Motorola’s big Cyber Monday (which turned into Wednesday/Monday) deal convinced me to get a Moto X phone to replace my cracked-screened HTC Droid DNA. Well, truthfully, it was the visit to Verizon where I discovered breaking my contract and buying new phones for everyone would cost $1000+. Not this Christmas.

Naturally, I’m going to move to T-Mobile and the Nexus 5 — I know I can get a Nexus 5 on a prepaid plan — when the time is right.

It’s not all perfect

Issue 1

Overall, I’m satisfied with the Moto X. But the phone does disappoint me in two core areas: cell connection and camera.

I’d heard wonderful things about the Moto X camera, and since I take a lot of “point and shoot” pictures, I was excited for a good camera. I’d even heard good things about how Motorola fixed some camera issues.

To say my Moto X’s camera took abysmal looking pictures would be too generous. Even after applying Motorola’s update to “fix” the phone’s camera issues, I couldn’t get any love. My images looked washed out and fuzzy. Hardly anything to brag about, especially when compared to my HTC Droid DNA’s wonderful camera — there’s some issues there, too.

Admittedly, the Moto X phone’s camera isn’t too bad if you’re using the camera in a well lit environment, or if you want to take some photos in rapid succession. I do wish that the default camera allowed you to adjust settings like exposure and white balance.

Fortunately, I applied a simple fix by sideloading this Android Gallery app, which gives the Moto X a stock Android camera and the ability to shoot Photospheres directly from the camera. This improves the camera 100 times, eliminating any of the fuzziness or quality issues. Add Snapseed to the mix and you can create some stunning pictures.

Frozen Frame

Click the image to see a larger version.

Frozen Berries

Click the image to see a larger version.

Issue 2

The second issue, which I’m not sure how to fix, is that the Moto X’s cellular signal isn’t great. What I mean is that sometimes, in places you’d expect to have “5 bars”, I’m plagued with only three . . . or less.

Normally this isn’t an issue, since signal strength isn’t indicative of call quality. Except in dungeons (basements) or inner building corridors (like a courthouse) where one bar can quickly turn to none. I rarely had issues with the HTC Droid DNA’s cellular signal strength, especially in the city. I usually had five bars.

Moto X seems to average about four bars in most locations that aren’t my house or in the open. In my office on the 6th floor, where I typically saw 5 bars on the Droid DNA, I get three bars on a good day. That’s a disgrace, especially considering the fact Verizon’s tower sits on the roof of the building next door. Unfortunately, there’s not a consistently strong signal even when I’m in a metropolitan area.

The not so bad, or what I really like

There are two Moto X features I’m really loving.

Dynamic notifications

First, Moto X has a dynamic notifications feature that allows you to see whether your device has a notficiation without having to turn on your screen.

Active Notifications

You can get something close with the Dynamic Notifications app, but actually seeing the real thing is believing. 

Active Notifications

Moto X also features active listening, which means that you can trigger Google Now voice commands even with the device locked.

Google Now Active Voice

This isn’t a feature specific to Moto X, but having the active listening feature sure is nice. I find myself using the “Okay, Google” command more often.

Small form

The second aspect I love is the smaller form factor of the Moto X.

Moto X in Hand

I wasn’t sure I’d love the smaller 4.7 inch screen, especially after using the Droid DNA with its 5 inch screen, but I’m not too disappointed. Yes, you lose some screen space, but I find myself using the phone less for surfing the internet, especially since I have two larger screened devices.

If you’re an iPhone lover who isn’t sold on the large screen Android phones, you’ll definitely like this phone. The screen is larger than the iPhone’s puny 4 inch display, isn’t so massive that it’s overpowering. Note too, the Moto X screen is only 10 ppi less than an iPhone 5s.

Quick Capture

Despite some of its flaws, the Moto X camera has a really cool “Quick Capture” feature that allows you to flick your wrist and activate the camera.

This setting came in quite handy on Christmas morning as I snapped photos of The Droid Tots opening their presents. Quick Capture gives you some real options in using the camera.

Big-time battery

Moto X isn’t going to blow away some bigger battery devices like the Droid Razr Maxx, but I can usually make it 8 hours or so on a full charge.

Moto X Battery

I’m also following some of these tricks to help minimize battery drain.

My biggest mistake

I made the mistake of purchasing a 16 GB model instead of the 32 GB model. I don’t store a lot of extra information on my phone, but the extra space would guarantee I’d never run out of room. The cost difference for doubling the storage space was only $50, so it should have been a no-brainer decision.

Moto X is worth the purchase price

Getting Moto X on a deal like I did is certainly worth it. The $350 price tag for an off-contract device places it squarely in competition with the Nexus 5. Don’t make the mistake though, Nexus 5 still wins.

Android 4.4 is a gem, and you’ll certainly be happy if you get a Moto X for yourself. The extras of Moto X make it a second place phone in the “best of” competition.

Click here to check out all the Moto X specifications.

Update: I should have added that Moto X supports Miracast broadcasting, so you can use one of these devices to mirror your phone’s screen to your television.

Update (01/02/14): I’ve used Moto X for 2 full weeks. I’m still really loving the phone. I’ve reverted back to the native camera for most functions, particularly Photospheres (although I don’t take too many of those because for some reason Android 4.4 can’t render them well). The 10MP camera is a huge bonus, plus I’ve noticed that the native camera does a pretty good job of taking pictures. Most functions, like exposure and focus, are device-driven (which I’m not a big fan of), and they function fairly well. I do find myself using Snapseed to edit many of the pictures to correct contrast, exposure, or lighting.

I’m a really big fan of the “Okay, Google Now” command, and find myself talking to Moto X quite regularly.

The smaller screen still bugs me, though I’ve learned to adjust. Since I use my Nexus 7 and ASUS Transformer Infinity for most task, I’m not missing too much with the smaller screen.

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


Chris t · January 2, 2014 at 8:25 am

Ilet ownloaded the camera app you have a link for here and it really does improve the quality of the pictures but my question is it seems to only allow up to 5 megapixel pictures whilethe Moto X has a 10 megapixel camera anyway to change this

    Jeffrey Taylor · January 2, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Unfortunately not. 5 MP is the max, which does limit the advances of Moto X’s camera.

      Ashley · May 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      What was the app? The link isn’t working for me and I would love to try it. My Moto X camera has been sucking it up so far. 🙁

ras550RS · May 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hi Jeffrey,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Moto-X, particularly its camera. I noticed you first said the Moto-X photos look washed out and worse than abysmal. Most reviewers agreed with that. However, you said later that you love the camera.

Could you update us on how you feel about the camera now, having used it for a while? I am seriously considering the Moto-X but may go with the S4 or the HTC One just for a better camera.

Many Thanks!


    Jeffrey Taylor · May 9, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I’ve actually switched devices, and use a Nexus 5. That was about 5 months ago.

    As for the Moto X’s camera, I’d still say the same thing. It’s more of a low-end camera, but performs well. Nexus 5 outshines though.

    If you’re really dependent on the camera, then you’ll want to look at other devices; I suggest Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8. Those are two very good phones with very good cameras.

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