Moto X4 review: A mid-range phone done right

The quick take

Project Fi was in dire need of a new, solid, mid-range phone — and now it has one in the Moto X4. Motorola's $399 phone offers build quality that will make you feel like you paid far more, with hardware features like waterproofing that are great to see. And Google has managed to make a Motorola software experience even more appealing by adding guaranteed updates through the Android One program. Performance, battery life and camera quality are all befitting a phone of this price range. The Moto X4 is a capable leader in the sub-flagship space.

The Good

  • Excellent software
  • Great build quality with nice materials
  • Good cameras for the money
  • High quality display in all respects

The Bad

  • Just average battery life
  • Notable step down in performance from the high-end
  • Android One version limited to Project Fi
  • Confusing variety of SKUs globally

The internals

Moto X4 Specifications

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Operating systemAndroid 7.1 Nougat
Display5.2-inch IPS LCD, 1920x1080 (424 ppi)Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorSnapdragon 630 octa-core, 2.2 GHzAdreno 508 GPU, 650 MHz
Storage32GB (NA, LATAM)32/64GB (EMEA, APAC)
ExpandablemicroSD up to 2TB
Rear camera 112MP, 1.4-micron pixels, f/2.0, Dual Autofocus Pixel2160p30, 1080p60 video
Rear camera 28MP, 1.12-micron pixels, f/2.2, 120-degree wide-angle lens
Front camera16MP, 1-micron pixels, f/2.0, selfie flash
ChargingUSB-CTurbo Charging
Connectivity802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 BR/EDR/BLE, NFCGPS, GLONASS,
Headphone jackYes
Water resistanceIP68 rating
SecurityOne-touch fingerprint sensor
Dimensions148.35 x 73.4 x 7.99 mm163 g
ColorsSuper Black, Sterling Blue

Android One Moto X4

Great for the money

Moto X4 Things you'll love

Motorola has its hardware processes absolutely locked in. For all of the valid criticism that it doesn't vary things much from generation to generation, every phone it's put out in the past few years has been built like a tank out of great materials — the Moto X4 is no different, even at $399.

The Moto X4 feels fantastic, and has hardware features you don't expect at this price.

You get the same solid metal frame with tasteful texturing, and finely milled edges that join the glass on both sides perfectly. It feels great all around — befitting a far more expensive device — even though the glass on the back is definitely a weak point when it comes to long-term durability concerns. Yes it's rather generic, looking like just about every other Motorola phone, but that's no big deal in this price range — I'd rather have time and money spent on the actual build of the device rather than extra flare that serves no purpose.

Beyond the external design, the Moto X4 also gives you a set of nice-to-have features you wouldn't always expect for this segment. You get USB-C with fast charging, IP68 water-resistance, dual cameras on the back, a front-facing camera flash and a great one-touch fingerprint sensor on the front. (And hey, a headphone jack!)

The 5.2-inch 1080p display is much better than I'd expect for the money, with punchy colors and surprisingly good viewing angles. It's not the biggest, highest resolution or brightest screen out there, but I would have no qualms with it even if it were on a $650 phone — that's high praise. The only downside is having the older Gorilla Glass 3 on the front, rather than the newer GG 5.

Before receiving my Moto X4 review unit, I was expecting the Android One software experience to differ from what I had seen previously on the "international" Moto X4. Thankfully that isn't the case at all — the Android One Moto X4 has the exact same set of software features and tweaks from Motorola as the unlocked non-Android One version. And that's a really good thing.

You get Motorola's excellent software, backed up by Google's guarantee of updates with Android One.

So you get Motorola's camera app, its super-great ambient display and notifications, and the little gestures like twisting the phone to launch the camera or doing a "chop" motion to toggle the flashlight at any time. But because this is an Android One device, Google guarantees that it'll get "at least two years" of software updates, and that's the one area where Motorola has not done well in the past — especially on less-expensive phones like this.

Put simply, the Moto X4's software is fantastic. Motorola's additions are super useful and perfectly fit in with Google's vision for Android, and features like Moto Display are in my opinion better than what Google ships on the Pixel 2. Nothing is duplicated in the system or unnecessary like you'll so often find on the less-refined phones in this price range. This is software befitting of any phone at any price.

Motorola's other historic weak point is the camera, but it has done a solid job with the Moto X4. Interestingly for a cheaper phone this is Motorola's first rear dual-camera setup, and it's gone with an LG-like pair of a "standard" lens next to a wide-angle one. The main camera's hardware is just better in every way — higher resolution, larger pixels, wider aperture — but it's still fun to have the wide-angle shooter at your disposal.

A surprisingly good pair of cameras, with shortcomings in the usual places.

And you know what? The cameras are actually pretty good! I took a whole lot of photos, many of which you can see above, that were really good in terms of color production and detail. Even the wide-angle shooter is capable of some fun shots, provided you don't tax it with a low-light scene. The main camera can handle low light pretty well, but its processing doesn't match high-end phones in mixed scenes — Motorola's HDR just isn't that great. The camera app itself is relatively quick, but capture times are understandably slow with this processor.

Moto X4

Not much to dislike

Moto X4 Things you'll hate

This section is a whole lot shorter than the previous one — there just isn't much to dislike about the Moto X4. If there's one negative you can point out, it's that the external hardware and software are of a flagship level, but the specs and performance show you that the phone is, indeed, $399. The Snapdragon 630 processor is capable, but not on the same level as flagships with an 835 or even 821. If you're in North America, you're getting 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage instead of the 4GB (if not 6GB) and 64GB or more.

The only place you notice you're using a cheaper phone is in the performance and battery life.

In real-world use, these number discrepancies don't translate into a huge performance delta, but it is noticeable at times. You don't ever see dropped frames or stutters or crashes, but you do notice things just take an extra couple of beats here and there when compared to the hottest phones out today. Everything you do pushes that Snapdragon 630 closer to its maximum capabilities than it'd ever push a Snapdragon 835, and having 3GB of RAM means you're just a bit more likely to see apps dump out of memory than on other phones with 1-3GB more.

Battery life, too, is just okay. With your processor working harder to do all of the typical tasks, it has to be up and running for longer and that takes up some of that precious 3000mAh battery. The capacity in itself is totally fine, and we've seen other phones do pretty well with it when paired with more efficient processors, but here it equates to just average battery life. I could get a full day just fine, but that's on an average day with nothing extraordinary happening — and it didn't have much left in the tank at the end. This aligns well with what our own Daniel Bader found in his Moto Z2 Play review, which is built on a very similar recipe.

Moto X4 Project Fi app

A great choice

Moto X4 Should you buy it?

As an editor at Android Central, I have access to just about any high-end phone I could want. Currently, I'm using a Google Pixel 2. I could swap my Project Fi account over to this Moto X4 and use it every single day and really not notice any drop-off in quality for ~80% of what I do in an average week. In terms of the quality of the hardware, the characteristics of the display, the range of available features and the intuitive nature of the software, things are imperceptible from a $650 phone.

So much of the Moto X4 experience feels like a flagship ... at $250 less.

There are just a few places where you notice the Moto X4 isn't a flagship-level phone. Its cameras are very good, but they can't handle some difficult scenes or low-light shots. Even though the processor and RAM are good enough for the basics, you can find their limits if you push your phone hard. Battery life, as a result, is just average. But nothing is bad on the Moto X4. And outside of these few things, everything else is top-notch — and that's awesome because it means there are lots of people who can save $200-300 and still get a great phone here.

For $400, it's tough to find a better overall experience than the Moto X4 today. The best option, if it works for you, is to get the Android One version that has a guaranteed update path. That is, of course, limited to Project Fi — making it an option for a small subset of people. But even if you have to go with the regular unlocked version from Motorola, you're going to be happy with the Moto X4. This is a mid-range Android phone done right.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.