Aug 07 AT 7:53 AM Nick Sarafolean 34 Comments

Motorola is the first manufacturer to beat the specs race


Is it quad-core or dual-core? How many pixel thingamajigs does it have? Is it equipped with the latest gizmo, gadget, or other gimmicky feature? We’ve all heard those questions from a tech nerd before. We’re hoarders, always trying to get the newest, hottest technology on the market. If our phone doesn’t have it, we generally want it. But at a certain point, it gets to be too much. Where more and more specs are crammed in just for the sake of saying that the device has them. That’s where we are on the timeline.

I’m sure that you’ve noticed this pattern with the high-end phones being released onto the market. Every single time, the manufacturer talks up every new feature that the device has. One of the guiltiest manufacturers is Samsung, who’s built a reputation for cramming every feature possible into its Galaxy phones. But do we all really need to have S Beam, S Health, S Memo, and every other thing under the sun that Samsung could think of? No, we don’t.

The same goes for the hardware. It’s not really necessary to have a 1080p resolution in such a small display. In fact, the difference between 1080p and 720p is minute and in most scenarios, you’ll never notice the difference. And do we really need to have the fastest uber-core processor out there? Will our phones really not run without all of that extra power? Yet again, the answer is no.

One of the secrets that manufacturers usually try to keep hidden from consumers is that they don’t usually optimize a whole lot. Occasionally, you’ll get a company who optimizes software and hardware together for a truly beautiful experience but it’s often confined to a specific feature. But what would happen if the manufacturer optimized the entire hardware and software experience of the phone? Would they really need all of those over-the-top specs?

Indeed they would not. And that’s what Motorola has realized. That’s part of the entire point of the Moto X. It’s not about the raw power of the hardware but rather the way that the hardware and software work together. And while the specs may appear mid-range to those of use who crave the newest processors and highest resolution displays, you have to realize that the specs are still very good. Maybe the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor that’s buried in the device is dual-core but it’s paired with Motorola’s X8 mobile computing system. That means that there are other smaller processors dedicated to specific tasks. The combo allows for longer battery life and better overall performance.

“But how so?” you may think. Well, with specific processors dedicated to certain tasks, Motorola can optimize those for what they do and then have the dual core Snapdragon S4 Pro dedicated to other tasks. And so with that powerful CPU system, Motorola chose the Adreno 320 GPU due to the raw performance that it offers to allow it to flawlessly play games. This brings in another reason that they opted for a 720p display rather than a 1080p display. That lower resolution allows the CPU and GPU to perform even better without really sacrificing image quality all that much.

Yet another side effect of opting for these more modest specs is that battery life is improved. The phone simply doesn’t have to power so many excess things. There aren’t thousands of extra pixels that need power nor are there extra cores chipping away at your precious battery life. It allows for longer battery life in an even smaller package. That’s something that we all want, right?

So the key is in the software. Not only is optimization incredibly helpful but other features can then be added in the software.

“But wait, Samsung and HTC do that too!”

This is speaking in a different manner though. Samsung, HTC and LG certainly do add features into the software. But many of those features are rather gimmicky, things like drama shot, voice and picture, BlinkFeed and however many other things aren’t generally going to be used much. But Motorola has taken a different approach. Rather than including every feature possible, it’s adding in new features that are designed to make your life easier.

A prime example is the touchless control. The Moto X is always listening and awaiting your orders. To tell it what to do, you simply say “Okay Google Now”, followed by the task that you have in mind. This is perfect for when you want to do something simple but your hands are dirty or maybe you just don’t want to pick up your phone and do it manually. This isn’t a gimmick but rather a useful feature that is possible thanks to the unique hardware.

There’s also the active display which shows you rich notifications rather than just a pulsing LED light. Assist is the evolution of Motorola’s Smart Actions and aims to allow your phone to react to all sorts of things. Trust me, if you thought Smart Actions was good, you’re going to love this. There are more that I could name but for the sake of space, I won’t.

In short, Motorola has beat the specs race. Rather than constantly racing to be the top dog in specs like the rest of the manufacturers, it has realized that optimization is key. Instead of packing in everything new and exciting, Motorola is taking existing things and improving upon them. And it’s doing all of this while still innovating in the software department. That in itself is quite a feat.

So what do you think about the Moto X? Do you believe that Motorola is onto something with this new tactic? We’d be ever so pleased if you’d share your opinions down in the comments.

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @nsarafolean.

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  • jaxidian

    Beat the spec war? Yep! (Let’s hope we still agree in 10 months, as well!)

    Beat the carrier exclusive bullcrap? So close yet a big fat NO!

    • NeedName

      Well, the LG G2 with top specs is being released soon enough so we can compare the Moto X with it to see what’s what.

  • pekosROB

    I totally agree that 1080p isn’t really a huge leap up from 720p as far as mobile displays under 4.7-8″, but there is one advantage – you have more room to play with on your screen in terms of widgets and what not. But this is not a huge deal for most.

    I like having the best hardware because I want my phone to be as relevant as long as possible and be able to handle the apps (and websites) that keep getting more and more awesome (that also uses up more system resources). Whether you are on a contract or pay full retail for unlocked devices or to keep unlimited data (ahem VERIZON!!), you don’t want to have to replace your phone constantly because of damaging it, getting it stolen, losing it, degrading performance, etc. I want mine to keep me happy/satisfied and last as long as possible. Hopefully the software tweaks will do this for Moto.

  • surethom

    I sort of agree but the Sim Free price points is too high & with only launching in North America, Motorola are missing the best money pit of UK/Europe which purchases much more Android handsets & much more sim free phones.

    Hopefully what Motorola mean by launching a cheaper phone in UK/Europe is a Motorla phone with the same specs as the X but maid in china to keep to cost down?? (Hopefully not a lower spec phone, that will fail)

  • Jamrod

    I currently have a HTC Rezound with a cracked screen and am trying to decide on the next phone. The number 1 issue is the , number 2 is the battery. I love the new features on the Motorola phones but I have a daughter that dances and I want my phone to take good pic urea in daytime, portrait, and also low light active. I have narrowed my choices to HTC One and Droid Maxx. Any thoughts would like appreciated.

    • John in Brisbane

      I’ve gone for the HTC this time after a GS2 and a GS3 and I’m pretty happy. It feels like a nicer device and it’s smoother and faster to use than a Samsung, plus there is no pause between hitting the unlock button and the screen coming on, unlike all those Samsungs. It’s low light performance is superior but it does have fewer megapixels. I’m happy with mine so far.

    • Dee

      i have the HTC one

      no regrets.

  • John in Brisbane

    I’ve gone back to HTC and despite a slower CPU, it runs better than the Samsung. Things are smoother, faster, nicer. A bit like how iphones used to have a smoothness that much more powerful android devices lacked. Steve Jobs insisted on a certain user experience rather than simply focusing on specs. Obviously Apple created paradigm shifts in many specs and expectations but they were designed chiefly to achieve a certain experience. Maybe Motorola is going back to basics in a similar way? Certainly, the constant breathless headlines about new phones and their specs in my inbox is getting a little old. An MX5 (Miata) has lower specs than a V8 sedan but most people would agree that the MX5 is nicer to drive. My HTC is the first device I’ve acquired in years that has involved any backward steps in specs or which hasn’t been the biggest and fastest on paper. Maybe I’m maturing along with the market? Hmmm … nah :-)

  • Mil

    I definitely think Motorola is doing the right thing here. The spec race was getting crazy. I would much prefer function over hardware spec.

  • James Roots

    I thought it was Apple. The iPhone and the ipad

    about the specs but about user experience and usability. Don’t know about the iPhone, but my ipad seems to have good user experience. The battery life is far more better than any of my android devices.

    I was never present in any of the launch events Apple held for its products but from what I read it seems they are more focused on the device as a whole experience rather than singling out specs.

    And lets not forget windows, who’s specs are usually a generation behind.

    Consumers will still buy the X, will it be arrevolutionary product? No, the phone enthusiasts certainly will not buy it with the same frequency if it had had higher specs.

    Maybe Motorola is the first in the android market?

  • redraider133

    Until we see how it sells I wouldn’t say they beat it yet. It could be a total flop and show that more people care about specs than people think. It could also be a huge seller and change the mobile landscape as we know it. Only time will tell

  • Orion78

    Sorry but I’m not jumping on the bandwagon. Its still Note 3 or the next Nexus for me.

  • Samarth Rajendra

    You need to make a correction: The MotoX is using the Snapdragon S4 Pro clocked at 1.7GHz, not the Plus. Big difference between the two.

  • westy

    I agree with you, but my biggest gripe is with the price. Okay you dont want to focus on specs but then you hit me with the same price as a spec heavy phone. Part of not going crazy with the specs is you arent utilizing the most expensive hardware, you would think some of this cost savings would roll over to the customers. Sadly it didnt. If this phone was priced at around 400 bucks it would be a huge hit. I am guessing the assembling in the US is what hit the pocket but none the less they should’ve figured out away to keep the phone at 400 dollars. Also from the reviews i have seen thus far the camera is unpredictable in the quality of photos it takes as well as the display isnt as crisp as it should be. If you are going to give people lower specs at high price spec beast phone make sure the things you did slack on run flawlessly.

  • D

    Umm this article would be correct if it weren’t for Apple. Maybe the first Android maker to do this, but not the first by a long shot.

    • MakoOsh

      To be fair this is, not…..

      It’s safe to assume he is talking about winning the spec race among android phones..

  • avi

    Moto X is a decent phone overall but in that price range that it comes I’ll rather get HTC one or the s4 and slap a custom ROM on it that is just as optimized. Also the decent hardware on the moto X would make it difficult for Motorola to release new updates as any new version would have to be thoroughly optimized for the phone unlike HTC or Samsung who can just put their custom ui over android and push the updates. Let’s hope Motorola makes the most out of its current position. :)

  • J.D.

    The big question in my mind is: how much of what you and others say about the Moto X applies equally to the new line of Droids? From what I can see, the Moto X’s software is nearly identical to the Droids. It’s interesting that the Moto X is getting all the attention when the Droid line appears to offer the same benefits with different screen sizes and battery life.

    Personally, I value the increased battery life of the Maxx far more than the aesthetics of the Moto X. I’m waiting for the hands-on reviews of the consumer models to see if there’s any reason I shouldn’t opt for the Maxx over the Moto X.

    • MakoOsh

      There really is no difference in hardware, except for the design and customizability… The Maxx is also more expensive due to that massive battery…. Plus the Droids are only on Big Red… Verizon will market the hell out of the Droids while Moto and Google will want to target a much wider range of potential customers with the Moto X, due to its multiple carrier availability. If you’re on Verizon and don’t care about the aesthetics of a device and got the extra $100 then definitely go for the Maxx… I for one though am super excited about the customization and aesthetics of the Moto X.

  • NexusNYC

    Quite the lofty title for a phone that isnt even available yet. We will see if they “beat” the spec war when we see sales figures. My guess is no since they screwed up the launch and availability. The hype is over.

  • jerrbomb

    I’m agree with you to a point Nick.. It isn’t always about specs.. But the question isn’t if the beat the specs race.. It’s if their new move will catch on.. We have to take into consideration that there are two kinds of people in the Android world.. People who buy the latest because it’s the latest.. And people who are all about specs.. IMO.. But nonetheless.. A lot of us have been groomed to care about either or.. I have no doubt in my mind that what Moto is doing is phenomenal.. Or rather awesome in the sense that they are taking a risky move.. A move that could cost them.. But they shout be care to learn from others companies that risks like these can be almost certain death..

    Now I’m not trying to troll here.. For from my intentions.. I give you a lot of kudos for writing such a great article and giving a different perspective.. But I also think that with the price the way it is and especially when comparing it to the likes of the S4 and the One.. They will have to market this thing in such a way that is convinces points the optimization coupled with software and practically vanilla Android is better that the S4 and the One full Of features a quad core processor and other neat things.. So the true Test will be what it’s price does to it and what happens when a mid-range phone from the specs point of view does to disrupt the price makeup..

    • jerrbomb

      And I’m sorry for the typos.. Just got SwiftKey.. So I’m still teaching it…

  • Manuel

    The title should read “Motorola is the first manufacturer trying to avoid the specs race”.

  • Ryan Cannon

    I have been debating myself whether to get the HTC One or the Moto X. You may have just swayed me.

  • Vance

    I agree that top of the line hardware just for the sake of a spec sheet is not the necessary critical for optimal phone performance, my issue with the Moto X is that the price point still aligns with devices containing more expensive hardware. That was their mistake. They could have launched this device with these solid (not stellar) specs and priced it at $99 on contract or $399 off contract and it would have been a hit, but I just don’t see people holding the One, GS4, or newly announced G2 next to the Moto X and selecting the Moto X for the same price. I hate to say it, but it’s gonna flop.

  • phor11

    They’ve been marketing it as an “8 core phone” to try to trick people into thinking it’s more powerful than it is…

    I wouldn’t say they “beat the spec race”…

  • krouget

    With all due respect to fairness and non-bias, I’d say Apple and the iPhone would be the one to really push and live by the titled claim.

    Motorola eventually had to shift gears after watching the way the market was going, but the spec war between Android OEMs has long been a direct response to the iPhone, going back to the original Droid and the VZW campaign outlining the specs and hardware differences, as opposed to the actual experience the device offers.

    That’s not to say I don’t applaud Motorola from getting out of the spec race– it certainly could prove to be a smart move. However, I think it’s more accurate to say they’ve adopted the mantra of one of the more profitable competitors in the market, while adding their own spin (customization). We’ll see how receptive the public is to that, and I plan to support this direction by purchasing one as my next device.

  • fab

    moto x won’t even be available in my country (switzerland) and if yes, i will need to pay a premium for it. so why would i pay same or more money for lower specs?

    if google/motorola would offer it for 20/30 % less of what i would pay for Sammy, HTC, Sony, LG…then maybe. but for the same price i don’t think i need to further discuss it.

    If i pay, i want more for the money!

  • teamwoot

    I am looking forward to this phone. But the article sounds like it was paid for by Motorola. Let’s hope the phone delivers.

  • Kimbo

    I have to say that I would really like having a phone that I could just talk to. There are so many times I can think of (usually while I’m driving) when this would be extremely handy. And the phone is supposed to be optimized for its processor and other hardware despite the mid-range specs.

    Having said that, what’s keeping me away from this phone is the carrier exclusive crap and the high price for buying the unlocked version.

  • Shrinidhi

    Am definitely impressed with the pioneers of phone.

  • NasLAU

    Yeah, yeah. But will it get fast updates or will these optimizations get in the way?

  • donger

    G2 > Moto X.

  • Ahmed Abbas

    i totally agree with you , yet the moto x – for me – still have 2 problems , first is it’s high price and second is the sd-card slot