New Moto X: The Most Underrated Phone Gets Better

Last year’s Moto X was one of the most underrated smartphones of the year. Despite offering a customizable design, touch-less voice controls and a gorgeous screen, the device didn’t win over many shoppers. In fact, Google unceremoniously dumped Motorola into Lenovo’s lap. The 2014 Moto X hopes to undercut the competition with a larger display, more advanced voice controls and additional customization options. Plus, the device is just $99 on contract on AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Is the 2014 Moto X a worthy successor to last year’s model? We went hands-on to find out.

Improved Voice Controls

One of the standout features of last year’s Moto X was Moto Voice controls, which built on Google Now to enable touchless interactions with the phone. Now you can do a lot more with your voice. For instance, you can say “Take a selfie” and the phone will automatically launch the front-facing camera and snap a shot. Additionally, Moto Voice will work with third-party apps such as Facebook, Whatsapp and YouTube. 

You can even name your phone, allowing you to wake it up without having to say, “OK, Google Now.” You could even say, “Hey, Steve Jobs” to snap the Moto X to attention.

MORE: 12 Surprising Things Your Android Phone Can Do

How does the Moto X do all this? The device now has four microphones–one more than last year–to better isolate a user’s voice from the surrounding environment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Smarter, Sharper Camera

Motorola has upgraded the rear camera to 13 MP, which is also capable of shooting 4K video. Motorola also added some clever features: Best Shot activates as soon as you open the camera app, and begins taking photos if it detects movement and stores them in its cache. If you take an action shot that’s similar to the ones it took, it will compare them and suggest the photo that looks the best.

If the Moto X sees that you’ve taken a bunch of photos in a particular location, Highlight Reel will group some of them together and combine it with a music track to make a video of that activity. You can then edit both the photos that appear as well as the music, and then share the finished work with friends. 

Specs

The the new Moto X boasts a larger 5.2-inch 1080p AMOLED display, a big step up from the 4.7-inch 720p screen on last year’s model. The handset is powered by a 2.5-GHz GHz Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM; and it has a micro SD card slot.

Last year’s Moto X had a rear speaker that did an admirable job, but this year’s version has two front-facing speakers that should put other smartphones, such as the HTC One M8, on notice. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Moto Maker Gets Better

Perhaps the coolest aspect of the Moto X is its customization options via Motorola’s Moto Maker service. Now expanded, this service lets you select from one of 17 different plastic covers, four wood backs (walnut, bamboo, ebony and teak), and four leather (black, navy blue, natural and cognac).

In addition, you can change the color of the speaker grilles. Better yet, you can create and compare multiple configurations on the Moto Maker site, which will save a lot of time when deciding just what you want your phone to look like.

Outlook

At just $99, the Moto X should give other flagship smartphones a real run for their money, many of which cost $100 more. Stay tuned as we put the Moto X through its full paces. 

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