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

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Motorola Sharpens Droid RAZR Lineup with RAZR HD, RAZR MAXX HD and RAZR M

Motorola Droid RAZR HD

Motorola tried to snatch the smartphone headlines from Apple and Samsung Wednesday by introducing three robust additions to its Android lineup: The muscle-bound Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD and the affordable, but still power-packed Droid RAZR M.

The Droid RAZR M, which has a 4.3-inch display, is available now for $100 when purchased with a two-year service plan. No specific dates or prices were announced for the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD, which have 4.7-inch screens. All come with 1.5 GHz dual-core processors, 1 GB of RAM and front- and rear-facing HD-video-capable cameras. [Update: The Droid RAZR HD is now available for $200 and the Droid RAZR MAXX HD is $300, in both cases when purchased with a two-year service plan.]

“I’m here to tell you that the new Motorola starts today,” said Dennis Woodside, CEO of Motorola Mobility, now a part of Google. “In many ways, Google and Motorola have only just begun.”

Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside talks to the press as the image of Martin Cooper, who led the Motorola team which invented the mobile phone in 1973, looms behind him. Cooper was in attendance at the New York press event.

Motorola’s three new RAZR models offer 4G data speeds via the LTE network from Verizon Wireless, long-lasting batteries and are the first to ship with Google’s Chrome for Android Web browser, which has a handful of finger-friendly features.

For example, to switch between tabs on Chrome you simply swipe your finger from one side of the screen to the other. A swipe to the side also gets rid of a tab while you’re looking at a group of them. Users also have the option of synchronizing bookmarks with Chrome browsers on other devices. Unlike the standard Android Web browser, Chrome has no limits on the number of tabs you can have open at once.

According to Motorola, the Super AMOLED displays on the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD have 78 per cent more pixels than the original DROID RAZR, resulting in a sharper, smoother-looking display. The key difference is that the Droid RAZR HD, available in black or white, comes with a lithium-ion battery which provides 24 hours of battery life while the thicker RAZR MAXX HD (black only) has a larger battery which promises 32 hours of phone use per charge.

Droid RAZR M

The Droid RAZR M, which is available in black or white, has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen and a narrow bezel, which allows it to offer the same size screen as phones with larger bodies, including the original Droid RAZR. Its 2,000 mAH battery provides 20 hours of battery life, according to Motorola. The new RAZR phones also offer power-management controls that can further enhance battery life.

Like its larger siblings, the Droid RAZR M has an 8-megapixel camera on the back but has a lower-resolution, 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera while the other two new RAZR models have 1.3-megapixel front cameras.

During a demonstration at Wednesday’s press event a Droid RAZR HD unit provided remarkably sharp and smooth HD video playback even with bright ambient light. As expected, the new RAZR models are thin. The RAZR M comes in just under a third of an inch, the RAZR HD is just over a third of an inch thick and the RAZR MAXX HD is slightly fatter at 0.37 inches thick.

Woodside noted that not only will all of  the new RAZR phones be upgraded from Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) later this year, but added that all Motorola smartphones capable of handling the new software will get it as well. Owners of Motorola smartphones that can’t be upgraded to Jelly Bean can get a $100 credit toward a new phone, he said.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Motorola RAZR product launch in New York.

“They really shouldn’t be called smartphones, they should be called mobile computers,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who led off the press event.

How will the new RAZR entries compete with the Samung Galaxy S3, the current and future Apple iPhone and recent entries from Nokia, LG, HTC and others? The holiday shopping season will provide the answer soon enough.

Text, video and images © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

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Samsung Continuum: Tick, Tick, Tick

The ticker at the bottom can be configured to show
the date and time, the weather or other infornation.

So you’re in that big meeting and you’re bored stiff. You want to keep track of the calls you’re missing, your e-mail and the price of that stock you just invested in, but you don’t want to get caught poking at your cell phone every  other minute. For you there’s the Samsung Continuum, an Android smartphone billed as the first with its own customizable “ticker.”

The Continuum, the newest in the Samsung Galaxy S family of handsets with Samsung’s bright, sharp Super AMOLED display, arrives at Verizon Wireless stores Nov.18 but orders will be taken starting Nov. 11. The handset will sell for $200 with a two-year service plan after a $100 rebate. The Galaxy S family has already sold three million unit since its introduction this summer, according to Kim Titus, director of public relations for Samsung Telecommunications America.

Samsung Continuum ticker in music player mode with album art

Below the Continuum’s 3.4-inch main screen and four touch-sensitive Android keys (menu, home, return and search) is a thin piece of screen real estate at the very bottom set aside for a scrollable ticker. You can customize this 1.8-inch ticker so that it shows missed calls, incoming e-mail, stock prices, the weather or other bits of continuously updated information. And all you need to do get the ticker to reveal itself is to grip the handset at the bottom. Only the ticker section will come to life–the rest of the screen will remain dark, thus making it less likely that the chairman of the board will catch you checking your e-mail while the big meeting is still in progress.

Nick DiCarlo, Samsung

At a press conference in New York on Monday, Nick DiCarlo, director of product planning at Samsung Telecommunications America, said the Continuum was an example of “innovating on Android … in a way you’ve never seen till now.”

The point of the ticker is to allow you to get information without interrupting what you’re doing on the main part of the screen. For example, if you’re using your calendar app on the main screen, you can see the contents of an incoming text message in the ticker as it comes in without having to leave the calendar.

Thanks to the lightweight nature of the Super AMOLED screen technology, the Continuum is thin and light like the other handsets in the Galaxy S-family handsets. The Continuum will ship with Android 2.1, however, which means it won’t be able to handle Web videos and other features built with Adobe Flash 10.1 until it receives the Android 2.2 upgrade.

The unit can function as a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing you to link up to five other devices to the Internet through the phone. Also included is a five-megapixel digital camera with HD video capabilities, stereo Bluetooth support for wireless accessories, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and an eight-gigabyte removable memory card–which can be swapped for media with capacities up to 32 gigabytes.

Also preinstalled is Swype, a utility which lets you spell words on the on-screen keyboard by sliding your finger from key to key without lifting your finger from the screen.

On balance, the Continuum seems to be an admirable addition to the Samsung Galaxy S family, but it remains to be seen if the ticker feature will catapult it to the head of the pack.

Text and photos Copyright 2010, Stadium Circle Features

Sound ID 510 Bluetooth Headset: Now Hear That!

According to the folks at Sound ID, you are what you hear. That’s why the new Sound ID 510 Bluetooth headset comes with something no other wireless headset to date has offered: Its own personalized iPhone app.

The new app, called EarPrint, allows you to fine tune the incoming audio of the headset to your own ear. Depending on how you set the app, you can have the earpiece dull loud sounds or increase the volume of soft ones.

The headset will be available at AT&T stores and the Sound ID website on June 6. So what else does it offer? Read my first look at PC World.

Copyright 2010 Stadium Circle Features

Bluetooth Style with Substance: Jabra Stone and Jawbone Icon

Two new Bluetooth wireless headsets, Jabra’s Stone (above) and Aliph’s Jawbone Icon, combine a bit of style with their nifty noise-cancellation technology.

The Icon comes in six different styles with names like Hero and Ace while the Stone comes with a charger base with its own battery, thus allowing you to keep a couple extra charges in your pocket.

What do I think? See my reviews of the Jabra Stone and the Jawbone Icon at PCWorld.com. And let me know what you think.

Text Copyright 2010 Stadium Circle Features. 
Photos courtesy of Jabra and Aliph.

WirelessInfo Debuts

WirelessInfo.com, a new web site covering the ever-changing wireless industry, launches today. I’ll be one of the bloggers there bringing you the latest news on new cell phones and accessories, new mobile technologies and other useful information.

No, The Paper PC isn’t going anywhere. I’ll continue to bring the latest in consumer electronics and personal computing to this blog. I’ll just be spreading myself a little thinner.

See you there…and here!