So you're Motorola. You've made a couple of beloved (if imperfect) Android smartphones over the past two years, part of a major rebirth of the company itself. Meanwhile, you've been sold to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo, and still have to contend with two major players in Samsung and LG.
Anyone who thought Motorola would disappear into the Lenovo portfolio after being acquired by the Chinese giant is greatly mistaken. The Moto X is bigger. It's faster. It's got more options for customization. More options for storage. Better pricing.
And this time, Motorola promises, it's got a camera we won't be disappointed in.
In fact, we don't just have one Moto X this time around. We've got two. The Moto X Style, and the slightly lesser spec'd Moto X Play. The Style will be the one we get in the U.S. starting in September, and it'll hit Europe and Latin America as well. Plus, there will be a "Pure Edition" of the Style that's sold outside the carrier ecosystem in the U.S. (And that's actually what we're looking at today.) The Play launches in August in Europe, Latin America and Canada.
The Style (and Pure Edition) is the big one for our purposes so far, so let's take a look.
Put the Moto X Style up against the 2014 Moto X, and the first thing you'll notice is just how much bigger it is. It takes the display up to 5.7 inches (and Quad HD resolution), and the screen looks gorgeous. Motorola's done well to pack it all into a relatively tight body. On the technical side, you're looking at a 1440x2560 resolution (for 520 pixels per inch), covered by Gorilla Glass 3.
But it's not a small body. It's actually just a hair smaller than the Nexus 6, which proved to be too much phone for many of us. But it's a little narrower than the Nexus, which makes a big difference. Basically it's got the width of the LG G4, only a little taller, and the edges aren't quite as sharp.
The Moto X Style is big — but how it feels will come down to your Moto Maker decisions.
The overall feel of the Moto X Style will depend a bit on how you make it. The Moto Maker customization service is back, and you can get number of custom backs for the phone. Leather and wood are still here, of course, and there are also some interesting rubberized backs — and all of which will drastically change the way the phone feels in your hand. They also nicely contrast the metal body casing of the phone. Motorola's done well to take what it did well in the Moto X 2014 and refine it even more this year.
Elsewhere on the hardware side, we've got options for 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes of storage. And Motorola's tucked an SD card slot right into the SIM tray as well, for those who prefer to go that route. The power and volume buttons are in their usual place. Moto's opted not to include the fingerprint support that so many others are doing, which is a little surprising given that it's going to be a big part of the Android M release later this year.
We've also got dual front-facing speakers this time around, which should let it better compete with the HTC One M9 on that front. (Motorola's done dual front-facing before on the Moto G, but the Moto X had just a single speaker.) In brief testing amid the din of a demo area, you get the sense that it's decently loud, but probably not with the depth that HTC's BoomSound brings.
As for power, the Style's got a 3000 mAh battery with quick charge — it's dubbed TurboPower this time around — that Motorola says is even faster than Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging. (Which it said was faster than everyone else's.) Let's hope that's not the same sort of harbinger, though, but in any case you're starting with a more proper battery capacity in the first place. The TurboPower promises 10 hours of battery life (assuming you're not going full-bore with the phone) after just 15 minutes of charging. Missing again, however, is any sort of wireless charging.
On the software side, the Moto X Style is running Android 5.1.1, as you'd expect. There are the usual Motorola customizations — custom camera and gallery apps, plus the Moto Assist apps we've come to greatly enjoy enjoy over the past couple years. (The front-facing sensors are still visible on the white model of the phone.) And those apps have gotten even smarter. In addition to have "Home" and "Work" locations trigger a separate set of settings, the Moto X Style can also recognize other locations you go to on a frequent basis and use them as triggers. Or, you can add more on your own.
Motorola is once again making big camera promises.
The camera's always been a pretty big pain point for us on the Moto X. We'll need to get some real time with the phone before making any sort of decision on that front. But on paper, we're looking at a 21-megapixel sensor this time around, and a lens with an f/2.0 aperture. It'll do video up to 4K and 30 frames per second, and 1080p video at 60 frames per second, plus HDR. It takes pictures quickly enough — like previous models you can flick your wrist to launch the camera app, and you just tap the screen to shoot. And a neat addition this year is that the camera app can automatically scan barcodes and business cards. (How have more manufacturers not done that yet?) The gallery app's gotten a bit smarter, too, allowing you to designate faces that you want to show up more in the highlight reels. That's good stuff.
The front-facing camera has been bumped to 5 megapixels and an f/2.0 aperture, with a 1.4um pixel size for better selfies in the dark. Or you can use the front-facing flash.
Really, though, some of the most exciting stuff surrounding the new Moto X Style is in the nerd details. It's available once again in a "Pure Edition" — which we highly recommend getting if you can. And with that comes the radio banding to work on any of the U.S. networks. Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile — whomever. Just pop in an active SIM card and it works. (For you hard-core folks, we're talking LTE on bands B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 25, 28, 40 and 41. That's kind of insane.)
That's a big deal, but as big is the fact that Motorola is expanding its sales channels. It's offered the Moto X directly for some time, but this year it's adding Best Buy and Amazon as alternatives to getting a carrier-locked phone. We've seen other manufacturers go that route this year (ASUS and Alcaltel OneTouch, to name but two), and the non-carrier space is only going to become more important as time goes on.
|Display||5.7-inch TFT LCD, 2560x1440 resolution (520 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|OS||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core @ 1.8GHz
Adreno 418 GPU
Natural Language Processor, Contextual Computing Processor
|Storage||16, 32 or 64GB, SD card up to 128GB|
|Rear camera||21MP f/2.0, phase detect auto-focus, dual color correlated temperature flash
4K video at 30fps, slow motion video, HDR video
|Front camera||5MP f/2.0, wide-angle lens, night mode, flash|
|Battery||3000 mAh non-removable, Turbo Charging, Micro USB port|
And that brings us to price. The Moto X Style starts at $399 for the 16GB model. Additional storage will cost a little extra, but not grossly so. The custom backs will increase the price as well, but that's not surprising. Either way, you're going to be able to get out the door with a flagship level device — and a custom one at that — for a good bit less than other phones.
Probably the biggest change this year is with the size. Just as the Moto X 2014 was a big jump up from the 2013 model, so, too, is the Moto X Style. It's damned near the Nexus 6 in terms of look and size. It definitely feels a little smaller, but it's going to disappoint those who don't want something in the large category.
But between the price and the "Pure Edition" and the sales channels and the ridiculous opportunities for customization, this is looking like it's going to be one hell of a phone.
Just cross your fingers for that camera.