Touchless Control from Motorola

With no confusing set up and consistent performance, Motorola finally delivers the "voice assistant" we've been hearing about

I hear you. I wasn't a believer at first, either. I've tried Siri. I use Google Now. Using your voice to control your phone isn't all that it is wrapped up to be, because there was always something missing. The other night I realized Motorola found it, added it, and may have delivered the best feature set to mobile devices ever.

Talking to my phone isn't something I'm going to do every day. I'll do it if my hands really are full, I'll do it to play with the features, and I'll do it to demonstrate it for someone who hasn't seen it before, but for the most part I just pick up my phone and use my fingers to do what I want to do — even while driving, which I finally decided had to stop. That's another story about three deer and a malfunctioning master cylinder in my old truck, but you get the gist of it.

But I have a new found respect for it now, and it all started in the clearance bin at Target.

Bluetooth speaker

A week or so ago I got rid of my old truck and bought a less-old truck to replace it. It didn't come with factory Bluetooth, so I started looking at other options. I ran across a Motorola SonicRider speakerphone with a torn box in one of those carts filled with clearance stuff at Target. After confirming that I could carry it back in for a refund if it didn't work, I bought it as the first step to keeping my hands off my phone while I'm driving. It works really well in my opinion, and even if you can't find one in a ripped box on sale it's worth the $50 or so to buy it online if you're in the market for one.

Enough gushing over my cheap score on a Bluetooth speaker, because I imagine any modern BT speaker will work the same with Motorola's Touchless Control and Moto Assist app. I've seen the commercials that tell me how powerful these are, and fooled around with them a little bit before, but it all fell into place the other night.

I was driving home from a great dinner — surf and turf at a local semi-swanky restaurant for those curious — and my Bluetooth speaker lets me know that Phil Nickinson has sent me a text. Do I want to hear it? It did this automatically, because I took the time to check a single box in the Moto Assist app to enable driving mode when my phone senses I'm moving too fast to be walking. There's also a choice to send back a quick reply to let the sender know you're driving and won't be responding for a while.

Anyhoo, Phil's text told me to have a peek at all this Nexus stuff that happened — as it often does — on my day off. So my speaker reads me Phil's text and I have to look. I know I should be watching the road, but I just had to look. It's the Nexus, and there was no way that was going to wait until I got home. I tapped the "call" button on my speaker. On the new Moto phones with the fancy-smancy X8 stuff inside, this triggers Touchless Control. I said — show me pictures of the Nexus 5. Because Google knows what sites I look at the most, and this part of Touchless Control is tied into Google Now, I instantly saw the render of the Nexus with a link to our post about it. The headline and the picture told me what I had to know right then — Google Play, $349. So I tapped the call button again and told my phone to play some Black Crowes, knowing that I'd be alerted if something else came up — all without any fiddling around with anything more than one tap.

Driving mode  Driving mode

Here's where someone is bound to say, "My phone has always been able to do this. I just had to enable this, set up that, adjust this other thing, and set things up to automatically run in the background. I fixed all the battery drain this causes by running Amazeballs kernel nightly 66b." Stop. Motorola asks you once if you want this to happen while you're driving. If you say yes, you're done and it just does it. Not everyone wants to fiddle with settings and obscure, but powerful apps. If you do (and I'll admit, sometimes I do as well) that's cool — you can do some amazing stuff that way — but you're not the normal user. Moto getting this right and making it easy is the key.

Even I laughed a little at the X8 processing "system" when it was announced. It sounded like yet another gimmick on yet another Android phone trying to be different. Nobody is laughing now. In fact, Apple announced the same sort of low-power "smart" processor(s) in the newest iPhones. Doing all this without killing the battery is just as important as doing it all this easily.

Google gives us some great services on our Androids. Motorola has found a way to integrate them with very little set up, and great results. I love useful features, and these sort of things need to be added on top of Android as it is today. With a new version of Android right around the corner, and Motorola being a Google company, here's hoping these features make their way into the OS itself when we finally see a new Nexus.