Somewhat Stock Android

One of the first things that changed for Motorola under its new Google ownership was the final nail through the coffin for Motoblur, with OTA updates for some of its handsets gradually scaling back customized features in favor of stock ones. I joked with Anand that Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola just to kill the beast that was Motoblur. Truth be told the presence of largely-stock Android 4.x UI is perhaps one of the best qualities of the Moto X.

The Moto X at launch runs Android 4.2.2, which isn’t quite bleeding edge Android, but close. This is essentially an intentional side effect of the Google / Motorola firewalling that we’ve been told is in place. I’m not entirely surprised, but I had hoped the Moto X would differentiate itself by somehow launching with 4.3 considering other handset partners had the Jelly Bean MR2 (4.3) update a while ago, clearly Motorola should’ve as well. I know that Qualcomm had the BSP (Board Support Package) for 4.3 ready for MSM8960Pro at the same time as it did APQ8064, so I can’t think of any technical reason. Again I’d wager Moto X launching with 4.2.2 is entirely political, to say nothing of the usual operator testing nonsense in the USA.


Anyhow the homescreens (widget panels), launcher, settings menu, notification shade, dialer, and default applications are basically unadulterated Android. I say largely unadulterated because to say that the Moto X is entirely stock is still not quite true – there’s the operator name in the top left of the notification bar all the time, and the branded network status indicator (the cartoonish looking AT&T “4G” and “4G LTE” logos) on my AT&T unit. Unnervingly, the network status logo and bars are also a different shade of blue than the battery and time icons adjacent to it.

There’s also AT&T address book preloaded which cannot be removed, which is a huge annoyance. There’s also a provisioning check for bluetooth and WiFi tethering, another indication of an operator-touched device. There’s also AT&T my Wireless and AT&T’s visual voicemail app loaded, but those are pretty understandable.


The Moto X also has a few UI changes that definitely aren't stock. The status bar has different spacing for the cellular and WiFi indicator logos which carries over as a result of Blur (the spacing issue is just the "4G LTE" or similar status logo disappearing when on WiFi). Also the on-screen android buttons sometimes appear transparent, showing what's under, which definitely isn't a stock implementation. 

My definition of stock is just that, totally stock – no branded logos, operator names everywhere, or any preloaded apps. Truth be told the Moto X isn’t stock, it just has the stock UI on top of a relatively standard Motorola software build, but it does have a heck of a lot less of the operator preload crapware that normally shows up on Android phones sold with a subsidy these days. Android’s visual style is now mature and appealing enough that it really doesn’t need customization or modification to look good, rather it just needs to be left alone as much as is politically possible. If there’s one thing the Moto X does that every other handset maker should take to heart, it’s exactly that. 

If you’re on a wireless operator that can’t work with the newest Nexus phone or Google Play edition devices (like the CDMA ones in the USA – Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular), the Moto X might be the closest you can get to stock, even if it technically isn’t completely so. I suspect this will attract a lot of enthusiasts who are on other operators for their own reasons, even if the longer term solution really should be to vote with your wallet and move to an operator that’s open and compatible with those devices.

Moto Maker - A Customized Moto X X8 Mobile Computing System, Active Display, and Touchless Control
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  • Civilized - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    "...the network status logo and bars are also a different shade of blue than the battery and time icons adjacent to it."

    This one sentence perfectly sums up's mobile reviews. Great job Brian and Anand, the reviews have been consistently fantastic here.
  • teiglin - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    I don't know that it says much about Brian's reviews (I mean, seems pretty obvious just looking at the status bar), but it sure as hell sums up US operator software quality. That is fucking surreal, that AT&T pushes its logo into the phone firmware without even bothering to check the RGB values of existing icons. I just don't even...

    I like the phone a lot and would love to use Moto Maker to make one--this is definitely a speak-with-your-wallet thing; I really want Motorola to be successful with this--but I'm not suffering a locked bootloader, especially with this sort of blatant software flaw. When Maker is available for tmo or the dev editiion it'll be worth a second look.
  • Impulses - Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - link

    Isn't the different blue just the same AT&T blue that they use on other devices regardless of the present color scheme? I'm not trying to excuse theirbehavior either way, just saying, it might be happenstance rather than neglect.

    Frankly the tweaking of the signal indicators bothers me a lot less than the ever present AT&T tag on the far left... Probably because a lot of carriers and OEM are guilty of the former (AT&T has even tweaked the untouchable iPhone's bars...) yet no other carrier splashes their name on your notification bar like that.

    To be fair, I believe it does disappear once you actually have notifications, or it has on previous AT&T phones anyway...
  • SoC-IT2ME - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Charge time of the GS4 - it takes just over 2hrs for a full charge, not 2.8hrs as per your graph.

    The Moto X looks like a great phone, but now that SAMOLED has improved with it's colour saturation, this screen seems to garish and overblown.
  • Honest Accounting - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Who supplies the screen for the Moto X?
  • APassingMe - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    "I’d posit that the optimal size is...."

    Typo maybe?
  • Galcobar - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Posit is correctly spelled, and used.
  • bakedpatato - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Where did you guys get a box of 5.56 blanks? Anand's X does look quite nice.
  • SomeGuyonaBike - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    This is the second review I've read in which AT&T's address book sync service is described as being a big annoyance... What are the problems with this service? Does it periodically bug you to use it even if you choose not to, or something like that?
  • jeffkibuule - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Why should software you never use be on your phone?

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