As hard as it is to believe, we’re at that time of year where we’re playing with another new flagship smartphone from Motorola. For 2015 we’re looking at the Moto X Pure Edition, or the company’s most powerful Android to date.
Before heading into the review I figured it’s worth talking about the Moto X and where it fits in the world of Android. Although Motorola offers most of its handsets via carriers in standard color options, the Moto X can be built to order. Indeed, the Moto X Pure Edition, and some of its predecessors are sold direct to consumer and without a contract.
Like Google does with the Nexus, the Moto X Pure Edition is an unlocked smartphone which means it can be paired with most wireless providers. Also, like the Nexus family, this one is sold at a price that is a few hundred dollars less than its competitors. Prices for the Moto X Pure Edition start at $400; most top-tier phones are around $650 at launch.
For the second year in a row, Motorola offers the device via its Moto Maker tool, which allows for seemingly endless customization. Present again are the (four, textured) leather and (four) wood backs as well as a refreshed color palette of soft-grip backs. Choosing a premium material results in a slight price bump of $25.
Toss in customized metal accents and a choice of black or white around front and you have a phone that is uniquely yours. In other words, there’s a very low chance that you’ll ever run into someone in person who has the same configuration.
As it did for last year’s model, Motorola has opted to increase the size of its top-tier handset. What started out in 2013 as a very pocketable 4.7-inch display has grown to a 5.7-inch experience that plays on the same field as the Galaxy Note 5. And, whereas the first generation was a pleasure to use with one hand, this year’s model is rather cumbersome to operate in that manner.
For our customized Moto X Pure we went with White and Silver for the front with Lime on the back. The accent color we selected was Metallic Royal Blue. You’ll find the accent color around the rear camera lens on the speakers.
Suffice it say, we did suffer from some decision paralysis when it came to picking our combination. There were just too many designs to choose from and each looked classier or cooler than the next. Taking ours out of the box we were immediately impressed with the phone and found our color configuration mirrored that of the website. The green and blue colors were very accurate.
The first thing we noticed was simply how big the Moto X Pure Edition felt in hand. The general dimensions are in line with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 but the curved back gives it some extra thickness. Exact measurements will tell you this isn’t the case but it feels about twice as thick as the Samsung phone. Does it feel chubby or thick? No, but it’s just enough to make the one-hand operation more of a task than a convenience.
The soft-grip back is a nice touch and the texture adds a bit of character to the phone. But, do note that it also makes the Moto X Pure Edition a little more “slick” or slippery in hand. Motorola does include one of their protective bumpers in the box (ours was clear) however it adds a smidge of width to the experience. The bumper does protect the edges of the phone while, at the same time, letting you show off the color and character of your custom design.
As much as I enjoy the blue accent, I feel like Motorola could have included a little more. The volume rocker and power button would look great and really pop on the outer edge. Nevertheless, the speaker grille stands out nicely and the back simply looks cool. I wager to guess that just about any accent color would complement your front and back designs.
The Moto X Pure Edition is also considered a water-repellent phone. While it won’t allow for dips in the pool the nano-coating protects you from life’s splashes. Rain and accidental spills aren’t going to present a problem with this phone like they might for another brand.
Coming it at 5.7-inches, the screen resolution for the Moto X Pure Edition is 2560 x 1440 pixels, or 520 pixels per inch. It keeps pace with other flagship models of the day and is up from last year’s 1920 x 1080 pixel (5.2-inch) screen. Motorola opted to switch from AMOLED to LCD for this model but most users won’t know the difference in the technologies. You’ll still get your Moto Display feature (see below) and the picture is as crisp as other models which offer the same resolution.
We didn’t notice it right away but the screen isn’t as dark black when you get your notifications. When we compared it to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ we saw that the black was more in line with a really dark grey. On its own, however, it doesn’t have this effect. The general, day-to-day stuff didn’t bother us, especially when we spend most of our time with the phone in daylight conditions.
Along these lines we noticed what felt like an ever-so-slight washed out appearance to colors – but only when we held it up to another phone. And, really, discussing it makes it sound worse than it really is.
The photo you see here is the phone on its highest brightness in a full sunny sky. You can definitely use it outdoors and without too much hassle.
One of the things I love most about the cameras in Moto X models is its intention. Specifically, I really appreciate that no matter what I am doing, I can twist the phone twice to open the camera. Moreover, I like the simple approach to snapping pictures and moving right along. The problem I ran into in the past, is that the software was more impressive in theory than in practice.
No matter how innovative or effective the camera app was, I didn’t always love the photos. It didn’t help that the simple “tap anywhere on the screen” to capture resulted in a lot of blurry or unwanted images. Ultimately, I resorted to third party apps for the camera in the previous two Moto X models. That has not been the case for this year’s device.
The Moto X Pure Edition lets users take photos in either 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratios with resolution up to 21-megapixels. Yes, the same mechanics are at play here so I am getting the occasional picture of the inside of my hand.
[blockquote author=””]There’s just something really cool and convenient about waving your hand over the display for notifications.[/blockquote]
It’s hard to argue with the quality of the photos taken with the Moto X Pure Edition, particularly when you consider the price. You get plenty of detail in the pictures and colors are accurate. Low-light is sometimes a crap shoot with varying results, but it’s a more impressive camera than in previous models.
As for video, the phone provides up to 4K video but you’ll want to add a microSD card and steady the camera on something. But, even the 1080p stuff looks sharp when we played back on a TV. Sound could definitely be better, but it’s not outright terrible. We’ll still use this for social media videos and for times where we don’t have a proper camera with us.
One of the key selling points in the Moto X line is that it’s a nearly stock Android software experience. What this means to customers is that it’s not loaded with a bunch of apps and services that you’re likely to ignore. And, perhaps more importantly, it means timely software updates to pick up the latest from Google. It’s as close to a Nexus phone as you’ll get.
This is not to say Motorola doesn’t put its own touch on the phone. Indeed, there are a couple of apps designed to enhance the user experience. Do they? You bet! On the other hand, there are a few Google apps that were left off for this year’s model: Google+, Google Play Books, Games, Newsstand, and Keep are among those that didn’t make the cut.
Whenever we switch from using a Moto X to another brand the first thing we miss is the Moto Display. It’s one of our favorite innovations in smartphones and is something we’d love to see employed elsewhere. But, for now, it helps to make Motorola’s flagship device all the more appealing.
If you’re not familiar with Moto Display, it’s the feature that lets users simply wave a hand over the screen to see notifications. Maybe you just wanna glance at the time and aren’t wearing a watch. Same thing. Swipe the hand a few inches over the phone and it pops right up.
Other software features present include Moto Assist which lets you customize actions based on location or activities. Chop twice for flashlight does just that – chop your phone like you would on an invisible cutting board and the phone vibrates twice and turns on the flashlight. Do it again to turn off. Also present is the twist twice for camera launching and Moto Gallery.
At 3000mAh, the battery promises “all-day” usage with some left over. Is that the case? For us, in the first few weeks, yes.
We tend to hit the phones with a lot in the first few days as we add our apps, change settings, and generally explore the device. Over time things settle a bit, but the early days are more demanding. So far we have been impressed with the battery.
While a lot of people complain about capacities and length of use, on aspect is often overlooked. How long does it take to charge the phone or get it to where we have breathing room for the rest of the night? The Moto X Pure Edition has TurboPower charging which promises 10 hours of battery life in only 15 minutes of charging.
Even if you do find the battery dropping down toward the end of the work day, the commute home should be all it takes to get you back on track. Juice it up while you eat dinner and you’re ready for a full night on the town.
The Moto X Pure is a solid device any way you slice it. The specs are as impressive as you fill in most of 2015’s top smartphones, but at a fraction of the price. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor and 3GB RAM are more than enough for average users.
Heavy users expect to be blown away by every new smartphone release. If it were up to some, there would be no entry-level or mid-range device. Sadly, the mentality is all too often, “If you’re not pushing the envelope on all fronts then you’re doing it wrong.”
If you’re the type to scoff at a phone because it doesn’t employ the most cutting-edge processor, you should look elsewhere. But, if you’re the type who cares about having a powerful phone that handles anything you’ll throw at it for the next year or two, you would be wise to start here.
Motorola continues to impress us with its X line of phones. We love the idea of customization picking a phone that speaks directly to us. We love the $400 price tag. We love the stripped-down Android software experience.
Is this a flawless phone? No. We do find it a tad bigger than we’d like for a daily driver. The soft-grip is more slippery than we expected. The screen is sharp, but when compared to other models, isn’t quite as vibrant. And, if you’re looking for wireless charging, you won’t find it here. However, in trying to find negatives, some of them are personal preference and not design flaws or actual shortcomings.
While you might find other upstart and hungry companies treading into the $400 flagship space, you’re not going to beat Motorola at this game.