Moto X and G2 displays

Two different (but equally fun) display features highlight some of the fall's hottest Android devices

I took two main phones to the IFA conference in Berlin last week. One, familiar — the Moto X, which I've been using for a month now. The other, the LG G2. We've got a preproduction European version. The hardware is solid, but the software's not quite final, which is why we've held off of a full review thus far.

After spending a week with the LG G2 as my main device, one thing began to stand out. With it as well as the Moto X, there's been a lot more attention paid to the way we wake our devices. Both have the same goal — turn on the phone and get you to your information as quickly as possible. But both come about it in different ways. 

Is one better than the other? Both certainly add usefulness to their respective devices. But the differences are pretty apparent.

But first, a little recap ...

Motorola's Active Display

Motorola Active Display

Active Display actually isn't only available on the Moto X. You also can get it on the new Droid line of phones as well, and it works the same across all the devices.

At its most basic level, Active Display shows you the time every so often, along with an unlock symbol. Grab, drag and get to work. Once you receive a notification — say, an e-mail — the lock symbol changes to a e-mail symbol (or icon for whatever notification is present). Tap to preview, slide to open. You get a fair amount of customization with it — pick which apps you want to let ping the display — or you can chose not to use it at all.

The LG Knock-on feature

LG Knock-On

LG's Knock-On — or occasionally (and previously) called Knock Knock — is born out of necessity as much as anything else. With the LG G2 having a large, 5.2-inch display, the power button was moved to the back of the phone. That's great for when you're holding it — your fingers rest pretty naturally on it and the volume rocker — but it's not so good when the phone's sitting on a flat surface. So, tap twice to wake it.

And ... well, that's it. It works pretty well, even with our prerelease software. (We wouldn't mind it getting a little faster from what we're currently seeing.) It's available now on the LG G2, and later on the G Pad 8.3 tablet, once it's released. 

So which is better?

I had a bit of a revelation in Berlin after using the LG G2 full-time for a week. As much fun and useful as LG's Knock-On feature is, Motorola's Active Display is just far more useful. 

Motorola's Active Display feature gets you to your homescreens quicker as well is getting you information faster.

First and most obvious is the inclusion of actual information on the screen in Active Display. LG doesn't do that, so we're talking apples and oranges here a bit. 

But the bigger difference is the discrepancy in how quickly you can get to your homescreens. In Motorola's Active Display, you touch, swipe and unlock, all in one smooth motion. But after two knocks on LG's display, you're still at the lockscreen, and you have to swipe again to actually get anywhere. It might seem like a small thing — and this is assuming you either don't have a lockscreen password or you're using some sort of trusted system to temporarily bypass the lockscreen. (And also assuming there isn't some drastic change when we see release-ready software.)

Knock-On is cool, for sure. It's done well. But it's just not as useful as Active Display on Motorola's phones.


Reader comments

Motorola's Active Display versus LG's Knock-On


Thank you! Especially since no one has a G2...that I know anyways. I tried tapping twice on my phone and pretending I didn't hit power to turn the screen on, but I don't think I'm getting the same effect.

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I've been using an app (only works on Nexus devices) called PGM that has done this for me for 2 years.

And it near instantaneous...much faster than the knock on above. Prefer sliding left to right too. Oh and with Franco kernel running 1 core at 384mhz there's no noticeable battery drain.

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I'm getting closer and closer to my upgrade period, and I think the Moto X will be the winner. Provided Motorola offers MotoMaker on Verizon by mid-October, I'll be a happy camper.

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I just ordered my Maxx and am drooling as I wait for it to arrive on Thursday

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Went to the store today, I tried both, and the Droid Maxx just doesn't feel right to me. I currently have the original Droid Razr Maxx, and I'm looking for something that feels better in my hand. The Moto X felt really nice.

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If you're buying an unlocked phone, upgrade date doesn't matter. Just buy it when it comes out!

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It matters if one is currently under contract and would like to keep the phone number but not pay the ETF.

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No it doesn't. Just buy the phone and wait until contract ends to port number and activate the new phone. You're paying either way to get the phone. If it's a Nexus and you wait a month its probably going to be sold out. Plus you can check it out and then decide if you don't like it to sell it on Ebay/Craigslist.

You can download a VERY similar app called Dynamic Notifications from the Play Store. Check it out. :) I was using it on my GS4 before it broke...

I have it on my Nexus 4 and it broke too. It is kind of frustrating, the dev keeps adding things like custom colors and new features, but for me the core features still just don't work right. ... unless I am holding it wrong or something... :P

I tried it on my GNex but only works when I get an email or text message, half the time I still have to hit the power button to get into my and it doesn't even come on just to show the time. I tried resetting the time intervals back and forth from 15 sec to 30 sec, and changing other settings.

IDK, maybe its because its the free version? But this does not make me want to buy the paid version having a few minor problems. Every time there is an update I try it out again, but does the same things.

Yes, if you want to kill your battery. Isn't there a separate processor for this on the moto x?

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I'm using it on an LCD screen and can't tell a difference. (Then again this is HTC Thunderbolt battery life I'm talking about...) :-)

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Someone may come out with something similar to it at least. Just pretty much count on more battery drain when on non AMOLED devices.

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I have dynamic notifications on my Optimus G with LCD display and it does not seem to affect battery to much and also the app works perfectly fine I paid the. 99cents for the full version I have been using it for over 3weeks no problem.

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I have to say, I was looking long and hard at the one for my recent upgrade on Verizon. In the end I picked up the moto x. I miss the sense weather on the home screen and unlock screen but active display and touchless control by far won me over. I can get a third party app if I must have my weather back. Google now weather card is enough for now.

Now if only I could get the weather on my active display....

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I have a Droid DNA and use Apex as my launcher which means no more HTC widgets. While it won't bring back the lock screen weather for you, HD Widgets are a great replacement for your home screen.

As a new owner of the Nexus 4 I have gone in search of solutions to the problems I had on my Evo 3D, most of which were just due to core Android. I finally made proper use of SoundAbout to solve some Bluetooth in the car issues but more relevant here was installing DynamicNotifications, the knock off of Active Notifications. It's been really useful.

But I've found the power button on the side of the phone hard to get used to and my case makes it pretty hard to press. So I I installed Tap Tap App to provide Knock-on like features. But the proximity sensor didn't seem to function as well as I would like. So I have tried Gravity Screen today. It works much better and has the additional features for turning the phone off when in pocket or placed face up or down on a table. It works really well... so the maker of Tap Tap App should maybe reconsider his protests of people who complain his app doesn't work. The other app works better so clearly he's done something wrong or made some trade-off. That might be battery. I didn't notice Tap Tap App drawing down my battery and I feel like so far Gravity Screen has been. So I'll have to keep an eye on it.

The point here is that with either the G2 or the MotoX there's another app that can fill the void while hopefully each's optimisations of the part they already do will help save on Battery.

Knock-On (or Knock-Up as my babysitter says) is a necessity, active display is innovation. It's great that Android has so many choices.

I believe the manufacturers are doing these innovative wake-up methods not only to save battery but to save warranty repairs.

Physical buttons take a lot of abuse over the life of a phone. This is what killed my (and many others) Nexus One, which can't be powered on by the switch any more.

Wife's old Iphone died of the same button-death.

Agreed. However, with Moto X we know that there is a dedicated core to doing active display. But I'm really curious to how knock knock works unless there's something awake in the phone constantly. AFAIK LG didn't mention a separate core for it, so I'm wondering what kind of hit it has on the battery.

I assure you, there's ALWAYS something awake in the phone.

A sleeping phone is still a very BUSY phone.

It has to do with the new processor. The snapdragon 800 has the technology so it does not need a separate dedicated core to listen for commands or wake up the device. That's why many people are looking to see if the Nexus will have a similar software implementation that will allow for the active notification. However, that will only leave the MOTO X with it customization taking away a key feature. Plus, other Nexus and other devices running stock may not be able to take advantage of such technology. It will be very interesting to see.

It's done on the G2 using accelerometer, screen is off, maybe even CPU cores idle too. Moto X has benefit of AMOLED screen that only uses power on the lit pixels AND a separate low-power core, if this is tried on another phone without the same hardware, the battery drain will be higher. Not sure how much power the accelerometer uses being constantly on in the G2 though.

I'll put a custom kernel on the Moto X and get knock knock on. But not off. Doing it on my htc one. I still love my one. But can't wait to get a developer edition moto-x. I'd get the carrier version if I could unlock the bootloader but I'm on att.

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The more you guys talk about the moto x, the more I want one, I'm just waiting for an unlocked version with a wood back. Hopefully by that time we'll know more about the next nexus and android 4.4 (not that it matters, if 4.4 brings a really cool feature I want, I can always go back to my N4).

I see too much potential for inadvertent action using either of these functions (as is being reported by some in the forums). I'd rather stick with a physical button (power or home) to wake the device. :)

Don't forget that part of Active Display is that it saves on battery life, by only activating the pixels necessary to display the time and notifications.

Moto X | Nexus 7

Yes. I'm not generally a fan of AMOLED displays, however in this instance it makes active notifications that much more power efficient.

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can we get this feature imported to the nexus 4?

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Well n4 is an IPS and part of the reason active display works without taking to much battery life is because it only activates the pixels needed. Which is a feature only available to amoled screens

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Try Dynamic notifications in the play store, I use it on my Optimus G and I love it works perfectly.

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I have been using dynamic notifications app on my n4 and think it's great. Pull it out of my pocket and bam time is displayed and whatever notifications I set. Pretty sweet app that's similar and saves me 600 bucks for a new phone.

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I use the Dynamic Notications app on my Note 2 and I love it. I haven't used the Moto X so I'm not sure how different these programs work. I can tell you I am actually saving battery power on my Note because a lot of my notifications can be dismissed without having to turn the rest of the screen on.

I know the LG G2 has an IPS display so you would think this app would not work but I noticed this phone offers a smart case that has a Window that only uses a part of the screen and is supposed to save power. I have a suspicion that Active Notication app will work same as it does on an amoled display. Watch a few of the videos showing off the new Window case. Clearly only small portion of the screen is lit up. IF that is the case and active notifications will work on the G2 then I think it really tips the scales away from the Moto X.

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not gonna lie, I want to see both on the next Nexus. lol But the active display I want more.

All of these articles on what the Moto X is further solidifing my decision to purchase !

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