Moto X heralds the future of phones – always on, always listening, always individual

2 Aug 2013

With the new Moto X smartphone it seems Motorola has found its mojo again in creating a device that can be easily customised for individuals from the covers to the software. Launched to acclaim in New York, the open device which can be customised to come in 2,000 different appearances and styles shines a harsh light on the closed model espoused by Apple and reveals Google’s true intentions with Android.

Google has made no secret of the fact that the reason it pushes open standards in terms of Android is that ultimately it will drive traffic back to its services ranging from web searches to maps, apps and entertainment and it will make its money out of advertising and services.

The new Moto X, which has been in some quarters dubbed an “iPhone killer”, appears to be a device aimed at individuals rather than followers of the crowd or those who wish to use their phone as some kind of a mark of status and is priced at a reasonable enough US$199 in the US with a two-year contract.

The device comes with a 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED screen, 2GB of RAM and choices between 16GB or 32GB of storage. The 4G device comes with a 2,200mAh battery capable of running for 24 hours and it comes with a 10-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera.

The Moto X is powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core Krait CPU and a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU.

One of the key draws for consumers will be customisation. While they may buy a basic black or white model in the shops and choose from 16 different back cases, ultimately they can go to a website hosted by Motorola called Moto Maker that hosts over 2,000 combinations of backs, faceplates, etching on the back, various wood backings, etc.

The device also comes with some nifty capabilities such as “Quick Capture” which launches the camera function with a mere flick of the wrist.

The device is always listening and never sleeps

moto x

One of the eerie – but interesting – features is a Touchless Control feature that has a dedicated processor that listens for voice commands. That’s right, a phone that is always listening. So, does that mean Google is listening? That’s an argument for another day but the key today is if you ask your Moto X about the weather, driving directions or to do a basic web search it, just say what you’re looking for and it responds without you touching a button.

A feature called Active Display quietly puts the information you need – in the right context of time and place – on your screen without a noisy beep or flashing lights.

Another interesting development is the fact that the phone was entirely built in the US, and you have to wonder could this see the resurgence of the USA’s once great manufacturing tradition? Each device was manufactured in Forth Worth, Texas.

The idea ultimately being for US buyers anyway that they can customise a phone and have it on their doorstep in a few days.

Motorola has partnered with SOL REPUBLIC to create an ecosystem of accessories for the Moto X called M4DE Motorola, including headphones, speakers, cases, docks, etc.

The device – a pure Google and Motorola effort (Google bought Motorola last year for US$12.5bn) – indicates that Google’s open vision is finally about to be understood and the battle may be joined with Apple and its iPhone devices, which are also rumoured to be coming with different coloured backings.

In another ironic sense maybe in launching a “flagship” device perhaps Google is putting an end to the endless uniformity of flagship devices be they an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S4.

Maybe that device that is in your possession may finally be “your” device and not simply upgraded every time something new comes around.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years