now playing – Kashmir, because Led Zepplin is good smartphone buying music
I was strolling through NYC the other day, walking down a sidewalk where they had a scaffolding set up, enclosing the sidewalk. I was carrying my phone, my more or less beloved Gnex, in my hand…and my hand clipped one of the scaffolding bars…phone meets sidewalk, screen is traumatized by the meeting. Cracking ensues.
What a drag.
It could be worse, the phone still works fine, and the cracks aren’t THAT bad. I broke an N7 screen (I don’t make a habit out of this – it’s just coincidence that it’s happened twice in the last couple of months) a couple months back, and it was wrecked – lost all touch functionality. So it definitely wasn’t the worst case scenario – I still use it daily. But, I was starting to think about the new phones that were coming out anyways, and this is hurrying that up a bit.
The two phones I’m looking at are the Motorola Moto X, and the Google/LG Nexus 5. Most other times, this would be an absolute walkover for the Nexus phone – I’m a huge fan of the line, I love reliably getting the latest software without having to root the phone.
Let me just take a minute to talk about rooting – it’s something I just don’t want to be bothered with anymore. I hacked the hell out of all the phones I owned before my Gnex, and just don’t feel I should have to anymore. As far as phones have come, hardware wise, it should never be necessary, and I don’t want to support lines of phones that make it necessary…or providers that make it necessary, for that matter. On that note, I know a woman who owns a Gnex on Verizon. It was released first on Verizon, and it’s the flagship Google phone…supposedly untouched by bloatware, supposedly getting the first taste of the new Android versions. But hers…well, Verizon embarrassed Google, in my opinion. They did everything to that phone that wasn’t supposed to happen – added bloatware, held the updates up for at least 6 months per iteration, and disabled Google Wallet.
I have no beef whatsoever with Verizon. I think they have some products that are standard setters – Fios, for instance. But I don’t like the way they handled the Nexus line.
But I digress. Like I was saying, normally, I’d be all over a new Nexus phone. And Motorola has “added” to vanilla Android, something I usually consider very nearly a sin. But in looking at the additions they’ve made, they’re both very subtle, and very sensible. The hands free voice commands…I’m sure a lot of people will look at that as a gimmick, but I use Google Voice Actions all the time, and they work well for me, so I know that’s a feature that would get heavy use from me. And the Active Notificatons, along with the ability to silence the phone by putting it face down just…makes…sense. That goes a long way with me – sensible additions to Android is totally welcome in my book, and apparently the hands free voice activation has already made it upstream into Kit Kat, which may actually have improved it a little more, but I’ll need to verify that before making a decision. I’m very much hoping that the Active Notifications make it upstream at some point.
Another thing that gives the Moto X a big boost up in my opinion is one thing that Google and their partners have dropped the ball on, with a consistency that makes me think it will not be changing anytime soon. Accessories. The Gnex (and first N7) had these three pins that were supposed to work with all manner of docks…and as far as I know, never had anything made for them. Look, I don’t ask for too much. All I really want is a good car dock, and the one for the Gnex sucked, and sucked hard. It held the phone reliably. That is the only thing it did well. It didn’t charge the phone, it didn’t put it into car mode…it’s just a piece of plastic that held the phone. Not acceptable. But the Moto X already has one…made by Motorola, specifically for the Moto X. It does everything I want, and doesn’t look like a piece of garbage. Huge plus. Huge.
Are there minuses to the Moto X? Yup, a couple. First – the price. I will not pay $600 for a phone. I’m a T Mobile user – one of the many places where I vote with my wallet is I will not ever again be tied to a contract with a cell phone company. Given this, the best choices are T Mobile or Ting, and I’m not the biggest fan of Sprint’s service, so that kind of rules Ting out (if you are in an area that Sprint is good in, check them out – great company). Verizon does offer off contract service, but I don’t think you can get a completely unlimited plan from them, so that kind of rules them out – I go through about 8-10 GB of data per month. But when you buy a Moto X on T Mob, you have to buy direct from Motorola, and you can’t use T Mobiles plan where they spread the cost of the phone out over the next however many payments. I’ve read that they’re dropping the price to $480…if they do that, we can talk. Otherwise, I’ll find one on Ebay.
The other minus is the spec sheet isn’t that hot. I’m not THAT concerned about it…coming from a Gnex, it’ll seem like it flies to me. This phone is pretty synergistic in the way it uses its resources, so it’ll seem greater than the sum of it’s parts. But…the N5 really is a much more muscular phone.
Build quality – I haven’t had a chance yet to get my hands on either of these phones (that will change later today – the Guppie hipped me to the fact that Best Buy has the Moto X), but I suspect that Motorola has better build quality than LG. I’m really not a fan of LG, and wish Google had gone with either Motorola or HTC for the Nexus – both are so superior in build quality, generally. Google is being pig-headed in its insistence that Motorola is a different company. Whatever. And while I’m not that fussed over how a smartphone looks, the Moto X looks like a much more ergonomic and stylish bit of kit; much more finished.
Got any thoughts on this subject? Yay on one, nay on the other? Do please weigh in, and give me your input. I actually know one person who owns both – the mighty tech obsessed Brandon Roberts. Hopefully, his N5 will arrive soon, and he’ll be able to give a completely unbiased comparison. Guest article, maybe? That’s right, Brandon – I’m looking right at you, buddy.
Stopped in at my local Best Buy, just to get my hands on the Moto X (not to buy – as I said, you have to get the T Mob version from motorola.com). It’s a little hard to tell, because of the security devices that they have attached to the phone, but it felt solid in my hands. I like the materials they use, and the screen looks really good. Now I have to find a Nexus 5 to play with.