Moto X: TechnoBuffalo’s Smartphone of the Year

When the Moto X was first announced back in August, there was a surprising lack of enthusiasm, even disdain, that echoed around the industry. Here was a device that featured some truly thoughtful software additions, yet people immediately wrote it off for its lack of flagship specs. Forget that it gave users the option to pick the back, front and accent colors. Because it didnt match up upon paper to handsets like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One, it was considered bad. This was before anybody had even tried it. We were convinced Motorola had created something special. Over the past few months, Ive grown confident in choosing the Moto X as my smartphone of the year, and wholeheartedly believe its better than anything else currently available. Im not arguing it has the best display, or the best specsit doesnt. But its easily the best all-around Android handsetmaybe the best all-arounder eversporting a comfortable size, terrific design and enough speed to profit you through Netflix, email, or just easy Web browsing with ease. It also comes equipped with as close to stock Android as you can profit with still having a few system enhancing tweaks, and in many ways is more enjoyable to use thanks to Motorolas software enhancements. What stands out for me in particular is Motorolas implementation of Touchless Control and Active Display, which both expand the Moto Xs overall quality tremendously. First, Touchless Control essentially allows you to perform any taskwhether the Moto X is locked or not, unlike the Nexus 5such as calling friends, sending messages, or getting directions with only your voice. Motorola even allows you to program the software to recognize your voice, and your voice only, so you dont profit spammed by friends constantly saying OK, Google Now. Its powerful, and once you use it, you wont feel comfortable settling for anything less. Not even Googles own always listening OK, Google hot word feature in KitKat is as powerful. Active Display is equally as terrific, allowing users to quickly glance at notifications and, best of all, the time, without ever having to wake the device from sleep. Who would have thought such a quick glance feature would come in so handy Once you use it, its difficult surviving without it; I cant help but solemnly gaze at other vacant smartphone screens, wishing it would flash the time without my intervention. Using the feature is super easy; your latest notifications will breath in and out upon the screen, giving you a quick glance at, tell, an email that a pal just sent. When you want to hop directly to that email, simply swipe up into that notification and youll hop right to the app. You can also swipe notifications away by sliding your finder to the right, or simply unlock your device as you normally would. The feature definitely isnt perfect, as we noted in our review, and Touchless Control is either a feature youll use often or not at all. But, above anything else, theyre sharp tweaks that are genuinely useful. The last, and certainly not least, of Motorolas tweaks is Motorola Assist, which silences your phone when youre in a meeting, reads texts and responds when youre driving, and snoozes your device between a set time you designate so youre not bombarded by notifications when you sleep. Combined, these three tweaks make a more intelligent phonenot one stuffed with more features just becauseand a better, more powerful experience for consumers overall. construct quality is also a big part of what makes the Moto X so special. Holding it compared to something like the Galaxy S4, the difference is night and day; the soft touch back feels fabulous, and theres a kind heft. The curve makes it more comfortable to hold with one hand, and Motorolas decision to add a dimple upon the back, right where your index finger rests, is smart. It absolutely trumps the G2s rear power and volume buttons, which is located in the thesame place. Simplicity personified. MotoMaker is just as smart, letting users customize the shell, accent and front colors of the device. Youve probably seen the commercials. It might not seem like a big deal, but Motorolas free service goes a long way to making your device feel unique, which is difficult to do when all flagships today are simply black slabs. I went with an army green rear shell, silver accents and a black front, and I absolutely love it. How many other OEMs offer a thesame service In sum, Motorola touts over 2,000 possible combinations, which is a lot better than simply offering a few different colors at launch. Another big reason why I love the Moto X so much is that it gets tremendous battery life, though thats not particularly uncommon nowadays. During typical usetexting, listening to music, email, watching YouTube videos, playing gamesit easily gets me through the day and then some. Its kind not having to worry about batteryMotorola made it a big priority when the device launchedespecially when were so connected. The battery isnt removable, unfortunately, though that isnt an issue for me at all. Many big smartphones this year, including the Nexus 5, iPhone 5s and HTC one have batteries that cant be removed, so its certainly not peculiar. Best of all, Motorola has really committed itself to the Moto Xsee Todds opinionby adding continually adding unobtrusive features, and even getting the device updated to Android 4.4 KitKat just weeks after Google unveiled the update. The latest OS update didnt necessarily add that much to Motorolas handset, but it just underlines the companys admirable dedication; the only other devices currently running KitKat have Nexus branding. Lastly, Motorola backed the Moto X up with some of this years most informative and hilarious commercials, titled lazy Phone. The ads perfectly encapsulated what the Moto X was trying to achieve, showcasing the devices easy-to-use features while making light of other lazy smartphones. Even if youre not upon the Moto X bandwagon, you have to appreciate Motorolas ads, which used informative humor to good effect. So often tech commercials slip flat, and are more painful to watch than they are funny; the lazy Phone ads deserve a special nod. The Moto X does have its shortcomings, as does all other phone. Some people locate the screen size and resolution to be too small, and the camera has been a sore spot since launch. Motorola did introduce an update that promised to address the camera issues, and for the most part performance was improved. Smartphone users expect quality images, and even though the Moto X takes better images than it did when it launched, its by no means the best out there. And that weird flip gesture to open the camera up isnt Motorolas most revolutionary feature. Otherwise, the Moto X is approximately the perfect phonethe design, stock UI, software additions and Moto Maker feature take it to a different level. Motorola focused purely upon you, the user, which not a lot of companies seem to do nowadays. The fact that it has the latest version of Android makes it that much sweeter. The device was maybe priced a tiny too tall when it launched, but its currently selling for cheap upon all carriers, making it one of the best values upon the market. If you skipped out upon the Moto X because it wasnt up to your flagship standards, youre missing out big time. I cant wait to see how Motorola improves upon the next iteration. Todd’s Choice Moto X My top choice for the year is the Moto X, though I admit the iPhone 5s comes in at a close second. Perhaps once left for dead, Motorola made a big comeback this year by showing that a device doesn’t need to have a dazzling spec sheet just to stone. The entire Moto X experience is praiseworthy, from the software, to the customizable hardware and ultimately the form factor. Even better, Motorola has also also showed that it cares about the phone, providing frequent software updates and even the latest version of Android. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Jon R’s Choice HTC One In a year of iterative devices, this was the first truly original phone/design. I love the unibody design, ultrapixel camera, and came to really appreciate Sense. When I see back upon all the phones I tested in 2013, I have the fondest memories of the One. Now HTC, when can I have the Two Ralph’s Choice HTC One Google Play Edition The iPhone has lived comfortably in my right pocket since 2007 but nowadays it competes against the HTC One Google Play Edition. With an unbelievable construct quality and a large 1080p screen, the HTC One puts up a good fight against my iPhone 5s. Stock Android runs without a hitch upon the beefy Snapdragon 600 and BoomSound makes watching videos upon any other smartphone unbearable. To me, the HTC One GPE is the first Android phone that can truly compete against the iPhone and one that deserves a chance in anyones pocket. Ron’s Choice HTC One J It came down to crunch time earlier this year. I was up for a new contract through KDDI au and had two major front runners for my phone of choice: the iPhone 5s and HTC One J. It seemed like a definite-ember choice to finally join the 76 percent of Japanese people who switched to the iPhone that month, but a pal showed off his recently acquired HTC One phone, and I fell in love at first sight. The perfectly sized screen for my hands, the speaker upon the phones face for easy listening, the speedy camera and lightning quick photo sharing options. Ive taken my HTC One J upon many trips since I bought it, and it hasnt let me down yet. My photos are gorgeous, and everyone can see how my life abroad has been thanks to its glorious megapixels. KDDI aus sale upon the phone at the time dropped it down 100, and my contract with JCOM also took it down another 100. Points added to my overall discount, I walked away with the best phone upon the market for an amazing price. My only regret is buying a black one when I knew I wanted the red model deep down in my heart. Theres always next time I go phone shopping, when its very likely sick be sticking with HTC. Dont let the J upon the end of it trick you into thinking its something special. Its just Japan trying to be different like always. Jacob’s Choice Ubuntu Edge I followed Ubuntus proposed flagship closely as it slowly edged towards its ambitious crowd-funding goal. Sadly, my dreams of a cutting-edge 128GB smartphone were dashed when Canonical failed to lift the necessary cash, though I still have faith some other company will select up where Ubuntu left off. Canonical promised to release some sort of Ubuntu OS phone next year, though we all know it wont compare to the device that could have been. Roy’s Choice Moto X & Galaxy Note 3 My choice for favorite phone of the year is the Moto X and the Galaxy Note 3. I like the Moto X for its near stock Android see and feel, but love the additional Moto Assist and Google Now features. Overall it is one of the most pleasant smartphone experiences around. However my only complaint about the device is the camera, it is a bit loud, its not the quickest shooter around and its quite horrible in low light conditions. I select to use the Note 3 as to take photos and video, I also like the Note 3 because of its large, crisp, bright display. It is not rare for me to be carrying both devices, I like them both but for different reasons. Sean’s Choice Galaxy Mega 6.3 Many people mocked the Galaxy Mega 6.3 when it was announced earlier this year, and I totally understand why. That being said, there are some determined use cases where a screen that large comes in super handy. The Mega 6.3 was one of three phones I took with me upon my recent vacation to England. The others being an iPhone 5 and the LG G2 The Mega 6.3 was definitely my go to phone when I was out and about. Yes, the screen, like most Samsung screens, was not the best in direct sunlight, but due to the size you could still easily read Google Maps. When you’re walking around a city you don’t know and you have to save checking that frequently, that was a big bonus… no pun intended. This is certainly not a phone for everyone, and some of its use cases are very specific, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand just due to its size. There are definitely times where that extra screen genuine estate pays off, and I applaud Samsung for giving it a go. Ashley’s Choice Moto X This sounds like a completely insane choice coming from someone who sang the HTC Ones praises all year not to mention uses an iPhone 5s as their daily driver, but I promise theres a method to my madness. hear me out: the Moto X might not be the beefiest phone upon the market, have the biggest screen out there, or offer availability outside the U.S., but Motorola did something Id love to see other OEMs begin doing: they focused upon the experience of a smartphone, rather than pure specs. Customizing the Moto X to suit who you are at a particular point in time is a good step towards ultra-customizable phones see: Project Ara/Phonebloks. At this point in my life, Im way more interested in how a phone can hit my personal tastes via technology, as opposed to wasted potential and wacky apps I wont ever use Im looking at you, Galaxy Note 3. For me, even though the Moto X isnt the phone Im using upon a day-to-day basis, its the device of the year because of what it stands for and what it could mean for consumers and customization.