Motorola updates the Moto X and G and debuts its swish new smartwatch, the Moto 360

3 Comments

Credit: Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom

There weren’t many surprises at Motorola’s big device unveiling in Chicago on Thursday, but then again Moto was hardly keeping its new portfolio secret. The handset maker delivered newly updated versions of its Moto X and Moto G smartphones, and Motorola’s high-end submission to the Android Wear world, the Moto 360, made its commercial debut. Lastly, it announced a new Bluetooth headset called the Hint.

Let’s start with the Moto 360. The smartwatch was the most anticipated of the Android Wear devices previewed at Google I/O, and it delivered on its hype. Its round screen sets its apart from the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, and during its demos Motorola emphasized the difficulties of making a round display in a world dominated by rectilinear screens.

A notification is shown on the Moto 360 smart watch. Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom

A notification is shown on the Moto 360 smart watch. Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom

Of course, that means apps will need to be optimized for the 360 to take advantage of its unique display, but [company]Motorola[/company] said any standard app distributed for Android Wear would work on the device. The pixels go all the way to watch’s edges, making it look like an actual analog timepiece – albeit a big one — when inactive, and instead of plastic or rubber, Motorola is going with stainless steel and leather bands.

As expected, the watch makes use of wireless charging, coming with a special stand on to which the watch face slides. That means there are no open ports anywhere on the device, helping make it water and dust resistant. It pairs with any smartphone running Google Android 4.3 or above using Bluetooth, and Motorola claims the wireless radio inside is powerful enough that you can leave your phone several rooms away and still access all of the 360’s app and internet functions.

The 360 has a both a heart-rate monitor and pedometer, it responds to both touchscreen and [company]Google[/company] Now voice commands, and it weighs in at 1.72 ounces. But it’s also priced higher than its LG and Samsung counterparts at $250. A version with a leather strap will go on sale Friday at Motorola.com, Google Play and Best Buy. A $300 version will go be available later this fall with a steel band, though the bands are interchangeable so you can buy a steel or leather band independently for $80 and $30 respectively.

Improving upon Motorola’s core smartphones

In its refresh of the Moto X and Moto G, Motorola basically built better versions of what Gigaom reviewers Kevin Tofel and Alex Colon found to be already impressive smartphones in their categories.

The new Moto X (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

The new Moto X (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

The Moto X’s AMOLED screen expands from 4.7 inches to 5.2 inches, and its resolution has increased from a 720p to full HD, packing in 423 pixels per square inch. Motorola, however, wanted to keep the phone friendly for a single hand, so it thinned out its beveled edges making it easier to wrap your hand around its 7 millimeters of width.

The new X has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, a 13 Megapixel rear camera, and a slightly larger 2300 mAh battery. The Moto Maker customization program will carry over to the new Moto X, and it will feature a new material for the phone backing: leather. Motorola has contracted with a Chicago tannery called Horween to custom-design back plates for the Moto X. The same company is making the straps for the Moto 360.

The Moto X's new leather backs (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

The Moto X’s new leather backs (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

As for software, the X comes with Motorola’s no-frills interface and control software, but the vendor has added some interesting new capabilities to Moto Voice and Moto Actions. Moto Voice’s touchless interface now supports custom wake up commands. Instead of saying “Okay Google Now” you can customize the wake-up call sign of your phone, changing it to “Okay Shirley” or merely “Listen up.” The X also makes use of infrared sensors for more subtle controls. When your hand approaches the screen it will automatically show your most recent notification, and when the phone is ringing a wave of the wrist over the phone’s face will shut the ringer off.

Here are the numbers on how it compares to the old model:

How does the new Moto X compare to the 1st generation?
New Moto X Moto X (1st Generation)
Android OS Android 4.4 KitKat Android 4.3 JellyBean
Dimensions Width: 72.4mm (2.85 inches)
Height: 140.8mm (5.54 inches)
Curve: 3.8-9.9mm (0.15-0.39 inches)
Width: 65.3mm (2.57 inches)
Height: 129.0mm (5.08 inches)
Curve: 5.7-10.4mm (0.22-0.41 inches)
Weight 144g (0.32 lbs) 139g (0.31 lbs)
Display 5.2-inch AMOLED display running at 1080p resolution, which is 423 PPI. Made of Corning Gorilla Glass. 4.7-inch AMOLED display running at 720p resolution, which is 316 PPI. Made of Corning Gorilla Glass.
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2.5 GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 350 @ 578 MHz GPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 1.7 GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 320 @ 450 MHz GPU
Camera 13MP (f2.25) with Ring Flash, UHD (4K) video capture, 4X zoom 10MP (f 2.4) with LED flash, 1080p video capture, 4X zoom
SD card slot Yes, supports up to 32GB microSD card No
Voice Custom voice prompt; 3rd party app control Single voice prompt (OK Google Now) (f2.4)
Mics 4 3
Frame Aluminum Metal Plastic
Back Materials Optional wood or leather Optional wood
Battery 2300 mAh 2200 mAh
Moto Actions-IR Gestures Yes No
Turbo charging support Yes – 8 hours of battery power in just 15 minutes No

The Moto G is getting a similar spec facelift. The smartphone is designed to be an affordable device for global markets, and according to Motorola, it’s become its best selling device to date. After polling its customers on what they wanted to see in the new version, the G is getting stereo speakers, more powerful cameras, a bigger 5-inch screen and improved quad-core processor.

Moto G on display at Motorola's unveiling in Chicago (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

Moto G on display at Motorola’s unveiling in Chicago (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

The Moto X will cost $100 with contract from the U.S. carriers, or unsubsidized and unlocked for $500. The G will only be sold as an unsubsidized, unlocked phone for $180.

Here’s the spec breakdown between the new G and the old one:

How does the new Moto G compare to the 1st generation?
New Moto G Moto G (1st Generation)
Android OS Android 4.4 KitKat (guaranteed upgrade to “L” version of Android OS) Android 4.3 JellyBean (upgrade to 4.4 KitKat)
Dimensions Width: 70.7mm (2.78 inches)
Height: 141.5mm (5.57 inches)
Curve: 6.0-11.0mm (0.23-0.43 inches)
Width: 66.0mm (2.6 inches)
Height: 130.0mm (5.11 inches)
Curve: 6.0-11.5mm (0.23-0.45 inches)
Weight 149g (0.33 lbs) 143g (0.32 lbs)
Display 5-inch display running at 720 x 1280 resolution, which is 294 PPI. Made of Corning Gorilla Glass. 4.5-inch display running at 720 x 1280 resolution, which is 329 PPI. Made of Corning Gorilla Glass.
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 305 @450 MHz GPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 305 @450 MHz GPU
Storage Single SIM – 8GB & 16GB versions
Dual SIM – 8GB & 16GB versions
Dual SIM DTV – 16GB
Single SIM – 8GB & 16GB versions
Dual SIM – 8GB & 16GB versions
SD card slot Yes, supports up to 32GB microSD card No
Camera Rear 8MP, Auto Focus (f2.0) 5MP, Auto Focus (f2.4)
Camera Front 2MP 1.3MP
Physical Camera Key Volume up or down can activate camera shutter No
DTV support Yes, on Dual SIM DTV model in Brazil only No
Speakers Double 12x15x3.0mm, stereo, front-ported Single 12x17x3.65mm, rear-ported

Hinting at new peripherals

The 360 wasn’t the only wearable that Motorola introduced this week. At the media event Moto trotted out a new Bluetooth earpiece called the Hint that may not be as functional as an Android Wear device but is definitely smarter than your typical wireless headset.

Various styles of the Moto Hint earpiece (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

Various styles of the Moto Hint earpiece (Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

The Hint, which will be available before the holidays for $150, is more an earbud than a headset, and Motorola said it is designed it to be worn all day. While not exactly unnoticeable the device resembles a hearing aid that doesn’t protrude beyond your earlobe. It uses two directional microphones to pick up on your conversation, but impressively it can be act as a conduit for the same voice commands you would use to control your phone.

The Hint makes use of the same passive listening technology in the Moto X, so you can wake up your Moto X with a simple voice prompt when the headset is in your ear. It works with other voice command interfaces as well so you can use the Hint to query Apple’s Siri, though to activate her you will need to press the capacitive touch sensor on the side of the earpiece. The device also contains IR sensors, so when the device is removed it will automatically shut off, making your phone active once again.

3 Comments

Brian Parchman

Very helpful and informative. That last bit about Siri was a little confusing, maybe you should add a sentence specifically saying The Hint can be used with both Android and iPhone (like all bluetooths)

Stacey Higginbotham

I wish they would stop making phones that are so damn big. I can barely use my Galaxy 3 which is smaller than the new Moto X with one hand, so adding the extra mm in width is killing me. My phone is already too big for all my pockets. Where are my minis?

Kevin Fitchard

Actually Stacey, Motorola seemed to make the X and the G suitable for one-handed use, by moving the screen very close and made it thinner on the edges. Both fit well in my hand and I was able to move my thumb across the entire width of the screen without “stretching” so to speak. Of course, my hands are probably bigger than yours.

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