Can the Moto X really deliver a great user experience without great specs?

by: Bogdan PetrovanJuly 12, 2013

The-Friday-Debate aa Evan Forester

This week we discuss the relationship that exists between hardware specifications and user experience, in light of the wave of leaks suggesting that the Moto X will feature lackluster internal components. The device is said to offer a great experience by those who actually used it, but looking at comments sections and forums, you’d think that high-end specs are all that matters.

So, can Motorola decouple user experience from hardware? Will the Moto X be the first good-enough Android flagship and the beginning of a new era? Or will it be another overhyped, overmarketed device that we’ll all forget about in a year?

Join us for the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!

David Gonzales

Mid-range or not, I’m just happy to see that Moto is finally back on the radar. This company used to be at the forefront of the mobile computing industry, indeed the world of mobile technology in general. And maybe they still are. But I’m really happy for them now that the long awaited Moto X effort is actually coming to life.

With that said, I have to admit I gave up on owning the quote-unquote best smartphone a long time ago, at least as far as hardware is concerned. And that’s because I’ve realized that the beauty of Android really lies in the software.

Android was founded long before Samsung even thought of creating its world-famous Galaxy smartphone range, and it will most certainly still be around long after all the S-series phones (and its ilk) are gone. The point is, owning what could be referred to as the absolute best device now won’t matter much later.

Unless you care for virtual Johnson-measuring contests, of course. In which case, you probably do need a dodeca-core, 7-inch handheld computer to keep you company.

Robert Triggs

I’m firmly in the user experience over hardware specs camp, heck I’m still very happy with my Samsung Galaxy S2 and have no plans to upgrade until it can no longer run the latest version of Android.

But don’t misunderstand me, high spec devices are great if you want the fastest experience, but every smartphone doesn’t have to be an eight core 1080p monster to be a great handset. I’d still happily recommend the Nexus 4 to people, despite the last-gen hardware.

The Moto X has perfectly good specs for a smartphone, which won’t empty your battery before you can get home, and then adds plenty of extra value. For a start, the “pure Android” experience with prompt updates is a feature worth paying for.

The contextual awareness features look to be really interesting and unique, and could well put software features from rivals like Samsung to shame.

Hardware and software customization will obviously be subject to personal preference, but receiving the look and features that you want straight out of the box is a really nice touch.

The Moto X philosophy seems to be as much about quality as it is about innovation, and that scores big points in my book.

It’s important to remember that hardware is a tool to do a job, it shouldn’t be treated as ends unto itself. So whilst the Moto X may not be totally off the wall in terms of power, it’s no less noteworthy than the Galaxy S4 or HTC One in terms of doing its job. I can’t wait to see what the Moto X can do.

Eric Schmidt talking on Moto X

Adam Koueider

There was a time when I was a specs maniac. Dual core, quad-core, qHD, WQXGA, 720P, Ghz, Megapixels. I would chew them up and spit them out. Then I realized that we’d reached we’d reached the threshold, the time when it didn’t matter how fast the benchmarks told you your device was, but how fast it felt.

This was the iPhone’s ploy. No matter what the benchmarks said it achieved, it still felt fast and isn’t that the whole point. Specs certainly do matter. You still need a good display, great battery life, overall speed, a camera that isn’t pathetic in low-light. Those things matter. Not whether your device can hit 30,000 in Antutu.

I’ve never felt that my Nexus 4’s processor was inadequate and I’ve yet to find a game that has stressed its processor to the max. We need to understand that Google isn’t targeting this phone at the hardcore 1% of users, its targeting the 99% of users.

I’ve read reports about the Snapdragon 800 achieving double the speeds of older SoCs while using the same power. That’s all fine and dandy, but it should be the other way. I want processors which can achieve the same speeds while using half of the power, because I see that as a bigger conundrum.

My problem with current day smartphones isn’t that they don’t have enough power, it’s that they don’t make it through my day on a single charge. I haven’t had a problem with the amount of pixels in my photo since 2011, but I have had a problem with taking a decent shot in low-light. My screen has a high enough resolution, but its not as bright as it could be.

If the Moto X turns out to have mid-range specifications for 2013 standards, then I am okay with that. We’ll have to see if it can solve the major gripes of users and also whether its big contextual awareness features are any good.

Joshua Vergara

For as long as I can remember, Motorola has always tried to make their phones excel at one thing. Not to say that they neglect everything else – just think back and you’ll realize that Moto phones always had that one feature that stood out.

That black RAZR with its slim flip phone design was one of the best built phones ever produced. The ROKR was one of the better music playing phones of its time. Then, more recently, you had the RAZR MAXX – a reimagined RAZR whose battery life blew everyone else’s away. You could always count on Motorola to make a phone that fulfilled a need, meaning that there was always a core demographic.

And now, in this age of black slate smartphones, there is a new need – personalization. Sure, you can use accessories to make a phone seem unique, but in the end everyone is using the same stuff, don’t you think? If Motorola can get us back to loving our phones not just because of what they are capable of but because they are extensions of ourselves, they might really be onto something here.

We also have to remember that the midrange game is starting to slowly fade away. Ever since the Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, we’ve had so many fast phones that when it comes to performance we’re getting these blurred lines. (I know you want it…) By now, the S4 Plus is probably considered a midrange-esque package but guess what – you can’t tell when you’re actually using the phone. The Moto X won’t be cutting edge underneath, but I’m sure it will still please.

And if we get a good enough performance package in an attractive shell that WE made ourselves? Hello, Moto.

Can Motorola deliver great user experience without great specs?

Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

[poll id=”330″]

  • Luka Mlinar

    Yea well lets not forget about the MPX 200. I had that phone. When you closed it, it made a clicking sound that made u feel like a million dollars! I loved that phone and it was today’s unlocked flagship money. Even a bit more. That phone is the reason i am going back to Motorola. Well that and the V50. When i think about it the best phones i ever had wore Motorola.
    Also i believe in Dennis Woodside and Regina Dugan. I think their way of thinking if the future of this business.

    • AnGeLFaCe77

      My first Motorola was the one that used to say you have an incoming call and then ring, i love that device it was so unique at that time.

  • Steve

    I know it will be good, but spec lovers will grind it apart.

  • Windowz_rules

    I bet they will optimize the hell out of it like Apple does with the iPhone. Personally, I don’t care about specs, I care about a great user experience.

  • icyrock1

    Software optimization and battery life are the most important things to me. After that it’s the screen which needs to be good and bright.

  • RiverdALIEN

    The reason I voted No is because I’m a hardcore user. I don’t want anything but stock android, tweaked by the best of developers. So I probably won’t get one if it’s not carrying the latest processor… but who knows. maybe.

  • CodeDisQus

    Great Article! Earlier this year, I decided that specs are mere numbers on a page and its how the phone feels….The iPhone statement is SPOT on, people buy that phone because they know that it will never miss a beat, yet its hardware is well behind the antutu killers! I consider myself a hardcore user and right now I’m willing to settle for mid-range moto x that can deliver a great user experience while letting me mess around with it! Also the price!!

  • Cao Meo

    Motorola promises a lot, I hope it will deliver

    • AnGeLFaCe77

      They always have deliver. The Razr lines did not sell as much because Verizon and Motorola like to make love all year.

      • Saif Merseysider

        They delivered? Seriously? Tell me something. Aside from the battery prowess, what separates the Razr lines with other top of the line androids? Let me make it simple. What can the Razr do and others can’t?

  • Dietrich Schulten

    I gave up my OG Milestone because the screen was too small to read ebooks and browse the web, it lagged like crazy and it constantly ran out of internal memory.
    I bought a Galaxy Nexus but it had lousy connectivity and speech quality, people kept complaining they couldn’t hear me.
    I need something that is fast enough, has a large enough screen, brings me through the day and has enough memory and excellent reception. It should also look and feel ‘solid’, but that is a matter of taste.

    So I’m with you that enough is enough. I don’t brag with my phone. I use it. But enough also means not too few.

    The Moto X has not enough screen estate, which spells out to bad readability and touch-typability for me. That contextual thing does not work in Germany, Google Now is wrong about the context most of the time. Moto still is sluggish with updates, I did not see anyone promise the X will be different than RAZR M.

    To say that the software makes the difference is true, but that’s not about gimmicks. The question is: does the manufacturer add useful capabilities over time and does he update the phone every once in a while? Sony just did a great job, the 4.2.2 update for the Z was not just Android 4.2.2, it also added 64 GB support, some UX improvements and the capability to locate my phone.

    I am on an Xperia Z right now, the Moto X does not make me regret that decision. The Z Ultra might, or a Moto X with a big display. However, I know that people around me prefer smaller phones than me, and I wish Moto a great market success.

  • Dusan

    Not gonna do it for me. It can be made out of gold and it wont matter if it’s not futureproof. I don’t mind paying more for something that will last longer.
    I own a laggy One X and absolutely hate it. Moto will have hard time vs Google Edition of One and S4. Unfortunately.

    • AnGeLFaCe77

      Learn about technology

  • Bas

    Articles on Android Authority are all about best performance, highest pixel rate, most RAM… And now all of a sudden it’s all about middle of the road, just because Motorola says mediocre is the new ‘best’…?!

  • AnGeLFaCe77

    Great article ! I am loving all these leaks out of nowhere :)

  • jamie

    One issue I have with a mid range smartphone is the fact that as software advances it will become low end. e.g. When the nexus 7 was announced last year it had mid range specs and a great user experience, now 1 year later it is starting to experience problems with lag. If you buy your phone on a 2 year contract, you need your phone to give a great user experience for 2 years. Mid range specs may not achieve that.

    • Ali Abidrahmani

      That’s 4.2’s problem,its buggy its laggy and it will stay that way on any hardware.
      To prove that,my 4.0 galaxy nexus upgraded to 4.1 was a different phone performance wise(in a good way),as soon as I upgraded to 4.2 everything started to suck both on GNex and N7,Tegra 3 should be capable enough to run 4.2 which lets be honest,was a minor upgrade.Android team themselves agreed that they were spoiled by N4’s GPU and they will optimise android again in upcoming versions.(Google I/O Fireside chat)

  • Saif Merseysider

    Sorry. But I have to say I am rather dissapointed with this article. Why is it only now u guys are making a big fuss about ‘hardware specs is nothing compared to user experience’? U know, that’s apple talking. While android is not just about the specs, it is also about how the latest technology can be fitted into a device. THAT is what Android is. And yet, you guys are talking about how it is ok for Motorola to come out with a piece of midranger that could barely be called a flagship of 2012 (yeah, last year) and says the user experience is much more important? If so, why didn’t u say something about this when the S3 went out,huh? Or Note II. Or HTC One X. What? Those phones didn’t offer a nice user experience. Get a life.

    • Steve

      “Experience” is a cover word. Google knows that they can’t keep playing the spec battle forever, especially when the increase of specs only generate marginal increases in performance now, all while increasing the price year to year. Seems like Google is now making the entire android market focus more on optimization of the software and introducing never before seen hardware techniques (at least in the mobile phone world) instead of relying on insane processors. Google’s definitely playing the nudge game here, and using the word “Experience” is a nice way of telling everybody to change the mobile phone strategy.

  • Trysta

    I completely disagree. Android is getting closer but we are still not at the stage where specs don’t matter for future proofing your phone. I bought a galaxy nexus based on very similar arguments to what are being stated here and even though I love my phone I can’t deny that the performance is not holding up now. I will need an upgrade earlier than I would have liked because the gnex hardware can’t keep up with new android software. Same for the nexus 7 I am typing this post on. My next phone will be as as powerful as today’s tech can allow so that it will last two years.

    The point is it isn’t about a specs race or bragging rights. For me personally I just want something that won’t feel slow a year later. And in my opinion in android specs still matter to achieve this goal.

    • emanuele_zanetti

      are you running stock Android on your Galaxy Nexus? because when I upgraded it to Android 4.2 it seemed really slow. Then I decided to leave Stock Android for CM and everything got better. well, it’s not as fast as a quad-core smartphone but it still handles all my tasks really well.

  • Saif Merseysider

    Btw, just to point out something. Just because the phone is going to b manufactured solely in the US doesn’t make it worth all the hype. U guys can bang all u want about how great this x phone is going to be, but we all know the truth. That it is just a piece of rubbish. And they (Motorola) MADE u believe it is great.

  • Saif Merseysider

    For the record, I previously owned a couple of the Razr clamshells series (V3, V3XX and V2_9). Truly amazing phones.

  • SoulSeekerUSA

    Phone is not that great, it’s okay if you cannot afford a top phone.