Two Motorola employees tranfer data between two of Motorola's Moto X as the American-manufactured smartphone is unveiled at a news conference in New York. Photo: AFP/Don Emmert
In what a number of tech journalists are already calling Android's iPhone moment, Motorola and Google launched the Moto X -- their first co-developed smartphone handset -- at a huge launch event in New York on Thursday night. A device which puts simplicity and ease use above processor speeds and internal specifications.
The phone, which will only be available in the US, Canada and Latin American markets, boasts a number of innovative and, in terms of the current Android ecosystem of devices, unique features such as a gesture-controlled camera and always-on voice recognition and commands.
But the reason why it is drawing comparisons with the iPhone is because the device has been designed from the ground up to be simple to use.
That's why its internal specifications -- a 720p 4.7-inch OLED display, dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 10-megapixel camera on the rear, 2.1-megapixel camera on the front, 2GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, plus support for LTE, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0+ EDR -- are of secondary importance compared to features such as battery life -- 24 hours between charges -- and rapid access to software updates.
Unlike other Android phones, with the Moto X Motorola has cut network providers out of the loop and will be solely in charge of sending out operating system updates to owners. It means that consumers can buy with confidence, knowing that the handset will always be up to date.
This simplicity can also be found in a host of web tools that have launched alongside the phone that will make it easy for consumers to migrate all of their existing content -- phone numbers, text messages, music, films, apps, etc directly over to their new device. But it doesn't end there, consumers will also be able to log into a web portal to customize their phone with a choice of 18 backside covers and wallpaper themes before purchase.
And, because the phone is being built in the US, Motorola claims that a customized order will be fulfilled in just four days. What's more these web tools also include an extension to the Chrome internet browser which will let a Moto X owner see text messages, calls and other notifications on a desktop or notebook as well as on their phone. Interestingly, Apple demoed a very similar set of features in the updates to its latest desktop operating system at its developers conference in July.
However, it is the intuitive, contextually aware features that are bound to be the biggest hit with owners. Even when the phone is locked and on standby, by saying "OK Google" the handset become responsive and will respond to voice commands. Likewise, it knows when it is sitting face-up on a desk and when it is in a pocket. If sitting face-up it will automatically display notifications -- such as Facebook updates and text messages -- on the screen.
Likewise, struggling with the lockscreen to launch the camera will be a thing of the past. Even in standby, holding the phone and twisting your wrist twice will automatically open the camera and its simplified interface meaning it's ready to take photos or shoot video in roughly two to three seconds. And because it is set up for HDR (high dynamic range) the camera should automatically eliminate motion blur and other quality control issues. Motorola said at the event that a huge amount of work went into the phone's imaging abilities as it is all too aware that for the majority of consumers, the smartphone is now also their primary camera.
Then there's the price. It will be $199 with a contract meaning that it is aimed squarely at all other mid-range Android devices. And although the handset is exclusively for the Americas, the company has confirmed that Moto X is a brand, so expect to see new devices for the European market with similar features launched in the near future, as well as a special clean Android Google edition for purists.