If you were to say to me that you had $400 to spend on an Android phone and you were looking for recommendations, I would barely know where to start. That much money can buy you any number of decent phones now, but each is not without its caveats. So thanks to things like invite systems, first-time manufacturers, blatant copycats and monthly payments, the manufacturer I would turn to first is someone with a good reputation. Someone trustworthy. Like Motorola.
Over the last couple of years, Motorola has proven that they know how to make a damn good smartphone at a number of prices. And over the years, those damn good phones have started to cost less and less. Their latest flagship, the Moto X Pure Edition, now costs just $400. That’s contract-free, completely unlocked, free of bloatware, and available in a myriad of colors, materials, and finishes.
Thanks to Motorola, I’ve been lucky enough to use the Moto X Pure Edition for the last week. Here’s what I think.
The buying experience
Waiting in line to buy a new phone when it’s first released, sure, that’s an experience. Sitting at home in the comfort of your living room, waiting for 3:00 a.m. to roll around to buy a new phone, I suppose that’s also an experience. Getting to choose the color of the front of your phone, the metal accents, the rear color, the material, the wallpaper, the greeting message, and a special engraving? Now that’s an experience.
Whether you’ve done it before or not, the experience of buying the Moto X Pure Edition is simply fun. No other phone gives you as many options when it comes to customizing your phone. It’s a borderline arduous task. But again, it’s fun. Personally, I’m a pretty plain guy, and I appreciate that Motorola gives me the option to be boring. But I stepped a little out of my comfort zone and went with a Royal Blue soft touch back paired with a metallic dark titanium gray trim. And a black front, of course.
If you’re so brave, you can choose from a couple different colors of leather, wood or brightly colored plastic for the rear. Matched up with a bright white display, the Moto X Pure Edition can make for quite the fashion statement.
Once you finally decide on a hardware design that suits your style, choose a greeting message and put a special engraving on the back, you just have to sit back and wait until your brand new phone is in your hand.
With the release of the Moto X, Motorola released a phone that was a pleasure to hold. It was gently rounded, lacking sharp corners. The back bowed out and rested perfectly against your palm. Since then, Motorola has been slightly refining that design. A design that reflects its price point.
While devices like the Galaxy S6 feel more premium than ever, the Moto X Pure Edition feels decidedly mid-range. But you’ll also pay a good $250-$350 more for a Galaxy S6. In that regard, the Moto X doesn’t feel $250 worse. It’s just no slab of metal and glass. It is, however, still a pleasure to hold. It’s weighted nicely, with a wonderfully textured back and a fun little divot on the back that my finger can’t help finding again and again.
Specs-wise, the Moto X Pure Edition is a flagship in every way. It has a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, a Snapdragon 808 processor, up to 64GB of internal storage with microSD expansion, a 3000mAh battery, 21-megapixel camera with 4K video capture, Android 5.1.1, water repellant nano-coating, NFC and quick charging.
The display is simply beautiful. It’s an LCD screen, but I promise you won’t feel like you’re stuck with a subpar display on the Moto X. It’s really nice. Viewing angles are good, whites are very bright, and even though it’s no AMOLED, colors seems accurate and rich.
Battery life is also great. “Turbo Charge” works well, and battery life is excellent. I easily made it through a day and night before needing to quick charge. I know some phones can do much better, but compared to other flagships, the Moto X can and will outlast them. And as for quick charging performance, 30 minutes using Motorola’s included Turbo Charging cord got me a good 12 hours or so of use. Not bad at all.
Speakers on the Moto X Pure Edition are also nice. There’s a set of front-facing speakers that, while they won’t beat out a a Bluetooth speaker, sound nice enough to watch a video even in noisy locations.
If it cost $650, I could find lots to complain about in the Moto X. An AMOLED display might have been nice. Samsung is undoubtedly making the best smartphone displays around right now. Period. And the Moto X doesn’t have the best processor you can buy or the longest battery life. But At $400, I can’t complain. Hardware-wise, the Moto X Pure Edition easily competes with expensive flagship devices and trumps similarly priced devices by quite a bit.
Most phones in the $400 price range will leave out at least a couple of things in the power department. The Moto X doesn’t have the most RAM or the best CPU that Qualcomm makes, so how does it feel in real world usage?
The Snapdragon 808 does not disappoint. Paired with 3GB of RAM, maybe it’s not quite as fast as rival flagship devices, but in real world use, you will not notice a difference. In fact, because of the Moto X’s slimmed down version of Android, it feels faster than some flagships. Games are quick and crisp, apps load instantly, and web browsing is no issue. As far as performance goes, you cannot ask for more at this price range.
Motorola has made a big deal out of the Moto X Pure Edition’s camera this year. Let’s be honest here: In the past, Moto’s phones have had horrible cameras. Thankfully, that has changed.
The 21-megapixel camera on the Moto X Pure Edition is much better than previous Motorola devices. Since humans tend to truly understanding things only by putting them in perspective, let’s do just that.
Compared to the similarly priced phones, I’d say the Moto X Pure Edition’s camera is a little better than the average phone. Compared to flagship devices, things do fall apart a bit. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great camera. It’s quick to capture, images are generally crisp and detailed with accurate colors, and it handles low-light impressively well.
The front-facing camera is nice as well, and the front-facing flash is cool, I guess. It’s a nice enough feature, but I can’t possibly ever see myself using it.
Most everything you need to know about a camera can be told through sample shots. You’ll find those below. As for what you can’t glean from sample images and videos, just know taking pictures with Motorola’s camera app is nice. Better than a lot of Android phones, in fact.
The final verdict on the Moto X Pure Edition’s camera comes down to this: The relative quality combined with ease of use makes it one of the better cameras you can get on an Android phone. Really. Some people will prefer pure image quality, but once images hit Instagram and Facebook, it really doesn’t matter all that much.
Motorola has been winning hearts for a long time now with its approach to simply leaving Android alone. Yet again, that has not changed. You get stock Lollipop with the Moto X Pure Edition, plain and simple. There are very few additions, and much like with previous Moto devices, they do nothing but improve the user experience.
Let’s start with the lock screen, or Moto Display. There are sensors on the front of the Moto X that allow you to wave your hand over the device to see what kind of notifications you have waiting. If you get a Gmail message, for example, there will be a Gmail icon in the middle of the display. You can hold own on that icon and swipe up to go directly to that notification.
Then there’s Moto Voice. Think of Moto Voice as an enhanced, customizable Google Now. Which actually gets a huge helping hand from Google Now. Moto Voice makes Google Now even more of a virtual assistant. It’s great.
Motorola Connect is a Moto-provided app for managing connected devices, Migrate will help you set up a new Moto phone without much hassle, and the Moto app lets you control them all.
I like to think the software running on the Moto X Pure Edition is what Google really envisioned for Android. It’s pure Android and it really takes advantage of the services Google has to offer. But it also differentiates itself without ruining the core Android experience. Updates from Moto are always quick because there’s not much to change when the latest version of Android comes down from Google, and because they don’t have to bend to any carrier’s will.
If you value clean, fast software that really lets a device shine, the Moto X Pure Edition will win you over.
It’s getting harder and harder to recommend a $650-$800 phone when devices like the Moto X Pure Edition are so good at a substantially lower price. In fact, I think I’m officially done, because the Moto X Pure is an absolutely terrific phone for $399. It’s the best you can buy in that price range. But even if you were to compare all Android phones available today, I’d still say the Moto X is the way to go. It features the best balance of cost, hardware, and software on the market today. Motorola really hit a home run the the Moto X Pure.