I finally have a working phone and it’s not the HTC One! Even though I badly wanted the One and I still think it is the best-looking Android out there, I went with the Moto X. After all, I had to get a feel for the first real phone from Google!
The unpacking left me with an Apple-like experience – I had to check to make sure I didn’t mistakenly order the iPhone! White everything (except for the phone itself) meticulously tucked in layers – well, it’s become a norm these days, but this felt a little more Apple-like than other non-Apple gadgets. Taking the device out of the box was a ‘meh’ moment. Really? It looks no different from my phone that just died – the Galaxy Nexus! Okay, the back of the phone has a better feel to it, but, whatever!
I had already braced myself for an unimpressive first impression, but the reality reinforced that. Small screen (I had been using the LG Optimus briefly before this and yeah, the screen size suddenly looks a lot smaller!). The same boring form factor and look. Oh, and the not so good camera (I had made up my mind on this before taking a single picture, given all the reviews!).
Beyond First Impressions
Just a few days later, I have to admit I’m liking the device! I won’t go into all the details, as there are many reviews that cover everything in great detail. But, the most important thing this phone provides me that is invaluable is the hint of context aware personalization in its very basic form. We can talk about many things that can be done here, but the few features that this device supports are really fundamental and in many ways, this is the best starting point for personalization.
The active display is brilliant! It is a means by which a small area of the screen is lit up at low power and the Moto X uses this to display the time and pending notifications when you pick up the phone. Most of the times, you pick up the phone just to turn the display on and check the time or see what notifications are pending. You don’t even bother unlocking the phone! Now, the phone does it for you – both at some regular intervals as well as upon sensing the device being picked up. Combined with low power inertial sensing and low power display, this helps with extended battery life while giving us exactly what we need!
Always On Voice
Granted I haven’t quite tested this feature for false positives, but, so far, I’m impressed. Training my voice was simple and the response is flawless! The credit for the fundamental technology in this case goes to TI (the DSP that supports always-on-voice with keyword recognition comes from them). But, the software integration with Google Now and the rest of the platform has also been nicely done! There is room for improvement on the latency front (from the voice sensing to invoking Google Now to execution of the command itself is in the several seconds – maybe even in the small two digit number of seconds – range). But, we have to remember that this is first generation and it will only improve.
There are a bunch of things under the Motorola Assist umbrella, but I find most of it rather useless (no, just because I have a meeting on my calendar does not mean I’m always in it!). But, the “talk to me when I’m driving” mode is quite useful. A use case that has been beaten to death in the contextual world, but useful nonetheless. Drive detection is fairly good, although coming out of drive mode takes too long. Obviously, lots of caveats here with respect to whether you are the driver or the passenger (presumably you don’t want the device talking to you when you are not the one driving). But, that’s a tough problem to solve – so, we should not hold it against them!
It is nice to not have to unlock the device with a PIN when it senses being close to a trusted device. At the moment, I think this feature is too broadly set up in allowing an unlock in the presence of any paired Bluetooth device. Being close to my headset cannot be strong enough authentication – losing the phone and headset together is hardly a difficult thing. But, sensing my car and allowing the phone to be unlocked is more reasonable. I suspect users will opt for convenience here – I don’t allow unlocked mode unless I’m in the car, but I can see some people taking every opportunity to keep the device unlocked!
In short, this device is showing us snippets of real personalization and the value is tremendous! For all those trying to solve the ultimate in personalization, this is an example of starting small, but in the right way. There is no overwhelming the user and the interface is clean. I’m sold!