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The Moto X was supposed to be the iPhone’s ultimate match. It was hailed as the best Google smartphone that wasn’t Nexus-branded. It was so close to replacing the Nexus that it was a shock to the world when Google revealed it was selling the company it paid $12.5 billion for in 2012 off to Lenovo for $3 billion earlier this year. Even Google couldn’t make Motorola a winner.

With tutelage from Google, Motorola, even under Lenovo is more focused than it ever has been on creating rock-solid products. The Moto X (2nd gen) is a continuation of the excellence first started with last year’s Moto X.

I got some hands-on time with the Moto X (2nd gen) in Chicago yesterday. Here are my first impressions of the new Motorola flagship smartphone.

Specifications

Product Name Moto X (2013) Moto X (2nd gen) (2014)
Weight 130 g 144 g
Street Price $199.99 $99.99
Resolution 1280 x 720 1920 x 1080
Size (Diagonal, Inches) 4.7″ 5.2″
Processor Name 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
RAM 2GB 2GB
Operating System (OS) Android 4.3 Android 4.4.4
Memory Card Type None None
Built-In Storage 16, 32 GB 16, 32 GB
Rear Camera 10 MP 13 MP
Front Camera 2 MP 2 MP
Battery Capacity (mAh) 2200 mAh 2300 mAh

Design

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Not much has changed on the Moto X (2nd gen). The design still channels much of what made the Moto X so great. It has a curved back that bulges at the middle and tapers towards the bottom and sides. The biggest change is that the frame is now aluminum and the buttons feel great, especially the textured home button on the right side — more premium, so to speak.

Like the Moto X, it molds to your palm, which is a big plus. Obviously, the hardware internals have been overhauled and everything runs smoother and faster despite having the same 2GB of RAM as its predecessor. (However, the Moto X is still a snappy smartphone.)

motorola moto x 2nd gen hands on 2 One of the two stereo speaker grills on the face of the Moto X (2nd gen)

Headphone jack is still stuck protruding out of the top. The speaker is louder; one front-facing one that provides clear sound. Battery life has boosted from 2200 mAh to 2300 mAh.

Size / Display

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Mid-range is what the Moto X was called when it arrived last year. Its 4.7-inch screen had a “lowly” 1280 x 720 resolution display. While it’s true that 1080p resolution displays have been the norm for a few years and many smartphones like the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 are moving on to Quad HD displays with 1440p and 500+ PPIs, the Moto X (2nd gen)’s 5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 display is still damn good. It’s sharp enough for most everybody. Nobody but serious geeks are crying over pixel densities and resolution.

The increase from 4.7-inch to 5.2-inch display also means the Moto X (2nd gen) is a little larger; slightly wider and taller, and a tad heavier. If you want something a tiny bit smaller, there’s always the Moto G (2nd-gen). My small hands definitely couldn’t reach from the lower left corner of the display to the upper right without repositioning the device, but everyone’s hand size is different.

Camera

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I hated the Moto X’s camera. I genuinely liked the flicking gesture to quickly activate the camera, but the actual picture image quality left a lot to be desired; it stank in low-light, colors were off, and image noise was rampant.

The Moto X (2nd gen)’s camera is better this time around. Motorola stacked a 13-megapixel image sensor into it. There are two LEDs that flank the rear camera. The beefier camera can also record 4K-resolution video. From what I could tell, the image quality is significantly better and the video quality is super crisp when played back on the display. The shutter is also super fast; it’s almost instant.

The front-facing camera is still the same 2-megapixels, but it now supports voice commands so you can say “Take a selfie” to start a countdown timer.

Moto Display, Moto Actions and Moto Voice

Motorola’s really going all in on the “adaptive experience”. Anyone who has used the Moto X will know what a godsend the Moto X’s Active Display notifications are.

The Moto X (2nd gen) makes greater use of voice commands and the new gesture controls. For instance, you can now give your Moto X (2nd gen) its own name. No more “OK Google.” You can say things like “OK Moto X, good morning” and it will awaken and tell you your first meeting for the day. You can use voice commands to update your social network status on Facebook or send a message in WhatsApp. Motorola plans to give third-party apps access to these Moto Voice APIs.

Through a combination of IR sensors and the front-facing camera, the Moto X (2nd gen) will also recognize gestures. You can do things like wave your hand over it to snooze an alarm or silence an incoming phone call.

It’s a useful feature and loads better than the gestures that Samsung first implemented on the Galaxy S4.

Moto Maker

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One of the most innovative things about the Moto X is the Moto Maker. With the website, buyers can design their own Moto X in dozens of colors and button accents. Motorola even added wooden rear panels as options later on.

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The Moto X (2nd gen) is still customizable with Moto Maker and this time buyers will be able to design it with a wood, leather or plastic rear. The leather is sourced from Horweeen, a famous local tannery and feels quite nice, although it’s possible it’ll start wearing out, show signs of discoloration, and fringing. It may be a good time to invest in some leather cleaning solution if you’re going to go with that option.

In total, you’ll get to choose from two front covers (white with a silver frame or black with a dark metal frame), 25 different colored backs (17 colors, 4 wood finishes, and 4 leather types), 10 accent colors, and the option to laser engrave a name or message on the back.

3D renders on Moto Maker are also more photo-realistic, a complaint many shoppers sent to Motorola.

Pricing and Availability

AT&T and Verizon will sell the Moto X (2nd gen) later this month along with Moto Maker. The Moto X (2nd gen) will cost $99.99 for the 16GB model with a two-year contract and $499.99 unlocked without contract.

Filed in Cellphones. Read more about android 4.4.4, Moto X (2014) and Motorola.

Key SpecsMoto X (2014)
StatusReleased
Resolution1920x1080
Size (Diagonal, Inches)5.2"
Processor NameSnapdragon 801
4-core
2.5 GHz
Max. Total Storage Capacity32 GB
Megapixels13 MP
Battery Capacity (mAh)2300 mAh
Street Price$499
Complete product dataMotorola Moto X (2014) Full specs
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