Have a look out your window. Do you see it? It’s a full fledged, $400 smartphone war out there, and the battle is fucking intense.
Luckily, as consumers, we need only sit back, relax and watch the bloody carnage unfold.
Regardless of whether or not you have a dog in this fight, every company has the same goal in mind. Gaining your business. Striking at the heart of affordability and premium features, 2015’s $400 smartphone class is setting a precedent for things to come. A high quality smartphone doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.
If you’re a manufacturer selling a 16GB phone for over $600 in today’s market, you’d better have a really good fucking reason, and/or sport some killer specs & features. Excluding Apple (no competition coming from another Apple manufacturer), the flagship as we know it, may soon be a thing of the past.
Most people that buy premium Android phones, either buy them via subsidized contract or payment plan. Not many people are willing or able to shell-out $600-1,000 to buy a phone every year. Luckily buying off-contract, unlocked, modestly priced smartphones is finally starting to take off, and is generally accepted by most carriers.
Enter the Moto X Pure Edition. Motorola’s soldier in the $400 smartphone war. Less than two months ago, Motorola announced their new phone lineup which included the Moto G, Moto X Play, and Moto X Pure Edition (aka Moto X Style outside of the US). They promised a $400 smartphone that lacked very few features found in today’s super phones, it sounded too good to be true, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t deliver.
|COLOR||White/Black, Customizable via Moto Maker|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT||153.9 x 76.2 x 6.1 to 11.06 mm - 179 grams|
|OPERATING SYSTEM||Android 5.1.1 “Lollipop”|
|CPU||1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 MSM8992|
|STORAGE||16GB/32GB/64GB + supports microSD (up to 128GB)|
|BATTERY||3,000mAh + TurboPower 25 Fast Charging|
|CONNECTIVITY ||UMTS GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (800, 850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz)
4G LTE (B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 25, 28, 40, 41)
CDMA (800, 850, 1900 MHz)
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/g/b/n/ac + MIMO
Bluetooth: Bluetooth Version 4.1 LE
Positioning: Internal GPS antenna|
|PORTS||Ports Data & Charging: Micro USB, 3.5 mm headset jack
Buttons: Power Button, Volume Rockers, On-screen buttons
SIM: Nano SIM|
|DISPLAY||Size: 5.7 inch 1440p Quad HD (1440 x 2560) 520 ppi
Type: TFT LCD Corning Gorilla Glass 3|
|CAMERAS||Rear: 21 Megapixel Phase Detect Auto-Focus (PDAF), No OIS f/2.0, Flash
Front 5.0 Megapixel with flash|
|AUDIO||Speakers: Front-facing Stereo speakers with Smartboost
Microphones: Dual-microphone with noise cancellation|
SIZE, BUILD QUALITY, & DESIGN SHIT
The Moto X Pure is exactly what I was hoping the Nexus 6 would have been. They share many of the same design characteristics, but the Moto X is actually manageable. The Nexus 6 was a fat fucking whale, for better or for worse, it was BIG bitch. It was easily the biggest phone I have ever held, and it’s size was it’s biggest undoing (for me). Luckily, the Moto X Pure gets it just right. It sports a 76% screen to body ratio, which puts it near the very top in that particular measurable. But the phone doesn’t feel unwieldy.
If you are coming from a phone with a 5.2+ inch screen, I don’t imagine the transition will be all that difficult. For comparisons sake, let’s say you are coming from a OnePlus One, you will notice virtually no difference in size (it’s a measly .30mm wider and 1.0mm taller), but you will gain an extra .2 inches of screen real estate. It’s a bit thicker than most flagship devices, but the curved back makes it seem thinner than it actually is. But it’s still very comfortable to hold. One final size comparison, it’s smaller (width & height) than the iPhone 6S Plus that features a 5.5″ screen, vs the 5.7″ screen found in the Moto X Pure.
The Moto X Pure and OnePlus 2 are basically the same size.
Build Quality & Design
You would think that a $400 phone would need to sacrifice something (build quality and materials are often the most expendable) to keep the price down, right? Fuck no you dont. It certainly doesn’t appear to be the case with the Pure. The Moto X Pure’s build quality easily exceeds that of any other generation of Moto X, and the Nexus 6.
A level of quality you usually only expect from true flagship phones.
Taking a walk around the device, everything feels solid, smooth, and precise. A level of quality you usually only expect from true flagship phones. It has a nice weight to it and is as sturdy as a fucking tank. The entire phone is encased in a precision machined metal frame that, once again, feels better than it should at this price point. The rear camera housing and Motorola’s signature dimple are encased in the same metal material. Overall, the design is elegant, sexy, and precise, another strong iteration of the Moto X family.
Turning our attention to the front of the phone, there is one thing that sticks out to me. I think we’re all used to the double speaker grills by now, love em or hate em, you’re stuck with em for now. Personally I don’t mind them at all. They make for really nice customization features, especially since you can tweak the color via Moto Maker (see below). But the speaker grill isn’t what bothers me, it’s the stupid fucking selfie camera flash that really grinds my gears. It’s an eyesore, it breaks up the continuity of the front of the phone. It’s totally unnecessary (for me personally), there are plenty of other ways you could brighten up your stupid shit eatin grin.
And now here’s Ollie Williams with the blackie weather forecast.
The power and volume buttons have a nice tactile feel. The power button has a rough finish to make it easier to find vs the volume buttons. The buttons have satisfying click to them, even though the power button requires a bit too much force to push (yeah, I am being picky). Also, something else with the power button that I am not a fan of. If you press down while near the top of the button, you can get a click without the button registering anything. The solution is to simply press harder, not a big deal, but annoying. Hopefully a tap to wake update is in the works, then we wont need to worry about the power button.
One of the things that separates the Moto family of phones from the rest of the pack is Moto Maker. Moto Maker gives consumers the option to customize their phone before they purchase it, and they are the only one in the biz that gives us true customization. I’m not taking about swapping backs and face plates, but rather the ability to truly make the phone your own. You can change up the accent colors, the color of the front frame bezels, the metal frame, the storage size, the back plate, and you can even get it custom engraved. There are thousands of possible combinations. You will probably never see another Moto X like yours in public.
Our device came with the soft grip material installed on the back. The soft grip feels great in the hand and provides plenty of grip. It also looks pretty cool. It’s definitely not something you see everyday.
The $400 price point is for the base model only, 16GB with Soft Grip backing. The more storage you add (up to 64GB), and the more extravagant you get with your backing material, the more expensive your Moto X will be. But the max your X will cost is $524, still cheaper than every other flagship out there with comparable specs.
Moto Maker makes your Moto X Pure truly unique.
Just to add a little icing on the cake, did I mention that the Moto X Pure is also water resistant? NOT waterproof, know the difference. That’s right, it features a (fancy schmancy) water repellent nano-coating (IP52 certified, dust & minor water protection) that makes in virtually impervious to liquid spills and splashes (not immersion). If you’re the kind of person that always seems to drop their phone into the toilet, have no fear. Your dignity will be lost, but you phone will probably be okay. But wouldn’t go so far as to take it swimming, nor would I use it for underwater photography. It’s not certified for such uses, but at least you don’t need to worry about spills and splashes.
SOFTWARE AND PERFORMANCE
If you are an Android purist, you’re in luck. Aside from owning a Nexus device, the Moto X Pure is as close to stock Android 5.1.1 Lollipop as you are gonna get. Unlike the Samsung’s and LG’s of the world, Motorola has left Android mostly untouched. Thanks to the speedy Snapdragon 808 processor and 3GB RAM, the interface is snappy and responsive. It’s pure Android to the max, exactly the way it should be.
Moto X Pure AnTuTu Benchmark score. Usually in the 51-53K range.
By default, the X Pure comes loaded with the Google Now Launcher, my personal favorite. If you are already familiar with the Google Now Launcher, you won’t find a whole lot of surprises here.
On the outside The Moto X Pure looks completely stock, but it’s true beauty lies within. Motorola packs in a few quiet, albeit powerful, additions to it’s ever so slightly customized version of Android.
Use Moto Migrate to easily set up and transfer data from your old phone to your new Moto X.
Moto Connect, easily connect/link Motorola products and accessories. Such as a Moto 360 and Moto Pulse headphones. This feature is really only useful for current Motorola products, it’s of little use for anything else.
Moto Active Display
By far the most useful, and badass features of the Moto X Pure are Active Display and Moto Assist. These features are nothing new to the Moto X family, they have basically been around since the very first Moto X. For the Moto X Pure, Motorola has once again refined and improved Moto Assist and Active Display, to be even better than previous generations.
First off, Active Display. For those of you unfamiliar with active display here is how it works. The phones sensors can detect when the X is pulled out of your pocket, when you are looking at it, or when you are waving or reaching for your device. Once movement is detected, the screen will turn on and display a few basic notifications, such as, text messages, emails, calendar events, alarms, etc. If your display is off, the device will also briefly display notifications once they arrive. You may then chose to view the notification in more detail by placing your finger on the icon, or you can simply ignore the notification, the display will turn back off automatically within a few seconds. It’s a killer feature that saves you from always needing to press the power button to turn the phone on.
My favorite feature is Moto Assist. It’s kind of like having an Amazon Echo with you where ever you go. It’s your own personal assistant. You can train your Moto X to open Moto Assist with virtually any command. You can train it to listen for virtually anything, for example you could use “Hey Moto X”, “Oh Hai, Moto”, or “Hey Bitch Wake Up” if you’re an asshole. Whatever tickles your pickle. Moto Assist is always listening for your phrase, regardless if your phone is on or off (useful if you are cooking, or you cant find your phone).
Once your X hears your phrase (it can detect your voice very well) it will send out a brief Google Now chime, letting you know it’s listening for a command. Moto Assist has a bunch of predefined commands you can use to make the phone do something. You can say things like “Your Moto x Phrase” then “Check voicemail”, “Take a selfie”, “What’s the weather”, “What’s this song”, or “Talk to me”. Giving the command “Talk to me” will allow your phone to be totally hands free. If you get a text message while driving, Assist will read it to you. You can then respond, or call the person back, accurately and totally hands free, just by using your voice. Moto Assist and Active Display make the X’s version of Android truly unique while being as unobtrusive as possible, you’re not likely to experience these features with any other device currently on the market today.
The screen is not an AMOLED display, it’s TFT LCD. But I don’t really give a shit, and neither should you.
The Moto X Pure packs a flagship quality 5.7″ QHD (2,560 x 1,440) Gorilla Glass 3 display. It’s simply fucking stunning. It’s big, it’s bright, and it’s super fucking crisp (520 ppi). Other than the Samsung QHD displays I have seen, the Moto X is second to none. But lets go ahead get this out of the way. The screen is not an AMOLED display, it’s TFT LCD. But I don’t really give a shit, and neither should you. If you disagree about the quality of the display, and think you can find a better option for $400, good luck, that’s a YOU problem.
My favorite part of the display is how much of the front of the phone it actually takes up. It boasts a class leading 76% screen-to-body ratio. Meaning there is more screen, and less everything else. The Moto X Pure packs a larger screen than the competition while keeping it’s size equal to devices with smaller 5.5″ screens. Motorola literally crammed as much screen as they possibly could into this frame. The edge bezels are incredibly thin, which makes it easy to handle a phone with such a large display. It’s not nearly as unwieldy as the Nexus 6 (the Nexus 6 was really fucking wide and really hard to use with one hand).
If you live in an area with tons of year round sunlight, you might have one of the best smartphone cameras around in the Moto X Pure. In ideal lighting conditions, the X can create some absolutely stunning shots.
Perfect lighting conditions, direct sunlight (Click on image to view full resolution)
Perfect lighting conditions, direct sunlight (Click on image to view full resolution)
Early morning, partial shade (Click on image to view full resolution)
Early morning sunrise and shadow (Click on image to view full resolution)
Tone down the lighting a bit and you begin to see some flaws. Most smartphone cameras are notoriously bad at shooting low light photography, and the Moto X Pure is no exception. Low light photos are certainly passable for sites like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. But I wouldn’t pick up any large prints of your nighttime photography. But all things considered, when the camera is good, it’s damn good.
Moto X Pure 4K Video sample
The video camera is standard fare any higher end phone. It’s capable of shooting 720P slow motion, 1080P, and 4K(UHD) video. Video is clear and records sound very well. It’s also very smooth for a phone the lacks OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). I have been quite happy with the video I have recorded thus far. I’ll try and get a better sample for you in the next few days.
Camera Interface & Controls
The camera app opens fairly fast (there is also a nice twist gesture to open the camera). The camera can also take some pretty quick photos. Snapping a photo is quite fast and shows little hesitation. Photos slow down a bit when HDR is enabled, but not so much so that it will stop me from using HDR.
The minimalist Moto X Pure camera interface
The camera interface is incredibly minimalist, you’ll need to learn a few gesture controls to really get the right shot set-up, but the X will walk you through how all that shit works. There is no camera shutter button per se, the entire viewfinder becomes the shutter button. Tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo, it takes some getting used to, but I like it. But you might need to explain how to use the camera if you need a stranger to take a photo for you.
SOUND & CALL QUALITY
The combination of it’s big ass 5.7″ QHD screen and booming speakers are a match made in heaven.
The dual front facing speakers on the X are fucking legit. Audio is clear, crisp, and loud (even at full blast). Watching an HD video with the sound turned up is by far the best experience I have ever had watching anything on a smartphone. The combination of it’s big ass 5.7″ QHD screen and booming speakers are a match made in heaven. It’s like having a mini Bluetooth speaker in your pocket. From my experience, pumping up the volume does tend to eat up the battery, maybe a bit more than typical smartphones, but it’s minor trade off for great sounding speakers.
If you are one of those folks that still uses your smartphone to actually call people, you will be happy to know that Motorola thought about you guys too. Call quality via the speaker and headset is excellent. Calls are clear and loud. I experienced no problems with either setup.
I have had zero issues connecting to T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network here in Indianapolis. I can even get a decent signal at the office, reception at my office has typically been very poor. If you are on AT&T or T-Mobile, the radio inside this phone should be the least of your concerns.
BATTERY LIFE & CHARGING
It’s not “bad”, but it’s not a strong point of the phone either.
It’s impossible to love everything, and it’s impossible to make a perfect phone. If the Moto X Pure has an Achilles heel, it’s battery would probably be it. The battery specs read okay. A non-removable 3000 mAh battery is about par for the course, for this size of phone. But it’s performance leaves much to be desired. It’s not “bad”, but it’s not a strong point of the phone either. It’s tough to find the exact reason why the battery struggles, but it does. Maybe it’s the gigantic QHD screen, maybe its software, maybe both? Who knows exactly? I can only assume that Motorola will make some software tweaks to help squeeze out some more battery life. With any luck, the upcoming Android 6.0 Marshmallow update will help with some of the battery woes.
But I may be blowing its battery performance out of proportion. I think that most people could easily get by with the X’s battery life. But if you live on your phone, are a heavy gamer, or require 4+ hours daily of screen on time, you’ll probably need a battery pack to get you through your day. If battery life is of the utmost importance, then you should probably look elsewhere.
For everyone else, “normal smartphone users” (loosely defined, I know), the Moto X should easily get you through your day, with some room to spare. The examples below show two different daily battery cycles. Moderate to heavy usage, and light (normal work day) usage.
Above. An example of moderate/heavy usage. Click on image to expand.
Above. An example of light usage (typical work day). Click on image to expand.
As you can see from the reports above, results may vary. Even under heavy usage, I was able to get through the entire day (Sunday, a lot of score checking) without needing to charge up. The phone idles very well, with light usage you could easily get through a day and a half.
San Diego, Super Chargers!
The Moto X Pure comes with a ridiculously badass TurboPower 25 charger. Motorola claims 10 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes. I wouldn’t go quite that far, greatly depends upon usage, but it does charge the phone unbelievably fast. It’s as glorious as they make it out to be. Definitely one of the fastest charging phones in existence.
From an 11% charge, as seen above, I was able to get to 53% in just 22 minutes. 80% after just 43 minutes. Full in just about an hour. The point is this, the X’s fast charging ability makes up a bit for having mostly just satisfactory battery life.
34 Minute charge cycle. 35%-85%.
To show just how fast the charger actually is, lets take a look at the example above. The graph represents a quick 34 minute charge cycle. In that short period, the battery charge increased from 35% to 85%. To quote Darth Vader “Impressive. Most impressive.”
It just might be the best smartphone you can buy. Period.
I can confidently say that the Moto X Pure Edition is pretty much the best smartphone $400 can buy. It just might be the best smartphone you can buy. Period. Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, I’d put it up against any flagship to date. Unless you are a power user, spend all day torrenting and/or watching porn, you shouldn’t worry too much about the battery life. The Moto X Pure is easily the best phone of 2015 thus far. So what are you waiting for? Get you some!
All hail the king of the $400 smartphones
Build Quality & Design
Software and Performance
Sound & Call Quality
Think you can find a better $400 smartphone? I'd like to see you try!
- Fantastic build quality and design options
- Awesome 5.7" QHD display
- Great camera
- Active display and Moto Assist kick ass
Not So Good
- The battery is kind of weak
- Camera is afraid of the dark