This is my long-awaited review of the Moto-X, second generation phone, with some words about my experience with the first generation Moto-X, and the general effort that Google is making with this class of phones.
First let me say that the Moto-X is my phone. I am an ex-iPhone user, and although I miss aspects of the iOS environment and the lovely hardware design and execution, I am not really looking back until someone answers this post anywhere with a complete user experience that matches or exceeds my results with Moto-X in the areas that I consider most important.
So, next let me state the priorities. My smartphone is a business tool that I happen to enjoy when I am not using it for business. There are many of us who approach this device this way. Most of us like me are not teenagers or even in our twenties. So to sum up my objective: I want a comprehensive communication tool with maximum Darwin award avoidance.
Communications: Texts, Phone calls, Emails, Tweets, WhatsApp messages, Instagram messages, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, weather alerts, news alerts, sports app alerts, and anything else the world wants to throw at me. My job is to capture them all, sort them out by importance and respond to the ones that matter. My hope is to enjoy a few of them that may not be important but provide fun or entertainment. This is the marvel of the smartphone which makes them so interesting to manage.
By the way, if you want my opinion of BYOD and how to control the smartphone in the workplace, here it is: Manage the person, not the device. Look for results and energy in your business enterprise from your employee/partner/associate. Make no attempt to control what they are doing with their smartphone other than to thank them for their service and take it away from them when you have fired them for not getting the results you expect. If the phone is theirs, make sure you have the right to wipe it and own the backup.
Back to Moto-X, I am dead serious about cell phone safety. Since the early nineties I have had a cell phone in my car, and I consider the whole point of mobile communications to be my ability to respond quickly to an opportunity or concern. Since I am an Information Technology provider, I spend too much time in my car to be cut off the whole time from communications, yet it has become abundantly clear that most forms of smartphone communication are lethal when driving, and sadly we have subjected this next generation to that experiment with some disastrous results. I am determined not to add to those statistics, but realistically, I am going to know what is coming and going on my phone when I am behind the wheel. That is where the Moto-X absolutely stands out.
When I am driving, if my wife texts me, my podcast pauses and my phone says to me "new text from Salma Hayek". (It actually says something else, but I don't think Salma will mind helping save a few more lives, and my wife didn't have the cash to be included in this post). Then the phone says "do you want me to read it to you?", and I say loudly and clearly "yes". Then the phone says "OK, Salma Hayak says: thanks for the lovely evening last night, I particularly like the way it ended. Let's do it again!" (This is the kind of text I receive after we have spent the evening cleaning out the goat pen. It's really fun and we just fall into bed exhausted!) Then the phone says "Do you want to reply to Salma Hayek?", and I say loudly and clearly "yes", and the phone says "OK, tell me what you want me to send to Salma Hayak", and I say loudly and clearly, "Me too, let's do it again tonight exclamation point", and then the phone says "OK, I think you said "Me too, let's do it again tonight!", is that correct?, and I say "yes", and then the phone says "OK, sending text to Salma Hayek", and I have just taken care of a text while I was on the road driving my car.
OK, I am going to acknowledge some of the criticism that I am inevitably going to get about this last paragraph. I hear you saying, "but Nate, ANY distracted driving is not appropriate, you should have 100% of your attention on your driving." I am glad that you can't see my face right now. The expression on it would offend you, but there is nothing I can do about that. I have been driving for 41 years, and I have certainly averaged well over 20,000 miles per year over that lifetime of driving. I am going to make an assertion here: "All driving is distracted driving". In my view, if there is a way that I can dispose of my distractions while keeping both eyes on the road and both hands on the steering wheel, then I am light-years ahead of those who are trapped in their distractions, unable to dispose of them and return their full attention to their driving.
Let's face it, if we all required ourselves to focus 100% on our driving, we would purchase cars equipped like taxicabs so that our passengers could be kept separate from us. Mothers would not talk to their children on the way to school or soccer practice. It's ridiculous. We must seek the most reasonable, expedient and effective compromise that we can find, and I find the Moto-X to be exactly that compromise.
There are so many other subtle features of this phone that impress me and make me love it. Most of them fall under the control of an app that they now call "Moto", and those features include "Assist", which I have been describing here, "Actions" when I wave my hand over the phone, or open the camera with a shake. "Voice" is the voice response system of the phone with is so much better than Siri that there is not room or time for that expression of distain here. With the new version, you can pick your own "Activation Phrase", which causes the phone to listen for your words and respond, so you could activate your phone with something iconic like "Frankly my dear, I don't give a Damn", or "Say hello to my stinky little friend". "Display" scavenges battery life by illuminating only the portion of the OLED display required to show the time, or a key alert.
Another unique app is "Connect", which I believe might have saved the whole Windows phone/Windows 8 fiasco for Microsoft if they had just focused on it and introduced it four years ago. Connect puts your phone activity on your computer screen via a Chrome browser plugin.
Beyond these, there is the whole Google-verse of apps and ecosystem which I enjoy and find effective. As I said above, there is some subtle integration that is unique to the Moto-X phones, the first one of which I got after it came out last spring on Verizon, and then having loved it so much upgraded to the right-sized 5.2 inch Moto-X 2nd gen phone. I am partial to the Nexus Android experience, which is unchanged from that which is spawned directly from the software engineers at Google, and you get that Nexus experience on the Moto-X phone. Interestingly, the giant Nexus 6 is made by Motorola and looks like a six inch Moto-X, yet it does not have the same processor and sensor architecture of the Moto-X phones, so it cannot do all of the same tricks.
When I had the original Moto-X phone, I bought a cool little add-on called "Skip" from Motorola, which allowed a small magnetic garment clip with an RFID chip in it to unlock the phone. I do keep a lock code on my phone because I don't want a phone thief to be able to get directly in to my personal information, so Skip was a real time saver, but it is not compatible with the 2nd gen phone, about which I am a little bitter. Something about the new NFC communications being incompatible with the old. NFC is "Near Field Communications", which is a technology to allow smartphones to interact intelligently with objects nearby that contain NFC compliant RFID chips. This is an emerging technology, and I thought Skip was a great use of it.
So, as a final note, the only downside for me about the Moto-X is that we have no way of gauging Google's enthusiasm for this phone, although we can say that it is successful enough that it was one of the five or six top smartphones of 2014 by most reckonings, and the only one that came directly from Google via their subsidiary, Motorola. But wait, Google has sold Motorola to Lenovo, which means this could be all completely up in the air, except that if Lenovo and Google don't continue to partner on the development of the Moto-X phone brand and functions, it will drop out of the top six, and why would Lenovo or Google want to let that happen? Google is a very tricky company to read because everything they do is a massive play on Internet traffic and search, the mother of all their businesses, and ostensibly the mother of all businesses. I feel that I have no choice but to still bet on the Moto-X, my mobile friend.