Moto X (2014): Hands-on with Motorola's bigger and better flagship

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The new Moto X has been upgraded as well as upsized (Photo: Eric Mack/Gizmag.com)

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It's not called the Moto X+1, but there is a new Moto X and it is bigger and better than the first one. Motorola announced the successor to its acclaimed Android smartphone during an exclusive event at its headquarters in Chicago on Thursday and Gizmag was there to get an early look.

Not only has the Moto X grown, to a 5.2-inch screen size that's just a smidge larger than the Samsung Galaxy S5's, but so has the portfolio of accessories Motorola is pushing as part of its overall experience. The much anticipated Moto 360 Android Wear round-face smart watch goes on sale Friday in the United States for $249 (see my Moto 360 hands-on), and the intriguing Moto Hint Bluetooth earbud, designed to interact with Moto Voice controls, will also be available later this fall (for $149). Rounding out the offerings will be a turbo charger pack that Motorola claims will charge up in only fifteen minutes to provide enough juice for your Moto X to last an additional eight hours.

The new Moto X has been upgraded as well as upsized. Perhaps the biggest change comes to a feature of the original Moto X that came in for the most criticism: the rear camera on the new Moto X promises to make up for the failure of so-called "clear pixel" technology that was touted in its predecessor. This new shooter is capable of capturing 13 megapixels and 4K video, with the assistance of a nifty ring flash when needed. Look for more details on the camera's capability in my full review due in a week or so.

The display on the new Moto X also gets a much-needed resolution bump, up to 1080p from 720p in the original, capable of beaming 423 pixels per inch at your retinas. While not the fastest of the new armada of Android flagships, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5 GHz CPU mated with an Adreno 330 GPU provides a significant power boost.

Many of the innovative software tweaks and features built into the original have also been improved or expanded in the new Moto X. Touchless control is back under the new name, "Moto Voice," and there's now the option to customize the trigger phrase that alerts the phone to start listening for commands. If you really enjoy chanting "Okay, Google Now" in the general direction of your device several times a day, you can still use the phrase, but you can just as easily train it to wake up when you shout "hey Magilla gorilla glass!"

That pulsing "active display" that periodically shows you the time and new notifications is also back, but added IR sensors on the front panel now allow you to summon it by simply approaching the screen with your hand. The same sensors also recognize gestures that allow you to dismiss a call or an alarm by simply waving a hand over the screen.

Moto Maker, Motorola's online customization and ordering platform, will offer the new Moto X with a large array of color and material choices, including the addition of a genuine leather back. The whole form factor is a bit more durable than the original thanks to an aluminum frame along the side that also doubles as an antenna.

I've got a review unit of both the new Moto X and the new Moto G, which actually goes on sale today for just $179. I'll be diving deep into both phones over the next week or two to produce detailed reviews and offering up some comparisons as well.

With just a few hours with the new Moto X under my belt, I feel like I might miss the smaller form factor, which is a little shocking considering my big, awkward hands and previous affinity for things like the Samsung Galaxy Mega. But it's still too early to tell, and I'm eager to see if this little boost of power on both the hardware and software side of the Moto X will have its original fans like me falling in love all over again. Or will it be lost in the shuffle of this month's myriad launches, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6.

There's no specific date set for availability of the new Moto X beyond "sometime this [Northern] Fall." But I can tell you it will be a solid value at US$99 on contract in the United States and $499 unlocked.

Stay tuned for more to come. In the meantime, you can hit up our early hands-on with the Moto 360 smartwatch.

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