Review: Motorola Moto X for Verizon Wireless
The Moto X ships with the core Google Play apps for content consumption. These apps are available to all Android devices. I find they work well for handling each different type of content available in the Play Store, including music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines.
Of course, Verizon put a handful of its own media apps on board. Heaven forbid Verizon ship a phone without its NFL Mobile app aboard. If you're a football fan, the NFL Mobile app is actually quite good. It includes scores, highlights, commentary, and plenty of personalization so you can follow your favorite teams. If you want anything beyond Google Play and NFL Mobile, head thee to the Play Store.
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Motorola's camera software is among the weakest available on a flagship device. It's functional, but HTC and Samsung put far more effort into creating powerful camera apps. The X's camera opens swiftly and works much better than last year's, but the UI a direct carry over.
To start, the camera can be set to launch with a gesture rather than pushing any buttons. The gesture requires you to hold the phone horizontally and shake your wrist twice (like you're turning a doorknob). You'll then receive vibration feedback that the camera is in fact opening. I like this feature. The X can go from locked to ready-to-shoot in about two seconds. It's really easy to pull the phone out of your pocket and shake it quickly to launch the camera. You don't have to look at the device at all. (Last year's phone did this, too.)
The camera UI is bare bones. There are only two buttons: one for the video camera and another for the user-facing camera. (Every so often, a little "?" appears in the upper right corner. If you're confused about how to use the camera, this offers you a helpful tutorial.) The controls can only be accessed by swiping from the side of the viewfinder towards the center. Swiping from the left opens the control dial that has most of the options. The Moto X includes HDR (which can be set to come on automatically) and panorama shooting modes. That's about it. There aren't any special GIF creating features, no dual-shot modes, nor any enhanced Selfie tools.
Want to zoom in? Drag your finger from the top of the viewfinder down. Want to zoom back up? Drag your finger from the bottom of the screen up. (When you first launch the camera, these actions are explained.) Perhaps the one thing I really like is that the camera has an always-on burst mode. Press the screen and hold, and the X will focus and then fire of two shots per second until you take your finger off the screen. In fact, the camera will capture shots before you take the first picture, and will allow you to select the "best shot" later in the gallery app.
The camera software is a step up from stock Android, but barely. You can't adjust scenes, ISO, brightness, or white balance. It's rather limiting if you like to take creative control over the camera. Motorola's efforts simply pale in comparison to what others in the industry are doing.
The Moto X has a 13-megapixel sensor and it's one aspect of the phone that is dramatically improved. Last year's 10-megapixel shooter fell far short of the competition. This year's phone takes much better pictures. Chiefly, focus and exposure are much better. I was pleased with the majority of shots I captured with the Moto X, which were sharp, accurate, and colorful. Grain, which often ruined shots from last year's X, is non-existent on the newer model. It truly produces better images more consistently than the 2013 X, especially in low-light situations. Phones such as the GS5, G3, and One (M8) produce somewhat better pictures, but most people should be happy with the images they capture with the Moto X.
The Moto X shoots up to 4K video, but you'll be best served to stick with 1080p HD, which is the default setting. The 1080p footage I captured looked very good. Colors were accurate, focus was razor sharp, and exposure was accurate. The phone handled transitions from light-to-dark and vice versa with no problem, and really did a good job of capturing true-to-life videos. If you really want to be creative, you can use the slow-motion recording mode. It lets you do some fun things here and there.
The Moto X offers both the stock Android gallery app and Google's Photo+ app. The stock gallery app is the same one that comes with most Android devices. It doesn't offer anything new or different compared to other KitKat phones. It is acceptable for managing photo albums and sharing photos with social networks. It also has a some simple editing features, such as crop, rotate, red-eye reduction, and filters that help correct color, exposure, and other issues. The one addition is that of a "highlight reel," which puts together photo collages based on date/time/location and creates individual albums for events. Phones such as the One and G3 offer similar functionality.
The Photo+ app has a more generous set of editing functions, and can be used to back-up and interact with your photos on Google+.
The Moto X for Verizon has more than its fair share of bloatware. It has the Caller Name ID, Verizon Cloud MyVerizon, Verizon Message+, NFL Mobile, VZNavigator, and VZ Protect apps from Verizon, which is really annoying. Thankfully the X is free of the bundle of Amazon apps that Verizon has been foisting onto customers this year.The rest is stock Google or Motorola.
The Moto X's Bluetooth radio worked as expected. I was able to send phone calls and music to various different headphones, as well as connect to PCs and other mobile devices. Phone calls passed through a mono headset sounded really good in terms of both volume and quality. Music sounded decent passed to my favorite Bluetooth speaker, but not as good as other phones I've tested recently.
Chrome is the only browser installed on the Moto X out of the box. The latest version of Chrome has been optimized for the Android L release and uses the new material design language. It is a bit of a change up from the previous version in terms of visuals, but should be easy enough for most people to figure out without issue. It was very quick to deliver web pages over Verizon's LTE 4G network. Browsing speeds were generally excellent and both mobile-optimized and full-sized web sites work great.
Thanks to the Active Display feature, there's almost always a clock visible on the Moto X, even when the phone is idle. It could be a little bigger/brighter, but it can be read in most environments other than under direct sunlight.
The Moto X offers both Google Maps and VZNavigator for your navigation needs. As always, Google Maps is free and VZNavigator requires a nominal monthly fee. Google Maps is quite good. Both interact with the X's GPS radio just fine. The device was always quick to pinpoint my location no matter where I was, and accuracy was good to about 20 feet or so. Google Maps is an excellent tool for searching for nearby points of interest, but VZNavigator is slightly better at handling turn-by-turn directions.
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