Last week, Motorola held an event where it announced three new phones, the Moto X Style/Pure, Moto X Play, and Moto G (3rd gen). Although it spent a fair amount of time on all the new hardware features and the level of customization offered using the Moto Maker site, Motorola spent very little time on the software of the phones. Motorola reinforced the stock Android-like "pure" nature of its version of Android and recapped some of the features of its Moto suite of enhancements but didn't talk about any new features.
However, in conjunction with the presentation to the media and public, Motorola also briefed its small Moto Maker team of super-fans/brand advocates about the new phones. This included more information about some new software features coming to the two new Moto Xs, and a couple of the Makers have been sharing what they learned on Twitter and the Moto X subreddit.
Apparently, Motorola is fine with this, so it's a little odd that it has left the dissemination of these enhanced features to social media, rather than covering them at the global event. Still, we owe a big thanks to KILLPREE on Reddit for the explanations of the new features and @TylerRochwerg for the images.
Discreet Voice For Moto Voice
The banner new feature is an update to Moto Voice, Motorola's enhanced voice control and personal assistant for Android. Unlike the stock "OK, Google" voice control of stock Android that only works when you are using the phone, Moto Voice listens to your command continuously, even when the phone is in standby.
You assign a unique command to wake the Moto X (the default is "Hello, Moto"). You can then control it with voice commands, such as telling it to call a contact or play a song. You can also ask the phone questions like "When is my next meeting?" or "Will it rain today?", and it will speak the answer back to you.
This is, for lack of a better word, a pretty cool feature, but talking to your phone out loud in public can be socially awkward. Then there are privacy issues when the phone reads back potentially sensitive info over its speaker. On the new Moto Xs, Voice now has a discreet mode. You can lift the phone to your ear to activate voice control (with the screen on or off), and the response audio comes through the earpiece.
While this is a new feature for the new Moto Xs, we are sure that it will also come through a software update at least to the Moto X (2014) if not the first Moto X.
Always Aware Camera
The second new feature, which is also found on the Moto G (2015) adds automatic barcode and QR code scanning to the Motorola camera app. You simply point to the code in the viewfinder, and an icon appears that links you to the content embedded in the code. The camera app will now also scan business cards and save the info to your contacts.
Moto Assist Places
The last enhanced software feature is to Moto Assist. Assist is a contextual application that automatically changes the phone's setting depending on time of day and location. For example, if the phone detects that you are driving, it can be set to turn on hands-free mode and read incoming texts to you. If you are in a meeting, Assist will silence the phone and send out automated "I'm busy" replies to incoming calls and texts.
Right now, Assist is aware if you are sleeping (determined by time of day), when you are driving, when you are at home and when you are in a meeting. The enhancement to Assist adds more places for it to be aware of. However, the information shared on Reddit was a little light on the specifics of what places have been added.
Another addition is a motion-activated delay to the sleep mode – the phone can tell if you are still up past the hour set in the app to put the phone into this mode.
Motorola's additions to the stock Android experience significantly enhance, rather than detract from, the core Android experience. This cannot be said for the vast majority of additions that other OEMs add to Android. Moto Display, Voice, and Assist already work very well on the current Moto X, so these improvements will only make these features better on the new Moto X Style/Pure and Play.
The Discreet Voice feature is probably the most significant, as it will address the problem of the social stigma of talking to your phone in public. (We can't wait until we can try this out in person.)
- Moto X Style/Pure Edition Hands On
- Motorola Announces Two Moto X Handers, New Moto G
- Motorola Moto G (2015), Hands On
Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.