This waking up and giving commands business can be done with the phone in your hand, on the desk, on the car seat next to you or on a table 15 feet away.
Unlike previous implementations of Google Now, which is currently an app that requires you to "launch" it with a screen gesture and which relays your voice to the cloud for processing, the X8 does some, most or all voice processing right there in the hardware without touching an app or even waking up the phone.
Google Now is faster because the phone is already listening. It's faster because the processing is done locally. And it's faster because the voice electronics make it more accurate.
Note that this stuff is not some interface gimmick or parlor trick like so many features being touted on high-end smartphones these days. This technology removes obstacles between your brain and Google's brain. This is real empowerment.
(Of course, Motorola's Droid line, announced last week and including new versions of the Droid Mini, Ultra and Maxx, also have the X8. But those phones are a continuation of Motorola's ill-fated target-the-geeks strategy -- young males who like science fiction. The Moto X, on the other hand, is the Google Phone for everybody -- men, women, children, business people -- and will therefore having a broad-based cultural impact.)
The Moto X can not only pay attention to its location and context and listen to you for voice commands, it also enables the checking of notifications, messages and the time without you touching it.
Motorola calls it their Active Display. Because the Moto X uses an AMOLED screen, the phone is able to turn on only a minority of the pixels normally lit up without wasting battery power on the rest of the pixels, and those only intermittently. The time, plus any recent notifications, automatically and constantly fade into view, then fade back to black. To check this information, just look at your phone.
You'd think that "always on" notifications would drain the battery. It turns out the opposite is true. One of the biggest battery drains today is caused by users constantly firing up the full smartphone display every 30 minutes to check the time and for notifications. The Moto X will give that information without waking up, which makes the battery last longer.
The X8 turns the Moto X smartphone into the phone equivalent of a wearable computer -- like Google Glass. In fact, the technology that makes the Moto X unique was originally developed for wearable computing.
A senior Motorola executive told me that it was developed for Motorola's smartwatch initiatives -- probably the fitness oriented wristwatch, the MOTOACTV, and possibly the company's rumored upcoming smartwatch. The Moto X's best technology is literally wearable computing technology built into a smartphone.
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