Review: Moto X is a worthy option, but wait a bit [Video chat]

Is the ability to customize your smartphone worth $200?

That's the main question to ask when deciding whether to buy Motorola's new Moto X.


Unlike any other smartphone, the Moto X can be personalized to your taste. In total, Motorola says, customers can come up with more than 2,000 different combinations for the device.

However, Moto X's customization is at the moment exclusive to AT&T customers. That means if you get the Moto X from Verizon or Sprint, you'll only be able to choose from black or white options for the phone's color.

LIVE DISCUSSION: Join us at 1 p.m. as we chat about the Moto X

That, and for other reasons we'll explain later, is why consumers should wait until the customization is available from all of the carriers.

For now, here's how customization works with the Moto X.

The process begins online, on a website Motorola calls the Moto Maker. There, users can trick out their phones by choosing what colors they want for the back, front and details of their Moto X. Users can also choose how much storage they want, and they can select the phone's background image.

With my device, I chose a royal blue back cover, white front cover and metallic yellow details. The yellow shows up on the ring around the camera lens, the volume buttons and the power button.

Customizing the Moto X was a pretty quick process that took between five and 10 minutes.

A few days later, the Moto X arrived from Fort Worth, where Motorola is assembling the device. The smartphone looked exactly as it did on the Moto Maker website.

I'm explaining the customization process in detail because when you buy the Moto X, the ability to customize is what you're really paying for. The rest of the device is not quite top of the line, despite the Moto X's $200 price point.

Still, there is a lot to like about the Moto X beyond the ability to personalize it.

For example, Motorola has included a Touchless Control feature that makes it possible for users to give commands to the Moto X without picking it up. By saying "OK Google Now," the Moto X wakes up and awaits your next command. You can give it a number of different commands, such as "give me directions" for a specific place, "launch" an app, or "call" a contact in your address book.

To get the feature to work, you first program the Moto X to only react to your voice. This is done by recording "OK Google Now" three times during setup.


After I programmed my Moto X to recognize my voice, it worked on most occasions except when I took it to a busy restaurant. There, I let several friends try to activate the Moto X using their voices, and surprisingly, they were able to do it. It seems the extra noise in the busy environment confused the Moto X.

But even though Touchless Control didn't work perfectly, I still found it to be a useful tool and much easier to use than voice assistants such as Apple's Siri or Samsung's S Voice, both of which require you to press a button first.

The Moto X's camera is also notable.

The Motorola smartphone packs a 10-megapixel rear camera that takes sharp photos. But more important, the Moto X's camera is built to take photos fast.

By quickly snapping your wrist twice while holding the device, the Moto X will launch its camera app. You can then tap anywhere on the screen to shoot a photo. The handy features makes it possible to quickly take a picture -- although the quick wrist snaps can be kind of painful.

Another feature unique to Motorola that didn't exactly blow me away was its Active Display, which is supposed to quietly flash alerts on the Moto X's screen when new notifications come in. If you have unread notifications, you can tap the center of the Moto X's screen and drag the icon outward to expand those alerts and see more information, such as the text in a Facebook alert, without fully unlocking the phone.

"Before you know it, that itch to check your phone will be gone forever," Motorola says on its website, describing the purpose of Active Display.

But in general, I didn't find the feature useful. I'd rather just see the alerts with their text as they come in.

As for the hardware, the design of the Moto X makes it very easy to hold. Its curved back makes the phone feel very comfortable on your hand and a small indention on the back below the camera is perfect for your finger when you hold the device during a call.

The Moto X is also not too light or too heavy. It has a nice balance to it, and it feels as though it could survive a few drops before really being affected by them.

Don't consider the Moto X, though, if you're looking for the best specifications you can find.

Unlike other top Android smartphones, the Moto X doesn't feature a full 1080p HD screen. It's 4.7-inch display is relegated to a 720p HD resolution.

The Moto X runs on a 1.7GHz dual-core processor while the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 are both packing quad-core processors.

Motorola took some heat for not including top-of-the-line components on its device, but the company claims that it did this in order to maximize battery life. Higher-resolution screens and more powerful processors can drain energy. Ultimately, the battery life on the Moto X is better than on many other smartphones.

As for software, the Moto X runs on a slightly altered version of Android Jelly Bean 4.2. This isn't the latest version of Google's platform, but in general, Motorola has left the operating system fairly similar to what Google designed.

So should you get a Moto X?

If having a customized phone with colors that match your personality or style is important, then the Moto X is a great choice. The device performs every task we expect from smartphones admirably, and when it comes to looks, you get more options than on any other device on the market.

The phone is available with 16 GB of storage for $199 or 32 GB for $249 with a two-year contract from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. If you are a new Sprint customer, you can buy the 16 GB device for $99 for a limited time.

However, the customization feature is limited to AT&T customers for now, and Motorola refuses to say when other carriers will be allowed to offer that feature. So if you're a Verizon or Sprint customer, I say don't get the Moto X, or at least wait.

If you need a new device right now for your Verizon or Sprint plan, don't settle for a black or white Moto X unless you truly love it, because there are better options out there for the same price (the iPhone 5, HTC One and Galaxy S 4).

If you still want a customized Moto X, you'll just have to wait, and that might not be a bad thing.

Motorola said it will add more customization options later on, including wooden back covers, and there have been credible reports that say Motorola may cut the Moto X's price to $99.


So if you wait a few weeks, you might be able to get the customization option and save $100.