First Impressions of the 2014 Motorola Smartphone Range

I’m a fan of Motorola’s 2013 Android handset line up, the Moto G and the Moto X, for their mix of getting back to the basics of what makes a good smartphone combined with good value for money, especially the Moto G. Motorola comparatively recently added LTE and a MicroSD card slot to the Moto G but have recently announced the 2014 versions of the handset. Let me give you my thoughts on the new devices.

2014 Moto G

The original Moto G showed the world that a budget Android device didn’t have to be sluggish, unresponsive and an unpleasant experience. Motorola gave the Moto G respectable hardware; the device runs a quad core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. It has a 2,070 mAh battery that gives surprisingly good battery life and 720p resolution screen of 4.5-inch in size. The main camera is 5.0 MP in resolution and in my review, I found it to be lacking. Perhaps best of all, Motorola kept the interface very close to stock Android, which meant the device very quickly received software updates. They even released a Google Play Edition for the Android purists, but most people were happy with Motorola’s very lightly modified stock interface.

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The 2014 model is largely the same, but features a larger screen at 5.0-inch (with the same 720p resolution). It has the same processor and RAM, a 1.2 GHz quad core Snapdragon with 1 GB. It appears to have the same battery at 2,070 mAh but the camera module has been upgraded to 8 MP resolution. Moto have also given the G dual front speakers.

From a productivity perspective, the new Moto G is similar to the old. Yes, there’s a larger screen and this will make it a little easier to use for editing documents, emails and browsing the web, but there is likely to be a small impact on battery life. The front speakers are useful when using the Moto G for navigation as you won’t get cradle-muffle. It’s largely same-as.

2014 Moto X

The original Moto X is one of my favourite devices of 2013, but between Motorola and the UK carriers, the launch in Great Britain was, quaintly, nerfed. We didn’t receive the Moto X until it had been out for six months and, ludicrously, it was released as though it existed in a vacuum with none of the discounting that the US models received. This made it appear expensive and that undoubtedly cost it many sales. Fortunately, Motorola have learnt from their mistake and the UK is getting the Moto X pretty much as quickly as the USA, which is a good thing.

Motorola’s Moto X is in some respects a bit like the Apple iPhone in that it doesn’t care too much at box specifications, but instead at providing a great user experience. The original X used a custom CPU chipset called the X8 Mobile Computing System. This combined a dual core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, a cut down version of the CPU used in the Nexus 4, with a four-core GPU and two additional context-aware cores. It came with a 4.7-inch, 720p AMOLED screen, 2 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of internal storage. There was a 10 MP rear camera and a 2,200 mAh battery with the promise of twenty four hours of mixed usage. However, the real star of the show is the software. Motorola have used near-stock Android and the device very quickly received software updates.

The advantage of including the context-aware cores is realized by the Moto’s software. Motorola added a few great features to the device, including Active Notifications (whereby the handset lets you know of events without illuminating the whole screen, taking advantage of the AMOLED technology) and an ability to always be listening to you with Touchless Control. These ultra-low power cores enable the device to be listening for your voice without running the battery down. Oh, and the Moto X had superb signal and voice clarity plus three microphones. If you wanted a smartphone to be first and foremost a ‘phone, the Moto X is a highly recommended choice.

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For 2014, Motorola dropped their customized X8 chipset and replaced it with an off-the-shelf design, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, a quad core 2.5 GHz beast of a processor. The screen was increased in size to 5.2-inch and 1080p resolution. RAM remained at 2 GB with 16 and 32 GB media storage options available. The rear camera was upgraded to 13 MP and takes better quality images. Like the new Moto G, the Moto X has front mounted speakers but confusingly it places both in the bottom grill (the top grill is for just the earpiece). The battery capacity has been increased to 2,300 mAh and there are now four microphones, the first Android device with such an elaborate audio system. And finally, Motorola have given the X a dynamic radio antenna using the aluminum band around the chassis. This gives the handset the ability to very carefully tune the device to get the best signal, which in turn will reduce battery consumption from the radios.

The new Moto X will please the box-specification crew as it now matches the other 2014 flagship handsets. From a productivity perspective, the larger screen and higher resolution will make it easier to work with documents, emails, websites and similar. The X comes with the same ingenius software features and voice clarity that made me like the original so much. My only concern is battery life, for whilst the Snapdragon 801 is a much more efficient processor compared with the S4 Pro, the screen is noticeably larger and the battery capacity barely greater.

Conclusion

I need to write that neither of these devices is a significant departure from their predecessors and this is a good thing. The new Moto G is a larger version of the old but retains the value ticket. It’s a device that deserves to sell in the millions providing people are comfortable with the 5.0-inch screen.

The Moto X has made me ponder things a little more. It ticks all of the boxes: a more powerful and efficient chipset, a larger, higher resolution screen and a better camera. I’ve not even written about Moto Maker, meaning that you can customize the handset in color and material designs to suit your taste (leather and wooden backs are included). Like the Nexus 5, the relatively small battery capacity looks at odds with the rest of the specification, but I also expect that like the 2013 Nexus, the Moto X will have enough power to get through a day to a charge.

Image credits: www.phonearena.com

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