The battle of potential vs need: Moto X and the Samsung Galaxy S4

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The battle of potential vs need: Moto X and the Samsung Galaxy S4
Based on the various leaks and inside info that we had gotten over the past couple of months, we basically knew what to expect with the Motorola Moto X. We knew about the customization options, and the color choices. We essentially knew what to expect from the spec sheet. And, we even basically knew what the hardware itself would look like. It took longer for the software features to leak out, but soon enough we knew what to expect there as well. 

The overall picture that we were able to build from these various pieces led me to believe that Motorola (and by extension, Google) were truly focusing on the experience of the device rather than the straight out benchmark performance. But, now that Motorola has laid out its plan in its entirety, it seems to be that while that original idea I had was very close, it isn't completely accurate. Motorola and Google are definitely focusing on the experience, but it's hard to argue that HTC wasn't also focusing on the experience with the HTC One. The difference is that the Moto X is focused on what users need rather than what they might potentially want

It's a subtle difference, but one that has a profound impact across the device and the software. If you want to talk about a company that is overly obsessed with what users might potentially want, you have to look no farther than Samsung. Samsung's entire philosophy of hardware is to slap together as many variants of every device, at every size and price point, and assume that someone out there wants each one. On the software side of things, Samsung aims for the same kitchen sink approach, throwing in every feature that anyone could potentially want, and once again hope that at least one person will find use in the options. 

Motorola has taken more time to consider the options that are truly important to users, and focus on those aspects, even if it means you have to take away from somewhere else. Spec junkies may complain about the 720p display on the Moto X, but the reality is that very few people can actually see the difference between 720p and 1080p in the fine details, but almost everyone can see the difference the higher-res will make on your battery life and graphics performance, because pushing pixels is tough work on any GPU. 

And, looking deeper at the spec sheet, again many benchmark nerds will talk about the Galaxy S4 spec sheet and how it "blows away" the Moto X, and on paper it does. But, as I've said before: devices don't exist on paper, they exist in your hand. The Galaxy S4 spec sheet reads like an exercise in potential: "Wow, that's a great SoC. I hope that someday I find some software that can really take advantage of it..." Whereas the Moto X spec sheet reads like a need/have list: "Okay, I have always-on voice command, so I need a CPU to make that work without killing the battery." And, contrary to popular belief, the Moto X Snapdragon S4 Pro is not "last year's hardware", but far closer to a customized Snapdragon 600. This is still top-shelf hardware, just not bleeding edge. If you are a benchmark elitist, you should keep in mind that the Moto X does beat the S4 on GPU tests and various browser tests. 

Similarly, a couple of the multitude of photo options found in the Galaxy S4 may be really useful on a day-to-day basis, but rather than that, Motorola has decided to focus on a much more pressing issue: how quickly you can get your camera app open and ready to go. Now sure, it would have been better for the device to simply have a dedicated camera button that could wake the device straight into the camera, like you can in Windows Phone; but, we understand the desire to find a different (albeit awkward) way to get the camera open quicker. 

The same goes for the variations on touchless controls that you'll find in each device. In the Galaxy S4, you have gesture controls which essentially are only useful when your hands are dirty. If your hands are clean, there is literally no good reason to use gesture/hover controls over physically touching your touchscreen device. But, with the Moto X, the use case of touchless controls is suddenly expanded to any time that your hands are busy (or too lazy) to touch the device. And, the actions that you can perform will continue to grow as Google adds more and more voice commands to Google Now. It seems a lot more likely that I'll need to control my device without touching it to initiate a quick search, or set a calendar event, than I will to swipe through pictures. 

Lastly, on the hardware side of things, I've always said that there can be too much choice; and, Samsung has likely gone over that line. Right now, there are no fewer than eight different variants on the Samsung Galaxy S4 when you factor in the various CPU configurations, radio options, and models (Active, Mini & Zoom). The hardware differences between all of those can be subtle and confusing to customers who don't want to get into benchmarks and GPUs and such. On the other hand, there is one Moto X, but you can change how it looks. Most everyone knows how to choose colors that they like, and pictures that they like, and that's really all you need to know to sort through the over 2000 different options on the Moto X. 2000 sounds like a big number, but the number quickly drops when you rule out various colors that you don't like.

The ultimate goal from Motorola seems to be in designing a device that is as easy to "try-on" as a shirt that you find in a store. If you like it, you buy it; if not, you grab a different color. Overall, I really like the thought process that has gone into the Moto X, because it is often just as important to say "no" to features as it is to say "yes". I'm not sure that Samsung has really learned that lesson; and, Samsung won't learn that lesson unless the market demands it, which doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon. The Moto X may not be the device that spec nerds want, but it could very well be the device that many average users need; and, that's the kind of win that Motorola needs right now. 

Related phones

Moto X
  • Display 4.7" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 10 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, Dual-core, 1700 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB
  • Battery 2200 mAh(13h talk time)



1. mottykels

Posts: 387; Member since: May 15, 2013

No expandable memory No thanks :/

2. bigstrudel

Posts: 621; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

You do know in a few years you're not going to have any choice.

64. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

Wow....can you see the future ?

73. moroninc

Posts: 193; Member since: Jul 14, 2012

LOL like the guy who said ipod would die in 5 years after its launch.. british bloke

74. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

I am british :D

76. Kal-el

Posts: 96; Member since: Dec 14, 2012

this phone is not one that people of gotham needs....but the one they deserve

77. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

I swear to God this is exactly the first line I thought when I read that last line of the article !

5. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Get used to it. Phones with microSD card slots are a dying breed.

6. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

I wouldn't be surprised if the S5 went the route of unibody.

22. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

people have been saying this for along time, am not saying its not going to die on phones ever but dont think it will anytime soon, i can guarantee it will be available in phones in the next 2-3 years atleast and personally as long as a phone with a sd card exist i will always buy one.

35. Slammer

Posts: 1515; Member since: Jun 03, 2010

It's a dying breed because manufacturers are realizing the revenue they can make on making consumers come to a service center just for a stupid battery issue. So, they take that option away from us. One of the main reasons I switched to Samsung, is due to it offering the all important battery accessibility. Working around batteries all day, it really is amazing that more people don't realize how fickle and fragile batteries are. It is the weakest link of any phone regardless of brand, price or design. Recommendation for battery test and visual inspection on a phone should be 7-8 months. This assures that the battery hasn't started to swell or have internal anode and cathode wear. Panasonic is banking on a 40% revenue from service of phone batteries alone. They don't want consumers changing their own batteries. A typical phone battery has an average of 15-18 month life span before consumers notice degradation. Out of manufacturer warranty, a consumer not being able to purchase their own batteries anymore, is forced to pay higher than normal replacement costs. Service centers make a killing and so do the manufacturers controlling the battery marketshare. Batteries are a huge business and the industry is going to find yet another reason to pick our pockets. If you don't care about higher prices, then supporting the companies that don't offer removable batteries, is playing into the game plan. John B.

58. g2a5b0e unregistered

I made a post very similar to this when the HTC One came out. Couldn't agree more.

42. jdoee100

Posts: 334; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

No, in android world, phones without SD card slots are dying breed. Phones with SD card slots(samsung phones, and other phones) rule in android space.

62. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

In the real world consumer is king. And they wonder why Samsung captured more than 50% Android market. Every Samsung phone and tablet has microSD slot plus they also sell premium microSD card with the fastest read and write speed.

75. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Samsung captured more than 50% of the Android market because they flooded it with dozens of products and marketed some of them like crazy. The fact that those products have microSD card support is mostly irrelevant. If what you're saying is true, then Apple would have no market share because none of their products have microSD card support, but every new iPhone that comes out massively outsells the leading Galaxy S handset. The majority of people I know that have phones with microSD card support (mostly Samsung/Motorola devices) don't even know they're there. You don't know how many times I've heard people complain about losing their pictures when upgrading, when their previous phone and new phone both had a microSD card slot, and then I had to explain it to them.

61. AwesomestMaximuss

Posts: 148; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

No..expandable memory is never gonna we r moving towards future we r needing more and more storage..there was a tym when a 40 gb hdd on my pc was too much..and now evn 2 TB is not enough..and external memory ll always be cheaper than the built in ssd's...and the new external cards r evn faster than the internal memory..we ll always need expandable storage cuz we ll always b running out of space(with 4k resolution videos,large pic sizes and the amount of data we hv on phones these days,probability is very high)..if mobile devices aim to evn come close to what desktops r today they ll definitely need external expandable storage..micro sd cards with evn larger memory ll be coming out soon(120GB)..

83. juandante

Posts: 679; Member since: Apr 23, 2013

Well not a all. If iPhone was a completely new phone is 2013 it wouldn't sell. iPhone is selling well, at least until iPhone 5 because people have a good image of it, as it was revolutionary in 2007. It's more like nostalgia if people buy it now, not for it's specs like absence of MicroSD. As you can see now that Samsung phones and Android are as good and better than iOS, iPhone sales are dying and I'm sure if the iPhone 5S or 6 will be out it will not sell as good as the previous if they keep the same old closed specs. Even on iOS 7, you see they try to update things because they know that people now forget 2007 and Android has catch up iOS, without the limitations (same for iPhone and Galaxy S4, One, Z, etc.)

63. Just.Me

Posts: 23; Member since: Apr 24, 2013

It may be true, But, By the time microSD cards slots die out in a phone, We should see phones with well over 120GB internal storage. When that happens, We won't need the external microSD Card on a phone anymore

70. AwesomestMaximuss

Posts: 148; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

Oh u ll still need i said earlier we r always running out of storage space...there ll never be anything like too much space..

20. mi55u unregistered

Sadly agree, what I see about moto x is that the device is not potential and not our need as well... But Samsung deliver that, always care for their customer and provide best service as well.. I feel sorry to moto, but kudos to Samsung

3. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Between the two...i'd take the X. "Moto Make" it to a look that'll hardly be opted for. As far as i can say, i think the software and OS flow within this device will be smooth since Google has an important hand over the make. Even if the hardware isn't on top, or somewhere close, i'd take it anytime if it provides me with a lag or freeze-free experience.

8. daddysbeenabadgirl

Posts: 157; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

Im not sure what older model phone you have now but my Note 2 never freezes or lags much less an S4. Most of that was eliminated with project butter.

12. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

"Most of it" happens, not very often but what if all those can be eliminated? Won't that be great. By the way, i don't have Note II but i tried playing Temple Run 2 and i experienced freezes and frame drops.

13. Robes1

Posts: 17; Member since: Dec 08, 2009

I actually returned an S4 because of the lag. It's real and it's terrible! Sometimes I would click on a field to type and took 6-7 seconds for the keyboard to pop up on the screen. The HTC One didn't have that problems though.

23. kozza3

Posts: 778; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

i wonder how the GE S4 compares...

31. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

For that, i'd refer you back to the review of both versions. Play edition scored higher...maybe it was smoother than the UX.

59. g2a5b0e unregistered

Completely untrue. The GE versions of both the S4 & the One received the same score as the original versions. 9.3 & 9.1, respectively.

24. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

ive had the s4 from day one, and its true there use to be lag/stutters mainly in the animations but honestly its not been bad like some people go on like as if it was totally unusable..was it annoying, yes because the hardware of the phone should have meant it wasnt laggy but i personally never had so much lag that i couldnt use it..thankfully the lag is pretty much a non issue since the latest app2sd firmware and for whatever reason samsung released the s4 with poorly written firmware which is why it was docked points in many reviews. agree with you the htc one is super slick from day one, my brother has it and it is a great phone but for me the s4 is the better device mainly due to the sd card and imo the camera is also better.

28. papss unregistered

Um the s4 has known lag issues. Project Butter didn't do a thing against the bloatware SS added

54. sniper1087

Posts: 537; Member since: Dec 31, 2011

the main thing that people dont realize and only look at CPU is the 2 additional cores that have context computing and and language processing might improve performance, at least Im still positive this is the way phones should be cater to the users, by them picking how to build them just like PCs.

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