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3 years ago

Moto X — six months on


Our top Android phone of 2013 (and then some) revisited — and it's held up quite nicely.

It's not often that I use one smartphone for six months straight. I'm not supposed to. We have too many good phones come through here. And inevitably I see something shiny that pulls my attention away.

But I keep coming back to the Moto X.

On paper, there's a lot about this phone that shouldn't last. A 720p display? That's so 2012. Not the latest buzzword-friendly processor? DOA. And Motorola? The company that was (and still is) bleeding money and sat out much of 2013 after being purchased by Google? Who knew what to expect. And now Motorola's been sold off.

But there's still the Moto X.

We've joked that the Moto X was the most overhyped Android phone since the last overhyped Android phone, and that's mostly true. I've been using this phone as my daily driver since August. Let's take a look at what's made it so good, what's good enough, and what didn't live up to our expectations.

The Moto X hardware, six months on

It was hard not to be excited about the Moto X in terms of hardware. Let's start out front.

Never thought I'd say this again — but I'm OK with a 720p display.

A 4.7-inch display — big, but not huge — same as what we'd enjoyed in the Nexus 4 for most of the previous year, but in a slightly smaller body. It's "only" a 720p display. But for being a lower resolution than what you'd expect from a flagship phone in 2013, it was very capable. Maybe not as great as what LG or HTC have done, but very much useable. Having to push fewer pixels means you're going to save on battery, period. Not everyone can get away with that trade-off, but Motorola managed to.

The AMOLED display also brought us one of the cool new software features — Active Display, which we'll talk about in a bit.

The cliche of "feels great in the hand" is very much a subjective measurement. But for me, Moto X has fit my hand better than just about any phone since the fabled Nexus One. A lot of that has to do with the curve on the back of the phone. It's subtle, but noticeable — and it works. The dimpled Motorola logo is a little gaudy, but damned if I didn't find myself quickly placing my index finger there. The curved back also allowed for a new kind of "stepped" battery from LG — allowing for more capacity and less wasted space.

On-screen buttons on the display, and volume and power buttons on the right side of the phone — where they belong. No having to reach up to the top of the phone.

Being able to create a custom phone is a win for the customer, but it should have been available to all at launch.

And you can't talk about the look of the phone without mentioning MotoMaker, Motorola's Moto X customizer. Different colored backs, fronts and accents, with stenciling on the back, and a custom boot message. You can't not like choice like that. And while Moto Maker sadly was an AT&T exclusive for the first few months — a mistake we'd implore the company to not make should it try this again — it finally reached more folks before the end of the year.

And then there's the wood. Actual, organic wood backs. Motorola first showed them off at the launch event in August, but we weren't able to purchase them until December — and even then just bamboo, for another $100. (Yes, bamboo is grass, not wood. Don't get us started.) It's gimmicky — and apparently the woods are more "wood-like" than actual samples — but it's still a really cool option. Thumbs up. Very cool. It is more slick than the soft-touch backs, though.

Not sure if this was because my first Moto X was slightly pre-release, but some of the blue has rubbed off and turned yellow on the corners. Thumbs down. No good.

Either you worry about the Moto X specs on paper, or you don't. Either way, it runs just fine.

The internals have been another surprise. Again, not the best on paper. Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro — no slouch, but a good generation behind — at 1.7 GHz with a dual-core Krait CPU and a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU. Plus, a natural-language processor, and a contextual computing processor. If you're counting along, that's eight cores. And so Motorola gave birth to the X8 Mobile Computing System. That's different than an "octa-core" processor, a fact lost on some.

I've never been one to worry too much about benchmarks or how things look on paper. They either work great or they don't. And in in Motorola's case, I've had no complaints. I do most of my casual gaming on the Nexus 7, so my Moto X is for everything else. And it's performed great. And one of the chief reasons is …

Six months of great battery life

'All-day' battery life means whatever Motorola wants it to. But 14 or so hours is plenty for me.

Battery life is great — especially when you consider that battery the Moto X capacity isn't all that great. Too often folks confuse capacity for performance, that a 2,200 mAh battery shouldn't last a long time simply because it's a smaller number than, say, 3,000. At home and the office — where I'm on Wifi a good 90 percent of the time — I easily get about 15 hours without having to charge, which usually gets me from wake-up to bedtime. On the road — which is about as taxing as it gets, especially at trade shows, yeah, I'd need to charge up at some point. But only once.

Motorola talked a lot about "all-day" battery life. That's not exactly a technical measurement of anything, and, frankly, it sounds like the marketing mumbo jumbo we've come to loathe from manufactures. But the fact remains that, pound for pound, Moto X had excellent battery life. From the time I unplug to the time I go to bed? For me, in my normal, everyday routine, that's "all day." Your mileage will vary, of course.

I do, however, miss having wireless charging. It's not the end of the world by any means. But I have wireless chargers just sitting around now, and I love being able to just wake up and grab the phone without the (gasp) hassle of unplugging.

Another strong point for me — the rear speaker. Motorola's always done well with those, and it continues with Moto X.

Six months with a so-so camera

The Moto X camera was disappointing, but you can still get good shots out of it.

And we'll close out the hardware with the single-most disappointing feature on the Moto X — the camera. Part of that may be from how much Motorola built it up at our launch briefing. It's a 10-megapixel shooter with a "clear" pixel to let in more light. But pretty immediately we could tell it simply wasn't as good as we were told — or even shown. Focusing was odd. Low-light shooting was pretty horrible.

Some of that was addressed in software updates, particularly focus. Keeping HDR turned on all the time helps. I still feel like I'm cheating a bit with that, though. But on the other hand, in this world of Instagram filters and "Auto Awesome" enhancements, what the hell. Airbrush all the things. And a good bit of what bugs me about the camera is that what you see on the screen at the time the shutter fires is different (and often worse) than the end result.

And that's not to say I don't get some pictures that I'm not proud of. I'm not blowing things up to be poster-size. Moto X has a decent camera. Not great, but also not one that makes me want to carry a second phone. I've also ended up using the wrist-flick to launch the camera app far more than I thought I would. I could still be just a tad faster, but I usually can pull the phone from my pocket, twist the wrist and just about be ready to shoot by the time I've lifted the phone into my line of sight.

Six months of subtle software

Like we said from the beginning with the Moto X, what we've got here is a mix of stock simplicity — Motorola did next to nothing to change the default Android experience — and a few subtle but important (and extremely useful) additions, smartly integrated into the overall experience.

A "stock" experience with useful features added on? Sold!

Active Display pops the time and notifications onto your screen without having to hit the power button. Only the pixels being used are lit up, so it's not a drain on the battery. And it's mostly smart enough to not "breathe" when it doesn't need to — say, in your pocket, or when left alone for a period of time. Pull the phone from your pocket, though, and you'll immediately see it fire up. That's smart. Tap a notification to see a preview — say, e-mail or a text message — and determine if it's worth opening now, or if you can ignore it for later. If you do want to open it, all you have to do is slide your finger. It's extremely well done, feels natural and is instantly missed if I grab another phone.

Touchless Control is the next big one. We've all gotten used to being able to bark orders at our phone with Google Now, but Motorola took it one step further. You don't even have to hit the power button first. Just say "OK, Google Now," and it wakes up and awaits your command. I've found it to be great when I'm being lazy — setting a reminder while in bed, for example — and when I'm in the car, a time in which you definitely don't want to be touching your phone any more than you absolutely have to.

My only real complaint is that it's still a little slow to open.

And then there's Motorola Assist, which pared down the old Smart Actions to three sections — Driving, Meeting and Sleeping. I use Driving to read incoming texts and calls to me. And I use Sleeping to silence the phone from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. The do-not-disturb mode is a must-have (and really should be baked into Android itself).

Finally, you can't talk about Motorola without talking about keeping its phones updated. Not only did Moto X get updated to Android 4.4 faster than even Google's own Nexus 4, it's already on Android 4.4.2. The question is whether that update pace can continue now that Lenovo owns the company. Was the closer relationship to Google what kept that going? Something else? And how did carrier certification receive approval so quickly? We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

It's also worth mentioning that Motorola has offloaded a number of its on-device apps to Google Play. We can't understate the importance of that. For one, it makes updating easy — you do it just like any other app. It also sidesteps the carriers in that updating, say, the camera doesn't require a complete system update — and therefore doesn't require carrier certification. That's a big deal, and it's made for a better phone.

Six months later? Still my phone of choice

Moto X isn't going to be in my pocket forever. I know that. It knows that. (At least I like to think it knows that. It's nothing personal.) I don't know when that'll happen, but it'll happen. Repeat: In all likelihood, we'll probably see a better phone than the Moto X in 2014. Maybe it'll be from Motorola. Maybe someone else.

But it's going to take a lot to dethrone it, for me. The ergonomics, first and foremost. Huge, flat phones just don't do it for me. The curviness of Moto X goes a long way toward making it the best phone for me. It just fits my hand the way a smartphone should.

That Moto X was available on so many U.S. carriers so quickly was a big deal. But the same goes for it not being available outside the U.S. for so long. As good as the Moto G is, Moto X is better. The rest of the world deserved (and still does) to experience it.

The bottom line? Six months into the Moto X, I'm still loving it. It's not perfect. But it's far more than good enough.

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3 years ago

Grab a UK Nexus 5 for £285 for the next 3 days


Time to get your Groupon for a £15 saving over Google pricing

If you're a Brit looking to pick up a Nexus 5, acting in the next 3 days could net you one for £15 less than Google's pricing. The deal has appeared on well known deals site, Groupon, and includes free shipping on your new phone. It'll be a 16GB black model you'll be getting, but considering you also get free shipping you're actually saving around £25 over picking one up from the Google Play Store. 

If this sounds like the deal for you, hit the source link below and get it while you can!

Source: Groupon

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3 years ago

LG teases G2 Mini ahead of Mobile World Congress


Miniature G2 tipped for Feb. 24 launch

Rumors of a miniaturized LG G2 making its debut at Mobile World Congress have been circulating for the past few weeks, and now it looks like the device is a lock for the Barcelona-based tradeshow. LG Mobile has just posted the image above on its Facebook page, inviting fans to "experience the mini" at MWC on Feb. 24. And sure enough, alongside the miniature cupcake, starfish and sneaker there's a shrunken-down G2, which when viewed from the back is the spitting image of the full-sized version.

It's unclear whether the G2 Mini might match its big brother's high-end hardware, as Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact does, or whether the Korean company will opt for the same approach as local rival Samsung, with a cheaper, lower-specced handset like the Galaxy S4 Mini. Whatever happens, we'll be in Barcelona on Feb. 24 to bring you full coverage of LG's new mini.

Source: LG (Facebook)

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3 years ago

HTC 'Desire 8' image leaks out along with purported specs


Dual-SIM 5.5-incher could be headed to China next month

HTC says mid-level handsets are to be an important part of its action plan for 2014, and one of the first devices to lead this mid-range push might be the "Desire 8," images of which leaked out online this morning. Shots obtained by Engadget and Chinese blog MyDrivers show a large, thin, plastic device with an HTC One-like design, dual front speakers and Sense 5 on-screen. Both outlets report that it'll pack a 5.5-inch display (resolution unknown), along with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and 13-megapixel rear shooter. It'll reportedly come in white, red, yellow, orange and cyan color options, and offer dual-SIM capabilities.

Curiously, the device doesn't seem to have any frontal buttons at all, raising a couple of possibilities — either it's an incomplete render, or the screenshot is a placeholder and the device is using on-screen buttons. (HTC is widely expected to be switching to on-screen keys for its upcoming "M8" handset, the successor to the HTC One).

The on-screen date suggests a possible Chinese launch on Mar. 18, but with Mobile World Congress coming up in a couple of weeks, we wouldn't rule out the possibility of seeing something in Barcelona too.

Source: Engadget, MyDrivers

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3 years ago

Oppo Find 7 to launch March 19 in Beijing


In the next month or so we're due new flagship smartphones from some of the major global players, so it makes sense that one of China's major Android OEMs is also preparing to launch new hardware. Per an invite on its Google+ page, Oppo will hold a launch event for its new Find 7 phone on Mar. 19 in Beijing, China. The Find 7 announcement follows the Find 5, which launched in late 2012, and the CyanogenMod-capable Oppo N1, the first handset officially certified with custom firmware.

According to TheNextWeb, purported specs for the Oppo Find 7 include a 5.5-inch QHD (2560x1440-resolution) display, a 13-megapixel camera and a Snapdragon 800 or 805 processor — putting the Find 7 in the same ballpark as upcoming flagships from rivals Samsung and HTC.

Source: Oppo (Google+); via: TNW

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3 years ago

Geeksphone Revolution gives you Android and Firefox OS for €289


European launch coming on February 20 for interesting looking hybrid

When Firefox OS first started going on devices, Geeksphone was first out of the gate with some of the developer devices. While it hasn't exactly taken off, we're a little further down the line and Geeksphone is back with its latest Firefox OS smartphone. Only this one is a dual-booter with our favorite mobile OS. This hybrid smartphone is coming to market in Europe later this month on Feb. 20 for €289, though early buyers may get a €20 discount. 

Inside the Revolution is a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel CPU, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of on-board storage with a microSD card slot. Out front is a 4.7-inch qHD display, and round back there's an 8MP camera. The 2000mAh battery isn't huge, but then Intel devices have generally done pretty well on battery life in the past. 

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3 years ago

Samsung teases Galaxy S5 event with new app icons


New Unpacked image showcases the power of five

We're just under two weeks away from seeing what Samsung's been cooking up for its Feb. 24 "Unpacked 5" event in Barcelona, Spain, and the manufacturer's dropping even more hints in a post published this morning on its official blog. The new image from the Samsung Tomorrow site shows nine new icons all raised to the power of five — Speed, Outdoor, Curiosity, Fun, Social, Style, Privacy, Fitness and Life. If you've been following the recent UI leaks from various new Samsung apps, you'll see a clear resemblance between Samsung's teaser and the expected UI style of the Galaxy S5 — flat, colorful icons with white outlines.

"Also we are sure that you have noticed that there is lots of 5s," Samsung slyly notes.

Whatever it all means, we'll be live in Barcelona to see Samsung's next big thing on Feb. 24.

More: Samsung Galaxy S5 forum

Source: Samsung Tomorrow

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3 years ago

Moto G, two months on


Motorola swept us off our feet with the affordable Moto G. But after two months and a software update, how has life fared for the little phone that could? 

Back in late November 2013, Alex Dobie and myself tooled up and headed to London to meet Motorola's latest Android smartphone. We already knew the name, but what we didn't know was just how much Motorola would blow us away that afternoon with the new Moto G. It's easy to pay lip service to budget devices and then forget all about them. But one thing was immediately clear; the Moto G was different. This was a phone we wanted to take notice of. 

Motorola has had something of a reduced presence in recent times outside of North America, with the last new UK release being the RAZR i about a year before. With the Moto G, it was back with a bang. Back with a product that was so well priced for what was on offer that folks would find it hard not to pick one up just to see it for themselves. 

In the two months or so since launch, I've used the Moto G regularly. It's easy to get swept up in the new high-end devices, but using the Moto G hasn't been the chore that using a budget phone once would have been.

Join us after the break for some long-term thoughts on the Moto G. 

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3 years ago

Moto G available for $99 off-contract from US Cellular starting today


Online-only for today, in-store availability starts Feb. 10th

After writing yesterday of the expected Moto G launch on U.S. Cellular, we now have the full details on this budget device for the carrier. It turns out the date of February 10th for a launch was correct, but only for in-store availability — you can pick up a Moto G on U.S. Cellular today for just $99 (with free shipping) when paired with one of its No Contract plans.

The retail price is supposedly $189, but we're told (and the website reflects) that a $90 rebate is instantly applied when you buy the device. That's one heck of a deal, and matches Verizon's prepaid Moto G offering exactly. U.S. Cellular's No Contract plans start at just $50 per month for unlimited talk, text and data (500MB full speed) — a great deal when you also consider the price of this phone.

If you're interested in picking up a Moto G and U.S. Cellular is your carrier of choice, hit the source link below and get your order in now. And if you just have to pick one up in a store, you only have to wait a few days to do so.

Source: U.S. Cellular

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3 years ago

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact versus Z1



Sony's miniature marvel delivers almost everything that made the Z1 great, in more hand and pocket-friendly design

The Sony Xperia Z1 is a great phone. It's also a big, blocky phone with enormous bezels and an unashamedly chunky design. So we gave a warm welcome to its smaller sibling, the Xperia Z1 Compact, when we first saw it at CES 2014. The Compact, as we'll call it, incorporates just about all the high-end hardware of the full-size Z1, only with a significantly reduced footprint, making it an easier fit for hands and pockets alike. Unlike some other "mini" phones we could mention, you don't have to settle for lower-end hardware if you want a smaller handset.

So now that both are on the market in the UK, how do they compare? We've got a full walkthrough, including video, after the break.

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3 years ago

LG hosting pre-MWC press event in Korea on Feb. 13


Likely introduction of LG G Pro 2 at event in Seoul

We already know that the LG G Pro 2 is a thing, and that its a thing we'll be seeing soon, but now it looks like we're likely seeing it next week. Invitations to an event at the LG Twin Towers in Seoul on February 13 have started going out to local press. While the invite doesn't hint at much with the message "Knock-knock knockin' on" and an image of footsteps the only visual aids. But given the time frame, we'd take a punt on it being the new G Pro 2.

Of course, in Europe later this month the worlds press and smartphone makers will be hitting up Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This may have been a more obvious spot to introduce the G Pro 2, but then LG isn't always conventional in how it announces new devices and we shouldn't be totally surprised at a local debut first. Either way, we'll be expecting to get our own hands on it just over a week later in Spain. 

Source: ZDNet Korea via PhoneArena

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3 years ago

Samsung Galaxy S4 + S4 Mini Black Edition availability announced


Update: Hot on the heels of Samsung UK's statement, Samsung HQ has announced that the Black Edition GS4 and GS4 Mini will launch in "select markets" from February. The phones will come with exclusive wallpapers and ringtones, as well as black accessories and charging cables.

Original post: News has come in of Samsung Galaxy S4 models with a new Note 3-like leather-effect back — in recent days we've seen the new GS4 variants in Russia and South Korea sporting a redesigned derriere. So when might we see a Western release for this new (and, we'd argue, improved) flavor of Galaxy S4? Well, Samsung's keeping its cards close to its chest for now, not exactly confirming a UK launch for the "Black Edition" GS4 seen in Russia recently, but instead hinting at the possibility of announcements ahead.

A Samsung spokesperson told Android Central, “Samsung UK will announce availability for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Black Edition in due course.”

That doesn't tell us a whole lot, but it does suggest we haven't seen the last of these new GS4 models without the glossy back cover. With a likely Galaxy S5 launch happening before the end of the month, hopefully we won't have too long to wait.

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3 years ago

Verizon HTC One getting KitKat update 'shortly'


Andorid 4.4 + Sense 5.5 update receives technical approval, OTA expected soon

Mo Versi, HTC's Executive Director of Product Management, sends word that the Verizon HTC One should start receiving its Android 4.4 KitKat and HTC Sense 5.5 update "shortly." In a tweet, Versi reveals that the update has passed technical approval, the final hurdle before over-the-air updates can begin being pushed out.

Verizon's HTC One should be the second U.S. carrier variant to get KitKat after Sprint launched the update late last week. Elsewhere, the update is live in Canada and Europe, as well as U.S. Developer Editions.

So, Verizon HTC One owners, now's the time to start checking for updates!

Source: @moversi

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3 years ago

OtterBox launches heavy duty cases for the LG G Flex


Ultimate protection for your expensive curved phone

If you're dropping a fair wedge of cash on the LG G Flex, you might be considering some protection for it. Sure, it has that 'self-healing' back to protect against smaller scratches, but what about something a little more, heavy duty? Enter OtterBox with a new Defender series and Commuter series case for LG's curvy little number. 

If you're familiar with som of the OtterBox line of cases, they're about as heavy duty as you'd want to get from a phone case short of encasing it in concrete. If there's something to cover – display aside – the Commuter and Defender will pretty much cover it all. The construction of both is such that if the phone does flex, the case will go with it. The Defender will set you back $59.95 and the Commuter a bit less at $44.95. Both are available now at the source link below. 

Source: OtterBox

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3 years ago

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 launches in the UK


£649 gets you a 12-inch KitKat tablet with stylus capabilities

The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet is available to buy in the UK from today, Samsung has announced. The Wifi-only version of the tablet launches today from Samsung's own online store, its "Experience Store" at Westfield Stratford City, and "selected retailers" such as Carphone Warehouse and John Lewis. The 12.2-inch behemoth sports a similar chassis design and internals to the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition, and is priced at a whopping £649 for the Wifi-only version.

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