New Moto X is smartest of current smart phones

Moto Display on the Moto X

Moto Display shows time and notifications on the Moto X without turning on the whole screen

The original Moto X, released in 2013, was the first phone designed and built by Motorola as a Google property. As such, it featured an interface that was remarkably clean and close to the stock Android experience, with a few custom features for good measure. Unfortunately, while I loved the user interface of the original Moto X, the hardware was mid-range at the time it was released and so buying the original immediately felt like a compromise.

The successor, the new Moto X, is essentially a straight-up hardware upgrade from last year’s model. Verizon let me spend a few weeks with this new Moto X, and it’s quite definitely the best user experience of any Verizon phone I’ve used.

The hardware improvements are primarily in the areas of size, speed and camera. The phone is simply bigger, faster and has a better camera than the original X. However, the strength of the Moto X is definitely in the user experience, and by addressing the primary complaint filed against the original Moto X – that the hardware just wasn’t good enough – Motorola can now compete with the flagship devices from other manufacturers.

The software is beautiful. It’s clean and as close to a pure Android experience as anything you can currently find on Verizon. The notification shade is bereft of the clutter found in Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense. The addition of the Google Now Launcher creates a nearly Nexus-like experience.

Instead of cluttering up Android by making changes to the interface itself, Motorola has instead focused creating useful, innovative apps. They’ve included Moto Assist, Moto Actions, Moto Display and Moto Voice.

Moto Assist allows the phone to sense the current conditions and adjust automatically. It silences itself and keeps the screen off while you’re sleeping. It can read text messages and automatically connect to Bluetooth when it notices that you’re driving. It can mute notifications or send automatic responses when it knows you’re in a meeting. In short, Moto Assist pays attention to what you’re doing and makes adjustments accordingly.

Moto Actions allow you to interact with the phone by gesturing in front of the custom infrared sensors on the front. You can wave to silence alarms or phone calls or twist the phone to open the camera. Also, the phone senses when you’re reaching for it so that it can trigger Moto Display before you even touch it.

Moto Display leverages the AMOLED screen to display notifications without waking the phone. AMOLED can fire specific pixels without the battery cost of turning on the whole screen, and Moto Display makes use of this ability to fade in and out the time and notification icons intermittently. It’s actually creepy how the phone seems to know when you’re looking at it and lights up spontaneously.

Moto Voice is always listening. Using a low power part of the processor, it can be triggered without first waking the phone. Simply initiate it with “okay, Moto X” or other custom launch phrase and then talk to it as it sits on the table.

The new Moto X with bamboo back

The new Moto X is available with a bamboo back, but not a removable back

Unfortunately, the second generation Moto X does have some drawbacks. It does have a 13 megapixel camera, which is a big improvement from the first generation X and the same size found in the current crop of flagship phones, but it doesn’t seem to be quite as good as the camera in my LG G3, possibly due to the lack of optical image stabilization in the X. It’s a good camera, and I’ll include some shots at the end of this article, but I don’t know that it’s the best on the market.

The biggest disappointment I have with the Moto X is the battery which is not upgradable. Motorola’s done a good job building a phone that doesn’t use a ton of power, but the bigger screen and faster processor were accompanied by only a tiny increase in battery size from the original Moto X, which had a pretty cramped battery to begin with. The battery on the new Moto X got me through about six hours of moderate use. I could stretch that runtime to eight hours or more by compromising on features – turning down location accuracy, reducing notification frequency and using Greenify to hibernate apps that didn’t need to run in the background. As long as you’re prepared to charge the phone once or twice throughout the day, or you don’t need Bluetooth, GPS and real time notifications from all your apps, the small battery shouldn’t be a big concern.

All in all, the Moto X is a phone with competitive hardware and, in my opinion, the best Android experience on Verizon. The clean interface, coupled with the truly helpful Motorola apps, creates an experience that feels not like working with a phone but, instead, using a phone that is working for you.

Moto X camera examples

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Kyocera Brigadier is a tough phone

Verizon recently let me spend a few weeks with the Kyocera Brigadier. It’s a ruggedized phone that features a sapphire display that I couldn’t scratch with a brand new knife. If you’re hard on your phones, or you want a modern phone that’s loud, waterproof, dust proof, drop proof – life proof – then head on over and take a look at my complete review at http://traff.as/brigadier. Here’s a preview.

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HTC One M8 review

I just posted my review of the Verizon HTC One M8 over on my personal blog, where I’ll be publishing the majority of my future hardware reviews. It’s a great phone, and you can read more of my review at aarontraffas.com.

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NAA’s Designation Prerequisite Course free to all

My high school baseball coach Bob Dohm had a saying. “The biggest room in the world is the room for self improvement.” While I’m pretty sure he said it to me more than anyone else on the team, I’ve become quite fond of that saying over the years. I firmly believe that wherever we are in our personal and professional lives, there is always another way that we can better ourselves.

The recently-created Designation Prerequisite Course was established by the NAA’s Education Institute to form a knowledge base that could serve as a common starting point for the designation classes offered by the NAA. In an effort to better the auction profession in general and not only the membership of the NAA, the Education Institute has made these materials free to the general public and all auctioneers.

The Designation Prerequisite Course comprises seven modules.

  1. Auction History and Ethics
  2. Business Analysis and Marketing
  3. Prospecting
  4. Negotiation Skills
  5. Contracts, Legal and Financial Concerns
  6. The Auction Process
  7. Technology

The materials are basic, but the topics are broad. It’s a great place for a new auctioneer to start learning more about the industry as well as a veteran professional to get a quick refresher on topics that may not be a usual part of the day-to-day operations.

The content is free. If you wish to prove competency in the materials in order to enrol in one of the NAA’s designation courses, you can purchase the quizzes and final exam. If you already hold a designation, you can access the exam for free by sending a form in to NAA headquarters.

The free course – as well as other premium content from NAA – is available at naaeducation.org.

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Verizon covers auctions and technology

I recently collaborated with Verizon for an article on their Midwest area blog. They asked a bunch of great questions and published my full responses. Here’s the article.

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