After months and months of speculation—and following a much-talked about departure from Google—the new Moto X is finally here. Unsurprisingly, our favorite phone from last year has gotten even better, with specs, design and features that put it on a plain even with today’s biggest flagships. If you were underwhelmed by the Moto X last year, just about every little criticism the device received has been addressed. Motorola dug deep in the follow up, creating what will certainly be a heavy contender for smartphone of the year.
When the first Moto X was announced, many people were really disappointed—some of it valid, some of it not. But it wasn’t fair for us to judge so quickly and, come to find out, the Moto X was actually a terrific handset. The design was great, the vanilla Android was a huge plus, and the software tweaks were—and still are—some of the better we’ve seen in mobile. The new Moto X builds on that, offering great specs and an improved design without sacrificing what made the original so great.
Instead of the 4.7-inch 720p display, we now have a 5.2-inch AMOLED Full HD screen (423 ppi), along with a “Motorola Mobile Computing System,” which entails a software optimized 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor (Adreno 330 GPU), a natural language processor and a contextual computing processor; integrated with those three processors are ten processor cores, ensuring the device is optimized for the demands of Motorola’s tweaks and the regular performance of everyday apps.
Other specs include 2GB of RAM, 16GB of standard storage (32GB through Moto Maker), a 2300mAh battery, Android 4.4.4, a water resistant nano-coating, a 13-megapixel camera with Ring Flash and 4K video capture, an aluminum frame and 4 front-facing microphones designed to improve voice quality and reduce background noise. Motorola also included an external antenna for what it calls “Dynamic Tuning,” ensuring you get the best possible signal no matter where you are.
Feature-wise, there’s a mix of new and old. For one, the device now includes an IR system that consists of three emitters and one receiver, which all work together for gesture control. Most phones use systems that require a user’s hand to be an inch or two away from their device; the Moto X’s IR system allows users to perform gestures at around 4x that distance, regardless of if your hand is at the top or bottom of the phone.
The Moto X, as expected, comes equipped with pure Android 4.4.4 and some of Motorola’s trademark tweaks on top. Motorola’s devices are beloved because of vanilla Android, but they also received prompt updates, so as soon as Android L is released, it’ll be a matter of days until the Moto X gets the new software, not months. Motorola puts it succinctly: “Motorola focuses on mobile experiences that complement Android, not compete with it.” Motorola’s tweaks are basically apps, which is what enables the company to push out updates so quickly.
With the new Moto Voice, you can actually customize your own voice prompt. You can longer have to say, “Ok Google Now.” You can say, “Wake up dude!” or something like that. (“Hey McFly” might be my choice since I love Back to the Future so much.) You can also interact with some of your favorite social media apps, such as Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp without ever touching your device.
Moto Assist is also getting an update. It can read your text messages, go silent during meetings, and even turn off all your sounds when you go to bed. There are a ton of settings you can tweak that depend on different situations; you can change settings for when you sleep, drive, when you’re in a meeting and when you get home. If you click on the “Talk to me” feature, your phone will automatically read incoming text messages and tell you who’s calling so you’re not constantly checking your device while sitting on the couch. If you want your device to automate tasks, Assist is a huge help.
Probably the most convenient tweak last year’s Moto X offered was Active Display (now Moto Display), which allowed you to see notifications and other information without unlocking your device. With Moto Display, you can see three different notifications at once pulse on your screen; touch and hold one and more details will appear. If you want to see your other messages, simply slide your finger to the left or right—all without unlocking your phone. It’s a huge help when all you want to do is see something like the time, and is one of the smartest tweaks in mobile.
Finally, the Moto X offers Moto Actions, which take advantage of the Moto X’s front-facing sensors for gestures. When someone calls you, for example, you can simply wave your hand over the Moto X to silence it. Meanwhile, the sensors know when your hand approaches the screen, which can then conveniently activate Moto Display.
The camera of the Moto X has also been bumped up to 13-megapixels, up from the 10-megapixels last year. That same flick of the wrist gesture is still present to open the camera app, and much of the UI is still the same. But the software is now smarter; if the Moto X detects too much motion, it will actually analyze your photo just before and after it was snapped, and suggest a different shot if the one you snapped is blurry or not quite right. There’s also a new Gallery experience, which allows you to create highlights of photos with music. These can then be shared with friends and family, either in standard or high definition.
Finally, the Moto X still has that great design, and features the same rounded back and a new aluminum frame, along with front-facing speakers. Moto Maker is still an option, too; you can choose from two fronts (white or black), storage, and 25 different backs, including 17 colors, 4 woods (the wood is sourced environmentally) and 4 leathers; the leather colors include Natural, Cognac, Black and Navy. You can also choose from 10 different accent colors, along with a laser engraving to better personalize your device. You’ll be able to use Moto Maker through carriers around the world, including Phones 4U, France’s Orange, Phone House and AT&T and Verizon.
Obviously there’s a lot here to absorb. When you think about it, the new Moto X isn’t that drastic of a change, and we love Motorola for that. The design is better, the specs are beefy, and the software tweaks are smarter. What more can you ask for in a flagship device? The Moto X will be available later this month in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia for $499 off-contract (U.S.-only). If you want the device with a two-year agreement, it’ll be just $99.