Cheating on the iPhone with the Google Moto X

Cheating on the iPhone with the Google Moto X

As part of my job is to evaluate technologies, and I just cannot help being Android-curious, I decided to give the Google Moto X phone a try.

The Moto X is the first real new phone out of Motorola after Google bought them and started inserting its influence.  As such, it’s a little different and more ambitious than other phones Motorola has released in previous years.

First off, when you order the phone, you have a wide variety of choices through the Moto Maker site.  You can choose the color for the front bezel, the color of the back of the phone, the color of the highlights (buttons etc.) What home screen graphic you want it to deliver with, and whether or not you want it already set up with your personal Google services.

In fact, they now even have a wooden bamboo option for the back of the phone for something truly unique.

So there are thousands of possible customization options (as opposed to black, white and gold.)  I think it’s a very cool thing to do for a phone, but I doubt we’ll see this proliferate to other vendors.  I think it’s simply too much work with too little return for the phone maker.  In addition, many folks utilize cases anyway.  So why customize the phone, only to cover it with a case?  So while cool, I do think it’s kind of a novelty.

Well what about the phone itself?  First off the Moto X runs an almost pure version of Android Kit Kat with very few customizations.  One thing I hate (about Samsung phones in particular) are all the extra skins and bloatware thrown on the device from the manufacturer and the carrier.  The Moto X is very clean software wise, and that makes for a really excellent experience.

In addition, back when I reviewed the Galaxy S3, the software simply wasn’t as good.  The back button would give unintended results depending on where you were, and some of my favorite apps just weren’t available.  That’s not the case anymore.  Pretty much everything I use on a daily basis is available now on Android.  There’s only one big thing lacking, and that’s a good Twitter client.  I tried a ton and nothing compared to Tweetbot or Twitteriffic on iOS. More of a nuisance than a deal breaker.

The additional killer feature on the phone is the fact that it’s always listening for voice commands.  You spend some time training it, but then the phone is always waiting for you to say “OK Google Now.”  Once you do this, the phone wakes up and awaits your voice command.  Doing things like saying “OK Google Now, Navigate Home” or “OK Google Now, Open Rhapsody” are great when you are driving in the car.

For the most part, the voice commands work well, but you do need to know the commands the phone is expecting.  It’s far more rigid when it comes to natural language than Siri currently is on the iPhone.  That said, you have to hit a button to get Siri to start listening, whereas a simple phrase will wake up the Moto X.

This can also be a little bit of a problem, as sometimes other people saying “OK Google Now” will cause your phone to go into listen mode.  It’s supposed to customize to your voice, but I’ve been able to get display phones at Best Buy to respond every time I’ve tried.  So if you are around a bunch of Moto X users, your phone may get confused.

Another nice thing is the screen while in lock mode.  Since the screen is OLED, Motorola can selectively light up pixels to show information.  So if you pick up the phone, or get a notification, it can only light up that information without having to light the whole screen.  This does wonders for battery life.

You would think that having to listen for commands all the time would really drain the battery, but Google has included a low power consumption chip that is doing that listening.  That, along with the selective pixel notifications, really help the phone battery last.  In fact, it’s the best battery life I’ve tested in an Android phone.  Granted I haven’t tested them all, and something like the huge Razor MAXX would probably have more, but either way you will not be disappointed.

Back to the screen for a minute.  It’s 4.7 inches and is really vibrant.  It’s really easy on the eyes, and even looks good in direct sunlight.  The size makes it still usable with one hand too.  My thumb can reach everything it needs to without too much trouble.

The phone itself has a slightly curved back and fits really nicely into my hand.  It’s well made, solid, and feels like I’m less likely to drop it than I am my 5S.  That said, the back is a little slick, and I would prefer it to feel a little more textured or rubbery for lack of a better term.

Next, one of the most important things for me on a phone has to be the camera.  I’m really spoiled with the iPhone 5S and the Lumia 1020, so if a camera is less than stellar, it could be a deal breaker for me.  As for the Moto X, it’s just so so.  It’s not horrible, but it’s not great either.  It was passable to use for a couple weeks, but I felt myself missing the camera on my 5S a lot.

So, that said, I did go back to my iPhone 5S.  It wasn’t just because of the camera, but it was due to very few reasons.

  • Lack of good Twitter client
  • So So camera
  • iOS eco-system lock in
  • I like the fingerprint reader on the 5S
  • Power and headphone jacks on opposite ends of the phone

Okay, I know this last one sounds kind of dumb, but I mount my iPhone in the car for my commute.  I plug in a cable to the AUX cord on the car for audio and I plug in a lightning cable for power.  On the iPhone, they are both on the bottom of the phone, so the cords come out on one side.  On the Moto X, having one cord come out each side was a little unwieldily.    Very dumb minor thing, but it does affect me.

As for the eco-system lock in, Messages is a biggie.  In addition, my family shares an iTunes account that allows us all to share software, and they all have iDevices.  As such, I save a lot on money when buying applications on iOS.  If I buy something on Android, it’s just me.  So it’s not that the ecosystem is better at this point, it’s just where I happen to live most of the time.

All of that said, this was truly the first Android phone that made me think I could ditch the iPhone.  It’s well made, sleek, feels great in the hand and has some unique features that make it stand out from the rest.  If you like Android, you will love this phone, guaranteed.  If you are an iPhone user, this just might make you want to switch.

My Brief Lusty Fling with the Galaxy S3

Recently my long time love, the iPhone, had been seeming a little distant.  We had fallen in a rut, the two of us.  We did the same things, never switched it up, and life became kind of boring. Maybe it’s a mid-phone release cycle-crisis, but I was yearning for something more, that spark, that sexiness that was lacking.  That’s when I saw her.

The Samsung Galaxy S III.

She was beautiful.  Thin, gorgeous face, lightweight, and curves and buttons in all the right places.  I’d never been in a relationship with an Android before.  Sure, I had a couple dates in the past, but never really committed.  So I thought that this time I would give it a shot.  I would go full on Android and see if the grass truly was greener.

At first, everything was new and exciting.  Connecting to my Google services was a snap, and installing Lotus Traveler worked like a charm.  Then as the courtship continued, we started to visit all of the same old haunts.  Foursquare, Dropbox, Foodspotting, Facebook, Twitter, Rhapsody, Yelp, TripIt!, and even 1Password welcomed us.  Everything was comfortable and familiar again.  A new coat of make-up perhaps, but everything worked as expected.  Getting them from the Google Play store was pretty decent as well.  Seemed easy to shop and find what I was looking for, and clicking them brought them right down to the phone nicely.

The S3 wasn’t afraid to mix things up either.  “You don’t like the default launcher?  Let me try on something more comfortable.  I have an entire wardrobe I could switch into.”  And for role-playing, let’s just say she wasn’t afraid to be Chrome or Firefox or Dolphin if I really wanted her to be. Flexibility, oh yes.  She had some kinky new things she wanted to try too, like tapping other phones and swapping data.  And while hot, unfortunately it was hard to find many others in the crowd that swung that way. When we did, it was really exciting the first time we tried, but after that we would get disappointed when everyone didn’t want to play. It’s still kind of an underground community, but I think more people will become uninhibited as time goes on.

But some aspects of her personality really got to annoy me after awhile.  She kept notifying me of things over and over again, and I couldn’t easily convince her to only tell me about the things I wanted to hear.  She wasn’t a very good listener either as time and again she would screw up or ignore easy to understand requests. She also seemed to wear out more quickly than iPhone did.  I could spend marathon sessions with iPhone no problem, but Galaxy S3 got tired and always wanted to go to bed early. Even when she would stay up, I could never please her with only one hand.  She always required that I used both my hands on her tall frame.

Dealing with her schizophrenia Dissociative identity disorder about email was a nightmare too. It was a little too much with having to switch between mail, and a GMail client and a Traveler email client.  I mean, pick a mood and stick with it will ya? She even sported three different messaging clients by default. I just never knew what I was going to get. Lastly, she was inconsistent. Sometimes I would push her buttons, and how she responded today might be different than how she responds tomorrow. It sometimes became a guessing game trying to figure out how she felt.  It became tiring after awhile.

So as of today, I’ve broken up with Galaxy S3.  Sure, she’s sexy, and we had some incredible nights of passion, but quite frankly, iPhone really gets me better.  iPhone really knows how I like to work it, and will be there for me when I need her.  There’s a lot to be said about someone you can rely on, and iPhone has never let me down.  Despite our rut, I still love her, and probably always will.

All of that said, the Galaxy S3 might be your personal dream girl though, so feel free to date her, I won’t be mad.

Galaxy SIII Pros

  • Great Camera
  • Big Screen is gorgeous and easy to read
  • Light and Thin
  • Flexible Software Choices
  • Connects great to Google Services
  • Near-field communication features
  • Expandable storage

Galaxy SIII Cons

  • Big Screen is too hard to work one-handed
  • Multiple clients for email and messaging
  • Lack of consistency in apps (menus and such)
  • Battery Life isn’t quite as good as my iPhone
  • Plastic outer shell feels a little cheap
  • Lack of notification granularity
  • Default storage (without additional card) tops out at 16 GB
  • Back button was sometimes inconsistent
  • S-Voice was no where near as accurate as Siri


T-Mobile Sidekick update

I own a T-Mobile Color Sidekick. This gadget is one of the coolest out there for mobile data. It has a flip up screen that will show you a qwerty keyboard that is very comfortable to type with. As such, it allows you to easily keep up with email, AOL Instant Messenger sessions and SMS messages.

Well the reason today is a good day is because they FINALLY updated the OS in this thing. The update details can be found in the Read More… section, but they fix a lot of the little problems I’ve had with the device. They’ve also added a catalog application where you can purchase and download software to the device. Right now everything is free, but that will change soon I’m sure. Two of the freebies were really cool. One is Terminal Monkey which allows you to SSH or Telnet into your boxes, and the other is LED Football. It’s a clone of the old time LED based American football handheld game. Pretty damn cool. Still no sync for Notes or Outcrap, but hopefully that will come soon…