Moto X (2014) Review – One Of The Best Gets Even Better

Last year Motorola released the Moto X. The phone changed what we thought about specifications on phones. Normally we looked for the best specs we could get because that, in our minds, meant the best experience. However Motorola threw that idea out the window. Using a lower powered processor, a screen with less resolution, and a size that was small than most, our first thoughts of the Moto X on paper weren’t impressive. However after getting the phone in hand, those thoughts were gone instantly and in the minds of many in the technology industry and in the tech community in general, the Moto X was one of the best phones, if not the best, available. Unfortunately those feelings didn’t carry on to the consumer. This year however, Motorola went for the best of both worlds bringing a phone that was impressive on paper, but still kept the idea of the bare essentials in mind. Over the past few weeks I’ve been using the Moto X on AT&T and in this review I’ll be giving you my thoughts on this amazing phone.

Specs

  • 5.2” Inch 1080p AMOLED Display
  • 2.3GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 801 Processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16, 32GB Storage – Non-expandable
  • 2,300 mAh Battery – Non-removable
  • 13MP Rear Camera w/ Dual-LED Ring Flash
  • 2MP Front Camera

Hardware & Design

A huge part of the Moto X is the hardware. Simply put it’s some of the best in the business. Hands down one of the best built phones on the market. With a metallic frame, curved plastic back, and sturdy overall build, it feels great in the hand and looks great to the eye. The curved back means the phone feels absolutely wonderful in the hand and fits in the palm of your hand just right. The cold feel of the aluminum edges in the morning is also a wonderful addition to the phone.



The design of last year’s Moto X is very obviously apparent in this version from the location of the ports to that dimple on the back that I still can’t understand everyone, including myself, loves so much. This year it’s far bigger than last time, and that’s one of the biggest complaints I have with the appearance of this phone. I still can’t get myself to look at the back of this phone without wishing that the dimple, or I guess you could call it a bowl, was just a bit small and more subtle. This all sounds great, but we haven’t even touched on the biggest feature of the Moto X’s hardware yet, it’s all about that customization.

Just like last year you can customize your Moto X just how you like with whatever colors, accents, or materials you want. This year Motorola added even more options and even added leather to it’s list of options for the back of the phone. No, I’m not kidding, genuine leather. The unit I had in hand for this review was the Bamboo model that Motorola seems to love over all the rest.

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There are few complaints to be made with the Moto X, but of course I had to find a couple. One complaint is how slick the phone is. No not how cool it looks, but how slippery it is. When pulling the phone out of my pocket I really need to check and make sure that I’ve got a good grip because otherwise the phone slides around in my hand. Another small complaint I had with the phone is the front. I’ve never been a fan of having white bezels on the front of a phone for numerous reasons, but never before have I resented white bezels as much as I have on the 2014 Moto X. Since the Moto X has sensors galore on the front side, this phone just looks straight up ugly in my opinion when it has white bezels. This can however be easily remedied, get a black front.

The only huge problem for me however is the fact that this phone quite literally can’t sit still. If you place this phone down on a table and try to use it at all, you’re going to have this thing spinning, wobbling, and eventually you’ll just give up and pick the dang thing up. The curved back feels great in the hand for sure, but on a table it’s just unusable. On the brightside, it makes a great game (spin the Moto X anyone?), and an even better gif.

The hardware on the 2014 Moto X is without a doubt one of the top contenders in the Android space and even in smartphones in general. There are few that can compete with the look and feel of what Motorola has going with the Moto X.

Display

Unlike last year where Motorola opted for a small, 720p panel, we have a run of the mill 5.2” inch 1080p display in the 2014 Moto X, and that’s not a bad thing. The display is easy to use one-handed thanks to the small bezels which is a huge plus for many users. The display is an AMOLED panel which means one thing, colors are going to be exaggerated. That’s just the way AMOLED works, but it’s not a bad thing. Colors pop off the screen and it really is a very nice screen for watching movies, looking at pictures, and really anything you might do on your phone. Two downsides I have noticed with the Moto X’s display is that viewing angles aren’t all that great and that it’s not easy to see outdoors. The display tends to have a rainbow effect when you view it from extreme angles, but you will never notice this in normal use. You only see it if you want to see it. Outdoor viewing is also not great. Trying to view the display in direct sunlight is probably not going to end well, but in indoor or shady situations you’ll be fine.

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Software

If the hardware on the Moto X is something that blew you away, buckle up, because the software is a step even further. The Moto X takes a simpler, smarter approach to what your smartphone can do and in doing so, creates one of the best software experiences on the market. In fact, every headline grabbing feature on the Moto X is grouped under one app simply called “Moto”.

Let’s start talking about these features with Moto Display. Moto Display is one of the more iconic Moto X features and works incredibly well. Moto Display uses the Moto X’s AMOLED display to light up only a few of the pixels in order to show you your recent notifications and the time at a quick glance. This feature is incredibly useful and the best part is, it uses almost no battery life.

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Moto Assist is designed to make tasks you already do according to events in your day happen automatically. When you’re driving for example, the phone is automatically set to read aloud incoming calls and let you know when you get a new text message. At home Moto Assist can be set to do the same thing. Now getting it read aloud is great and all, but Moto takes it a step further by allowing you to simply say a command to interact with the incoming call or notification. Moto Voice emphasizes on using your voice by allowing you to make searches, make phone calls, send texts, and even control parts of the phone simply by asking the phone to do it. You’ll need to set this functionality up of course, but once it’s setup you’ll be able to have all this great functionality at your command even when the screen is off. One of the places I found this most useful was in the car where I could easily make a phone call without ever touching the phone. Moto Voice can be trained to listen for a wake phrase of your choice and has a huge list of commands you can use along with anything Google Now can do. One of my favorite was “What’s Up”. This phrase reads out your notifications in the order they came in.

The Moto suite continues on with Moto Actions. Moto Actions uses the 4 IR sensors on the front of the display to sense the movement of your hand over the screen and also uses other sensors on the phone to sense certain movements. There are 5 main actions that this performs. First, wave to activate Moto Display. Simply waving your hand over the screen activates Moto Display so you can easily see your notifications and the time. Next, wave to silence. Waving your hand over the screen when there is an incoming call will actually silence the ringer, something that could be very useful during meetings. After that, twist to capture. Twisting your phone twice will quickly open up the camera app. This one function is one of my favorite parts of the Moto X and I miss it on every other phone I try. On a side note, once you are in the camera app, twisting the phone again will activate the front camera. Next, approach for Moto Display. This neat trick uses the IR sensors to detect when you reach for the phone and turns on the Moto Display feature so you can see it that much quicker.

When it comes to software, Motorola has a winning method, at least in my mind. Their features don’t intrude on the speed of the software and only enhance the experience since all of the included features are features that you will most definitely want to try out.

Camera

One sore point for Motorola has been the camera, and that remains true. The Moto X 2014 packs a 13MP camera on the back and it’s decent, but isn’t nearly as good as most other options on the market. Images look fine when the area is well lit, but take away a little light or zoom in, and you’ll see issues with the shots everywhere. Is it the worst camera out there? Of course not, but it’s far from the best. I’ve included a few shots taken with the Moto X in the gallery below. 

Battery Life

Inside the Moto X is a 2,300 mAh battery that suprises me. The capacity is low, but the battery life is actually pretty solid. Most of the time I have no trouble getting through the day on low to moderate usage. It’s when I use the phone a bit more that I see it’s shortcoming. On a normal day I’ll get about 3 hours of screen time over 15-16 hours but that’s usually it.

Network Performance & Call Quality

Over the very long testing period in which I used the Moto X I used it on AT&T’s network in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina. Speeds and performance on the network were as expected and on par with other devices on the network. Call quality was also great with callers sounding great on my end and their reports of me sounding great on theirs as well.

Speakers

One feature I didn’t quite expect to be included on the Moto X 2014 was front facing speakers, but boy am I glad they added it. While I’m not too big a fan of what it does to the design of the phone, the pros far outweigh the cons. The speaker isn’t phenomenal, but just moving it from the back to the front makes a world of difference. There are two speaker grills on the Moto X, but look can be deceiving. There is only one speaker on the Moto X and it’s on the bottom of the phone. The top grill is for the earpiece.

Final Thoughts

The Moto X in 2013 was one of the best phones of the year in the opinion of a lot of people. This year is no different. The 2014 Moto X is an even better iteration of what we saw previously. I say it is without a doubt worth picking up especially due to it’s pricing.

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Off contract the 2014 Moto X runs $499 for either a carrier variant or the Pure Edition. With a contract this phone can be purchased for $99 or in some cases as low as $49 or even lower. No matter how you look at those prices, this phone is a really good deal and I can and have highly recommended it to anyone looking for a new phone.