Exclusive: Motorola Moto X Software Update Cures Its Wired Headset Headaches

Moto X lead small

The affordable, yet sophisticated Motorola Moto X succeeds in making life with a smartphone as simple, colorful and touch-free as possible, but until recently it stumbled with one of the most basic of all cell phone accessories: wired headsets with microphones.

Fortunately, a new Moto X system software update cleans up the glitch, allowing these headsets to work as they should. The free update is now being pushed out to AT&T and T-Mobile handsets. Moto X owners can wait for the notification screen to pop up or scroll through the phone’s settings to the “About Phone” section, where they can manually initiate the update.

When a Moto X with the original system software was tested with apps such as Skype and voice recorders, it often failed to recognize wired headsets with built-in mics. The earpieces would go silent and the mics wouldn’t transmit audio.

To see if your Moto X still has the original system software, download Skype and try this: Plug a wired headset with a mic to your Moto X and make a voice call to the “Echo/Sound Test Service” entry that’s preinstalled as a contact in Skype. Once connected, try to listen to the automated recording and try to record your voice when prompted.

If you have the original system software, you won’t hear and thing and won’t be able to make the recording. Try the call again without the headset–Skype should work fine. Skype and Motorola public relations representatives were contacted for comment about the wired headset problems; neither responded.

Screenshot_2013-10-04-17-49-17

A Moto X which once failed the Skype test now works perfectly after the five-minute software, which also cures other Moto X issues, was installed.

The wired headsets used for testing included Audiofly AF45 and Lenovo 57Y4488 earbuds and a Native Union Pop Phone handset. The above problems were limited to wired headsets with mics–they did not occur with wired headsets without mics or with wireless Bluetooth headsets.

The wired headset problems were ironic since the Moto X, which has three built-in microphones, actually works very well with voice-activated apps such as Google Now since one of the mics is used for noise cancellation. With the new software update, the Moto X becomes an even better value.

Moto X headset 1

Overall, the Moto X is a remarkable smartphone with good looks–which can be customized–and quality high-end features like a sharp, 4.7-inch display and a 10-megapixel camera. (Click here for full review).

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Motorola Moto X: Fun, Friendly & Fast Enough

Motorola Moto X

Motorola Moto X

Motorola’s Moto X smartphone is an admirable balance of style and usability. It doesn’t try to outdo Samsung, Apple and others in the race to squeeze in as many high-tech features as possible but instead aims to please with its hand-shaped curves, cool voice-activated features and touch-friendly camera.

The Moto X succeeds as a sophisticated mainstream smartphone but is no speed demon. Its user-friendliness and simplicity are apparent from the start: Instead of a cluttered home screen, the Moto X offers pretty much a plain vanilla Android home screen that allows the new owner do the customizing. And that’s not surprising since Motorola Mobility is now a division of Google, the maker of Android software.

To start the camera, you pick up the phone and twist your wrist twice–that’s it; the Moto X immediately switches to camera mode. To take a photo you can touch any part of the screen–there’s no need to hunt for a shutter button. The Moto X’s 10-megapixel camera uses Motorola’s ClearPixel technology, which allows each sensor to gather 75 percent more light, thus making it possible to get clear photos even in low-light situations. according to Motorola.

The Moto X can be customized with numerous color combinations for its keys and shell (including an all wood case available later this year) by ordering the unit via the Moto X website, which only offers AT&T units at the moment. Since the Moto X is manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas instead of somewhere overseas, online buyers can expect to see their new phones–already initialized with their Google accounts–in four days or less, according to Motorola.

Motorola's Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

Motorola’s Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

“We think this represents a very interesting future,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice president for product development at Motorola during a press event in New York. He said the Moto X is aimed at “the mainstream user,” not the feature-frenzied geek.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

The Moto X uses what computing power it has fairly efficiently. It runs Android version 4.2.2 and has a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon processor. Other top-shelf smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 have quad-core processors, but they also have more sensors and higher-resolution screens, making the additional processor muscle necessary.

Moto X Active Display

The low-power Active Display mode on Motorola’s Moto X.

The Moto X is built with what’s called the Motorola X8 computing system. It’s a set of eight processor cores assigned to different tasks. Why is this important? By using different cores for different tasks, the entire processor doesn’t have to be awake all the time–each core wakes up as it’s needed. This design extends the life of the Moto X’s 2200 mAH battery to a full day of average use, according to Motorola.

Two of the processor cores are used for basic application processing (this is what makes the Moto X a “dual-core” smartphone) and four are used for graphics processing, thus speeding up video and photo functions. The other two cores take care of voice commands and sensors like the accelerometer and the ambient light sensor and help the Moto X detect how fast you’re moving and what you’re doing with the phone.

When tested with voice commands, the Moto X worked very well and was able to verbally answer questions about the time, the weather, directions, baseball scores and many other queries. The quality of the speech detection is aided by the phone’s three microphones, which work together to cancel stray noises and enhance voices.

A useful Active Display shows notifications in a simple, low-power mode, thus letting you know if you have incoming e-mail, text messages or other items even when the phone is in standby mode.

The Moto X lists for $199 (16GB of user memory) or $249 (32GB) with a two-year plan and is sold by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular and major retailers.

Do you have a Moto X? How do you like it so far? Comment or vote:

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Plantronics Launches GameCom 780 Surround Sound Stereo USB Gaming Headset at CES 2012

Headset offers Dolby 7.1 surround sound, 40mm drivers, a noise-canceling microphone and a volume control right on the headset.

The Plantronics GameCom 780 Surround Sound Stereo USB Gaming Headset which launched at the 2012 CES aims to please gamers who want to hear as much of the thunder, rock and roll of their gaming experience without the weight of a hefty headset.

The $80 GameCom 780 has Dolby 7.1 surround sound support as well as 40mm drivers which enhance bass and provide for an immersive experience hardcore gaming experience, according to Plantronics. The swing-away noise-canceling microphone minimizes extraneous sounds while maximizing the ability to trash talk clearly with online foes.

Plantronics GameCom 780 Surround Sound Stereo USB Gaming Headset

When tested, the GameCom 780 felt very light for its size yet delivered ample bass and clear sound. Gunshots reverberated and whistled clearly while the crackle of a fire rose and fell as the virtual player approached and moved away. The ear pads did an admirable job of muting the noise from the cacophonous 2012 CES show floor.

The speakers swivel, allowing the unit to store flat so that it can slip into a briefcase. The volume, Dolby and mute controls are on the left speaker and the unit has a 6.5-foot, heavy-duty USB cord. The headset has a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response range while the microphone has a 100Hz to 8kHz frequency response range.

While users with PCs or laptops with top-shelf audio cards might opt for a headset with standard audio plugs such as the $50 Plantronics GameCom 380, the GameCom 780 is aimed at those who want a simple connection which still provides superior audio, said a Plantronics representative. He also noted that the headset is also aimed for use with Internet telephony and videoconferencing services such as Skype.

The unit is on sale now at Best Buy and will be on sale at Amazon and the Plantronics website.

Text and video Copyright 2012, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
Photo courtesy of Plantronics

Paper PC Picks: Jabra Supreme Bluetooth Headset

Here’s another installment of Paper PC Picks, a selection of nifty gadgets and other electronic gear that make quality gift selections for the holiday season. These innovative products are culled from the hundreds spotted at trade shows and press events and during one-on-one meetings with tech-company representatives.

It’s not the smallest Bluetooth device you’ll ever hook to your ear,
but the Jabra Supreme’s excellent sound and comfortable fit
make it a top-notch traveling companion.

Jabra Supreme Bluetooth headset.

The Jabra Supreme Bluetooth headset looks bulky with its large speaker housing and fold-out microphone, but just a few minutes with the $100 unit should be enough to win you over.

The Jabra Supreme has no power switch or button: Fold out the microphone to turn it on and fold it back to shut it off. It will also shut down automatically after a set period of disuse, thus saving you from yourself.

Jabra’s proprietary active noise cancellation technology is a clear benefit to those at the other end of your conversations. While testing the Supreme at a noisy conference in a New York hotel, I asked the person at the other end if he could hear me OK. Not only could he hear me, but he wasn’t aware that I was in a ballroom with hundreds of other people until I told him so. 

The active noise cancellation can be adjusted with a free Jabra Supreme smartphone app now available in Google’s Android Market and will be available soon as an iPhone app as well. The app also shows how much talk time and battery power you have left.

Jabra Supreme in folded "Off" position.

Unlike other Bluetooth headsets which require a snug fit to the area just outside the ear canal, the Jabra Supreme rests comfortably on the outside. The combination of its potent 24mm speaker and its changeable soft rubber cushion results in a very comfortable listening experience. Voices come through clearly with good fidelity but not so loud that others can eavesdrop.

According to Jabra, its HD Voice technology optimizes the incoming audio for voice traffic while the unit’s dual micrphones and the company’s Noise Blackout 3.0 technology reduces extraneous noises.

Top view of Jabra Supreme

The unit can link with two devices at the same time–a nice plus for those who travel with work and personal cell phones. Between the comfortable ear hook and ear rest, you can get a lot done with its advertised six hours of talk time and 15 days of standby time per two-hour charge of its lithium ion battery.

Despite its size, at 0.64 ounces the unit is light enough that you can forget that it’s on your ear. It supports A2DP, which basically means that you can control your music streaming from compatible phones and digital music players with the headset.

Since it’s bigger than your average Bluetooth 3.0 headset, the Jabra Supreme will make a visible lump in your shirt or jacket pocket and it’s easier to knock off your ear if you’re the least bit clumsy. The positioning of the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons may take a little getting used to, but the large Call Pickup/End button and the Voice Command button on the microphone are very easy to find and activate.

The Jabra Supreme Bluetooth headset won’t win any fashion awards, but if you can live with that, it should fit the needs of most casual and demanding Bluetooth headset users.

Text Copyright 2011, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
Photos courtesy of Jabra 

Aetrex Opens Trendy High-Tech Shoe Store

Former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms likes it and so might you: A new shoe store with a computerized gizmo that scans and sizes up your feet.

The new Aetrex Worldwide Inc. store that opened on East Palisade Ave. in Englewood, New Jersey today features no one resembling the poor Al Bundy character made famous in the old “Married with Children” TV show but instead offers a computer that can measure and assess you shoe needs better than luckless Al could have even on his best day.

The Aetrex store features the Aetrex iStep 5000, a piece of hardware which looks like a foot bath, but has thousands of barometric sensors below your feet to assess how your weight is distributed and hundreds of infrared LEDs around your feet to accurately measure them.

The result is data that can create a 2D or 3D image of the pressure points on your feet. This allows the salesperson to fit you with any necessary orthotics while fitting you with the proper shoe. You can have the computer data sent to you via e-mail or straight to your cell phone via text message. The scanning process takes about 30 seconds.

Simms, who was present at a preview and ribbon-cutting event for the press on Thursday, said his Aetrex shoes had eliminated much of the heel pain he used to get from his other size 14 shoes.

Aetrex is marketing its proprietary software and hardware solution to other shoe stores, so you may see one of these setups in your neighborhood sooner than you think.

For a quick demonstration of how the Aetrex iStep 5000 works, see my piece for PC World.

Text and video Copyright 2011 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Tempting Tech for Tough Times

Wallets are thinning and so are the head counts at major corporations, but there are still some nifty products out there that make us want to spend the little we have or at least dream about it. Take the LG-GD910 Watch Phone (above) from LG Electronics. It’s a gadget Dick Tracy could be proud of.

Text Copyright 2009 Stadium Circle Features
Images courtesy of LG Electronics