User Interface & Operating System
The Motorola Moto X (2014) comes with Android 4.4.4 Kit Kat, the latest offering from Android, assisted with the same launcher that the Nexus 5 employs, a classic purist high-end smartphone.
The lock screen widgets are the same as yesteryear, standing at full-screen and resizeable, displayed as tiles, accessible to the right of the lock screen, with one widget residing on the lock screen itself – some generic widgets include Messages, Digital Clock, Calendar, Gmail, among others. Widgets touch and drag makes them resizeable, and dragging to the top of the screen removes the widgets. Swiping to the left of the lock screen takes users to the camera. The home screen has only two tabs originally (though this number increases with the number of shortcuts on display, be it widgets, app shortcuts or folders), the main home screen and the Google Now, which is always the left most pane on the homescreen, and can be disabled the same way the BlinkFeed is removed from HTC One. The bottom of the screen has the three navigation controls, above which is the configurable dock, with two shortcuts on each side of the App Drawer link – all the shortcuts can turn into folders once another shortcut is dragged onto an existing one. The widgets can be accessed only by a long tap on any empty area on the home screen. Similar to the widgets on the lock screen, the widgets on the home screen are resizeable, though for these widgets, tap and hold enables the resize mode, where the four corners can be used to resize the widget – this of course, impacts the icons, folders and widgets around the widget being resized.
The Google Daydream is an addition to users, and can be configured to display the clock, latest news, photo albums, any animation, among other options.
The generic notification area and Quick toggles are present, accessible and configurable in the same standard manner. For some toggles, a tap takes users to the relevant settings too. Toggles can also be accessed by a double finger swipe down from the top of the screen. The top most notification is always in expanded mode.
The App Drawer is displayed in the standard manner, with links of apps displayed in 5 rows of 4 icons per row. The apps are sorted by default alphabetically, and no sorting options are present. The Recent Apps view is standard Android, and still sans a Kill All option.
The phonebook is the very powerful one that is default in Android, with options to display names sorted by first or last names, and displaying the images as well as complete contact information on the details, along with options to list Groups and Favorites. The Dialer is a nicely redesigned, but similar app to the generic Android, and has the same functionalities. Search in the dialer looks into the nearest locations in addition to contacts, so that in case you want the number to the nearest outlet for anything, it automatically gets fetched – this option can be disabled for users who might not find it useful.
Motorola has come out with Google Chrome the default browser, and the upgraded UI is way better than the one we had. The sync with computers is still there, of course. The reduced data is the same classy use. The tab switch, open and close are all additionally gesture controlled, while the Incognito mode is available too.
The Quick Office is available to create, view or edit office files, controlling only the documents, excel sheets and presentations, like its other counterparts, though for PDF’s only a reader is on-board. The Moto app is another addition, which can control the additional features in the Moto X (2014), like the IR gesture controls, voice commands, Motorola Assist and the glance notifications among others. Voice control has improved in leaps and bounds, and the standard “Google Now” line is no longer required. The voice control has had support from the quad-mike setup built in the Moto X (2014), and the different environments didn’t seem to bother it too much, despite our stringent testing. Motion controls are also in place, like snoozing alarms by hovering your hand on the screen, etc. Moto Assist customizes the settings to the environment, while the environment related options can be manually tweaked too. Moto Migrate allows for data migration from an iPhone or Android device to your Moto X (2014).
The bundle is completed with the calendar, clock, calculator and weather apps are all standard. The Google Maps and Google Navigation are valuable usages in any Android device, and allows for easy sight-seeing and commuting guidance, with additional assistance provided through the Street view and compass options.
Motorola Moto X (2014) took the in-call audio quality to near perfection, with clear and loud voice and signal strength that is not lost – the signal strength also a result of the metallic body design made keeping in mind the antennas.
The messaging is pretty standard with the native messaging app and the Hangouts app the two options to manage messaging, keeping threads managed – attachments are automatically converted to MMS – in case multiple attachments are required, a full blown MMS editor is available. Individual messages can be managed, and search is enabled in messages. The two email clients, one for Gmail and the other for other email addresses configuration is available with the Moto X (2014), which includes all the basic options. For input, the standard keyboard is available in both landscape and portrait modes, allows gesture typing and voice input as well.
The gallery for the Motorola Moto X (2014), dubbed Photos, shows images and videos in two standard tabs, All and Highlights, with the All folder displaying all images and folders in the standard structured format in which they already are (though images can be sorted by Places and People too). There is an additional option to select images and videos and create a movie with them using the newly released Video Creator – users can, in addition to making a standard movie, add music, stitching theme etc. Users can switch between Google+ accounts, and access all online photos they have or are tagged in. A new option labeled Auto Awesome combines all images that are alike and outputs a motion gif or a collage – if you like, you can save the output as well. The original gallery from Android is also present, though we think it will not be used too much with this improved version available. The online images can be made available offline too, which downloads the selected online images and albums. Image edits are allowed, for a variety of options, like red eye correction, effects, light adjusting, straightening, face glow, sharpening, among others, and these options come with a slider most of the times, to further fine-tune.
The music player used by the Motorola Moto X (2014) is the standard Google Play Music, which tries to understand what you like and adjusts the next appearing records accordingly. Music upload is allowed via Wi-Fi or mobile data connectivity, to the Google cloud, and downloading content onto the smartphone is also available. An equalized with multiple presets, and a five panel slider to manage is present, which adds into its list two more effects when the headphones are plugged in. The notification center controls are here too.
The video player is the standard one available on stock Android, with a better codec support than most of its counterparts, and allows video share via Wi-Fi enabled TV, utilizing DLNA for connection and Miracast for the stream.
Motorola Moto X (2014) in line with its classy in-call output, generated good audio output with an improved showing against the original Moto X of yesteryear when connected with an external amplifier. The frequency response though cut off at extreme levels of bass, and the intermodulation was also distorted higher than usual though. The same pattern continued on headphones connectivity, as usual with headphones on, crosstalk increased though no other degradation was noticed, and despite the minor issues, overall the showing from the Moto X (2014) is a decent and solid performance.
Motorola has come out with the Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz quad-core CPU, combined with the Adreno 330 and 2GB of RAM – the famous combination that is being used in other top range smartphones.
The CPU testing shows that the Moto X (2014) gives stiff competition to the best of the devices out there when looking at CPU power. The GPU is on par with the other smartphones using the same configuration, so there is no difference there on this factor. The browsing tests showed the Moto X (2014) is one of the all time bests in this domain.
The Motorola Moto X (2014) does give an outstanding performance, and can easily compete with the best out there, without any issues – really an impressive feat from Motorola.
Motorola Moto X (2014) has come out with a 13 MP main snapper accompanied with dual LED flash, set up in a very unique ring surrounding the sensor. The camera can be activated by twisting the wrist twice while holding the smartphone, and this is labeled Quick Capture. The camera can snap up images at 4128 x 3096 pixels, and has autofocus, touch focus, face detection, as well as the other generic features. For video recording, UHD videos can be captured at 30fps, while the secondary camera can capture 2MP images at 1080p. On shooting, HDR, Panorama and burst modes are present.
The camera UI is pretty simple and utilizes sliding gestures for settings and zoom, slide from left to access settings while slide from right accesses the gallery, while sliding up or down the screen zooms the images in or out. The image quality is mostly identical to the predecessor, with pretty noisy snaps containing only mediocre amount of detail, with decent color rendering which still falls victim of the limitations in the dynamic range for red channel.
The balance of the HDR mode is a bit off too for us, since even though the level of detail in highlights does increase, the level of exaggeration desired is not there, and the low lit areas still do not come out as good as we had hoped – still, this mode can and should be used as much as possible, as without it, the images are just not up there. The flash tests portrayed that though the main object shot is much better, with a lot of noise reduction, the background lighting was still not that good, and the color balance is better, though it could be further improved.
The UI for the video camera is the same, with recording start and end using the button at the top right. The video is the better half of the camera, with some classy 4K recording on display, using a great amount of detail and some excellent color production, the recording being pretty smooth, with the only grey area being the dynamic range.
The 1080p video has very resembling traits, though understandably a little lesser detail, but with a easier to manage 17Mbps bitrate compared to the 52Mbps bitrate of the 4K recording. The slo-mo recording is here, which is enabled at 1080p too, really impressive, since this is the first we have seen slo-mo in 1080p.
Motorola Moto X (2014) has all cellular data options, including 3G and LTE support in addition to the generic EDGE, GSM and GPRS connectivity, and also includes Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0. The global positioning, especially for maps and location based services uses A-GPS and GLONASS.
The microUSB 2.0 port enables basic features. NFC is at hand, connected by simply placing it in contact with any other NFC enabled device back to back.
With the decent raise in the screen size that the Motorola Moto X (2014) has come out with, one would have expected a decent if not an entirely sufficient raise in the battery also, from the 2,200mAh pack that was in the predecessor of the Moto X (2014). It was thus, a surprise to see that Motorola only came out with only a minor increase, going up to 2,300mAh battery, which we feel is really insufficient for a smartphone carrying a display of such a size.
The Moto X (2014) has an endurance rating of 48 hours, on the lower side as compared to a lot of the recent releases, with only two days of battery lasting with generic usage, while one day at best if the usage is heavy. The talk time output is also around 14 hours, on the slightly lower side, and the playback and browsing going about 7 hours, too low. However, Motorola has tried to rectify this situation by providing a rapid charger and mini battery pack into the mix, but it still will be insufficient for many.
Apart from its improved user experience, and the other enhancements the Motorola Moto X (2014) has available, it does come with some shortcomings which are listed below:
- Storage cannot be expanded
- Absence of stereo speakers
- Only available in 16 and 32GB offerings at this time
- Non-replaceable and underwhelming battery
Should I Have to Buy the Motorola Moto X (2014)?
With the gaps and complaints related to hardware of the predecessor to the Moto X (2014) all resolved, the Moto X (2014) comes out with a classy new smartphone that is comfortably in the lineup for the nicest smartphone to operate, and is easy on the hands. With a display size of 5.2 inches, the ergonomics and access of the smartphone make it surprisingly good in grip. The number of options related to customization has increased, and the personalization, which is starting to creep into some smartphones is widely on display with the Moto X (2014).
The additional improvement to details as per hardware, and the increased screen size, which were both sorely missed on the last year’s version are sure to be relished, and chipset jump will add to the joy of many. The camera also adds 4K to its fold, adding easy gesture based access for increasing ready access to even the laziest of people. The move up to the Android 4.4.4 KitKat will show that Motorola is abreast of tech, and the additional improvements on the UI are useful and do not get in the way. The biggest gap that we found was of course, the battery, which though standing at 2,300mAh is an improvement, though a minor one, the screen size that has to be powered up has had a more substantial jump, and the results in our battery tests reflect our skepticism was not unjustified. The memory of the smartphone was also not too great, as the 16GB model actually offered only 11GB which in this day and age is insufficient to the snappers, music lovers and gamers out there. The stereo speakers and the option for expandable memory, which are both on offer in the Moto G would have been a very welcome addition.
Still, with all the improvements made, the new Moto X (2014) has to go some distance to be called the perfect smartphone, though it really has come a long way from its predecessor. What it lacks in terms of the camera, battery, or build material is easily made up with the comfy and easy ergonomics and handling, and very importantly, pricing. With a big jump from the yesteryear model, its more referable, and almost no one is likely to complain about it.