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Motorola Moto X vs. Samsung Galaxy S4

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August 2, 2013

Gizmag compares the specs and features of the new Motorola X, which offers hands-free voic...

Gizmag compares the specs and features of the new Motorola X, which offers hands-free voice controls, and the popular Samsung Galaxy S4

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Does a smartphone market dominated by Apple and Samsung have room for a third major player? That's what Google-owned Motorola is hoping for, with the new Moto X. The phone is reportedly going to have an insane half-billion dollar marketing budget, but does it have the goods to back that up? Let's try to find out, as we compare it to Samsung's Galaxy S4.

Size

The Galaxy S4 is the bigger phone by a decent margin

The Moto X is definitely a bit smaller. To be exact, it's six percent shorter, and seven percent narrower than the Galaxy S4. There is, however, one area where it's bigger: the curved Moto X, at its thickest point, is 32 percent thicker than the GS4.

Weight

Weight is even, at 130 g

Well looky here, weights are identical. Of course, as we just discussed, the Galaxy S4 is bigger, so its 130 g (4.59 oz) of heft is spread out over about eight percent more surface area.

Build

The Moto X is sold in a variety of colors and textures ... including, eventually, wood (wo...

The Moto X is a phone designed around marketing, rather than spec showdowns. Its chassis is the first area where we see that.

Like the rumored budget iPhone, the Moto X will be sold in a variety of colors and textures. US customers can go online and customize the cosmetic details of their Moto X, which will supposedly be delivered within four days from Motorola's Texas assembly plant.

Perhaps the most interesting thing here is the wooden version. Yes, Motorola is currently testing several models of the Moto X that are made of actual wood. This is unprecedented, and, frankly, we can't wait to get our hands on one. The wooden Moto X phones are expected to ship in Q4 of this year.

Display

The GS4 also has a bigger, sharper screen

The Galaxy S4's display is bigger and sharper than the Moto X's. This is another area where we're reminded that the Moto X wasn't designed to win spec battles and make geeks drool. The GS4's 1080p display may be superior, but we imagine the Moto X's screen sharpness and quality should suffice for your typical smartphone shopper.

The Moto X also only gives you 88 percent as much screen area as the GS4. Well, technically it gives you 88 percent: the Moto X's usable screen area is even smaller than that, due to its persistent onscreen navigation bar. The Galaxy S4 uses physical and capacitive keys below the screen, so it doesn't need onscreen buttons.

Processor

Performance should be good with the X's (more or less) Snapdragon S4 Pro

Like the Droid Maxx and Droid Ultra, the Moto X features Motorola's X8 system on a chip. The processor part of that equation is basically a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, which should deliver great performance.

Likewise, the Galaxy S4 is still one of the most powerful phones you can buy, with its Snapdragon 600 or Exynos 5 Octa, depending on where you live.

RAM

2 GB of RAM, all around

Don't get us wrong, Moto didn't skimp too much on hardware specs, as the X phone also has an ample 2 GB of RAM.

Storage

That 32 GB version of the X is reserved for AT&T customers

Apparently the 32 GB version of the Moto X is an AT&T exclusive, so everyone else will need to make do with 16 GB. There's also no microSD card slot, which the Galaxy S4 has.

Wireless

Both phones will utilize LTE, as long as your carrier supports it in your area

No surprises here. Like the GS4, the Moto X will ride speedy 4G LTE networks, as long as your carrier provides it.

Battery

Motorola claims the Moto X will give you up to 24 hours uptime

Power management is another feature Motorola is selling with the X phone. Even though its battery has less capacity than the Galaxy S4, Moto is saying that the X will last up to 24 hours with "mixed usage." We'll be able to tell you soon whether the Moto X lives up to these claims.

Another item to note is that the GS4's battery is removable. The Moto X's is sealed shut.

The Moto X also has a feature called Active Display, which provides notifications while your screen is off in a subtle, pulsating, power-saving manner.

Cameras

The Moto X uses a 10.5-megapixel 'Clear Pixel' sensor, which will supposedly do well under...

The Moto X's rear camera has a pretty high pixel count, with its 10.5-megapixel sensor. Marketed as Clear Pixel, the Omnivision-made sensor is also claimed to deliver outstanding low-light performance, perhaps similar to the HTC One.

Perhaps the most important part about the Moto X's camera, though, is the way you activate it. Motorola wants to make it as fast and easy as possible to snap a pic. So give two quick rotations of your wrist, and the camera will pop up from anywhere. Tap anywhere on the screen, and it will snap a photo. Again, the Moto X is all about handy little details like this prioritized over winning all the benchmark wars.

Software

Motorola surprised a few people by not putting the latest version of Android on the Moto X

Motorola surprised a few people by announcing that the Moto X will ship with Android 4.2.2. Being owned by Google, you'd think the latest version of Android, 4.3, would be in tow here. Android 4.3 is a pretty minor update over 4.2, though, so that might not end up being a deal-breaker.

The biggest difference between these two is the presence of Samsung's TouchWiz on the GS4. It's full of flash, pomp, and, some would say, gimmickry. TouchWiz's feature set is extensive, but we found very few of those features that we still use months after release.

Google Play Edition

The Moto X will eventually, like the GS4, be sold in a stock Android-running 'Google Play ...

If you don't mind ponying up US$650, you can already get the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition. It loses the TouchWiz, and runs pure Android. We find this to be a much leaner and more streamlined experience than the bloated TouchWiz.

There isn't a Google Play version of the Moto X yet, but we understand that one is in the pipeline. Since it almost runs stock Android as is, it's hard to see a huge advantage there. Though quicker software updates and the latest version of Android would be nice bonuses.

Hands-free voice

The Moto X offers hands-free voice control, dubbed Touchless Control

This is probably the Moto X's killer feature. Google Now is our favorite mobile assistant, and now you can use it without touching your phone. Even if your screen is off, say "Ok Google Now" and your Moto X will spring into action, ready to give you the info you're looking for. It also learns your voice, so (theoretically) only a really good impersonator could activate your phone with voice.

NFC

Both phones have NFC chips in tow

If near-field communication is your thing, then both phones deliver. That crowdfunded NFC Ring can get here none too soon.

Wrap-up

It's interesting that so many phone manufacturers are still playing the spec one-upmanship game. Don't get us wrong, we love 1080p screens, 41 MP cameras, and cutting-edge processors as much as the next guy. But if you take a step back, does the general population of smartphone shoppers care about these things as much as the geekier among us do? We suspect the answer is no, and we also suspect that's what Motorola was thinking here.

It will be interesting to see whether the total Moto X package adds up to something worth recommending. You can get an early taste of that with our hands-on video, and you can also stay tuned for our early review within the coming days.

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About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
9 Comments

I'd hardly call what looks to be big advantage in the 1020's 41 M Pixel camera with Xenon flash and LED lighting "geeky" .

Comprehensive and trustworthy tests by photographic/video experts are yet to be seen, but for mine it looks like the first Smartphone that will allow me to leave the "point and shoot" and mini camcorder at home - a huge plus..

Tim Collins
2nd August, 2013 @ 02:54 am PDT

I think your comparison should list the S4's IR blaster. I sure think it's neat that the phone can be used as a smart remote for your TV, etc.

BenC
2nd August, 2013 @ 06:03 am PDT

Heck, I never care much for 1080p screen or Quad cores processor as they are bunch of overkill spec anyway...at least until NOW! Why, because if Moto X is going for the same price as S4 than I really can't ignore the spec, it become obvious that to get the most out for my money I have no choice but to pick S4. I mean don't care much about customization since one will buy a case for the phone and covered it up anyway for better protection, the no touch Google Now will probably be coming soon to Rooted phones and even updates from Android every where! Remember S4 does come with Removable battery and Micro Sd slot on top of 1080p and Quad Cores processor!!

phissith
2nd August, 2013 @ 08:10 am PDT

The lack of storage and specifically an SD card slot is what kills it for me.

Until I saw that I was quite interested, but I use my microSD card on my S3 heavily for books, music and movies.

TN
2nd August, 2013 @ 10:09 am PDT

I think Google said previously they were planning to assemble the X in the US, did that happen?

Daishi
2nd August, 2013 @ 12:43 pm PDT

phissith, the "no-touch Google Now" combined with all-day battery life is ONLY possible because there is specific hardware in the phone designed to efficiently and constantly process audio, always listening for your voice and feeding any intercepted commands to the main processor. It will NOT be coming to just any other phone.

The Moto X's selling points are all-day battery life, no-touch Google Now, low-light camera, and the other little shortcuts that make the phone's features easier to use. Also, it has a wood edition. All of these add up to a phone that is not like any other phone on the market.

Joel Detrow
2nd August, 2013 @ 12:59 pm PDT

The way google is investing in everything I believe will make them more competitive.

This dabble in hardware is welcome as Motorola have a strong telco background and cannot be allowed to die as Microsoft will.

For now Samsung is still on top as their continuous battle with apple can only serve to strengthen their Os and make it more appealing to those weaning off iPhone. The google phone remains for the purists just as Linux does for desktop.

In time I would think customisable ui will come into play so users on a google phone can choose if their phone interface looks like a Samsung or htc or google.

Nairda
2nd August, 2013 @ 06:17 pm PDT

Wood? Seriously. Just what the world needs, another excuse to cut down trees. Why not be more resposible and make them out of recycled plastic?

BP
4th August, 2013 @ 07:14 pm PDT

Samsung galaxy s4 all the way. The rest "pleeeeease" try to give some competition.

Temojin
8th August, 2013 @ 05:06 pm PDT
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