Under Google’s brief stewardship of Motorola (May 2012 to January 2014), two handsets reached the market: the budget Moto G and the more premium Moto X. The Moto X is the second one to arrive in Britain (in the US, confusingly, the order was reversed) and now reviewers from this side of the Atlantic have also been able to put the mobile through its paces.
Featuring upper-end rather than top-end specs and several unique customisations, the Moto X finds Google and Motorola in experimental mood. While not quite in the same league in terms of power and display as Google’s own Nexus 5, the Moto X is nevertheless likely to turn a few heads. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with the do-it-yourself Moto Maker case design options available to US customers.
It’s certainly smaller than the Nexus 5, which may or may not appeal to you depending on the size of your hands. One of the headline features mentioned in most reviews is the always-listening voice control service that enables you to run searches, launch apps and access other features without touching the device: “The voice recognition software seems more accurate and responsive than that found on the Samsung Galaxy S4,” reports Carly Page in The Inquirer, “and we found that we seldom had to repeat ourselves, with the handset having no problem adjusting to a British accent.” The rumour is that the Moto X’s delayed arrival in the UK was due to Motorola being busy tweaking its accent recognition capabilities.
Page found the biggest problem with the Moto X was not the device itself but rather its competition:
“The Moto X definitely has some good things going for it, with its up-to-date Android 4.4 KitKat mobile operating system, smooth performance and vibrant screen, but we’d still find it hard to recommend the handset over alternative Android handsets available.”
TechRadar’s Alex Roth was more enthusiastic, describing the Moto X as “a truly standout Android phone” despite reservations about the camera:
“The Moto X is a good, good phone. In fact it’s a great phone. Is it one of the best Android phones out there? Well that depends. Yes, if you value a reasonable size and useful services over raw power, a massive HD screen and microSD support.”
Again, it’s only in comparison with other top-end Android smartphones such as the Nexus 5 and the Sony Xperia Z1 that the Moto X’s star begins to dim a little. Taken on its own, reviewers have found very little to complain about: it has the clean, uncluttered stock Android 4.4 installed, decent battery life and an appealingly designed shell.
“The Motorola Moto X’s slightly disappointing internal specifications are by and large balanced out by its close-to-untouched Android 4.4 KitKat operating system and useful software additions,” writes Alistair Stevenson at V3. “However, you can still get better value for money elsewhere.”
Praising the phone’s build quality, software and performance levels, Stevenson concludes by lamenting the delay in the Moto X’s launch in the UK, which has ultimately left it lagging behind the Nexus 5 in terms of specs and value for money. While it’s certainly a more powerful beast than the Moto G, the Moto X’s position has been weakened by the arrival of Google’s LG-manufactured flagship phone.
Finally, Samuel Gibbs in the Guardian has a lot of time for the active display notifications unique to the Moto X that appear even while the device is locked or in standby:
“When a notification comes in, only a small section of the screen lights up displaying an icon for what has just happened. A tap and hold gesture shows more at-a-glance information, allowing the user to assess whether it is worth turning unlocking the phone to access whatever just happened, be it a call, a text, an email or any other alert.”
This helps slow down battery drain and dismiss notifications more easily, without necessarily having to even open them up. Ultimately, Gibbs concludes that while the Moto X is “a terrific smartphone… the Nexus 5 is cheaper, and offers all the same features; it’s better value.”
The Moto X is available now SIM-free for £380 with 16GB of on-board storage. It offers a 4.7-inch 720p HD display (1,280 x 720 pixels), 10-megapixel and 2-megapixel cameras back and front, and 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The device is powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU and 2GB of RAM.