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IRL: Testing the Moto X on Canada's Rogers network

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

After a two-week hiatus, we're back -- and we've got some new banner artwork in tow (don't all thank us at once, now). During that time, too, resident phone collector Jon Fingas has been testing the Moto X on Rogers in Canada. Turns out, he likes it, even if he can't deck it on Moto Maker.

Moto X on Rogers

IRL Testing the Moto X on Canada's Rogers networkThe best Moto X experience is clearly in the US, where Moto Maker customization is an option and made-in-the-USA pride adds to the smartphone's value. But what is it like to use the plain-jane device in Canada? I felt I had to give Rogers' version of the Moto X a spin to see if Motorola's handset could stand purely on its technical merits.

It really does -- most of the time, anyway. Active Display is one of the most convenient software features I've seen in years. You don't have to unlock the smartphone just to check a notification, and when you do, it's a lot faster than on many other phones. I don't find Touchless Control as useful from day to day given its occasional slowness, but there's an undeniable appeal to issuing Star Trek-like voice commands. And the performance is just fine, thank you. The fast graphics and near-stock Android interface provide an exceptional responsiveness that you don't get out of some quad-core rivals.

Dare I also say that the form factor is nearly ideal? And that's not hyperbole, either. The Moto X is one of the most comfortable mobile devices I've ever held, and it's one of the few 4.7-inch smartphones that's easy to use one-handed. I wish I could present the phone to Apple, HTC and other manufacturers: this is precisely how you're supposed to increase screen size without compromising usability.

I'll admit that the camera nearly spoils the experience, though. While the capture software is fast and simple, the image quality (pre-update, at least) is subpar. It's hard to get a truly good shot with the Moto X unless you have ideal shooting circumstances, which are rare; photos tend to be either dull, noisy or both. The phone is still excellent on the balance, but those who prize camera performance will want to consider the Lumia 1020, iPhone 5s or (in certain cases) HTC One. However, you're also getting largely what you pay for in Canada -- Rogers is asking $150 on contract for the Moto X, which is just about right for a device that's not quite as advanced as some flagships.

-- Jon Fingas

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