Decade in review: The Moto X was so good it turned me into an Android nerd
I am a relative newcomer to the Android party compared to most of my coworkers; I didn't get my first Android phone until January 2012 and even then it took me a while to morph from just being a smartphone addict to being a smartphone nerd. That didn't happen until a little Texan-assembled darling arrived late in 2013: the Motorola Moto X. The first and second generations of this phone still have my love and my longing even six years later because we've never had another phone quite as wonderful.
Customizable, inside and out
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Before the Moto X, phones came in maybe five colors — and maybe two good ones — and since the Moto X, we've reverted to that same horrible trend. Every color offered is extra money the company has to invest in testing and production, and then that's one more variant you have to try and get retailers to stock and sell.
In short, colors cost money unless those colors aren't generated until you place your order, which is what Motorola did with its customizable Moto X. If you wanted to just walk into a store and buy one — which the rest of my family did during Black Friday 2013 when the Moto X was down to a penny — you could get the boring black or white colors. However, if you went with Motomaker, you could get a phone that was as vibrant and unique as you are.
The Moto X had dozens of backplate colors, and once you factored in the accent colors and black/white front, you had hundreds of possible color combinations, and each one had its own particular flair. They even added multiple wood grains and leather colors for the 2014 version, if you wanted a more premium look.
My own 2013 Moto X was what I called AquaCherry: a turquoise back and white front with shiny red accents. It was based on a painting from Art of the Disney Princess — because yes, I am that much of a freak — and to this day it is the prettiest phone I've ever owned. It was easy to use one-handed, the back was damn near perfectly curved, and it just felt right. In fact, it felt so good in the hand that I straight up didn't want to upgrade when the 2014 model came out.
Of course, the beauty of Motomaker was that it didn't just cover the phone's surface: Motomaker allowed you to add a personal message to the boot screen and pre-load the phone with your Google account. These are minimal things, to be sure, but seeing that line of inspiration every time I rebooted my phone was a tiny bit of magic and I loved it.
Then, of course, was the customization you had once you had the phone on and working. You could tweak Moto/Active Display so that only the apps you wanted would interrupt you, and Moto Assist could automatically switch your phone to silent when you were in meetings or supposed to be sleeping, which is second-nature to us in 2019 but was wonderful in 2013 when the Moto X launched.
Then there was the wonderfully futuristic feature set in its software.
Touchless Control, Trusted Bluetooth, and the future of Android
The Moto X may not have had a 1080p screen or the biggest battery ever, but part of what made it a legend was functionalities that took years to reach the same point on other phones.
Motorola/Google debuted Trusted Bluetooth on the Moto X and the second I heard about it I wanted it in my pocket. As someone who lives with Bluetooth headphones around her neck, Trusted Bluetooth meant I didn't have to swipe in my PIN/pattern 50 times a day — again, something we take for granted these days — and it was drop-dead easy to set up. Trusted Bluetooth eventually came to stock Android and morphed into Smart Lock, but it started with the Moto X.
Another Moto X feature that eventually came to all Android phones — as well as watches, Chromebooks, and smart speakers of every size and shape — was Touchless Control, which was rebranded to Moto Voice with the 2014 model. This model also brought to both the second and first generations of a feature we still haven't gotten back since: the ability to set a custom launch phrase for Google Now/Google Assistant.
Being able to swap the chunky and easy to butcher "OK Google Now" for a phrase of my own choose was ten kinds of magical and I miss it every day, especially since custom launch phrases could help trigger a specific device instead of making six devices fight over who gets to answer it.
Miss you, Moto
It's been a couple of years since a Motorola phone excited me, but that original Moto X — and its follow-up, which had IR sensors I could wave my hand over to wake it up like the goddamn wizard I am — will always make my heart soar just a tiny bit. It wasn't the biggest, boldest, or baddest phone on the market, but it didn't need to be. It was as close to perfect as I've seen a phone come (except for that camera).
The original Moto X was a phone that pushed the envelope without pushing the price tag into the stratosphere, something no groundbreaking phone in the last three years has been able to claim. This was the real OG, and while we may never see anything like it ever again, I'll keep my eyes peeled and my wallet ready.
After all, the world could always use more phones that are beautiful inside and out.
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.