Hands on with Motorola's customizable, 'Made in U.S.A.' Moto X

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

After Google bought Motorola two years ago, everyone's been wondering what kind of synergy the two tech companies would create to revolutionize smartphones. That product is the Moto X, an Android smartphone made and assembled in U.S. — specifically, in Fort Worth, TX — and fully customizable in a rainbow of colors via an online customization website called Moto Maker.

The Moto X is not a Nexus device, but it was designed to come as close to one as possible, while adding in the latest Motorola hardware and software optimizations. Like the new Droid devices Motorola announced last week, the Moto X shares similar internal DNA. It has a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 16GB of internal, 2GB of RAM, 2200mAh battery (rated at up to 24 hours) and a 10-megapixel camera. But as anyone will tell you, the spec race doesn't really matter anymore, now that smartphones are beefier than ever before.

With smartphones gaining larger and larger screens, it's very welcome that the Moto X has a comfortable 4.7-inch display that sits in a thin chassis with a curved back. Part of the reason why the Moto X feels small compared to other flagship smartphones is because the bezels surrounding the display are very narrow. The Moto X is also incredibly light.

Smarter And Simpler Android

"Innovation has slowed down because of lack of imagination," said Rick Osterloh, Motorola's senior vice president of product management. "Smartphones are super powerful, but not very smart."

Like Google Glass, the Moto X is a device that is more aware of you — the user. With "Touchless Control" you can wake up a Moto X in standby mode and have it perform actions by using voice command via Google Now. For instance: "OK, Google Now. Call Alicia" or "OK, Google Now, note to self, buy ice."

Active Display shows accessible notifications without activating the entire screen and Quick Capture lets users activate the camera faster by flicking the Moto X twice and pressing anywhere on the screen to activate the shutter. If those features sound familiar, that's because they're new Motorola specials. Speaking of the camera, the Motorola says the Moto X has a new "Clear Pixel Camera" that has an extra set of white pixels to help capture more light — be it in low-light conditions or for faster exposures.

Instead of boasting about having the fastest or most powerful specs, or gimmicky features (Samsung, we're looking right at you), Motorola says the Moto X is going against the trend of piling on features.

"There are six icons on your homescreen, and none on the others," said Osterloh. "That's it."

That's just for the homescreen, though. We dug into the regular apps page and it's just as we expected; there are carrier specific bloatware apps. Ugh.

Customizable Just For You

Have you ever customized a pair of Nikes or maybe ordered a car with special colors and interiors? Yes? Well, Motorola is bringing that kind of personalization to smartphones (at least for AT&T models first). The Moto X is the first smartphone that users will be able to customize. The company's Moto Maker website (launching first with AT&T) will allow users to mix and match different colors and accents for the Moto X at no additional cost. There will be 18 colors (all matte), two front colors (white or black) and seven different accents to choose from, as well as different textures. You do the math; that's a lot of combinations.

Additionally, Motorola is also working hard to bring wood versions of the Moto X by Q4. Apparently, that's a big trend going around. A little Mad Men aesthetic, if you will. Facebook campaigns will also be launched that will allow users to vote on special edition Moto X devices, which will then be produced.

The personalized touch goes beyond just kitting out the Moto X itself. Users can choose to add a custom power-on message or an engraved message — like a name, phone number, etc. — on the back case. Both of those features are free of charge. Adding matching SOL republic earbuds or protective cases will add additional costs.

Perhaps the craziest thing about using Moto Maker is that a customized Moto X will only take four days to arrive at your doorstep. That's one major reason why the Moto X is made in the U.S.

Coming Soon

A concrete launch date wasn't provided, but we're told the Moto X will launch by the end of August to early September on five carriers in the U.S. It'll cost $199.99 (16GB) and $249.99 (32GB) with a two-year contract and can be purchased direct from Motorola with the customization options outlined above or from a carrier, as usual. Moto X owners will also get 50GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for two years.

Unlocked "Developer Editions" of the Moto X will also be released along with a special Google Play Edition with stock Android, but Motorola didn't provide any further info on them. From what we could tell, the Moto X is possibly Google's finest Android smartphone yet. 

(All photos by Raymond Wong for DVICE)

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