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The bigger, better smartphone you should be excited about

The bigger, better smartphone you should be excited about

This week, the Internet hype machine was all about Apple. The iPhone 6 announcement dominated newspapers, Facebook feeds and tech blogs. I even live-blogged the event!

But something got lost in all the noise. Just four days earlier, Motorola unveiled a new smartphone that matches or beats the iPhone 6 on almost every benchmark: the Moto X.

Last year, Motorola released the first generation Moto X smartphone to rave reviews. It was a mid-tier phone that performed like a contender. That's because instead of going to war with Apple and Samsung in a battle for the best technical specifications, the Moto X was focused on user experience above all else.

Despite beastly hardware, the Samsung Galaxy phones have tended to suffer from software bloat. Some gimmicky features and flashy interfaces can slow down the phone and use up memory. Even Apple has been guilty of out-thinking the end user.

The first generation Moto X didn't sell nearly as well as Motorola had hoped, despite almost universally positive reviews. That may have contributed to Google's decision to sell Motorola's phone division to Chinese laptop manufacturer Lenovo.

This year's new Moto X could be Motorola's last big project before the sale goes through. If so, Google is going out with a bang, because the second generation Moto X looks awesome.

The new Moto X isn't a mid-tier phone anymore. It's now Motorola's flagship phone, and it has the power to back it up. It's faster than last year's model with a sharp HD screen and now it has a 13MP camera too. The new iPhone 6 is still stuck at 8MP.

This year's Moto X joins Apple in following the trend of bigger phones. It's up from 4.7 inches to 5.2. The good news for folks with smaller hands is that the new Moto X still feels smaller than some of the behemoth Android "phablets" on the market.

Motorola mounted the speakers on the front of the phone, which makes so much sense considering that phones are used to play games and watch videos these days. Plus the camera has a cool "ring flash" feature for better photo lighting.

As far as software, the main draw of the Moto X is that it ships with stock Android. There are no clumsy, inefficient skins or extras bogging down your performance. The software bonuses you do get are actually pretty cool, but you're not forced into using them.

For example, last year's Moto X had a cool voice interface that let you control your phone without ever having to touch it. That's back and better than ever. Now you don't have to say "Ok Google Now." You can wake your phone up with any phrase like "talk to me, Goose," or "Hello, Dolly." You can even come up with a unique name for your phone.

The Moto X will ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, but because it runs stock Android, it can update to the upcoming Android L almost instantly. With Android L's focus on battery life, that means the Moto X's already respectable 2300 mAh battery should only last longer.

One of the most intriguing things about Moto X is the Moto Maker. Last year's Moto X was highly customizable, and this year's is even better. When you use Motorola's website to order your Moto X, you'll have thousands of combinations of color and material to personalize your phone.

There are 25 back finishes, including leather and wood, dozens of accent trims, multiple kinds of material and more. You can even have your name laser-etched into the phone.

Your phone is one of the most personal things you own. It makes sense that you should be able to make it uniquely yours.

But that's not even the coolest thing. The Moto X will start at $99 on contract - $100 less than a starter iPhone 6. Considering the Moto X surpasses it in several ways, that's pretty attractive.

The Moto X will be available sometime this month on Verizon, AT&T and US Cellular, with the other major carriers soon to follow. You'll also be able to purchase an unlocked version for $500.

Click here to use my buying guide to help you find the right smartphone for you.

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