1. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    Note: I was not able to compress my images for this review enough for them to be accepted in the forum without looking terrible, so here is a link to images of the phone, as well as images and video from the Moto X's camera.

    One company I’ve been following the past few years has been Motorola. The Moto X, originally released in 2013, was loved by many of my friends in the tech community for its light software, small size and genuinely useful software features. However, it was not the phone for me. I prefer larger screens, so the 4.7 inch screen was not going to cut it. Furthermore, the poor camera quality was an immediate deal breaker for me. When the 2014 Moto X was announced, I had recently purchased a OnePlus One, so I was in no rush to upgrade again. Still, I kept an eye on the Moto X. The 5.2 inch screen was large enough for me, but again, the camera quality ruined any interest I had in the phone.
    Enter the 2015 Moto X Pure Edition. Starting at $400 unlocked, the phone works on all US carriers, has a big screen, and *should* receive prompt updates to the latest version of Android as soon as they are released. It has a 5.7 inch screen, perfect for me. Finally, it seems Motorola fixed their previous issues with camera quality, so I went online and purchased the phone.

    If you’re going to be buying the Moto X Pure Edition, you’ll most likely do so online because the only retail location that carries the phone is Best Buy, but it is worth spending the few minutes on your computer to customize your order. Log onto Motorola’s website, and you can completely design your phone. I decided on the plastic back, and got a blue back, blue accents, and black front with dark gray frame. While the phone does have a micro-SD card slot, I decided to pay extra and get 32gb of internal storage. Once my phone was all configured and shipping and taxes were included, my total came to $487.12. Motorola originally estimated I would receive the phone after three weeks, but I was surprised and received it after two.

    For this review period, the phone was on LTE most of the time, with Wi-Fi only turned on when I stayed in my hotel for a few nights, location set to Battery-Saver mode (with High Accuracy turned on when I was using Google Maps to navigate), Bluetooth turned on and constantly connected to a Pebble Steel, and using Straight Talk with AT&T’s service in Fort Worth for the first two days, then San Antonio for the rest of the time.
    One thing that I immediately noticed when I started using the phone was how easy it was to hold. Despite the larger screen, the design and material choices meant the Moto X stayed put. The default plastic back is a nice, soft touch material that is ridged and very easy to grip. One trademark feature of the Moto X line is the dimple in the middle of the back providing a contact point with a person’s index finger, and after a few hours of using the phone, my finger would automatically go there when I reached into my pocket to grab the phone. Even when my hands were a little sweaty or dirty, the phone stayed firmly in my hand.

    Included in the packaging is a small tool to open the SIM/SD slot, a plastic bumper, and a Turbo Charger. The charger is all one piece, so if you are interested in connecting your phone to your computer, you’ll need to spend a few bucks for a separate cable.
    The charger works very fast; I was able to get from dead to 80% charge in just thirty minutes one morning. Be aware that it will also cause your phone to get very warm while it is charging. For full disclosure, I charge the Moto X every night using a much less powerful charger, and only use the Turbo Charger when the phone is dying and I need more battery to get me through the rest of the day. The included bumper is nothing to write home about, it’ll do in a pinch but if you want something with a little more grip you’re better off getting a third party case. I’ve ordered a case and will review that when it comes in.

    The Moto X is just a hair narrower than past phones I’ve used, but that hair makes all the difference in the world. Despite the larger screen, I’m able to text one handed, something I haven’t been able to do in years. The power button and volume rocker are very easy to reach, though thanks to the Moto Display feature, I didn’t use the power button very often. If you lift up the phone, or wave your hand over it, the display will show the time and any notifications you have. When you get a notification, you can choose to unlock the phone straight into that app, or unlock it to the home screen. The infrared sensors on the front and accelerometer inside are very good at detecting motion, so you don’t need to use any exaggerated movements to get the screen to activate. Unless you unlock the phone, the screen is only lit up for a few seconds, and I haven’t noticed any negative battery impact.

    The Moto X’s other standout feature, Moto Voice, is what will make me recommend this phone to everyone I see. While most phones have basic voice controls, the Moto X takes them to another level. You can set what you want the launch phrase to be, so only you can activate the voice features. From there, you can set reminders, send text messages, make calls, and tell the phone to navigate to a location. The phone even listens for your launch phrase through your car’s audio system, so you can focus on the road while still taking care of personal matters. This became very handy while I was moving into a new apartment, and driving all over town to buy things for it. For most actions, it will take slightly longer than just unlocking your phone and doing it yourself. However, the few second wait is very much worth it while driving because I can keep my eyes on the road and my hands on the steering wheel 100% of the time.

    Other smaller but equally useful features include silencing the phone while you’re in meetings and every night for sleep (Moto Assist), shaking the phone twice to activate the flashlight from any screen even if the phone is locked, and twisting the phone twice to open the camera app-again, even if the phone is locked (Moto Actions).

    One feature that I cannot get to work at this time is the “Drive” feature in Moto Assist which should read text messages aloud or tell you the name of someone calling you when the phone detects you’re driving. Unfortunately, because my number is through Google Voice, the phone does not read messages or tell me who is calling, but it will work fine for users just using their normal phone number.

    While not a feature per se, the Moto X has very light software, almost plain Android with only Motorola’s special features on top. There aren’t three music players, two calendars, or any unnecessary duplication involved. This should also mean the phone gets fast updates, though Motorola has been slipping in that area recently. For now, it means the phone works well, and can do anything you’d want to do on it without any stuttering, hang-ups or reboots.

    Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS all connect very quickly, and I was even able to get a signal (very low signal, but signal nonetheless) inside a hospital I go to that no other phone I’ve owned has gotten signal. I did have an issue once with navigation because the phone thought I was across town, but other than that one instance everything has been as good as I can ask.

    Battery life has been pretty stellar for me, through heavy days of navigation, lots of phone calls and internet usage, and lots of music playing. My very first day with the phone, I was at Big Android BBQ, taking a lot of pictures and doing a lot of social networking. At the end of that day, the phone was still at 50%, though with my usage recently it’s been in the middle to low 30’s. No matter your usage, you’ll have no trouble getting through a day with this phone. I typically keep the screen at around 30% brightness (with Adaptive Brightness turned off), so if you have it brighter that will definitely be a power draw. Now that I've been using Android Auto, I'm hardly using battery power, so it's still good to know that the battery life will be stellar when I do need it.

    The screen has a resolution of 1440p, but in my day to day use I didn’t any resolution difference between it and the 1080p screen on my OnePlus One. The extra resolution will come in handy if you use the phone for Virtual Reality applications, though.

    The camera quality is what finally made me bite the bullet on ordering the X. As I mentioned before, camera quality in past years’ has been a deal killer, but this has been fixed for the Pure Edition. It’s very easy to open the camera with the twisting motion, but the app itself is a bit of a pain. Rather than the standard layout that allows users to touch to focus, and take a picture separately, focusing and taking a picture happens all at once when a user presses the screen. It’s very fast when taking a picture (if light is sufficient) and the results are going to please anyone except those with the most discerning taste.

    Video turns out well too, and there is the option to shoot in 4K - though you can’t set it to default to shooting in 4K. Pictures start to get grainy in low light, but the dual-LED flash does a good job of lighting things up. If you’re looking for some manual controls, you’re going to want to look elsewhere: the Moto X Pure Edition does not support the Camera2 API, so you can’t grab a manual camera app from the Play Store and have manual controls, and there are very few options present in the camera app itself. Going forward, I hope Motorola refines the camera app and provides a standard shutter button in the future.

    Audio sounds great (to my ears at least), no matter if you’re listening through the headphone jack, Bluetooth or the phone’s stereo speakers. The speakers get nice and loud without distorting too much. For example, I was able to listen through the speakers while moving all my stuff in a U-Haul, and I was able to hear my music well over the sound of the truck and traffic.

    Competition for the Moto X Pure Edition includes other middle to high range options such as the Nexus 5X and 6P, OnePlus Two and LG G4. The 5X and 6P are going to have faster updates, very good fingerprint sensors and cameras in their favor; the OnePlus Two has higher specs and a lower base price, but is very hard to get with the invite system. The G4 has a great camera with great manual controls, great battery (a removable battery as well, for those that like that option) and is available from all US carriers, but the heavy software may not be to everyone’s taste. Because it works on every US carrier, has light software with useful features and should get fast software updates, the Moto X Pure Edition is a very good option for a lot of consumers. For me, the voice features and customization options put it over the top of anything else on the market today. Android 6.0 Marshmallow should start rolling out soon, so I'll do another write up a week or so after I get the update and post my thoughts on the changes.
    thejesse, maraki1224 and ngc457 like this.
    12-04-2015 08:59 PM

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