Moto X 2nd Gen Review

Moto X 2014
In the August of 2013, Motorola reinvented itself with the original Moto X. Their first phone after Google took them over, the Moto X did many things right. Instead of trying to change the part of Android that wasn’t broken in the first place, they kept the stock interface and added really useful features like Active Display, Touchless Controls or the twist-to-open camera gesture. But people didn’t buy it in droves because the specs weren’t competitive enough. Initially priced at $600 in the US, you could get phones with higher resolution displays, faster silicon and better cameras for the same price. As a consolation, the price eventually dropped to half of that, thereby making the Moto X a very good mid-range buy. Even in India, Flipkart launched it for a reasonable Rs. 23,999.
It’s been a little over a year now, and Motorola is out with the 2nd Generation Moto X. This 2014 model fixes everything that people were asking for from the original Moto X. And that’s pretty much it. While the former had a compact form factor thanks to its 4.7-inch display, the 2014 model has gotten considerably bigger thanks to a 5.2-inch display. But probably because the weight is distributed across a larger area, it somehow remains fairly comfortable to use.

White Buttons

White Bottom

The edge is now made of metal and the device feels sturdier than the original Moto X. Undoubtedly, one-handed use does go for a toss, as I had to stretch my thumb to reach the top. There are some nice touches like the textured power button, which makes it easier to distinguish from the volume rockers.

Moto X 2014 Black White

The display resolution is now 1920 x 1080 pixels up from the 1280 x 720 pixel resolution of the Moto X 1st Gen. The screen looks sharper, content looks bigger, typing on the keyboard is a tad easier with two hands because of the increased width. Also, it still is pretty lively because it’s still an AMOLED display. That display type is paramount for the Active Display feature to work. For those who don’t know what Active Display is, it basically lets you read notifications without unlocking your device. It uses motion sensors to intelligently light up on the screen, say when you pull the phone from your pocket or purse.

To add to that, now there are four infrared sensors on all corners of the phone. The moment you wave your hand across the phone, Active Display lights up. This has made an already convenient feature even more convenient. You can also wave your hand over the phone to silence a call or snooze an alarm. Also, where previously you could read the most recent notification, now you can read the top three notifications. It also shows the day/date and battery level.

Moto X 2014 bottom speaker

It might appear like there are two speakers on either sides of the display, but in reality there’s only a single speaker at the bottom. It’s as loud and clear as the original (I’m guessing it feels a little louder because it is now front firing). But it’s awkward when you’re watching a video on the phone and you can hear from one side more than the other. There are not two, not three, but four microphones on the new Moto X. When talking on the phone, people could hear me very clearly with very little background noise. The Moto Voice feature works as advertised too — you can practically use the phone without touching it. You can call people, start navigation, send messages, read notifications…pretty much everything Google Now can do.

While there are times when my 1st Gen Moto X would accidentally wake up without me saying the hot phrase, the new 2nd Gen Moto X never got unintentionally triggered like that. The coolest part is that now you can also choose your own phrase instead of the typical “Ok Google Now”. I kept it to a simple “Ok Moto X”, but you can keep “Enna Rascala”, “My Darling” or any other embarrassing phrases you like. This year Motorola has also baked in some special abilities — tell it “Good Night” and it will turn on the Do Not Disturb mode. You can send WhatsApp messages, but the implementation is more of a hack and it wasn’t able to recognise most of the Indian names correctly. Pausing a YouTube video was worse where I kept shouting “Ok Moto X”, “Ok Moto X” but it just kept playing the video. The “Post To Facebook” command works better than the prior two, probably because it is more straightforward.

The phone is now powered by the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 801 chip firing four cylinders at 2.5GHz. Thanks to this, the phone is absolutely smooth, and it’s noticeably a better experience than the somewhat laggy first-gen Moto X. Imagine a little better performance than the Nexus 5. The Snapdragon 801 is also said to be better at power saving than the Snapdragon 800, and it showed. Despite a modest increase in battery size to 2300mAh, the phone can sufficiently last an average work day in a single charge. I consistently got 15-16 hours with 2 to 3 hours of screen on time. But of course this is not as good as those phones with 3000+mAh batteries, some of whom can last more than 24 hours on a single charge.

The 13 megapixel camera on the Moto X 2014 is a little better than the 10 megapixel unit on the Moto X 2013. It still can’t compare with other flagships out there, but it takes reasonable shots most of the time. When it focuses right, the sharpness is sometimes mind boggling. Colours aren’t very accurate and can go completely haywire if you have the HDR turned on.

moto x 1 vs moto x 2 camera sample 2


moto x 1 vs moto x 2 camera sample 1

It’s not a camera for photographers. The two LEDs surrounding the rear camera are placed inside a ring structure that acts as a diffuser. When compared to the typical LED flash of the Moto X, this definitely works — people won’t end up looking like ghosts when you’re shooting in the dark. The front 2MP camera has a comparatively grainy output to those high-res pro-selfie front camera sensors on competing models. But it’s good enough to have that typical video call. The phone takes decent videos, with resolutions as high as 4K. The 120fps slo-mo feature doesn’t produce as cool an output like how the iPhone does.

Moto X 2014 Bamboo Leather

The Moto X 2014 has optional bamboo and leather back cover options. We got the leather review unit, and — don’t bother buying this one. Sure it feels and smells like leather, but it will wear out very fast. The bamboo back is nicer looking and sturdier, go for that if not the typical plastic option.

Here’s a video review if you’re still not sold on the review above.

Since you’ve stuck around till the end, you probably want to know whether the Moto X 2nd Gen is worth buying? There is absolutely nothing wrong with this phone, and that’s the best thing I can say about it. There’s little incentive for a first-gen Moto X user to upgrade, as most of the new software tricks will roll out to the older model eventually. That’s probably the reason they chose to call it ‘2nd Gen Moto X’, because that’s exactly what it is, an evolutionary update. And now that the Nexus 6 is out, it is evident where the priorities have lied for Motorola this year — as the Nexus 6 gets the Quad HD display, stereo speakers, a rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization, a fast-charging big 3000mAh+ battery with wireless charging (yes, the same kind of charging that the Moto 360 uses) and storage options between 32GB and 64GB. All this strips the Moto X 2nd Gen of its flagship title.

I say it again, there’s nothing wrong with this phone, if you want a no-nonsense stock Android phone with the special features Moto has baked in, you will not regret buying it. I’d wait for this phone to get a little cheaper than Rs. 31,999. After all, it was Motorola in recent times that put us into the habit of getting good products at an aggressive price.

Rohan Naravane works for where he manages the Content & User Experience. He’s a first-gen Moto X user, he is also a smartwatch fanatic and believes in a world where mundane tasks can be accomplished by simply talking to your electronic device.