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.
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.
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.