Can your choice of carrier hamper an otherwise great phone experience?
It has been almost two months since the Moto X was introduced to the world as Motorola's refreshed philosophy on the smart phone. AT&T was the first US carrier to have the phone on sale, and although Sprint lagged behind by a few weeks it now carries the woven black and white varieties for the same $199 on-contract price as the other carriers.
Motorola made it a point to ensure that the Moto X is nearly identical across the major carriers in the US, so when looking at the Sprint model there aren't that many things to distinguish it from the others. This isn't a carbon copy of what you can get on AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile, though. Let's take a look at what it's like to use the Moto X on the Sprint Network.
Sprint Moto X hardware and software
Taking the Sprint Moto X out of the box, there is absolutely nothing to indicate that it is a carrier-branded device until you actually power it on and look at the carrier info on the lock screen. Unlike the AT&T and Verizon versions, there is no external branding on the case (even though the other models are extremely subtle) anywhere to be seen. AT&T still has the exclusive locked up on Moto Maker so we have our hands on a woven white version, but it is still just as beautiful a phone as any in this form.
Once you start up the phone and start flicking through the home screens and app drawer, you'll start to notice Sprint's touches into the software. The default home screens are loaded up with a few different Sprint widgets and a folder or two to highlight its pre-installed apps, just as you'd expect. There are a few different stub apps that work as links to the Play Store in the app drawer and on the home screen, but they're a few quick taps from uninstalling.
A couple things that you won't be able to uninstall are Sprint Zone, Voicemail and Sprint ID. Sprint Zone is a window to everything from the carrier — account info, promotions and apps. It can be disabled, and it isn't nearly as pushy as having 12 pre-installed apps to do the same things like other carriers. Voicemail you'll want to keep enabled, but Sprint ID can't really go away no matter what your preference is. Sprint ID is tied into the default home launcher, so disabling or clearing its data at any point causes some issues with the phone if you intend to use the stock launcher.
Overall your software experience is going to be pretty much the same as any other carrier branded Moto X, that is once you disable a few of the Sprint apps to clean things up. Once you do that, you still have access to all of the Motorola tweaks like Touchless Control and Active Display. Performance is right on par with its blue, red and magenta-powered brethren.
The Sprint network
It seems as though any time we have in a Sprint phone to review, we have to go through the same motions. The phone itself may be great, but the network just can't do a high-end phone justice anymore. Of course when talking about any nationwide network, we can never make generalizations and expect them to apply to everyone in every market. For our use of the Moto X, we spent our time in and around the greater Seattle area.
That's getting better, though — it just takes time.
While we're happy to report that LTE has started to show up in the most densely populated areas of Seattle — which wasn't the case four months ago — it is still a hit-and-miss affair. While walking around, staying connected to LTE was on a block-by-block basis. Some areas had a moderately good signal, but we can easily say a majority of our time was spent on 3G still.
Beside just making you wait longer for data to come and go, we're suspicious that the Sprint network had a negative effect on battery life on the Moto X. Whether its just because the radios have to stay on and active longer to transfer even small amounts of data or the relatively constant bouncing between 3G and LTE — or because LTE isn't yet officially turned on in Seattle — the battery on our Moto X drained a bit quicker than what we had experienced on our Motorola Droid Ultra (which is much the same device, on Verizon) and what we've been seeing on Moto X's on other carriers.
Choosing the Now Network
It's great to see the Moto X make its way to all of the big carriers (and even some smaller ones) in the U.S., and even greater for the phones to be generally the same across the board. It's because of this that recommending buying the Moto X on Sprint is an even tougher proposition to handle — why choose Sprint when you can have the exact same phone somewhere else?
If you're not on Sprint right now, you can know that Sprint isn't offering anything with its own Moto X itself that should persuade you to want to switch. If you like what the Moto X has to offer, pick one up on the carrier that works best for you.
Naturally if you're already on Sprint and have an upgrade available — or are maybe ready to try One Up — and have no intentions of leaving, you can sleep well knowing you're getting the same Moto X experience as your friends on other carriers. But if you're willing to make a shift to a new carrier, you're possibly going to be rewarded with a better overall network offering on one of the other three big carriers than you'll continue to find on the Now Network.