A few years ago I purchased a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, and it’s been an awesome phone. However, with newer operating systems, bigger apps, and wear and tear, it’s been time to get a new phone for a while.
Being on Verizon made this an interesting decision, as there are two very different sides to them:
Their network is amazing. AT&T makes some crazy claims about their network, but in reality it’s not even close. AT&T loves to mix and match their “4G” network (which is essentially their 3G network with a new name) and their “4G LTE” network which is quite fast but not in many cities yet.
Verizon’s network thrives on the fact that their 4G LTE network is in a ton of cities across the US. Case in point, I spent some time with my wife’s family in south Georgia over the summer. We were about 15 minutes outside of tiny Dawson, GA, in the middle of nowhere, and I was getting three bars of LTE and smoking fast. It was impressive.
On the flip side of Verizon’s awesome network is their pitiful selection of phones. I’m a big fan of the stock Android experience; I don’t care for the junk that companies like Samsung and HTC pile on the phones. Give me clean Android and I’m happy. The problem is that Verizon loves all of that junk — stock Android phones are difficult to find on their network.
Recently there have been special edition versions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC ONE that run stock Android, but they only work on AT&T and T-Mobile. When the “Nexus 4” came out last year, Verizon didn’t pick it up. It’s been frustrating.
Enter the Moto X
When details about the Moto X started coming out, it sounded like the perfect phone. It’s a mostly stock Android experience, but with three innovative and useful new features:
Active notifications: When you have a notification (new email, etc), the phone will “breathe” every few seconds with info about it. Because of the screen technology being used, it consumes incredibly little battery power to make this happen, but it’s a great feature.
Gesture-based camera: Motorola claims you can go from sleep to shutter in less than two seconds. Just twist the phone in your hand twice and the camera will come up, then just tap the screen to take a photo. I’m not sure I can do it in under two seconds, but I can certainly get there very quickly.
Touchless controls: This is probably my favorite feature — you can talk to the phone without even pressing a button! Just say the magic phrase (“ok google now”) and it’ll start listening to you. At that point it’s similar to existing Google voice actions (or Apple’s Siri), but the ability to do it without having to press any buttons is amazing (especially in the car). They have a separate low-power processor dedicated to this task, which means it can be listening for you 24/7 without using much of the battery. In addition, it detects your voice so that friends can’t easily mess with you.
This video does a great job of showing off those new features:
The Droid Maxx
So if I love the idea of the Moto X so much, why did I purchase a Droid Maxx instead?
Verizon recently launched three new devices: the Droid Mini, the Droid Ultra and the Droid Maxx. The mini is essentially the Moto X (but a bit uglier), the Ultra is a nice device, and the Maxx is the same as the Ultra but with a bigger battery and better styling. So ultimately, the Mini and the Ultra are pretty much useless and the question is between the Moto X and the Droid Maxx.
From there, for me, it was a simple choice. With the Droid Maxx I get all of the cool features of the Moto X, but with a bigger display and a huge battery. What’s not to like?
My only big concern is that the Moto X may get software updates before the Droid Maxx, but with Verizon that seems unlikely. With my Galaxy Nexus the updates came from Google very quickly, but Verizon would hold and “test” them for months and months before finally pushing them out to us. I expect the same with the Moto X (fast updates from Google, pitifully slow releases from Verizon), so both phones should be about the same.
The Moto X is still solid
That said, the Moto X might be the device for you. The Droid Maxx is a big phone; if you want something a bit more “normal” sized, the Moto X could be a great way to go. If you’re an iPhone user on the fence about switching over, I’d hold off until Apple’s new iPhone unveiling on September 10 so you can make an informed decision.
iPhone won’t get these features for years
The interesting part about some of these features is that Apple probably won’t be able to easily copy them. In particular:
Active notifications: The key to the successful active notifications is the fact that it’s using an AMOLED display. Because of that, the screen can turn on only those pixels that are needed, thus saving battery life. iPhones use an LCD, which requires that the entire screen be turned on even just to show a few pixels. This is a battery killer.
Touchless controls: This would be a great addition for Siri, but I don’t see how they can do it. The Moto X it uses a special chip on the phone to handle it so it doesn’t kill your battery. To add that feature to an existing phone (which has already been done) is certainly possible but will absolutely destroy your battery life.
The exception is if Apple has already been considering features like this and has added that kind of hardware to the new iPhone being unveiled next month. It seems unlikely, but you never know.
Competition is great
Whether you’re an Android fan or an iPhone fan, phones like this should make you happy. The innovation coming from both sides is leading to better devices for all of us!
What is your next phone going to be?