Most of the writers here at AndroidGuys change phones pretty regularly with the majority switching at least once a year. With my trusted Nexus 6, I probably have the oldest daily driver on the site as my device nears its second birthday. However, many smartphone users are not able to upgrade their phones as often as tech reviewers for reasons ranging from lack of funds to lack of interest.

After my friend broke his phone and rendered it basically useless, I found my original Moto X and lent it to him until he could get a new phone. Now, he has a new one, and the Moto X is back in my possession. This entire scenario made me wonder what it would be like to use a three-year-old phone as a daily driver. So I switched back to the Moto X for a week, and I am ready to share my experience. 

The Phone

The original Moto X was small when it came out 3 years ago, and today, it seems even smaller. Although the 4.7″ screen is identical in size to the current iPhone 6s’, the size of the phone is only slightly larger than an iPhone 4s. I am still impressed every time I look at just how much screen Motorola packed into a chassis this small.

Moto X feat image (FILEminimizer)At 720p, the resolution of the Moto X is laughable compared to the 2K or even 4K displays found on most smartphones today, but at a relatively small screen size, the lower resolution is not as noticeable.

Okay, so the screen has held up alright. What about everything else? 

I have always loved the way the Moto X sits in your hand while you hold it. The smaller form factor coupled with the rounded back and small dimple below the camera make it extremely comfortable to hold even when you have big hands like me. That is something lost with later versions of the X line. Of course, not everything about the Moto X build is great.

The Moto X is unapologetically plastic, and that might not always be a good thing. Yes, it has kept the weight of the phone low (although a phone this size wouldn’t be that heavy anyway), but long term durability and appearance are a different story.

Moto X side (FILEminimizer)My Moto X has been heavily used, and it has the battle scars to prove it. There are cracks in the plastic along the sides of the phone along with a small piece missing, and the back of the phone is dirty and discolored (thanks in part to the white color). Most of this could be fixed with a phone skin, but the fact is that the plastic build of the Moto X hasn’t held up great over the years.

The Performance

Anyone familiar with the Android scene in 2013 remembers that the Moto X was a severe departure from the normal flagships of the time. While most companies were focused on competing with spec sheets, Motorola went an entirely different route and built the Moto X with a drive towards experience.

The Moto X comes with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 Pro SOC and 2GB of RAM. Yes, I said dual-core, but don’t let that fool you. The Moto X comes with a custom build natural language processor and a contextual awareness processor that brought along some distinct features. Any phone specifications from 2013 will be wildly outdated now, but even in 2013, the Moto X packed lower-end hardware than pretty much any other flagship.

Moto X Moto Display 2 (FILEminimizer)I knew that the Moto X 2013 would feel sluggish compared to today’s phones, but I was actually surprised by how well it held up to my daily tasks. Yes, there were, of course, some stutters and a little bit of lag when switching between several apps at once, but nothing that I thought made using the Moto X annoying or difficult. Opening apps was quick, swiping to type with Google Keyboard was fluid, and scrolling through social media and webpages was surprisingly smooth.

I attribute much of this performance to Motorola‘s nearly stock Android skin. The streamlined operating system looks as good today as it did when it came out. Moto did add some extra features to its Moto X, but they are well thought out and useful. The always listening assistant is still my favorite addition with the Moto X after all these years, and I think it is even done better than Google Now on its own.

A close second to the assistant is Moto Display, which we have seen used by other companies in more recent phones. This feature lights up the display when a notification comes in and allows you to interact with the notification without fully waking up your phone.

Moto X Lollipop (FILEminimizer)Unfortunately regardless of how stock the software may be, my AT&T branded Moto X is forever stuck at Android 5.1 Lollipop, which means that newer Android features and fixes will not be seen on this phone. I would love to see how well it would perform running the newest version of Android. The curse of buying any phone that isn’t a Nexus…

You didn’t find any problems with the Moto X at all? How much did Motorola pay for this write-up!?

Oh, don’t worry. The Moto X definitely has some problems. One of the annoying bugs that I ran across was that sometimes YouTube videos would just not play. Everything would load and the first frame would be there, but the video itself was just frozen. I thought this might be due to running an updated version of YouTube, but the experience was the same with the default version, too.

I also found that using the camera with the battery anywhere below 30% was grounds for the phone to power off. This happened regardless of whether you were using the camera app or another app like Snapchat. Ironically, you could power the phone back on and still have the same amount of battery left, but open the camera again and back off it goes! After a week with the Moto X, these are the only software bugs I would describe as annoying or frustrating.

Moto X battery (FILEminimizer)

Battery life is another stumbling block that has hindered the Moto X ever since it was announced. The 2200mAh battery was never enough to get the Moto X through a full day of heavy usage. Three years of battery decay later and the Moto X suffers just as much. I could usually get about 2 to 2.5 hours of screen time with the Moto X before it starts begging to be plugged in.

Just like when it came out, the Moto X will not be winning any benchmarking awards. But I was surprised with the performance it showed. Basic tasks were done fairly smoothly with only an occasional stutter or lag. As expected, there are some weird bugs popping up and battery life still suffers, but none were bad enough to fully ruin the experience.

 The Camera

If any of you have ever owned a Moto X, then you should know exactly what I am about to say. The camera is not good…at all. Even when it was first released, camera quality was probably the biggest complaint talked about by reviewers. Detail is poor, low light is non-existent, and overall image quality is just bad. I’d love to say that software updates fixed those problems, but that is not the case.

Moto X camera (FILEminimizer)The Moto X comes with a feature that allows the camera to be launched “quickly” with a double twist of your wrist, and while it did launch fairly fast in 2013, the speed would be considered slow today. I wish I had something good to say about the Moto X’s camera, but it wasn’t good when it came out and hasn’t aged well, either.

Conclusion

So I’ve used the three-year-old Moto X for a week, I must be dying to get back to a newer phone, right? Actually, that’s not fully true. Yes, I miss the bigger screens and better cameras of newer smartphones, but returning to the Moto X helped me remember why I call it my favorite phone of all time.

Even after three years, it is a pretty quick phone. The software is still some of the best available (I’d really be missing this if I wasn’t going back to a Nexus), and Moto’s added features like the always-listening assistant are still as convenient as ever. Its size is wonderful for those looking for a smaller phone but still want a decent screen size, and the comfortableness of it in the hand is unmatched.

Problems are abound on both the hardware and software fronts, but I can say with confidence that the original Moto X is still capable enough to serve as a daily driver in 2016. And that’s pretty high praise for a phone over three years old.

Are you currently using an older phone? And if so, how is it holding up? Let us know in the comments below!

  • robolife

    So true, the features you mentioned are key features to me. I have not been able to find a phone with those even from motorola (without other compromises):
    1. Curved back design (which is so convenient for holding, even when on table, can give a little nudge for active display)
    2. Plastic body- yes holds up much better than all metal bodies.
    3. Active display – this.this. can’t live without it. no implementation including google’s ambient display comes anywhere near. They took it from Nokia Glance and made it so much better.
    4. Always on listening – it’s so well trained to my voice. my reminders, alarms, navigation, music everything happens through it. again, nothing to replace this (i’ve heard 6p may have but never tried.)
    5. AMOLED screen – 720p yes but an AMOLED.

    All I would hope from a Moto X 2016 (if at all there is one) would be:
    1. 5.1inch 1080p or 2K AMOLED screen
    2. Downfiring speaker
    3. Curved back
    4. Front fingerprint scanner which works as home button
    5. Same active display and voice detection
    6. 3000mAh battery
    7. Obviously good processor and RAM like industry trend

  • Tapas Chand

    I have been using moto x 2013 for more than 2.5 years now. Whatever observations you have provided are spot on.
    By nature I am not a heavy user, just moderate user. So never had any complaint except for the youtube problem.
    One more thing I did notice in moto x.
    Before lollipop update active display was working with proximity censor, i.e., time was displayed when I waived my hand over the proximity censor. But this was disabled with lollipop. Now I have to grab the phone to enable active display.

    If I will buy a new phone in near future, it is not because any issue with current phone, but because I want to feel new android nougat.

  • Dakoda Koziol

    I’m still using the phone, and I love it! I do notice YouTube issues though. Also, Moto Voice is pretty slow since all it does is send your query to Google Now, and Motorola disabled ok Google everywhere even when Moto is disabled. So I have to use it.
    It’s the gestures that make this phone great. Double twist camera is great, I wish that I had the double chop flashlight. I even love Moto Voices always listening feature, I just don’t like Moto Voice. Do any Nexus phones have those 3 features?

    • Henry

      Nope. Not all three of them, at least. Nexus phones do have a quick access camera feature by double-tapping the power button that is quick.

  • haasbat

    I lost my first 2013 Moto X (wooden back) a year and a half ago. I could not abide any other phones at that time, so I lucked out and found an original 2013 Moto X at Best Buy. Still loving it. I have high hopes for the Moto M coming out, but if not I’m okay with this one. Only problem is RAM management and the reduced storage of the Best Buy version. I deal with the camera okay, I backup pics to Google photos constantly, when I’m out all day I take a battery backup. More than once I’ve had people remark on the size and niceness of it. They don’t believe it’s a 2013 model. I’m pleased and only wish i just had a more spritely processor, faster camera, and better modern. I don’t even mind 720p. Love my MOTO!!

  • tombetz

    I stopped using my Develloper Edition Moto X shortly after I bought my wife a Google Fi Nexus 6P and fell in love with it, bought one for myself. I keep the Moto at my office, and use it as a music player, a job it does nicely.

    • Henry

      The 6P is a beauty of a phone! No shame in upgrading especially when you’re going for Project Fi

  • Kris

    I still use my 2013 Moto X daily. I had to install a custom ROM to breath new life into it, but it’s still holding up well. Not sure when I’ll upgrade, but not looking anytime soon.

    • Henry

      I’m probably going to install a ROM on mine as well. But I thought the post would have more validity if it was approached from a fully stock perspective.

    • Tim

      Which ROM did you install?

      Are there any bugs? Is performance better than on Lollipop? What about battery life?

      Also, when you install a custom ROM, do you still get normal app updates from the Google Play Store? How about OS security patches?

      I appreciate your time and assistance!

  • HumeV

    I’m more than happy with my Moto X after 2 1/2 years for all the reasons you mention. I haven’t been able to locate a source for a fresh replacement battery for when I need one; the only ones available seem to have 2013 date codes. Anyone have an answer? BTW, I find the camera perfectly serviceable for casual shots; in fact the exposure adjustment is quite flexible, and the twisto-presto activation is great.

    • Tim

      What do you mean by 2013 date codes and why is that important? If the battery was made in 2013 and never used, would it still be good today? I’m guessing there will be battery capacity loss since it was sitting on a shelf for 3-4 years. Is that what you are concerned about? Have you found a new replacement battery? How do you find the date of manufacture for the battery?

      Also, I found a store that said they would be able to replace my Moto X battery with a new, genuine battery. Do you think this is for real? Or maybe the battery is real, but it’s been sitting on a shelf for 3-4 years?

      I appreciate your time! Sorry for all the questions.

  • Allison adz

    I recently updated from the og moto x to an s7. The always on display on s7 is close… But not quite. And I would’ve updated sooner if there was ANYTHING on the market that was as small as moto x. The one handed feature on the s7 isn’t too great, so I’m stuck trying to get my thumb all the way across the screen. It was definitely a unique experience, between the blatant disregard for specs, the customization, and that handy little dip on the back. I hope that someone picks up the GooglexMotorola innovation, because I need a smaller phone 😁

    • Henry

      I hear you on that! Hoping for a revitalization of my beloved Moto X, but it’s not looking great so far. Fingers crossed!

    • flutefreak7

      I also just upgraded last week from a 2013 Moto X to an S7! I’m definitely enjoying the performance, fingerprint scanner, nice camera, etc, but miss the pure Android and Motorola’s active display that you could actually interact with.

  • Ben Butler

    Using my 2013 Moto X Developer’s Edition with a custom ROM (the Nexus Experience, AOSP-based) to read this article. I literally use it all day every day, and don’t plan to upgrade. I simply haven’t found a better phone.

  • ellett

    My wife is still using her 2013 Moto X and doesn’t want to update. It’s the perfect size for her hand, still runs smoothly and has an exceptionally large screen for a phone its size. She can’t find anything current that fits her needs as well.

  • Joe T.

    I’m typing this on my 2 1/2 year old bamboo Moto X. My battery life is still good. I’ve been thinking about replacing it, but I don’t think I’ll find something that feels so comfortable in my hand. And I don’t ever want to give up active notifications, or especially the always-listening voice assistant–mine is trained to respond to “Hello Miss Moneypenny.”

  • errsta

    The original Moto X is not the most powerful phone I’ve ever owned, but in the context of WHEN it came out, it is my favorite Android phone ever. Google/Motorola briefly excused themselves from benchmark pissing contests and put together an excellent user experience. I didn’t mind the plastic as that phone took more abuse from me than any phone should ever tolerate. It stood up like a champ. Before this phone, I would buy Nexus phones, I’ve been on Moto X ever since. The newer generations beefed up the specs (and grew to unwieldy proportions), but the original still “got it right” more than the two that have followed (so far)

  • Zach

    I’m still using the Moto X 2014 and I still love it

  • eltano06

    you should try a new battery and cm13 on the moto x