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BW Businessworld

Let's Get Personal

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Somewhere near- by is a mom who’s at her wit’s end. She gave in to her daughter’s demands for a Moto X ­— and now the young girl is not to be seen. She’s closeted in her room with her fluffy cat. One of them gets a lot of sleep and the other is supremely busy talking to her phone — and I think we know which is which.

Obviously, the Moto X was the right choice for her.

The Moto X went through such a bubble of hype in the US, that until the phone came into India about six months later, it was difficult to figure out what the fuss was all about. You could get the handset’s chasis customised and Americans were particularly frothy about a wooden or leather look, but you could always achieve the same look with a case, so I’ve never understood why that is such a big deal.

What I thought was much more interesting — and a hint at the direction software on mobiles will take in the future — is how the Moto X is “always listening” and responding to you with Google Now. Like with Google Glass and Android Wear watches-to-be.  And this has to be experienced to be understood. The Moto X can be sitting around close by, screen off and dark, and all you have to do is say “OK Google Now…” and it’ll ping awake for a command. We’ve seen Google Now do that when on a search page on the web, but this is different because it means another level of ease. You could be drifting off to sleep when you remember you need to wake up early at 7 am. Don’t move — just say “OK Google Now, wake me up at 7 am”. In the unlikely event that you find yourself arguing with friends over the height of the Empire State Building, just call out to your Moto X. Actually, so many have asked Google Now exactly that question that it must be heartily sick of it and soon it’ll tell you even before you ask.

There are lots of things you can ask Google to do. Just say “Help me” to get the list which includes the weather, reminders, directions, making calls, texting, scheduling meetings, etc. And each time, Google Now will greet you personally, by name. You can also get an unfortunate Indian accent, if you like.

While other companies get their phones to race for spec after spec and feature after feature, Google has really got a winning formula with that personal touch. 

Another aspect that makes the Moto X a great experience is its sheer smooth working. It doesn’t have the fastest processor, the sharpest screen or the maximum possible RAM but instead it has two other processors that keep it in the always-listening mode and sensing movement without draining the 2,200 mAh battery. It’s an innovative idea, smoothly executed. The Moto X runs on Android 4.4.2 and apart from some Motorola apps, is really all Google.

The camera on the Moto X has been a disappointment for many. But I’d submit that this will be the case only for those who are looking for evolved phone photography. For casual users, like the young girl with her cat, the camera is a piece of wizardry. The camera app is simplistic and upsets those who want to tinker with ISO and white balance and exposure, but is an intuitive one-hand operation for those who want to just take quick fun shots. The camera comes to life with a twist of the wrist, even when the screen is off. The lock screen is another innovation — touch the notification without unlocking to see what it’s all about.

The design is plain and premium. Minimal edges make the screen — which is great looking despite less than top-end pixel counts — stand out well. And all this is at a price that, so far, Indians have no quarrel with — Rs 23,999. 
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro
I’ve really liked the Galaxy Note series with its big screens and the smoothly functioning S-Pen, complete with its bag of tricks. But the Note Pro is a lot of Note — 12.2 inches of it, to be sure.

While browsing the web, looking at pictures, watching video and drawing with the S-Pen all turn out wonderful on that vast expanse of screen, the large landscape form has its drawbacks.  It is, after all, larger than the smaller notebooks and yet, has no attached keyboard. You’ll immediately want to pair it with an external Bluetooth keyboard — and then you have to consider how you want to carry the duo around, especially as there’s no stand to go with it to keep the screen up.

But it’s so very Samsung to bring devices out in all conceivable sizes, so if you don’t like one size, please opt for another. What we’ve got to figure out is who the Note Pro could be right for.

If your work involves laying a tablet flat on a surface and say, sketching, the Note Pro may suit you. Other specific work situations may call for it as well. The virtual keyboard is very good, but long-term, typing on glass is not as easy as typing on a real keyboard. Even while writing with the S-Pen, which is very accurate and easy, you have to rest your palm on the screen (thankfully it handles that fine) which again means putting the tablet down flat. The Note Pro is just not made to be held in one hand and even holding in two hands and say browsing or watching something gets tiring very soon. Reading a book on it is almost unthinkable. On the other hand, if you rest it on your knees while reclining, browsing the net is gorgeous.

Apart from its form factor, the Note Pro is a powerful device with top notch specs and works really well. Two warnings though: it takes absolute ages to charge, and costs the earth.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 02-06-2014)