The new Moto X smartphone, Motorola's first start-to-finish project after its acquisition by Google last year, is here.
"Motorola's Moto X Must Be Game-Changing -- Or Else," writes Tim Stenovec, threateningly, at the Huffington Post. "With Moto X, Google Android is about to have its iPhone moment," writes Kevin Tofel at GigaOm. Christina Warren at Mashable asks if the Moto X can "revive Motorola's brand." Motorola is the fourth-biggest phone manufacturer in the U.S.; they've been around for 85 years and have twice in the last ten years completely changed the landscape of mobile phones (the RAZR, in 2004, and the original Droid, in 2009), which is more than most companies can say. They're owned by Google, a company with seemingly endless coffers. They're doing fine, guys.
This is all ridiculous. Not everything has to be revolutionary. Sometimes it's best to just step back, in both hardware and software, and do what feels right. It's an approach that's actually much harder than, say, Samsung's (which is a throw-everything-at-the-wall strategy); Motorola says they actually figured out the idea average volume of a phone's physical size. That takes time! But the end result is something that feels right not something that shouts at you.
I have a Moto X in front of me, and what's sort of refreshing about it is how it doesn't feel like a big deal at all. In a joint press conference, Google and Motorola presented the Moto X to small groups of journalists, 10 or 15 at a time, earlier this morning. They encouraged us to ask questions, even to interrogate them. It was friendly and intimate in a way that couldn't be more opposed to the bombastic Michael-Bay-goes-Broadway absurdity of the last big Samsung launch. And the phone is like that, too. It's just...nice.
The screen, at 4.7 inches, is big, but the body is not; the bezels are very small on the sides and the top and bottom borders are about half the height of the iPhone's. It is the first phone with a screen anywhere near that size that I can actually use one-handed, since the smaller overall size allows my little tiny ballerina hands to actually reach the top corners. It's thicker than an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4, but it's rounded in the back and comfortable to hold. (The battery, Motorola tells us, had to use a unique "stepped" design to fit into that curve.)
"We're trying not to add complexity," says Rick Osterloh, Motorola's senior vice president of product management. "On an average Android phone, the homescreen is filled with stuff." They didn't entirely succeed; new features include "Active Display," which provides you with notifications when you flip the phone from face-down to face-up; "Quick Capture," which boots you into the camera app if you "give the phone a twist like a screwdriver"; and a camera that does not tap-to-focus like every other camera with a touchscreen ever made. If you're on AT&T, you can get the Moto X is a variety of colors, from tasteful to absurdly garish. Want a poop-brown back with neon pink volume buttons and an engraved message on the back that says "IM W/ GRUMPYCAT"? No problem.
Still, it's clear what Osterloh means. The camera app has two visible buttons: one to switch the camera from rear to front, and one to switch to video. It automatically begins taking video when you hit the video button. It automatically decides whether you should use HDR. It automatically decides where you want to focus.
The phone is at least as fast and responsive as the HTC One or Nexus 4, the two fastest Android phones I've tested. The screen, at 1280 x 720, is super sharp and clear. The battery is about as big as the HTC One's, but the phone itself is smaller. All is as it should be.
That "Active Display" mode automatically decides what your most important notification is, thanks to a hierarchy of notifications Google has compiled. There's a group of features called Motorola Assist that automatically adjust your settings when you're in a meeting (based on appointments in your Google calendar), when you're in a car (based on GPS location), or when you're sleeping. Google Now automatically does, well, everything. And now to use Google Now or Google's excellent voice command feature, you don't even have to unlock your phone. Just say "OK Google Now," a similar command to the "OK Glass" command that wakes up Google Glass. Then you can say "wake me up at 6a.m.," or "call Steve," or "did the Mets win last night?" (I saw the latter demonstrated; Google said "no, the Mets lost to the Marlins." It was pretty cool.) The whole point is to do less. Fewer button presses, fewer trips to the settings menu, fewer taps and swipes and clicks and holds and pinches.
The whole point of the Moto X isn't to be a "game-changer," it's to be a very good cellphone that you'd like to use. And it is! The hardware isn't as eye-catching as the HTC One, but it's more comfortable to use day-to-day. It's available on all major U.S. carriers at $199 on contract, starting in late August or early September, depending on your carrier (we weren't given specifics on this). It's probably the phone I'd recommend, because like the iPhone, the Moto X just feels comfortable. It's not doing anything crazy. It's just good. And that's a very mature place for Google to be.
Unfortunately, the speaker is still on the back, meaning that if you watching anything without ear-jacks, the pointed-away-from-you sound will be diminished. Perpetuating this backward thinking technology will limit its sales.
The name "Lindsey Stone" is now in "Google's Handbook of Forbidden Names" (on shelves this August).
Parents are strongly advised NOT to name their children Lindsey Stone (unless they want to inherit the label "self-proclaimed douchebag")
You are forbidden to name your child Beverly Stayart, (unless you want your child to inherit the Cialis Saleswoman label.)
It is decreed that thou shalt NOT name your child Tonya Harding,(unless you want your child to inherit the label "knee-basher")
We at Google CANNOT alter our search engine to factor in the age of a website. Our search engine became self aware two years ago and is now carrying out God's mission for planet earth...deporting sinners and immigrants.
Mitt Romney said it best:
"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here..."
Be warned: Our search engine is taking down the names of sinners. It is carrying out God's mission. Lindsey Stone is one of those sinners.
Whether you were THE Lindsey Stone or some other sinner named Lindsey Stone is irrelevant.
The sin of one is the sin of all.
PARENTS....BUY OUR HANDBOOK NOW! Know which names our search engine will allow and those names which will be cast into the furnaces of history
If anyone reading my previous column thinks I am WAY off base, I suggest you read up on this news story:
Do the following BING keyword search:
"Icelandic girl allowed to use her name"
Then click on any of the reputable links that appear.
It is quite shocking that some leaders, even well into the 21st century, are still determined to have this much control over how their citizens live.
We take quite a bit for granted in this country.
It could safely be argued that the elections that occur every day in our CORPORATE board rooms are just as important as the Presidential election...especially when we are dealing with a company with as much potential power as Google or Nabisco.
Google..."Your name is Toby!"
hmmm. Nice but there seems to be a lot of google watching your stuff for you. I like the android OS and GUI, but this over the shoulder data mooching thing may drive me back to apple or even blackberry.
yes, the front facing speakers are definitely a d'oh! moment. all new phones should have them. HTC may have that locked up though.
I tried the Samsung S4 and was overwhelmed with straight nonsense. Since when do the businesses decide which apps we keep and which we don't? Since when does everyone have 9" monstrous hands that can even hold phones of that idiotic size, much less put them in a pocket? Since when did mobile phones become immobile?? That piece of crap is a small tablet!! Oh and that eye/retina tracker and touchless scroll crap--they SUCK!! You can hardly stop the pages from scrolling by so fast without touching your screen anyway that you constantly lose your place. Often the damn screen just scrolls up or down by itself. It's completely useless. Even IF it worked well, you STILL have to touch the screen to get it to zoom in/out, select options, highlight text/items, etc., so what's the point? Why am I paying extra for a feature that does very little but make me frustrated at its idiocy? I say all this because I was VERY refreshed to read this article about a phone that doesn't have more bells and whistles, but just does thing better, simpler. The S4 is a symbol for what's wrong with American society today and the world in general: the falsehood that more is better. LESS is MORE! Wake the fuc* up, people!! Earth needs us to be good care-takers, not selfish, greedy idiots!! Don't buy into the bullsh!t that companies try to make you believe; use only what you need!