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Moto X (2014) deep-dive review: Android done right -- again

JR Raphael | Sept. 22, 2014
With a distinctive and customisable design, superb software and exceptional features, the new Moto X shows just how good an Android phone can be.

In an interesting new twist, the phone automatically takes extra pictures in the background when it senses that your subject is moving and might be blurred or out of frame; when that happens, the device offers you an alternate image as an option in the photo gallery. It's a cool idea and has actually come through for me on several occasions.

Another neat new touch is an HTC-reminiscent feature called Highlight Reel. It automatically groups together related photos and video clips you've captured and then stitches them together into short video montages. The phone's Gallery app makes it easy to tweak the montages to adjust their length, add or remove specific content and add or remove background music. With a couple of taps, you can then save the videos as MP4 files and upload them anywhere you like for sharing.

Speaking of video, the Moto X can record at 1080p resolution -- with or without slow-mo -- as well as at Ultra HD (4K) resolution.

Software that shines
All that hardware stuff is fine and dandy, but where the Moto X shines the most is in its software.

Unlike most Android manufacturers, Motorola doesn't misguidedly try to "differentiate" its devices by tacking on clunky skins, gimmicky features and arbitrary UI modifications. Instead, the company sticks with Google's clean and intuitive core Android interface and sprinkles some useful features on top of it -- things that actually add meaningful value without requiring compromise.

For anyone who's used the first-gen Moto X, many of these features will be familiar. There's Moto Display (formerly known as Active Display), which causes the current time and any pending notifications to flash on the phone's screen periodically as well as anytime you pick up the device. You can then quickly deal with or dismiss notifications by swiping your finger across the screen.

The feature has grown even smarter with the new model's implementation: Thanks to a series of sensors on the phone's face, you can now make the time and notifications appear by simply waving your hand over the display -- as high as 10 inches above it. It's worked flawlessly during my time with the device, and it makes an already handy feature even more useful.

Moto Display also now allows you to interact with multiple pending notifications instead of only the most recent one, as was the case with the first-generation device.

The new Moto X's front-facing sensors enable a couple of other practical additions: First, they allow the phone's display to automatically stay on longer when you're looking at it and shut off more quickly when you aren't. That's smart -- and it's worked exactly as advertised in my experience.

 

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