Moto X Review: Motorola's Smarter Smartphone Is a Smart Choice

PHOTO: Motorolas Moto X smartphone has a new Touchless Controls feature.
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Smartphones aren't very smart -- it's something I've heard innumerable times from phone makers as they introduce features to set their wares apart from the iPhone and other leading Android handsets. But with the made-in-America Moto X smartphone released last week, the line repeated by Motorola's VP of Product Management Rick Osterlohis seems to rise above marketing jargon.

The phone has a series of new "smarter" features which anticipate what you want, in some cases without you actually having to pick up the phone. It's also arguably the most personalized smartphone ever created with the ability to choose from tons of color options and accents. On top of that it promises all-day battery life.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • Long battery life and new software features set the phone apart
  • Available in many colors, the phone is extremely comfortable to hold
  • It costs $199 with a two-year contract

But do those things put the Moto X, which is the first phone made by the flailing Motorola since being acquired by Google, ahead of the class of other great phones? Just how good is the first smartphone to be assembled in the U.S?

A Design You Can Change
It's hard to review the design of a phone that comes in over 360 different color combinations. Later this month, Motorola will launch MotoMaker.com, a website which will allow users to choose the color of the back of the phone, the trim of the phone and the accents around the camera and the volume buttons. You can also engrave a short message or your name on the back. Motorola is even going to make a wooden version later this year. And because the phone is assembled in Motorola's new Fort Worth, Texas, facility it ships within just four days.

I can't remember an Android phone that's been this comfortable to use

There are compelling design options -- I'm thinking a white back, black trim and green accents for myself -- but it is limited just to AT&T customers at the start. The Verizon and Sprint models, which come in just plain black and white options, certainly don't turn heads, as I've learned over the last week of use. But I can't remember a phone that has been this comfortable to use. While the X has a large 4.7-inch screen, Motorola has trimmed the bezel, making for a very compact design given the screen size.

VIDEO: Motorolas new smartphone is made in the US and can be customized in a number of colors.
Moto X: First Look

Unlike the 4.7-inch HTC One and 5-inch Galaxy S4, I was able to hold the curved-back of the X in my hand without having to stretch my fingers to get to parts of the screen. Additionally, the dimple or crater on the back of the phone is a wonderful ergonomic addition, providing a nice little home for your index finger to rest while you hold the phone. My one nitpicky design criticism: the location of the headphone jack on the top edge.

Software that Know You
But the irony is that while the Moto X is one of the most comfortable phones ever made, some of its best software features are all about not having to hold the device.

Active Notifications - The Active Notifications feature in particular was made to solve the problem of people hitting the power button on their phones up to 100 times a day just to glance at the time and or notifications -- something I know a lot about. Instead, on the X, the time and a notification alert flashes every few seconds.

"Leave me alone, phone!" I kept thinking when I would see it pulse at first, but after a few days I've gotten used to just letting my phone sit on the table without having to actively touch it to see if I have a new e-mail or text. Plus, the notifications only light up part of the screen so they aren't too distracting.

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