Aug. 1, 2013 at 3:14 PM ET
The Moto X, Google's customizable smartphone, and the first smartphone to be assembled in the United States, was unveiled Thursday, described as a reflection of the "new Motorola," a reboot of the brand that Google acquired last year.
But how does the Moto X live up to expectations? It's a solid Android smartphone which combines the best of Motorola's hardware know-how and Google's software savvy. It starts at $199 and will be available in late August or early September.
"Smartphones today are incredibly powerful … but they are not very smart," Rick Osterloh, Motorola's senior vice president of product management, told NBC News. "Smartphones today don't keep track of context very well. They don't anticipate what you want to do."
The Moto X is supposed to go against this trend. It's supposed to be a smartphone that responds to you, is made for you, and is designed by you. (At least those are the themes the folks at Motorola tried to drive in.)
And Google is serious about this device: It's got a $500 million ad budget planned for it. Google is also emphasizing how the Moto X will be assembled in the U.S. —- a first — at a Fort Worth, Texas plant, ready to ship to customers within days once their customized orders for the phone have been placed. It's a bold gamble by Google, with stiff competition from Apple's iPhone as well as successful Samsung phones running Google's Android operating system.
It responds to you
The Moto X is always listening for your voice — yes, your specific voice. As soon as you say "OK, Google Now," a command already familiar to those who've tried Google Glass, the smartphone springs into action. You can ask it about the weather, demand directions, tell it to set a reminder and so on. It's like a souped-up Siri that does everything without ever requiring that you touch your phone.
A feature called "Active Display" puts the info you need at a glance right on the screen — as soon as you turn the phone face up, take it out of your pocket, or move it. This means that you'll be able to peek at your phone more quickly, but never need to even touch the power button.
Continuing the theme of "Look, ma! I don't have to touch buttons!" is the "Quick Capture Camera" feature. You can basically open the camera app simply by twisting your wrist twice (as if you are turning a screwdriver).
It's made for you
While designing the Moto X, the folks at Motorola looked at a lot of hands ... until they figured out the ideal size for their new smartphone. The Moto X is designed to fit comfortably into one hand and to balance a decent display with the ability to still use the device one-handed. It has a curved back for added comfort.
The Moto X has a 4.7-inch display with a resolution of 720 x 1280. It offers 316 pixels per inch. (For those keeping track: Apple's iPhone 5, with its "Retina display," offers 326 pixels per inch.)
It has a 10-megapixel camera in the back and a 2-megapixel camera in the front. The device uses Motorola's custom designed X8 mobile computing system, which includes optimized software, a 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with a quad-core GPU, a natural language processor, and a contextual computing processor. Thanks to the X8 system, the Moto X can go all day long on a single charge. (Without the X8 system, it "would take three batteries to run all the features," Iqbal Arshad, senior vice president of global product development, tells NBC News.)
Oh, and there's also a water-repellant nano-coating on the Moto X (and on its guts). It's not exactly meant to be dunked underwater, but it should handle splashes and rain just fine.
It's designed by you
By using the online Moto Maker tool, you can customize your Moto X. You can choose from 2 front colors, 18 back colors — including red, purple, blue, green, and pink — 7 accent colors, and even add a custom message on the back.
In the fall, Osterloh emphasizes that the Moto X will ship to you — for free — in four days or less. So no worries about a custom phone taking forever.
A 16 GB Moto X model will cost $199 and a 32 GB version will be available for $249.
If you're content with a black or white Moto X model, then you'll be able to snag the new device in late August or early September. It'll be available on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular. If you want to customize your new phone, then you'll have to wait until the Moto Maker launches. (The Moto Maker will first support AT&T, then the other carriers.)
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