On both sides of the Atlantic, Motorola is pushing the second-generation Moto X with price cuts. But even with a cheaper price tag, is it worth your cash?
It's hard to believe it's been more than nine months since we first went hands-on with the 2014 Moto X. By the fickle standards of the smartphone world, it's starting to get a bit long in the tooth. Motorola's various discounts on the device are one of its signs of age — Moto (and Best Buy, among others) has recently given U.S. buyers the chance to pick one up for around $300. And today in the UK it's possible to grab a Moto X for as little as £229.
That's a significant drop from the launch price of $500, or £419. So if you've been holding off, is it time to pull the trigger on a Moto X? Let's dive in.
At $300 or £229, the Moto X competes with a new class of unlocked Android phones
Sure, it's rapidly approaching its first birthday — and the point at which we'd expect to see a refreshed Moto X. You are, however, still getting a lot of phone for your money. The Moto X's discounted price tag sets it up as a competitor to the current wave of mid-priced unlocked Android phones, especially in the U.S. market. These include the year-old OnePlus One ($250+), now finally available without the frustrating invite system, and recent additions like the ASUS ZenFone 2 ($299) and Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 ($250).
Though all three are in the same ballpark as a discounted Moto X, each is a very different beast. The OnePlus One closely matches the Moto X's hardware on paper, albeit in a much larger 5.5-inch footprint. The phone's Cyanogen-based software is also pretty close to Google's vision of Android, with CyanogenMod 12 having recently rolled out to devices. Alcatel's Idol 3 is a less spec-centric device, though we found it performs well across the board. And although the manufacturer has customized some areas of its software, overall it's pretty close to stock Lollipop.
Over on the ASUS side, the ZenFone 2 goes all-out with a high-end Intel processor, a big display and battery, and some impressive camera tricks. You'll have to live with ASUS' software skin though, which isn't as easy on the eyes as vanilla Android.
However none of that takes into account Moto Maker — Motorola's phone customization service, and something it's pushing as a differentiator as it launches in even more markets. Motorola's vision of Android — sprinkled with its own unique software tricks like Moto Display — is also closer to Google's vision of the OS than any of the three main rivals.
There's also something to be said for the Moto X's metal-framed design compared to the largely plastic competition — to say nothing of the leather and wood options, available for a small markup.
The Moto X isn't a compromise-free experience — but it might be the right phone for you
It's not a compromise-free experience though. The Moto X had a couple of notable weaknesses at launch, and they haven't gone away in the intervening months. First up, there's no escaping the fact that at 2,300mAh, its battery capacity is on the low side for a phone of this size, and battery life will inevitably reflect that. As our own Jerry Hildenbrand says, it'll get you through a full day, but only barely.
I've no idea if there is room inside for a bigger battery, and no opinion about any underhanded evil corporate conspiracy to get you to buy a turbo charger. I just know that Motorola used a battery that is barely enough to get me through one day with my use. I'm also one who takes advantage of the active display features, so I'm not waking my phone up as much as I would another. I could recommend the 2013 Moto X as a phone that will get you through the day on a single charge. I can't do that as easily with the 2014 model.
The camera — a basic 13-megapixel shooter without OIS (optical image stabilization) — is a similar story. It wasn't great by 2014 standards, and it hasn't aged well in light of recent high-end launches from Samsung and LG. Here's Phil Nickinson in our original Moto X 2014 review:
We've gotten some rather nice-looking shots out of it, if all you're going for is a picture to share on Facebook and Instagram. And for a good many folks that should be fine. But even well-lit shots tend to get noisy pretty quickly just as soon as you zoom in. The ring light serves its purpose, but we're still of the opinion that flash in mobile photography should be a last resort. (And frankly we'd trade a flash for optical image stabilization any day of the week.)
When you're buying at the $300 (or £229 to £250) price point, there are always going to be trade-offs, and with the Moto X it's pretty clear what those are. The camera's not great, the battery life isn't spectacular, and chances are it'll be superseded by a third-generation Moto X in September or thereabouts.
But you are getting a device that looks and feels great, with a ton of customization options through Moto Maker, a vanilla Android experience, with the promise of fast updates if you're able to nab the "Pure Edition" model in the states. (Elsewhere, unfortunately, Motorola updates remain something of a crapshoot.) And then there are features like Moto Display and Moto Voice that add real value without trampling over the look and feel of Google's OS.
When you're buying a phone outright at this price point, there will always be trade-offs
That's the balance you'll have to grapple with as you're hovering your mouse over that "Buy" button during Motorola's various Moto X sales. And you're not alone — Android Central forums posters are weighing up value of a discounted Moto X as well, asking "is this phone still good?"
Poster nickname303 sums up the thoughts of many Moto X fans, saying: "[The phone] still performs perfectly well in most areas as far as I'm concerned. Even though its specs may be slightly outdated now on paper, it's still lightning quick due to the near stock android experience. The only gripe I've got is the sometimes dodgy camera. Everything else is great. Some people have issues with battery life but I've always been fine."
Be sure to join the discussion on the Moto X forums and share your views. And if you've pulled the trigger on a Moto X recently — or have decided in favor of another phone instead — hit the comments and let us know how you're getting on.