50GB Google Drive storage
Not Full HD
No SD card slot
Lacks customisation options
Thanks to the internet, sources within factories, leaky manufacturing chains and phone company workers who leave their as-yet-unreleased handsets in the pub, there aren’t many surprises in the mobile marketplace these days. It was a welcome revelation, then, to be told that the Moto X was coming to the UK.
Why? Well, Motorola had already given us the Moto G, which was a similar device. That phone boasts a 4.5-inch, 720p-resolution screen, with an early upgrade to Android KitKat at a super-affordable price point. Forget about X marking the spot – the question is, going up against its less expensive sibling, does the Moto X hit the spot?
Look and feel
There’s a pleasant, rounded look and feel to the Motorola Moto X. That may surprise readers who remember our reaction to the LG Nexus 5, which was chosen as Google’s flagship device to launch Android KitKat. We were disappointed with its black plastic frame and form-factor, which were “pedestrian to say the least”. And while the Moto X might appear to share a similar desire to walk rather than run, it’s actually got a pleasing, clean look about it that is aided by a check pattern on its curved rear.
Its 4.7-inch AMOLED HD 720p display is a slight boost over the Moto G in size if not resolution. While it’s disappointing not to see a push to Full HD, the screen’s 312 pixels per inch and bright, punchy colours make viewing everything from websites to video a pleasure at this size. HD movies can’t match the splendour of phones such as the LG G Flex but only expert eyes will really notice the difference – especially as wide viewing angles make it easy to watch even with a few of you crowding around. And with more than nine hours video streaming thanks to the Li-Ion 2200mAh battery, you’ll still be going long after most of those Full HD rivals have squandered their charge.
Ease of use
With the latest version of the Android software on board, this is an incredibly easy phone to use. KitKat – as with other versions of Android – also allows an easy transition for previous Google devotees, automatically downloading and installing your existing apps, as you'd expect a 'smartphone' to do these days. The Motorola Moto X also comes with some fun features above and beyond the standard Android interface. For example, Touchless Control responds to your voice and opens up your device. Unlike Apple's Siri, you don't have to turn this mode on to use it – after all, who wants to have to touch their phone to switch to a hands-free interface? Instead, the Moto X is always listening, and the phrase "OK Google Now" can be followed with commands to text or call a named contact, play media, check the weather, search or get directions.
While this sounds amazing, you'll find early attempts to do something as complicated as sending a text a little tricky. Opening the message itself and choosing a mobile contact (even if you have home and work numbers stored for them as well) is actually pretty easy. The gobbledegook that ends up in the message, as words run together, takes some practice to avoid.
Another hands-off feature is the Active Display, which offers notification information at a touch. Everything from text messages to emails are shown on the surface, so you don’t have to rudely unlock the phone during an important meeting or that tense dinner with the in-laws. Meanwhile, Motorola Connect allows those chained to their laptop or desktop to make use of the bigger keyboard and screen to send and receive texts from their computer, which is a handy modern way of texting your other half while slaving for The Man without hiding your phone under the desk.
A double twist of the wrist fires up the camera app, which is an odd way of doing it but worked well in our experience. Once you’ve done this, the 10-megapixel camera is ready to shoot when you tap anywhere on the screen. In daylight, colours are impressive and bright, while exposure levels are dealt with well, even if the results won’t have Nokia Lumia users switching from their excellent camera phones in a hurry. While results dip a little in darker conditions, they are still generally on a par or better than handsets at a similar price point.
The Moto X comes packing a 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM. Fingers might wag that the less expensive Moto G has a quad-core chip but the Moto X’s processor is quicker and is boosted by software improvements designed to get the best out of it. As if to prove that, we found zero lag during extensive usage that included even the most intensive games.
Sadly there’s no SD card slot to help save those larger games, so media and app fans should opt for the 32GB version over the 16GB model. At least it comes with two years’ worth of free Google Drive storage, adding another 50GB in the cloud (remember to redeem the offer within 30 days of activation).
Being a great all-round smartphone at a mid-range price, the Moto X’s biggest rival is actually Motorola’s budget Moto G. In its favour, the Moto X is a touch slimmer, making it easier to handle, as the march of the Nano SIM continues. Where it leaves the Moto G standing is in the inclusion of 4G tech, which becomes ever more necessary as the services roll out.
It’s a shame Motorola didn’t see fit to offer the service US buyers can opt for at Motorola.com/MotoMaker. While there was a suggestion the Moto Maker service could show its colourful face in Europe, there's been no further word on that since the Moto X’s launch. Were the same customisation options available in the UK, we would be recommending this as loudly as a hipster talking about a band no-one else has heard of.