2014 has been a strange year for Motorola.
The year started with a $2.91 billion sale of the then-Google-owned Motorola Mobility unit to Lenovo, prompting questions of the business unit’s viability. The deal gave Lenovo access to the Moto X and Moto G phones lines and it was unclear whether a trusted enterprise partner such as Lenovo could help boost the company’s appeal, especially in the enterprise.
Two months later, the company took an innovative step forward with its announcement of the Moto 360 smartwatch, throwing a round device into a square market. The device quickly became the most hotly-anticipated Android wearable, proving that style does matter when it comes to smartwatches.
On Thursday, September 4, Motorola announced the availability of the Moto 360, as well as updates for both the Moto X and the Moto G phones, and a new bluetooth earpiece called the Moto Hint. The devices look good, but do they add any value for professionals?
The Moto 360
The initial draw for most users is the Moto 360’s circular design, the first of its kind for smartwatches. While the design isn’t as reminiscent of a calculator watch as most other smartwatches, you can still tell that it is a device you are wearing on your wrist.
With that being said, the leather bands and optional metal bands, that will be available later, fit in better with a professional environment than their neon-colored rubber counterparts. The leather version will cost about $250, with extra bands running you $30, while the metal version will be $300 when it debuts.
The technical specifications aren’t anything special. The Moto 360 boasts 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM, which seems to be run-of-the-mill for most Android Wear devices. According to CNET’s Scott Stein, the noise-cancelling microphone could be one of the main pros for users, due to the device’s heavy reliance on voice commands.
Speaking with Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst J.P. Gownder last week, he wasn’t sure if the Moto 360 would be gadget that would enable new experiences for users.
“The Moto 360 has generated a great deal of interest because of its round shape, stylish hardware, and flashy previews,” Gownder said. “It looks to be a pretty gadget, but I’m not sure it will move the category forward unless it incorporates features that help distinguish it from smartphones: health monitoring built in, the ability to do mobile payments via NFC, or other tasks that can’t be as easily or conveniently accomplished by simply pulling one’s phone out of one’s pocket.”
So far, it seems that the Moto 360 doesn’t seem to add much value to the daily lives of professionals.
The Moto X
The original Moto X flew somewhat under the radar with business users. The original phone was known for its intuitive voice commands and ease of customization, both of which return with the new Moto X. The Moto X is still a Google-backed device, as Lenovo hasn’t fully taken over.
The new Moto X will launch with Android 4.4.4 KitKat later in the Fall, boasting a 2.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM. This is a good sign for power users who are looking for a multi-tasking machine.
The battery is only slightly larger than its predecessor, but the Moto X ships with the newly-announced Motorola Turbo Charger, which claims it can add eight hours of battery life in just 15 minutes — a huge plus for road warriors who are constantly running out of juice.
Voice commands are still a major part of the Moto X, including custom commands to wake your phone and commands that work with third-party apps such as Facebook. The Moto Assist management app can read texts for you, among other things; and Moto Actions allows users to use hand gestures, such as waving your hand above the display to silence an incoming call, to control the phone.
Additionally, the Moto Display allows up to three notifications to quietly pulse on the device’s screen without causing too much of an interruption. Users can touch the notifications for additional info and swipe to access the notification’s source app.
The Moto G
The original Moto G was Motorola’s budget-friendly smartphone. The updated version offers a higher-end feel, while keeping the price low at $180 for an unlocked device. The phone is customizable with flip-shells or back plates.
The phone comes with a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, which is nothing to write home about but can still get work done. The phone is available with 8GB or 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot where users can add up to 32GB of additional memory.
The Moto G has a dual-SIM option for certain markets, making it a potential contender for a cheap workhorse for international travelers, especially at the low price point for an unlocked device. Other than that, the Moto G doesn’t offer much for professional users.
The Moto Hint
The $150 Hint is a compact bluetooth earpiece that allows users to take calls and dictate voice commands to the attached phone. The device pairs with the Moto X, so users can ask questions, hear notifications, and even send messages without even looking at their phones. It also pairs with all other Bluetooth enabled smartphones, but only to make calls or connect with Siri or Google Now.
The Hint is a great Bluetooth option for business travelers as it manages its battery well. The device turns itself on as it is inserted into your ear and turns itself off as it is removed from your ear, meaning that once you take it out your calls are automatically routed back to the phone itself.
The Hint’s battery will last more than three hours on a single charge, and it can be recharged twice more in its carrying case. This allows for up to 10 hours of talk time and 100 hours of standby charge.
While it may make you look like the protagonist in the film “Her,” it’s still a great accessory for professional users.