The Moto X is still rolling out to all corners of the (American) Android world, but the T-Mobile variant is getting an update that improves camera performance dramatically. The difference is noticeable in a variety of situations, most notably in backlit and low-light settings. Presumably the update will hit other Moto X variants once testing and certification is completed by the carriers.

sm1-NotUpdated sm1-Updated

Low light – left: not updated, right: updated

The Moto X uses a fairly large sensor with 1.4µm pixels with an RGBC color array and F/2.4 aperture. It should take great snapshots, but the initial software seems to produce images with odd white levels and washed out colors with too much noise reduction. The update improves all that – the exposure is more accurate, white balance is less touchy, and the noise reduction doesn't blot out details.

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Outdoors – left: not updated, right: updated

It's telling the T-Mobile version of the Moto X is the first to get the update. The carrier isn't selling the device in stores, preferring to leave that up to Motorola. So it's a $600 unsubsidized purchase if you want in. The magenta carrier seems uninvolved in the software update process, but other carriers are likely taking a look at the update before it rolls out.

Update: Motorola just posted the changelog for the update to build 139.12.57, and it includes a number of improvements beyond the camera. The changelog only lists T-Mobile users for now, and says the update can be downloaded through the device update menu (I'll believe it when I see it). Here's the full feature list:

  • Camera – Improved Photo Quality: Improved capture of natural light (auto-white balance) and color accuracy for more precise exposure in outdoor and backlit scenes
  • Camera – Improved Focus: Faster touch to focus time and reduced unnecessary refocusing in low light conditions and scenes with continuous motion
  • Camera – Faster Switching: Shortened the time it takes to switch between rear and front-facing cameras, as well as transition between the viewfinder and the Gallery app
  • Enhanced Touchless Control: Increased accuracy and responsiveness when using Touchless Control, and added easier training of the “OK Google Now” trigger
  • Improved Motorola Migrate Experience: Improved transfer of content from an old Android phone to a new Motorola phone
  • Google Drive – 50GB Promotion: Added a promotion expiration date - customers have 30 days from phone activation or installation of this update to redeem the 50GB offer
  • Calling – Improved Voice Quality: Fixed an issue that could sometimes result in choppy audio being heard by the person you’re talking with on your Moto X
  • Moto Care – Lost Device Finder: Fixed an issue that could sometimes prevent a lost phone from reporting its location to the Moto Care Lost Device Finder service
  • Motorola Assist – Driving Detection: Fixed an issue that could sometimes cause the phone to read out text messages and announce calls when not in Drive mode

[AnandTech, Motorola]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play.

  • Katy Brown

    Wow, that's a really substantial improvement. Nice going Moto!

  • mlj11

    Looks like the update's made noise more apparent in low light... maybe because it now increases the exposure. There's a definite improvement in the outdoors shot though.

    I know Moto's not making the Nexus 5, but this makes want to set my expectations very low for its camera :(

    Wonder when (or whether?) we'll see Google deliver on Vic Gundotra's promise that Nexus cameras will be "insanely good".

    • Dave Chappelle

      I'm sorry, but the Camera on the Moto X is very low quality. I wouldn't want it anywhere near the Nexus 5. I would rather LG make the Camera than Moto.

      I'm not saying the Moto X camera is super bad, but it's not something to really boast about to other people. HTC, Samsung, & Even LG latest phones have better camera's that the Moto X in my opinion.

      • Casin

        The camera is not low quality. The software just wasn't optimized for the new RGBC layout. Now it's a lot more optimized.

        • Dave Chappelle

          Well, if that is true than Android Police has provided some low quality pictures. The picture AP has provided shows that the color of the picture's are good, but the photo's still has a lot of Noise shown, and the photo's depth of detail isn't really that good either.

          If the quality of the photo's are good, than I retract my statement, but if the photo's AP has posted represent the best quality the Moto X can take than I stand by my statement.

          • Gnex

            Droid life compared the updated Moto X camera to the G2 and GS4.

          • porter86

            Agreed. Not sure why people are trying to defend this camera. It's poor. And the indoor shot actually looks worse in the 'updated' picture.

          • Kurt Caldwell

            go on droid life they have way better quality pictures of the improvement up there.

        • Mitch

          One 1 carrier !

  • Sam Hollis

    How this update plays out will be a major factor in my handset decision next upgrade.

  • MeCampbell30

    Too little, too late. All the reviews are out and the camera has been panned in the media. That's a rep that is going to be hard to run away from.

    • http://www.binarytuberculosis.com BinaryTB

      Exactly. The Moto X came out around the same time as the HTC One on Verizon, after the camera reviews, I went with the HTC One. I would've preferred the Moto X mainly because it's closer to stock Android than HTC Sense. Ah well, too late now.

  • Fozzybare

    can we get some APKs?

  • Dominic Powell

    Already got the update on mine... Its out there in the wild.

  • Mitch

    Other carriers should push this update fast as people are already staying away from this phone on comment boards everywhere because of the "dead" color reviews and other camera issues.

  • Qwerty

    I almost flipped my sh*t when I saw that book on modern optics. I have so many Dover publications books.