Ever since Google purchased Motorola last year, we’ve been waiting for something to come out of this partnership. In that time, we’ve seen Google partner with LG, Asus and Samsung, but nothing Googley came out from Motorola. That is, until the Moto X was finally announced a couple of weeks ago.
The Moto X will be available in late August to early September, and unlike many of its competitors, will be carried by all major US carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and U.S. Cellular). While there’s nothing really ground-breaking about the phone — there’s nothing about a 10.5MP camera and a 1280×720 AMOLED display that we’ve never seen before — if we put pure specs aside, there are several things that might be worth getting excited about.
What’s Special About The Moto X?
The most obvious thing about the Moto X is how customizable it is. The back panel comes in no less than 18 different colors, with seven different colored accents for the buttons and camera rim also available. Anyone would be able to design their own Moto X, and even choose a custom message to appear on the boot animation. It might be a gimmick, but you must admit it’s a pretty awesome one.
Hardware aside, the Moto X boasts several features you won’t find on other Android devices at the moment. The first of these is the Active Notifications feature, which lights up the screen with the latest notification, letting you slide your finger to open the message in the right app immediately.
Another useful feature is a quick launch gesture for the camera, whereby you can twist the phone in your hand no matter what you’re using at the time to launch the camera and take a quick picture.
Last but not at all least, is the Moto X’s “always on” voice recognition, also called Touchless Control. All you have to do is say “OK Google Now” followed by a command, and the phone should execute it. It can also detect when you’re driving, and automatically go into driving mode, in which it silences the phone and reads incoming messages and calls to you, asking you what you want to do.
Can I Really Get All These Features Now?
Yes and no. Some features, such as the customization and the automatic driving Motorola Assist are next to impossible to mimic. But others, such as Active Notifications and the twist camera launch are very easy to get, and I’ll show you exactly how to do that.
Getting Active Notifications
Naturally, as soon as this feature was announced, it was promptly copied into a generic Android app. If you’re running Android 4.0+, you can head over to Google Play and download ActiveNotifications. ActiveNotifications brings this Moto X feature to life an any Android device, as you can see demonstrated on my Nexus 4.
On the surface, this is almost identical to the Moto X, but there’s an important difference. The Moto X comes with an AMOLED display; in a nutshell, that means it can turn on only parts of the screen, unlike LCD displays that are on even when displaying a black screen, so on LCD devices, ActiveNotifications might be harder on battery life, but unless you constantly get notifications, this shouldn’t be a huge problem.
When you first launch the app, you can choose which apps on your device will generate notifications. Tap the X on top to deselect all if you’d rather only choose a small number of apps. Next time you get a notification from one of these apps, your screen will turn on showing the time and the app’s icon. Tap and hold the icon to see a preview of the message, and slide your finger up to automatically open the right app on the right message.
Like on the Moto X, ActiveNotifications only works on the last notification received, but it does display previous ones as icons on the lower part of the screen. The previews are more useful for some apps than others. For text messages and Facebook notifications, you’ll actually get to read the message itself on this screen. For emails, WhatsApp messages, and Hangouts messages, you’ll just see the name of the sender and the time it was received.
Feel free to play with different apps and discover which notifications are best for you. Just keep an eye on your battery to make sure it’s not being drained too fast. To get extra features like sleep mode at night and more privacy settings, you can get the Premium version for $0.99 (purchase through the app).
Launching Camera With A Twist
Seemingly a useless feature, launching apps using quick gestures is actually pretty useful. Launching the camera this way is especially great, as it lets you quickly capture a moment without fiddling with your apps and icons. You can get this feature right now on any Android 2.3+ device thanks to an app called Twisty Launcher [No Longer Available].
The free version of Twisty Launcher lets you do just this one thing: launch your default camera app with two quick turns to the left. It works great, launching the camera quickly from anywhere, even if your screen is locked (this can be toggled). The app also sports other gestures and options, which you can unlock for $0.99.
This is nothing you can’t do with the full version of Tasker, but if all you want are these gesture functionalities, and don’t feel like messing with Tasker or paying $3.99 for it, Twisty Launcher is a great option.
There are numerous ways to get voice recognition and activation on your Android device. We’ve covered 5 excellent options in the past, so all you have to do is click and choose your favorite. You can also find other useful apps for automation on our best Android apps page. But while these will add some voice functionalities to your device, it will not be exactly like the Moto X. Why?
The Moto X is unique in that it’s always on, listening. This might not be something most privacy-aware users will be happy about, but it makes it possible for it to respond every time you say “OK Google Now”, without you having to actually turn the phone on or launch anything. As long as you’re not using the Moto X itself, you might get most of the functionalities, but it won’t be completely touchless.
Here too you can try to get similar functionality with Tasker, if you like customizing things, but it still won’t be always on like the Moto X.
Will You Be Getting The Moto X?
After reading this article, what’s your opinion of the Moto X’s unique features? Are you satisfied with the ones you can replicate, or are you craving the real thing? What’s your favorite feature on the Moto X? Tell us everything in the comments.
Image Credit: Via Motorola