Update: After living with the updated Moto X, we've made the decision to bump the phone up from 4 stars to 4 and a half. Why? Numerous updates that have improved the phone's speed, photography and software tricks, and it's available at a new low price.
The Moto X was the long-awaited collaboration between Motorola and Google. Google became Motorola's owner and parent company over a year ago, which had many thinking that Moto would make the next Nexus phone. Instead we got the Moto X, a compact, stylish handset with decidedly mid-range specs.
With an emphasis on battery life, contextual services and easy one-handed operation, it seems Motorola has the iPhone 5 in its sights, not the big screen Android powerhouses like the HTC One or the Samsung Galaxy S4
Google swallowed up Motorola at a time when it was treading water in the smartphone market. It pushed out three solid Android phones for Verizon - the Droid Razr M, the Droid Razr HD and the Droid Razr Maxx HD - and then fell silent within the belly of the beast.
After a year and a half of relative radio silence, Motorola resurfaced. First doing the three Droids for Verizon deal - the Droid Mini, Droid Maxx and Droid Ultra. Now we have its long awaited flagship, the Moto X.
And then not long after that Motorola ceased to be a Google company. Its been bought by Lenovo in a bid to enter the U.S. and European smartphone markets. This may spell trouble for the speedy Android updates the Moto X has been enjoying, and could put the kabosh on the phone's stateside manufacturing. Only time will tell.
Unlike Verizon's Droids, the Moto X is coming to all major American carriers. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile all carry it. And unlike any other phone on the market, the Moto X offers a lot more choice than just storage size, 16 or 32GB in this case. It comes in nearly every color you can imagine, as well as eclectic patterns like the wood paneling of an old Woodie station wagon.
Motorola has also opted into second place in the spec sheet game: the Moto X has a dual-core processor and 720p screen, lower than the quad-core and 1080p combo that the HTC One and Galaxy S4 have taught consumers to expect from flagships.
While it looks lesser on paper, will it really make a difference day to day? Motorola is betting on no. Instead of going for all the gigahertz, its loaded the Moto X up with thoughtful features like hands-free Google Now voice commands, a clever notification system and camera access with the flick of wrist. It's also claiming twenty-four hour battery life on a 2200mAh cell, thanks to those lower wattage internals.
Can services trump specs? Has Motorola built the best Android phone for the "everyman" user? Or will it be lost in a sea of bigger screen phones with bigger specs and bigger names? Only time will tell. But as to whether or not it's a phone worth your money, just read on for the answer.
At 5-inches, the Moto X is diminutive compared to the current Android leaders. This is good news for anyone who's felt like the HTC One or Galaxy S4 were going to rip out of their pocket, or slip out of their hand. The X is also built from a polycarbonate plastic that gives it a different feel from other phones on the market.
Its materials make it feel dense and well built; it actually feels a little bit ceramic. It's a marked contrast to the Galaxy S4, which feels plastic and hollow. The Moto X is solid and well balanced. Weighing in at 130 grams, it's on the heavy side, but the weight isn't too much, and gives the phone a substantial, premium feel.
The rear of the phone is curved slightly, letting it nestle easily in your hand. Our review unit was a white model, with a slightly holographic woven pattern. The Motorola logo on the rear is dimpled, giving your index finger a perfect place to rest. Like an iPhone 5 or HTC One, the back is a little bit slippery, the only thing that detracts from a build otherwise perfect for one-handed use.
The Moto X's full measurements are 5.09 x 2.57 x 0.41-inches. It's easy to operate in one hand, due to its moderate size as well as a power button and volume rocker on the right side, right where your thumb can get at them.
Those are the only physical buttons on the phone. They're metal and raised and therefore easy to press, but do feel a little bit loose in their sockets. Shake the phone and you can faintly hear them rattle; this is something I encountered with the last Motorola phones I reviewed, the Droid Razr M and Droid Razr HD, a slight oddity that detracts from the otherwise excellent feel of the phone. It's no matter though, since the buttons protrude nicely and are very easy to find and press.
The Moto X has a sealed design, with no microSD expansion. That's a bit of a bummer, but easier to stomach now that the Moto X's price is so low. The on-contract 32GB model is $100 on AT&T and Verizon, $150 on Sprint - T-Mobile customers have to go with the $379 unlocked model. The $50/$329 16GB model will get full fast if you load up on music and apps, so we recommend splurging for bigger storage.
While the lack of removable storage is disappointing, at least its given the Moto X a pleasing unibody design. Despite a seam running along the side of the phone, it feels like one solid piece of high quality plastic.
The phone's screen is a 4.7-inch AMOLED display, with a resolution of 720 x 1280 aka 720p and a pixel density of 312 ppi. As we mentioned, that's a peg below the full HD 1080p resolution of the leading Android devices like the HTC One and Galaxy S4.
Compared side-by-side to the HTC One's 1080p display of the same size, the Moto X is noticeably less sharp. It really does take that sort of comparison to notice the difference though. While the One's mind boggling pixel density renders crisper text, and slightly nicer HD video, the Moto X's display is still far from fuzzy.
Colors are strong, a bit saturated, but never dull. The auto brightness regulates the display well in indoor light and in a dark room. It's no better at avoiding sunlight washout than an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4.
As we mentioned, the Moto X can be customized to a ridiculous degree. When you buy it online through the Moto Maker, you can choose colors for the front and back as well as highlights like the ring around the lens and the buttons. There's also an option to add a signature, like the engraving offered by Apple on the iPhone.
Your phone will still be subject to a carrier's logo, so expect AT&T's globe and Verizon's red check to blemish the rear of your device.
When I first reviewed the Moto X, I recommended that non-AT&T customers hold off until they could design a Moto X of their own with the Moto Maker. Now that waiting period is finally over and customers from every carrier can customize a phone to their heart's content, and those fancy wood backings, which were teased at launch but not actually available, are finally here, for an extra $25.
Even if a lot of the options come out as rather garish, it's great to see a device accommodating people's desire for color and customization. Many customers pony up an extra twenty bucks for a third-party case to make their phone distinct as well as protect it. Motorola has really cut out the middleman here, allowing people to deck out their device without the extra bulk cases often add.