Motorola Moto X review: Listen up - your phone is paying attention to everything you say

4.00

David Phelan on the killer app that is this smartphone's standout feature

How much do you listen? Do you ever drift off while chatting to a loved one? Shame on you. If you have the new Motorola Moto X smartphone, it’s listening more than you are.

The Moto X, even if it’s in standby mode with the screen blank, is keeping an ear out for your every word. Creepy, huh? But it’s also the killer app on the new handset.

I mean, don’t worry, it’s not waiting to hear your bank card pin code or anything. It’s just waiting, like an adoring lapdog, in case it hears the magic words that bring joy to its heart. If it does hear them, it leaps into action. The words are “Okay, Google Now.” The phone responds with a bong so you know it’s listening and it’s ready to answer your next spoken question – you don’t need to even touch the phone. And it’s a good listener. It never failed to hear me say the key phrase, even from across the room. And once I got used to the right timing (don’t speak until the bong has finished, and do NOT pause when you ask your question as it’ll think you’re done), it worked amazingly.

Google Now knows a lot of stuff that it can say, like the height of the Eiffel Tower and the time in Houston, Texas. And much more that it can’t speak, in which case the screen shows the printed answer.

It can’t, unlike Siri, handle supplementary questions, so you have to start the whole process again by speaking the phrase and asking a whole new question.

With Google Now, the Motorola X is able to answer basic questions - but conversations with your computer are still a way off.

But it’s unquestionably an impressive and delightful feature that augurs well for a future where smartphones and tablets can benignly listen in to answer questions before we even realise we’ve wondered about them.

It’s the standout feature on this handset, though it’s not the only headline-grabber.

For a start, this is a handsomely designed phone which takes style tips from earlier Motorola models: a display that goes to the very edges of the front of the device, a curved back, complete with dimpled circular Moto logo and two more circles directly above for the camera lens and flash.

The 4.7in display is decent but not outstanding, not least because its 720x1280 pixel screen is no match for the full HD displays of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One – both phones heading for their first birthdays. Still, the 312 pixels per inch mean it’s screen resolution is just behind that of the iPhone’s Retina display, and it struggles in bright sunlight unlike, say, the Nokia Lumia 1020.

The camera is a 10-megapixel model and though that beats rivals like the iPhone 5s and HTC One, it’s way behind the 20.7-megapixel sensor on the Sony Xperia Z1 (and Z1 Compact), not to mention the 41-megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020. And image quality is not as pristine or effective as the iPhone 5s manages.

Still, it has another very cool interface feature – the phone launches faster than on any other smartphone I’ve tried. That’s because instead of waking the screen and then launching the camera, as on many phones, or long-pressing the trigger on Windows Phone handsets, here it’s all in the wrist action. Pick the phone up and with a double flick of the wrist the phone wakes up, launches the camera (with a pleasant vibration effect) and is ready to shoot. You can even zoom one-handed by swiping your thumb up or down on the display. There are extra features like burst mode and HDR which improve things. Even so, this camera delivers good, but not the very best results.

Different colored examples of Motorola's new Moto X phones rest on a table at a launch event in New York

Special interface features also include the notifications that show when the screen is sleeping. When an email comes in, the phone pings and shows an email icon. Touch the screen, without waking it and it’ll show you the sender and subject line so you don’t have to wake the phone unless you really want to read the missive. Neat.

Performance is strong throughout this phone, including its full-day battery life which seems unaffected by all that listening the phone does and its processor which was consistently efficient and nippy.

There’s one other thing: nestling on the home screen is an icon marked Windy Day. It’s amazing. It’s just a cartoon about a mouse and red hat being blown relentlessly around. But as you move the phone, your view of the landscape changes. There’s a full 360-degree cartoon world to explore, though the action is where the mouse is. Turn away and the music and sound effects fade, though you may see characters secondary to the main story. It’s beautifully done, and utterly captivating. I’m not saying it’s worth buying the phone for Windy Day alone, but if you have the handset, it’s unmissable.

Overall, some may feel the similarly priced but slightly more powerful Google Nexus 5 is a better choice, though the Moto X’s styling is pretty convincing. And this is an effective and pretty cool phone that’s definitely worth checking out, if only to test the wrist-flicking camera action and the response when you say “Okay Google Now”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

    £34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Developer - WinForms, C#

    £280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

    Java Developer

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game