Moto X "touchless" Android phone unveiled at exclusive New York event


August 1, 2013

Motorola's new Moto X, unveiled in NYC

Motorola's new Moto X, unveiled in NYC

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Today, after months of hype, anticipation and sometimes wild rumors, Motorola finally unveiled the Moto X, its first Android flagship phone fully designed and delivered since becoming a subsidiary of Google.

I was invited to the official New York City unveiling to be among the first to lay hands on the Moto X on behalf of Gizmag. A full review and hands on video will be forthcoming soon.

The low-key reveal took place in a small space a few blocks from the Hudson River, where Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside greeted groups of about 25 journalists each before handing things over to Motorola product head Rick Osterloh, who demonstrated the capabilities of the Moto X while taking questions.

It turns out that many of the numerous leaks and rumors we've been hearing about the Moto X were accurate.

Aware of its surroundings

As we first learned from Woodside at a conference back in May, the Moto X is loaded with sensors to allow it to be constantly aware of its environment. And just like its recently unveiled Droid siblings, the Moto X never totally plugs its digital ears, allowing it to spring into action at the drop of an "OK, Google Now."

Osterloh explained that the Moto X carries a "contextual core" that allows it to take action according to its current state or environment. For example, if the phone is set face down or stowed in a pocket, its display remains off. Simply turn the Moto X face up, and a lock screen with clock and notification icons appears, no need to press any buttons or say anything.

Half of the contextual core hardware handles the suite of sensors that helps the Moto X determine what is happening around it. The other half, according to Osterloh, is just listening for "OK, Google Now."

When that combination of words is spoken in the user's (mostly) unique voice pattern, the Moto X wakes up to listen for further commands. Each Moto X needs to be registered to the user's individual voice, but during Osterloh's demonstration, another journalist was able to hijack the demo device with his own voice.

Hands off

Touchless control via voice commands is a key pillar of Motorola's pitch for the Moto X. There's nothing really new here to people familiar with using Google Now, except that it's more deeply integrated into the Moto X, which can be operated by voice-only from as far away as 12 feet, and even when stowed in a pocket, said Osterloh.

Active noise cancelling on the always-on microphones inside the phone also allow it to tolerate a certain amount of background noise. Web searches, dictating texts, playing a favorite song and opening third-party apps are all possible without ever laying a finger on the Moto X, opening up all sorts of possibilities for certain activities like driving or exercising.

Taking photos has also been streamlined in the Moto X, which goes straight from sleep to camera mode with a special gesture that's basically just a couple twists of the wrist. Motorola calls it "quick capture," and it taps into the company's camera technology dubbed "Clear Pixel" that uses an RGBC sensor (the 'C' is for clear), which Motorola claims can capture up to 75 percent more light, translating to more detail and less blurring of images.

At the heart of the Moto X is the chipset introduced in the latest round of Droids – the Motorola "X8," which is somewhat misleadingly called an "eight core" system. In reality, the X8 is made up of the two-part "contextual core," a dual-core Qualcomm S4 running at 1.7GHz, and paired with a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU.

As with Google's Nexus 4, the Moto X has no hardware buttons, so in many instances, part of the screen real estate is given up for on-screen buttons.

Other key specs include 2 GB RAM, models with 16 GB and 32 GB of storage and a 4.7-inch 720 x 1280 AMOLED display.

The Moto X also comes in wood

A (custom) phone for everyone

And of course, Motorola's latest smartphone comes with a few options for customization, something that the company is pushing hard as part of Moto X's appeal to mainstream smartphone users.

"We're going after the mass market... the middle of the market," said Osterloh. "People that use smartphones in their daily life, but not those on the far-out leading edge."

In other words, the Moto X is more Droid than it is Nexus, but unlike the Verizon-exclusive Droid line, this phone will be available on the top 5 American carriers. It will run $199 with a contract and comes with 50 GB free on Google Drive. It's expected to hit those top five carriers towards the end of August and into September. Osterloh said that unlocked and international versions will come shortly thereafter.

New users can choose a custom color, accent color and even add a text phrase to the back plate of the Moto X via a program called "Moto Maker" which will be available initially online, or at AT&T; store outlets.

Look for more on the Moto X here on Gizmag in the coming days as we spend more time testing out our review unit. Meanwhile, what are your early reactions to Motorola's first phone with Google baked into all eight cores? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author
Eric Mack Eric Mack has been covering technology and the world since the late 1990s. As well as being a Gizmag regular, he currently contributes to CNET, NPR and other outlets. All articles by Eric Mack

So, one of the most important features touted in the marketing was customization, which you can only do if you are going to use AT&T as your carrier? Also, only if you order a customized phone is it manufactured in the US, but not a black or white phone? So, IF I'm on AT&T I can have a phone customized and manufactured in the US with a limited battery, limited memory, a plastic body, and last generation CPU? It has a curved back, ohhhh lala...that at its thickest is 1.5+mm thicker than my Droid RAZR Maxx with a 3300mAh battery? What happened to cutting edge, what happened to Google Glass thinking, what happened to innovation?

Did they learn nothing from the iPhone debacle? Carrier exclusivity is a dead end! Why, oh why, would they choose to roll out these customization capabilities (the only thing that makes it different than the Droid line on Verizon) exclusively on a single carrier?

Here I thought Google was going to impress us...better luck next time.

Techo Naut

@Techo: very well said.

Now, speaking for the other 99.9% of readers:

This is an awesome, innovative phone. Google's acquisition of Motorola really worked some magic for the company, and products like the Moto X show that Motrorola is ready to be a serious contender in the smartphone industry.

Roma Khudoleyev

I hate that phone already. It is going to get noisier around the place. Besides, voice recognition never works for me because of my accent.

Paul van Dinther

Could you say that again please...?

Gerald Grey

Google is known to spy for its own data mining operation and also hand over the data to the NSA. Now they released a phone that continuously listens and processes the audio stream. You are also encouraged to put up in Google cloud your pictures and videos for analysis - great for Google, bad for its unaware customers.


Cool device. But cool doesn't necessarily mean practical or usable. And I want a device that allows ME to determine when I want the microphone/camera on.

Marlon Meiklejohn

A continuing evolution of the MAAO (Multiple Applications Always On) AAA (AnyThing, AnyWhere, AnyTime) device that we NEED. Oh, and it must be fusion powered.

Barry Dennis

My guess is that the new phones are getting better at being potentially dual purpose if you want to use them as a modular robot controller to fit in various robot shell designs, but remember we need the robot revolution because the only source of sustainable wealth is productivity that is "aware" of its dynamic biosphere repercussions as well. ( I hope such productivity enabled by robots will grow the fruit trees I need, for as history shows humans have failed to grow them because humans are too time sensitive, so the last chance to get the fruit trees we need is to have robots having no impatience plant and grow them and linked to the big ecological data cloud via these phones perhaps?)

Ahimsa Fruitarian

It would be nice if you could leave the phone on a table and be on the other side of the room speaking and listening without the need for any headset..... through the use of directed sound so no one else can hear the conversation either.

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