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
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
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

    C# Software Engineer (ASP.NET, C#, CSS, Java Script, JQuery)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits, Training & Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# S...

    CCNP Network Engineer - Farnborough, £250 pd

    £250 per day: Orgtel: Network Engineer (CCNP), Cisco Gold Partner, Farnborough...

    Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

    £250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

    Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

    £30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape