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Android this week: New Moto X, Galaxy Note 4, and Xperia Z3

It was a huge week if you were waiting to see the next wave of new Android devices: Various Google hardware partners debuted new phones and accessories.

Motorola’s anticipated follow-up to last year’s Moto X uses the same name and design style, but very different hardware. The second generation Moto X is improved is nearly every way both inside and out. Gone are the plastic sides to be replaced with metal, for example, and the 4.7-inch, 720p display from last year is now a 5.2-inch 1080p screen. It’s still an AMOLED display, so the new Moto X keeps its Active Notification feature.

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

Other unique software functions have been improved. The always-listening function can now be customized by naming your phone; instead of saying “OK Google”, you can now say “OK Ringo” or “Listen up.” Notifications can be seen by waving your hand over the phone, thanks to new infrared sensors; you can also dismiss incoming calls with this method.

Inside the handset you’ll find a speedy 2.5 GHz quad-core [company]Qualcomm[/company] Snapdragon 801 chip, putting the Moto X on par with other flagship phones. The new 13 megapixel camera has a wider aperture and is paired with an LED ring flash. And unlike last year’s model, this one comes with microSD card support.

There’s no wireless charging but [company]Motorola[/company] will offer a $35 turbo charger that can add 8 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes. A new addition to the custom options are leather-backs. The phone will retail for $499 unlocked, which is a very competitive price.

Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom
Photo by Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom

Of course, [company]Samsung[/company] has a new phone too but it’s bigger, has a digital pen and will likely cost more. The company launched the Galaxy Note 4 this past week with pricing and availability to be determined.

The 5.7-inch screen is a quad-HD Super AMOLED display; it has a resolution of 2560 x 1440. Samsung’s software overlay sits atop Android 4.4, which brings a number of apps optimized for the included S-Pen and the ability to run two apps on the screen at one time. The rear camera is a 16 megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization while the front sensor offers 3.7 megapixels with a generous f/1.9 aperture.

Photo by Kif Leswing/Gigaom
Photo by Kif Leswing/Gigaom

Along with the traditional Galaxy Note 4, Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note Edge, which is very similar to new Note but with one big difference: A curved edge side display. This can be used for application shortcuts or for a very handy clock mode so you can see the time. Samsung says it has an SDK for developers to create their own ways to use the edge display so we’ll see what they can build.

[company]Sony[company] too threw its hat in the ring with new phones this week, launching a 5.2-inch Xperia Z3 smartphone and smaller 4.6-inch Xperia Z3 Compact. While the former is likely the flagship, I’m more impressed with the latter. Instead of drastically cutting down the hardware for a smaller model with flagship name, Sony kept the Z3 Compact on par with its big brother.

Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact

While the screen resolution is 720p, most components in the smaller phone are the same as the larger edition. Both, for example, use a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip. The Z3 Compact comes with 2 GB of memory as compared to the 3 GB in the bigger Z3, but that’s not a drastic drop. Both also record 4k video with the improved 20.7-megapixel cameras and use a wider 25 millimeter lens. All in all, for folks that want a smaller high-end device, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is surely a contender.

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