Moto Voice

One of the highlight features of the previous Moto X was Touchless Control, and Motorola spent a great deal of time trying to empahsize improvements in this feature with at the launch event. For those unfamiliar with Touchless Control in the previous Moto X, I would reference Brian's Moto X review. For those that don't want to read another review, the quick explanation is that Moto Voice acts as a voice command system, similar to Siri but with integration into Google Now and it works purely based on voice instead of long pressing a home button or a swipe gesture on the navigation keys. With the new Moto X, not too much changes, but there are some key features added. First, we see the ability to assign new keywords other than “Ok Google Now”, which is nice. I’m not really sure how this is enabled, as based upon some digging Motorola is still using a TI C55x DSP to enable low power hotword detection.

For the most part, other than this change I don’t really see a major step forward in functionality, although I’m sure that some will see a great deal of benefit from the voice-enabled selfie feature, which automatically opens the camera app with the countdown as seen above. Voice control continues to be an area where I’m unsure that there’s functionality to be had all the time. For the most part, I only seem to use voice control in situations where my hands are unable to manipulate the phone, which basically means when I’m driving or walking. For better or worse though, this is an area where wearables are much more effective. For example, it’s quick and easy to raise my wrist and ask for navigation to an event while driving compared to trying to reach into my pocket and carefully pull out my phone without dropping it under the seat. While explaining how this happens is a long story, the critical point here is that Moto Voice doesn’t really have a killer use case that isn’t done better by something else.

At any rate, the user interface also changes with the new Moto X. We see a great deal more color and a generally friendlier UI compared to the rather dark theme we saw before. Motorola seems to be following Android UI trends in general with this move, although it will affect battery life on AMOLED panels. The setup process is relatively simple, although there’s definitely a need for a quiet room. Even mild amounts of background noise will complicate setup. I also noticed that differing aural environments could alter the responsiveness of Moto Voice, although this could be due to the function turning itself on and off due to a bug in the ROM.

Moto Display

While Moto Voice is a bit limited in usability, Moto Display continues to be a great feature. For those that are unfamiliar with how Active Display worked in the previous Moto X, I would reference Brian's Moto X review again. For those that aren't familiar with Moto Display, this is effectively a low power mode in the Moto X that will display notifications and the time that also acts as a lockscreen. In order to support this low power mode, it isn't actually a part of Android OS and is programmed by a microcontroller so it isn't possible to take a screenshot of Moto Display.

While what we saw in the original Moto X was fantastic, the new Moto X takes things further by adding Moto Actions. While one part of Moto Actions is waving to silence alarms and phone calls, the other aspect allows for proximity to turn on Moto Display. This means that there’s no longer a need to shake the table or wiggle the phone in order to glance at notifications. While the original Moto X had a similar feature, it relied on the proximity sensor and required precise hand placement in order to turn on the display. Instead, with the new Moto X all that is needed is a hand wave or just getting close to the phone. It doesn’t really need to be accurate either, as pretty much any hand wave over the display will cause Moto Display to activate. In practice, handling of the notifications is still mostly similar, although now there’s the ability to display up to three notifications instead of just one.

While Active Display in the original Moto X was good, the new Moto X really turns it into a fantastic feature. It's hard to really explain because on the surface it seems rather mundane but after using Moto Display it's clear just how much time it saves. The glance time is just right to view notifications and the hand wave/approach action is effortless compared to pressing a home button or tapping the display. There's also no doubt that this helps to improve real world battery life as the seconds used to glance at notifications adds up quickly over time, especially because initial unlock will drive the CPUs to max power to ensure responsiveness.

If I’m honest, I’m not really completely sure how this new feature is implemented either. TI’s MSP430 is gone, and the part that seems to take its place is an STM401 sensor processor, which could be the solution used to enable Moto Display and also acts as a sensor hub. I'm not really sure what drove a change, but it's possible that the MSP430 limited feature expansion.

Introduction and Cellular Architecture Software: AOSP UI
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  • bigboxes - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    For the most part I would agree that measurements should be given in inches. However, almost all manufacturing is done in metric and if I needed otherwise I would just use a conversion app on my smartphone. And for all the hater comments I'll await your cries the very next article that posts specs in inches. I know there are some foreign readers, but this is an American website so don't get too distraught when that happens. You can use that very same conversion app to convert inches to metric.
  • Peroxyde - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    I always respect AT audience as knowledgeable people. But this is the exception. Trust me on this one sir, the metric system is far superior. If you don't get it, this means there are some implications you are not aware of. This could be you are not strong in maths or science? Here is a simple test, do you know by heart each increment of the wrenches or drill bits sizes when measure in inches? With metric it goes by 1, 2, 3, ... even a 3 years old kid can know it without learning.
  • nivedita - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    Um, the US makes drill bits in fractions of an inch. You sound like a 3 yr old who just learned how to count yourself, you know.
  • soccerballtux - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    inches will always be superior for size estimation. it's impossible to visualize how many centimeters a phone is by looking at it, because the count always exceeds 5. Inches, eh about 5, maybe 6. What, 13 centimeters? how am I supposed to visually divide the phone into 15 rows like I do with 5 inches? Just doesn't work, and won't ever. I, for one, think our socialist commie europeans can suck a fat 5" one.
  • Peroxyde - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    Oh please, you don't know what you are talking about. You are blissfully happy to know that 1GB = 1000 MB, and you would scream in despair if you were told that a smartphone capacity has a 3/8 Giga inch bytes. When you start doing engineering calculation using feet, inch and pound you will understand what I meant.
  • soccerballtux - Saturday, September 20, 2014 - link

    I prefer mils myself
  • techxx - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    I still think Motorola made the mistake of not realizing that the market wanted a BETTER Moto X, not a BIGGER one. If they had kept it at 4.7" and used a high quality display at 720p, we would have a very unique and incredible ergonomic phone that is high-spec'd with awesome battery life. My fingers are still crossed for a Moto X Compact that can deliver this because as of right now the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is the true successor to the Moto X IMO.
  • semo - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    Or at the very least, they should have kept the Moto G the same size or bumped it to no further than 4.7". I think this is the only high end phone that doesn't have a SD slot. A removable battery is also a must as batteries are considered consumables. Like selling printers with sealed ink/toner cartridges. Madness!
  • chrone - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    +1. We want high performance 4.7" device.
  • flyingpants1 - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    It's called the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

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