Google Pixel 2 vs. Moto X4: Which should you buy?

Phones like the Galaxy Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL are great choices for folks that love big phones, but if you're like me, you're okay with sacrificing some screen real estate if it means you can easily use your device with one hand. In 2017, two of the better small phones to be released were the Google Pixel 2 and Moto X4.

The Pixel 2 and Moto X4 have a lot in common, including great software experiences, unique designs, and compatibility on Project Fi. However, there is one big factor that sets these two phones apart – price. The Pixel 2 will set you back $250 more compared to the Moto X4, and today we're going to determine if it's worth the additional cash.

Why you should spend more for the Pixel 2

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Google Pixel 2 is better than the Moto X4 in just about every single way. I wouldn't necessarily say the Pixel 2 offers $250 more phone than what you get with the X4, but there are a few key points where you can really see where those extra dollars went.

First and foremost, that camera. The Pixel 2 has the best camera on a phone right now, and while the Moto X4 doesn't take bad pictures by any means, the Pixel 2 just blows it out of the water. Even though the Pixel 2 has one lens compared to the two on the Moto X4, it still offers better detail, more natural portrait shots, and handles environments with big exposure differences much better.

Another area where the Pixel 2 gets an edge is with its multimedia experience. Despite having a smaller 5-inch display compared to the X4's 5.2-inch one, the Super AMOLED panel produces far deeper blacks and more enjoyable colors than the IPS panel on the Moto option. Some of this can be mitigated by changing the Moto X4's color profile to Standard instead of Vibrant that it defaults to, but even so, things still end up looking more cartoony than I'd like.

On that same note, while the Moto X4's single front-facing speaker gets surprisingly loud for its size, the Pixel 2's dual front-facing ones kick out a richer sound and get just a hair louder, too.

Lastly, the Pixel 2 has that user experience you can only really get with Pixel phones. The ability to squeeze the sides to launch Google Assistant is something I find myself using every single day, the Now Playing feature that automatically detects songs in the background never ceases to amaze me, and the overall performance has a level of smoothness you won't find on the Moto X4.

Why the Moto X4 is still worth it

The Pixel 2 is obviously a great phone, but for a lot of people, $649 is more than they're willing and/or able to spend on a new phone. If you'd like to get about 80% of the Pixel 2 experience for $250 less (or sometimes more), that's where the Moto X4 comes in.

One area where I think most people will agree the Moto X4 actually surpasses the Pixel 2 is with its design. The glass back of the X4 is stunning, and depending on how the light catches it, can showcase a multitude of patterns and waves. Speaking of which, the positioning of the new camera sensors often shows a reflection that resembles an "X." Well done, Motorola.

The glass panel does make the Moto X4 a fingerprint magnet, and while I personally prefer the more utilitarian design of the Pixel 2, the X4 is far more eye-catching. There's also an aluminum frame that feels sturdy and cool to the touch, the texture of the power button makes it easy to differentiate from the volume ones, and there's even a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card support – two things you won't find on the Pixel 2.

The Moto X4 surpasses the Pixel 2 in some areas.

Another area where the Moto X4 excels is with its software experience. It may not be as snappy as the Pixel 2, but there are a lot of extra goodies here that make the X4 a lot of fun to use. Twisting and chopping to activate the camera and flashlight are two of my favorite smartphone features ever, the option to hide Android's navigation buttons and use just the front-facing fingerprint sensor works surprisingly well, and Windows users can even use the X4 to bypass their desktop's password/PIN.

In addition to all this, the Moto X4 also punches above its price range with support for Google Pay via NFC, a reliable fingerprint sensor, and a Wireless Sound System setting that allows you to listen to audio on up to 4 Bluetooth devices at once.

Which should you buy? Google Pixel 2

Like I said above, it shouldn't be a revelation that the Pixel 2 is the better of the two phones. It's Google's flagship phone competing against a mid-range handset from Motorola, so it's obviously going to be a superior product.

You can't go wrong with either of these phones.

However, what is surprising is just how well the Moto X4 manages to keep up with the Pixel 2. It may lack the DNA that made me fall in love with the first two Moto X devices, but even so, it's still one of the best mid-rangers you can buy.

The Pixel 2 and Moto X4 are primarily sold as unlocked phones, and while you can get financing options and discounts on the Pixel 2 through Verizon, both phones are also two of the few devices that work with Google's Project Fi.

If you have the cash and money isn't an object for you, get the Pixel 2. It's the best Android phone you can currently get, and I can easily recommend it at its MSRP of $649. However, if you're trying to save a few bucks, don't second-guess the Moto X4. It's not a bad deal at all for $399, but you can get it for even less depending on where you shop. Amazon sells a Prime Exclusive version of the phone for just $279, and if you activate it on Project Fi, you'll currently spend even less at $249.

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.