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Moto X deep dive review: Hype aside, it's a really good phone

Barbara Krasnoff | Aug. 12, 2013
The Moto X Android smartphone may not be as groundbreaking as expected, but it offers consumers a great mobile experience.

Touchless Control and Active Display
Two of the big selling points about the Moto X are software enhancements that are available in all its new systems -- the Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx and Droid Mini as well -- are Touchless Control and Active Display.

When you say "Okay Google Now" this screen appears, waiting for the next command.

Touchless Control lets you activate Google Now audio commands without having to actually turn on the phone by saying the phrase, "Okay Google Now." For example, if I say "Okay Google Now" the phone will light up, and one of several phases -- including "Yes," "Hello Barbara" or "Yes, Barbara" -- will appear, together with a pulsing red and gray circle. If I then say something like, "Call Jim at home," or "Directions to the Landmark Cinema in Manhattan" or "What is the weather today?" it will initiate the call, show me the directions or tell me the weather.

I found that Touchless Control worked well -- for the most part. It took only a couple of minutes to train it (by saying "Okay Google Now" three times), and after that, the phone reacted most of the time when I said the phrase, even in a fairly noisy environment. And when it did react, nine times out of ten, it got my request right.

However, occasionally it does go on strike. On several separate occasions, the Moto X performed perfectly when I tried out the Touchless Control three times in a row, but after that, it completely stopped reacting to my voice. (It worked fine again later.)

The Active Display shows you the time and indicates (via icons) if you have any messages when you move the phone -- for example, pull it from your pocket. If you do have messages, it will also "pulse" the information on and off when the phone is not moving, displaying this info and then darkening the screen every few seconds. (You can decide exactly what services will indicate new messages, voicemails, etc., and you can set it to sleep between certain hours if you don't want it going at night.) Swipe up the display in order to see any messages.

The feature is handy -- it certainly does make it simple to see what time it is and to see if you have any new emails or missed a call. I found it rather eerie, though, to have the phone pulsing on and off like that.

According to Motorola, both of these "always on" features are made possible without serious battery drain by the two extra processors -- the natural language processor and a contextual computing processor. (The latter also allows you to set a feature called Motorola Assist, which will do things like silence calls during meetings.)

 

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