Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Moto X Gen 2 Phone

I just upgraded to a new phone, the second-generation Moto X from Motorola.

Back in November 2013 I blogged about my experience with Motorola's first-generation Moto X phone. I've used that phone for the last 15 months, and like it a great deal (with one notable exception: the grass cracked just a month after I got the phone which has been a bummer. Then again it was probably my own fault for not being more careful with it.) I've really come to value many things about this phone. I especially like its size and hand feel, and its innovative active notifications feature, which updates just a few pixels of your turned-off screen to give you notifications in a super battery-efficient way.

Active Notifications

Recently, I decided to upgrade to the new second-generation Moto X, which I received one week ago. When I got the previous first-generation phone, Google had purchased Motorola which was one of the attractive features since I'm not a fan of carrier bloatware on Android phones. Motorola was since sold off to Lenovo, but I ultimately decided to stay with the Moto X family since I liked the first generation so much. Fortunately, the customer ordering experience, phone quality, and very-latest-Android aspects of the Moto X have not been impacted.

The ability to custom-design your phone remains a compelling feature of the Moto X. After ordering my new phone at my local AT&T store, I received a voucher card. At home, I connected to  the Moto Maker site at, entered my upgrade code, and proceeded to design my phone. There are some nice new options available, including several wood and leather back choices (wood or leather costs an additional $25, and you need to be careful where you put your phone to avoid stains). I ultimately chose a white front, bronze accents, and a cognac leather back with my name inscribed.

Lots of choices to customize your phone

Moto Maker online designer

Less than two weeks later, my phone arrived. After following a short online procedure with AT&T, my new phone was linked to my existing number. I did not have to relocate any SIM cards.

Moving to a new device always raises the question of how much work you'll need to do to get your apps and data and configuration replicated. I'm happy to report that not only is that well-addressed by the phone, but three different parties are all looking out for you. Google, Motorola and AT&T all provide software/services to assist in phone upgrade data transfer. My first inclination was to use the Motorola Migrate application, which moves apps/data/configuration from old phone to new over your WiFi network--and that's largely what I did. Since contacts are managed by my carrier, I also utilized AT&T's facility to move my contacts over. While I was doing all this, Android on the new phone automatically prompted me to restore backed up apps and data from my old phone. Motorola Migrate is easy to use: the new phone scans a QR code displayed on the old phone and they communicate over your WiFi network. All in all, it only took about 15 minutes to move everything over and it was painless - everything was done for me automatically.

Motorola Migrate

Hardware-wise, the phone has a powerful processor and a good camera, two areas for which the original Moto X was sometimes criticized. The processor is a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801. The rear main camera is 13 megapixels (previously 10) with a circular dual-LED ring flash (previously single-LED). The front camera is 2 megapixels. There are a lot of nice features in the camera, and they have been thoughtfully engineered.  I don't know about  you, but it usually takes me some time to get acquainted with phone camera features and I often end up not using many of them because they can be cumbersome to get to. That's not the case here: camera features and settings are discoverable and easy to get to. Touch the camera to take a photo, or hold your finger down to capture photos in burst mode so you can select the best shot(s) afterward. You can take Ultra HD video and slow-motion video. You can even quickly summon the camera app with a double shake of the wrist.

Moto X Camera Settings

One concern I had was with the size of the phone. As is common right now, phones are getting larger and the Moto X is no exception: it's gone from 129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm (gen 1) to 140.8 a 72.4 x 9.97 mm (gen 2), and the screen from 4.7 to 5.2 inches with a beautiful AMOLED display. Admittedly, a larger display would be easier on the eyes, but would the larger phone be more difficult to handle? The original Moto X was just perfect for your hand and allowed many things to be done with just one hand. As it turns out, I've had no problem with the larger size phone. It still goes in and out of my pocket easily and has not been cumbersome to use.

My favorite feature is still there, Active Notifications, along with a great new feature that complements it well called Attentive Display. The phone has low power IR sensors on the front and can recognize when you wave your hand or a face is looking at it. This means you can wake up the time and notifications display by simply waving your hand. When looking at the phone (for example reading messages or an e-book), the screen won't time out and go dark on you. It may sound a little spooky that the phone knows when it is being looked at, but this feature is really well-implemented.

Last but not least, there's Android Lollipop. Android prompted me to upgrade to the "L" release (Lollipop) the first day I had the phone, which I proceeded to install. I like the new Android release and its "material design" UI very much. Big UI changes are not always pleasant to adapt to, but this one was.

It's only been a week, but so far I'm loving this phone. It's really a pleasure to use, thanks to the features and little refining touches Motorola has added and the careful way they've been engineered for usability.

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