I have a confession to make. For all intents and purposes, the Moto X seems like a neat little device catered to the mean--the common man or woman who wants their phone to "just work"; the common man or woman who would have bought an iPhone or, in a hellish past life, a BlackBerry. At about 11 a.m. this morning I sort of, actually, maybe really wanted one.
But guess what? The Moto X is not for people like me, and I'm starting to believe that was the point.
See, I do a variety of things with my phone. I make phone calls. I check work email. I watch videos. I visit TAC. I visit Reddit. I listen to music. I do a variety of things, and the quantity of those things have only increased as my phones have become more powerful, more flexible, and of a higher quality. With the One, I can watch amazing videos with crisp, loud sound. It's like having a computer, a TV, and a work tool all in one. And I can hack it (if I so choose).
But the Moto X is patently different. The Moto X is simple. Shake your wrist (for a minute, according to the Verge video) and your camera appears out of nowhere to take decent shots simply and easily. Stare at the screen long enough and you'll notifications pulsing away, waiting for you to check them out or dismiss them. Say "Ok Google Now" and launch Google Now when the screen is off. Simple, cool stuff that adds to the daily use of a phone.
Add to that the customization options--504 combinations if you factor in the different storage sizes, face colors, trim colors, and back colors--and you have something that's not only simple, but colorful and expressive.
Unfortunately, I haven't really given a shit about simplicity since I owned an LG enV. Android has, and will probably always have, a bit of a learning curve. It's not just some tap and go magical OS that does everything you want instantaneously. To some extent, it offers no compromises. You get an extremely powerful, flexible OS, which is often paired with the most powerful hardware currently available. For a guy like me--who abhors anything less than 8 cylinders--this is the perfect combination. I'll shift my own gears, thank you very much. And when I do, the noise I make will be so glorious that Thor himself will pee a little when I pass beneath a thunder cloud at 90 mph.
But the Moto X? The entire thing is a rainbow-colored compromise devoid of thunder, passion, and dare I say it--awesomeness.
For starters, it's assembled (not built) in Texas. Thus, instead of the usual Chinese slave labor typically employed by Apple, Samsung, HTC, and [insert every tech manufacturer here], you get folks like you or me putting it together and shipping it out. Cool? Undoubtedly. I love America. But...it comes at a steeper cost, and I'm not too sure if that cost will ultimately be justified.
(Although, I leave you with this. The best value for performance cars, right now, is arguably the Mustang GT. It comes in right under $30K for a base manual and it gives you, the consumer, a 420 hp V-8. That type of value was unheard of years ago and is more or less unheard of now. Other cars in that price bracket have far less power, and thus, far less performance value (depending on what you do and how you do it; as with everything, performance is relative). And it's American. Built here. By non-slaves. But cheaper. Get that, because after today, I sort of don't.)
Next up in the glorious chain of compromise is its processor, the X8. The X8 computing system is really cool. Or, more appropriately stated, the X8 is really cool as of August 1st. In it, you have your dual core CPU, your quad core GPU, and 2 extra cores that handle dedicated tasks (like the voice stuff and the active screen stuff). Cool idea, but not exactly packing Bugatti-levels of oomph. For RAM, it packs 2 gigs of RAM, which is practically mandatory at this juncture.
But my fear, and perhaps the fear of many, is staying power. In other words--performance sustainability. Remember when Samsung debuted the GS3? They packed 2 gigs into it to make it "future proof." Now, as we all know (and love/hate), Samsung utilizes the unwieldy shitfest that is TouchWiz, while this (thankfully) does not. So there's a legitimate need for 2 gigs in the GS3, because let's face it, there are bears that consume comparatively less meat than TouchWiz consumes memory. With the Moto X, what happens when, a year from now, you have 28 gigs of apps/photos/bullshit and the components begin aging? Will it still be lightning snappy as it was for the journalists at its double-secret debut party? I know I'd feel better having that extra horsepower to rely on, and I bet others do too. Either way, we can't tell what the phone will be like a year into your 2 year contract. So until then, fingers crossed. I have some faith in the multi-processor layout, but who knows.
(And look, I get it--it's really slick and fast right now. Why wouldn't it be? Did you really think that Moto would release a laggy phone from the get go? That's Samsung's market and boy oh boy do they have it cornered.)
Forget the foregoing. For me, the big deal breaker is the screen. The post-embargo narrative propounded by (some) journos and Moto is "you can't tell the difference between 720p and 1080p, so who gives a fuck." Well, good sir or madame, while I don't have eagle-eyed vision I sure as shit can tell the difference between a 720p and 1080p screen. Let's play a game. Go grab an HTC One and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Put the One next to the Galaxy Nexus. The result? The One looks like a goddamned 4K TV while the Galaxy Nexus approaches the sharpness of a late-era Gameboy Color. The difference is stark and real. You know what I do for a living? I live next to my phone reading email. That's all I do. Email. Writing. More email. Some phone calls. More email. Rinse/repeat. Text on the One is crisp, clear, and accurate. It's an absolute joy to read on the One. On lesser DPI screens it's not (and on the Galaxy Nexus it was absolutely annoying, but for reasons other than just a low DPI). Am I some highfalutin prick for really wanting crisp and accurate text? Is that so much to ask?
Pixels aside, I've grown quite accustomed to LCD/IPS panels. While LCD/IPS panels don't have the crazy "pop" of the over-saturated AMOLEDs, they also don't have these awesome features typical of standard AMOLED panels:
- Black blotches
- Inconsistent screen angles
- Heavy tinting (which, per one review video, is pink on the Moto X, but can be blue, yellow, whatever)
- Easy burn in
- Grainy paper textures in low brightness grey/white screens
- Weird blue haze from blue pixels burning out
- Heavy ghosting on high brightness
- High levels of neuroses from worrying about the above.
So in short, I'd almost be OK with the 720p panel if it was anything but AMOLED. But if you haven't guessed by now, the Moto X has, indeed, an AMOLED screen. So there's that.
And that's why I dislike the Moto X. This thing is a giant compromise. But, as disappointing as the above may be, there was one last aspect that could tempt me to purchase the Moto X--the price. Remember, we knew all of the specs and tech details well before today. It's been leaked to death, as is everything these days (including Apple products). But the pricing? Big mystery there. Some people, like your idiot author, thought it was going to be close to Nexus 4 prices. In fact, some rumors seemed to think it would undercut that price--off contract.
But reality? Reality sucks, people. See, Moto needs to make money; they have to justify their massive marketing campaign, American work force, and incredible color palette. So in that harsh reality, you'll be paying $199/$249 (16gb/32gb) for a Moto X--on contract. Rumor has it off-contract pricing is $575/$630, but that has yet to be officially confirmed. Even more of a gut punch? AT&T apparently sold their souls to get a decent period of exclusivity. Not early-iPhone levels of exclusivity, but a month or two (or 8, if you're on Verizon). For example, AT&T has the only 32gb model available--for now. Have a bunch of music? Welp, hope you like the cloud. ...But wait, there's more! Want your Moto X in hot pink with green accents? Sucks if you're on Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cingular, or Cricket. Because if you're not on AT&T, you'll be able to get two--count 'em, two--custom color choices: white, and the ever so rare black.
So as a pricing "recap," not only is this device priced like a top-tier phone, it's largely unavailable to the masses in its most awesome, flexible, and customized form. Because compromise. We can only hope that the Google Play edition softens this up.
Then again, perhaps I tried fooling myself into liking this thing this morning. As we all know, my esteemed colleague and compatriot creccaj has phone acquisition disorder. I too like new things, but never would I have the testicular and financial fortitude to buy each new thing I like, unless, of course, it deals with my car, golf clubs, or Amazon specials. But this...this could have been justified, I think, if it was something that was truly amazing, truly wondrous. Or, better yet, if it was something that perfectly lived up to the surrounding mystery that Moto, Google, and the ever-growing list of evangelists created in the past few months. But guess what? It's not a game changer. You know what it is? A perfectly capable device for folks who just want their phones to work. That's it. It's not a goddamn sword of damascus; it's not made with materials mined from an asteroid. It's a phone running close-to-stock Android with some cool features, a neat processor system, and a 2 year old screen.
And I'm ok with that. I was just hoping for more. Why? Because Google can do some insane things when it wants to. It makes Google Glass. It wants to make WiFi freely available to the masses via weather balloons. It builds self-driving cars for fuck's sake. But the Moto X? It's decidedly unGoogle in its ambition. It's utilitarian with some heavily pigmented watercolor (but only if you're on AT&T). And that lack of risk, or that lack of radical foresight, killed a bit of my optimism today.
Oh well. Who knows, maybe I'll get a wood-backed Moto X in a few months; at least then I'll have something to knock on whenever I inevitably start believing in the bullshit that comes hours/days/weeks/months before "the next big thing" is released.
And hey, it could be worse. It could be a plastic iPhone.