keep it as a backup phone. I only paid $349 (£215 or €184) for it, and it’s definitely worth that cost. It’ll be handy to pull out when I need a phone that is reliable, but it’s not a phone I will pull out to impress my friends with “a check out this cool feature” the next time we are out.