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Fear and Loathing in Mountain View: A Tale of Bullish Optimism and Broken Dreams

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Google Motorola Moto X Hype

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dmmarck #1

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Posted Aug 1 '13 @ 4:07 PM

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.


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creccaj #2

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 3:32 AM

Motorola missed a golden opportunity with this phone.  If they were able to come out with a device that was in the $100-$150 upgrade range for the 16gb and 32gb they would have a killer on their hands.  The internals do not warrant a top tier price tag but if you put that phone out there with devices at that level, the iPhone 4s and Galaxy S3 maybe it would destroy its competition.  But look at that statement.  Motorola produced a phone that is going up against LAST year's Android hero in the Galaxy S3 and the still popular iPhone 4s.  

 

Is that what Moto really wanted to do?  Probably not but in the end that is what we got from them and it is a huge let down for those who bought the hype when it started a long time ago.  When I heard about the X phone I was thinking it was going to be a Galaxy Nexus on steroids.  Going to be the next phone that would revolutionize the platform and prove that a mainstream phone could be something that hackers/tweakers and normal users could love together.  Unfortunately, they were late to the party and now that torch has been taken up by Samsung with the Galaxy S3.  

 

The difference here is that the Galaxy S3 came out with top of the line internals and priced as it should have been, top tier pricing line.  I am not saying that specs rule everything, the average user doesn't give two shits about the specs of the device, as long as it works.  However, to the more "experienced" user that isn't the case.  We know from experience that over time the parts will degrade, they will slow down and they will ultimately give a much different usability from the day you open the package to the day you are swearing it off.  

 

Like I said before, this would be a much easier pill to swallow if the price RETAIL was around $350-$400.  Slightly higher than the Nexus 4 but at the same time $200 or so less than top end phones of today like the S4 and One.  This would make it very attractive to those looking to keep an unlimited plan but don't want to spend an arm and leg or those just looking for something new to occupy their interests until the next big thing comes out when they have an upgrade ready.

 

Sadly, in the end I believe that it was Moto's marketing that let them down.  They hyped this phone to no end and it came back to bite them in the ass because they didn't come out with a device that all of us were expecting.  Sure it will probably be a good phone, Motorola usually makes good phones.  Think about this though, does a "good phone" get by anymore?  When you go into a store do you go looking for a "good phone" or "great phone".  

 

For me, if I am expected to last 2 years with it, it needs to be great and it needs to exceed my expectations and I am sorry to say that the Moto X does exceed any expectations.  


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7stringer #3

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 6:20 AM

I think the first few sentences hit everything on the head, and that's this: this phone wasn't engineered to be a tech-savvy person's game-changing device. It's a rebranding of Motorola to become more simplistic and streamlined; it's a chance for Motorola to use Google OS to make an iPhone-like competitor. 
 

The market language the past few years has been a fierce battle,and Apple has been winning because it wasn't marketing a stick shift; it was marketing the first automatic transmission. 

 

Motorola is taking this same principle and applying it to a different ecosystem that now has the potential to be as vast--though arguably still not as simple--as iOS. With that said, and with that in mind, this phone has no reason to not do well. When i talk to 98% of my friends, they never, ever talk about DPI, processors, RAM, etc. Those things are confusing and, without the drive to learn more about the architecture and "why" behind their importance, regular folks will just look past it and move on to what they do  know, and that's the interaction with the device. Does it work? Is it pretty? Does it move along at a pace that doesn't stop you from what you're doing? Can I get on instagram and take good pictures?

 

In this case, however, Motorola is banking on the hardware customization/personalizing as a competitive advantage. 

 

Think about the marketing terms being used here. For example, the processor: X8. Sounds awfully familiar to A5, or A6, or A7, doesn't it? It's simple, it's easy, it's got an single letter and single number. Clock speeds don't mean anything to the 90% of potential buyers they are targeting, which is why you won't see Apple offering that information from the get-go. Android OEMs typically offer those specs because people like us want to know, because we nerd out for the bleeding edge tech. In this case, and in Apple's case, they aren't marketing those things aggressively because a) it could confuse those who aren't like us, and b ) it sets you up for the most critical expectations. Think about this: was the iPhone 4 and 4S that different? No, and that's why there was tech OUTRAGE. But isn't it funny that the 4S outsold the 4 no problem, and that many previous 4 owners stepped up and bought into it? Apple set itself up in a way that the expectations became less about horsepower and more about features and branding; it was cool to step up because now your phone had Siri, for example. A few, simple changes under the hood, some extravagant marketing terms applied to those changes, and ta-da. (Don't get me wrong, though; Android OEMs have certainly been doing things similarly, and I think it's unfair that they've not received honorable credit for pushing the envelope in terms of technological advancements.)

 

But, nevertheless, I think Motorola has the opportunity to finally see some success - they've created a product [read: the idea] that truly has the possibility to persuade iPhone users to switch who were otherwise impervious to the spec wars. 


Updated by 7stringer, Aug 2 '13 @ 6:23 AM.

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lpt2569 #4

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 8:59 AM

Counterpoint?

http://www.droid-lif...out-the-moto-x/


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dmmarck #5

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 12:33 PM

Counterpoint?
http://www.droid-lif...out-the-moto-x/


Seems a bit like an after the fact rationalization. Saw the GPU thing earlier. Funny how it says it outperforms the One, yet the One isn't tested in those benchmarks :).

And the walk back of the screen is a bit silly.

I think it's neat, don't get me wrong. Just not top tier neat.

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lpt2569 #6

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 1:03 PM

Seems a bit like an after the fact rationalization.

 

Can one rationalize the quality and "neatness" of a piece of technology prior to actually using it?  You can rationalize a Ford Mustang as the best value in it's class, but after driving one, which is the whole point of a car, someone may feel otherwise, no?  One trip to the grocery store was all it took for me to know you couldn't pay me enough to drive a Mustang everyday.   ;)   Maybe folks will feel differently after actually using this device?  Nice post though, despite the requisite Samsung bashing.  :P


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dmmarck #7

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 1:30 PM

 

Seems a bit like an after the fact rationalization.

 

Can one rationalize the quality and "neatness" of a piece of technology prior to actually using it?  You can rationalize a Ford Mustang as the best value in it's class, but after driving one, which is the whole point of a car, someone may feel otherwise, no?  One trip to the grocery store was all it took for me to know you couldn't pay me enough to drive a Mustang everyday.   ;)   Maybe folks will feel differently after actually using this device?  Nice post though, despite the requisite Samsung bashing.  :P

 

 

Sure, there are things that can be objectively measured that all for rationalization.  Here, my use of "after the fact" means...after the fact it got torched by a decent amount of human beings.

 

For the objective stuff, the Moto X is apparently crushing it in GPU benchmarks.  That's a great sign for the device (although, noticeably absent was the One).  I think the screen can be compared to others and can be objectively measured.  User experience is a whoooole other thing, and that's where it'll be user dependent.

 

Re: Mustang.  Wanting to drive one doesn't matter.  What matters is what it is relative to--and in the above, it was performance.  For bang for your buck, its traits are undeniable.  Doesn't mean you want to/have to/should buy or drive one.  It just means that based upon the measureables, it's not beaten in its class (and hits well above its class).

 

I actually think the Moto X aspires to be like that, to hit above its class (see: GPU benchmarks), but whether it can withstand this fall's lineup of new devices, or even a year, will remain to be seen.


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lpt2569 #8

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 1:54 PM

Word.

creccaj #9

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Posted Aug 2 '13 @ 7:43 PM

In the end I think the point here is that this was a let down based on what Moto COULD have done. We could easily say the same thing about the Galaxy S4. That said it will probably be a good phone for a year but I don't give it much past that.

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lpt2569 #10

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Posted Aug 3 '13 @ 4:32 AM

I will simply paste Cory's post from elsewhere as my response...:D

"On paper, this thing will be dead by Christmas, especially if you're a spec whore. That said, it's not the specs that are important, it's the experience. If an AT&T rep had the choice between selling based on a spec sheet or demoing all of that contextual awareness stuff, which do you think they would choose?

For my part, I'm going to refrain from judgement until I've actually used one. I think they might be doing some interesting performance things with the addition of custom ASIC chips. I will not accept any lag whatsoever nor a less than stellar screen. I'm pretty certain the screen will fail me, but we'll see."


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creccaj #11

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Posted Aug 3 '13 @ 5:32 AM

Moto X retail pricing has been rumored to be $574.99 for the 16gb and $629.99 fore the 32gb.  At those prices... no thank you.  


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dmmarck #12

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Posted Aug 3 '13 @ 7:17 AM

Moto X retail pricing has been rumored to be $574.99 for the 16gb and $629.99 fore the 32gb.  At those prices... no thank you.  

 

Yup.  Way too much.  In the end, for me, it's boiling down to the screen.  Can I let go of the One's 1080p LCD for the Moto X's 720p AMOLED?  Doubtful.


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dmmarck #13

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Posted Aug 5 '13 @ 10:31 AM

BTW, remember that time I cited banding as a reason for not liking AMOLED?  Guess what phone has it!

 

I was thinking the same thing when I got this device in my hands. And no, it’s not the best display on a smartphone that I’ve used. But it is far — far — from the worst. In fact, it’s slightly above average (certainly compared to Motorola’s past efforts in this area), though not a best-in-class performer like the HTC One’s Super LCD display. Even next to a Galaxy S4 — a phone with a truly improved AMOLED display — the Moto X screen seems acceptable. I did notice some slight color banding across the screen when solid colors (particularly grays) were visible in large areas, and as with most displays using this technology, colors are over-saturated, especially reds and oranges.


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creccaj #14

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Posted Aug 6 '13 @ 8:43 AM

I can see the market for 720p screen.  A lot of people, like my parents use there phones for calling, texting, emails and the occasional web browsing.  They don't play games, watch movies or use it for an extended period of time that would require your eyes to focus on the screen for more than 15-20 minutes.  I will say that after having a 1080p, it is very hard to go to back a 720p screen (HTC One to Nexus 4) but it is doable.  I wouldn't say it was the easiest transition but it doesn't make a huge difference if you plan on using your device like a light to moderate user.  


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Jerrod #15

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Posted Aug 6 '13 @ 11:54 AM

 As far as I can read the phone seems to perform very well against other higher speced  phones.

Not quite as fast, but your eyes can hardly pick up the difference. Folks in their late 40's thru 60's have more disposable income than most, but are also less inclined to play games and care about specs.  As long as the device does what they want and does it well there are happy.  So if this phone can appeal to them it may sell very well.  

 

 



C Sab #16

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Posted Aug 24 '13 @ 4:43 PM

A lot of S4 hating around here. :P haha

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Updated by C Sab, Aug 24 '13 @ 4:58 PM.


Cory Streater #17

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Posted Aug 26 '13 @ 6:41 AM

Yet creccaj has owned one twice now, and still thinks about buying one on a daily basis haha. And I'm sorry, but I found the One's screen inferior to the S4 when I saw them side by side.

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Posted Aug 26 '13 @ 8:19 AM

I found them to be about equal but i prefer the look of the S4's.

Updated by C Sab, Aug 26 '13 @ 8:21 AM.


dmmarck #19

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Posted Aug 27 '13 @ 11:43 AM

Yet creccaj has owned one twice now, and still thinks about buying one on a daily basis haha.And I'm sorry, but I found the One's screen inferior to the S4 when I saw them side by side.


You love dat AMOLED.

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7stringer #20

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Posted Aug 27 '13 @ 12:41 PM

I love the look of an AMOLED but the advantages of IPS are just too great for me to use AMOLED again until they advance the tech to prevent burn and wonky whites.

Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk 4


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Cory Streater #21

Cory Streater
  • Your Wish Is My Command
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  • Location: Seattle
  • Device: Samsung S6 Edge

Posted Aug 27 '13 @ 10:34 PM

I love the look of an AMOLED but the advantages of IPS are just too great for me to use AMOLED again until they advance the tech to prevent burn and wonky whites.

Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk 4


Another reason to upgrade every 3-6 months :)

Thing is, I was at an AT&T store about a month ago, and there were 3 One's side by side. Each had a different shade of white. Everything from dirty, to yellow, and clean shades of white.

I don't think any two screens are the same regardless of the technology behind them.

dmmarck #22

dmmarck
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  • Device: NEXII

Posted Aug 28 '13 @ 4:10 AM

I love the look of an AMOLED but the advantages of IPS are just too great for me to use AMOLED again until they advance the tech to prevent burn and wonky whites.

Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk 4

Another reason to upgrade every 3-6 months :)

Thing is, I was at an AT&T store about a month ago, and there were 3 One's side by side. Each had a different shade of white. Everything from dirty, to yellow, and clean shades of white.

I don't think any two screens are the same regardless of the technology behind them.


Probably not. That being said, I prefer whatever white this has to the heavy tint of current AMOLED, especially considering it gets even worse when you tilt the screen.

The tech is just not there at the moment, regardless of how advanced it allegedly is.

Sent from my One using Tapatalk 4


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