“The flagship Moto X is a capable device but doesn’t blow our socks off”
Over the years, quite a few smartphone brands have used the letter ‘X’ as part of the model names for their offerings. The likes of the Google Nexus 5X and the OnePlus X come to mind as far as the latest launches are concerned. The original Moto X (review) that came out back in 2013 truly deserved the suffix we think, with its touchless voice control (a feature we’d seen for the first time at that time), bringing the X factor. Its successor, the 2nd-gen Moto X (review) followed in its footsteps last year, but when it came to launch a new model in the family this year, Motorola changed its approach and introduced not one, but two models. The Moto X Play (review) is the more affordable of the two, and comes with mid-range specs, while the Moto X Style (unboxing | first impressions) is the flagship model… offering a better configuration. While the Moto X Play is priced at Rs 19,999, the Style is priced Rs 10,000 higher, listed at Rs 29,999 for the 16GB variant and Rs 31,999 for the 32 gig model. The pricing puts the Moto X Style into the same league as some worthy incumbents, and faces tough competition. Let’s see how the new X flagship stacks up as a daily driver and whether it can live up to our high expectations.
The Moto X Style doesn’t stray away too much from typical Motorola design – meaning you won’t be able to tell it apart from the Play or even the Moto G 3rd-gen from a distance. That said, the build quality is top-notch, all thanks to the metal frame that runs around the sides.
The X Play had a removable back panel, but the one on the Style is fixed. It’s rubberised and bears a striped pattern that makes it quite grippy, though you won’t be turning any heads with the looks… at least with the black variant we got for review. It’s also available in white though, and that one attempts to justify the Style tag in a slightly better way. The Moto X Style is IP52 certified and features a water-repellent coating, which means it should be able to withstand usage during a light drizzle or two, and come out unscathed after minor beer liquid spills. We wouldn’t take it to the pool or the shower, but this definitely adds to the peace of mind.
The 5.7-inch display puts the Style firmly into phablet category, and it’s a large device for sure. The engineers at Motorola still deserve kudos for keeping bezels to a minimum and making sure that the phone doesn’t get too unwieldy in terms of handling. The fascia holds a pair of front-facing speakers on top and bottom, with thin metal bars that protrude out slightly. There are no dedicated navigation keys, and above the screen, you’ll find the front snapper along with a selfie flash and the sensors.
The top of the phone has an ejectable tray that can not just accept a pair of nano-SIMs, but also a microSD card. The 3.5mm audio socket is also located here. The bottom holds the micro-USB port for charging and data transfers. The metal power key and the volume rocker are on the right.
The top portion at the rear tapers towards the rear panel, which itself curves towards all four sides… making the device thick in the middle but slim towards the edges. Thanks to the curves, it hugs the hand well and the rubbery, striped rear panel adds to the grip. The signature metal strip that holds the lens for the primary camera, a true-tone flash and a dimpled Motorola logo is also there.
Sticking to its flagship credentials, the Moto X Style boasts a Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) screen, measuring 5.7-inches diagonally.
Unlike the Moto X 1st-gen and 2nd-gen which came with AMOLED screens, Motorola has chosen to go with an IPS LCD screen on the Moto X Style, and this means the blacks aren’t as black and the colours aren’t as vivid as we’d like. Having said that, the Moto X Style’s QHD display does back a punch and is quite sharp, so most users shouldn’t have anything to complain. The sunlight legibility could have been a little better, but the viewing angles are good. Since it’s not AMOLED, the whole screen lights up for Moto Display notifications, unlike the predecessors which displayed proper white-on-black icons for these notifications. Of course, we’ll be touching upon the Moto Display feature in the software section, but just in case you’re not aware of what it does, you should know that the feature throws up app icons on the screen for incoming notifications and alerts, and you can jump to the corresponding app quickly using those, straight from the lockscreen.
Stock Android has always been one of the mainstays of recent Motorola smartphones, and the brand has usually been quick on its feet when it comes to platform updates. The Moto X Style, just like all its recent siblings across the X, G and E series, offers just that – a pure Android experience devoid of any customisations or skins.
The Style runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1, and should be getting an update to Marshmallow sooner than later. However, Motorola’s approach to the mobile platform has been two-pronged. Just like stock Android interface is one of the pillars, another aspect that can’t be ignored is the few, but highly useful software features added by the brand. The device is free of bloatware, and you’ll hardly find anything preloaded on the phone except Google’s suite of apps. Motorola has added a few apps and features on its own though.
Migrate is an app that helps you move data from your older smartphone to the new Moto device, but the centrepiece is the app called Moto. This acts as the hub and offers various useful features – covering Assist, Actions, Voice and Display, and we’ve seen them in action earlier as well. Assist automates phone behaviour depending upon certain triggers, which could be activities such as driving or meetings, locations such as home or office, and time of day. You could, for example, use Assist to set your phone to silent automatically when you’re in a meeting or when it’s time for you to hit the sack.
Moto Actions enables a few gestures, allowing you to toggle the flashlight using a double karate chop and launch the camera straight from standby by twisting your wrist twice quickly – which are both quite handy in a crunch if you ask us. Moto Actions also let you control two other features, enabling Moto Display when you reach for the phone and Lift for Moto Voice, so you can activate the voice features just by lifting the phone to your ear.
Moto Display lights up the display and throws up interactive notification icons on the screen, which you can use to jump to the app, view a tiny preview or unlock the phone. These icons also become visible when you remove the phone from your pocket or lift it up from a table. As mentioned previously, even reaching out for the phone does the trick and activates Moto Display.
As far as the voice commands are concerned, those have been the mainstays of the Moto X series, and the Style is no different. You can set up a custom launch phrase, which can then be used to perform various functions without even touching the phone, just using the power of speech. Setting up the launch phrase is a little tricky and needs a really quiet room, but once it’s done, you can use it to query the phone for waiting alerts, set up reminders, dial out to contacts, send messages via SMS or other apps such as WhatsApp, capture a photo, check weather, play a certain video on YouTube, and perform voice searches, and much more. This works quite well as long as you’re not in a very noisy place.
Of course, you should keep in mind that as far as the platform and the features are concerned, the Moto X Style isn’t too different from its close sibling, the Moto X Play. In fact, a few features like Moto Actions and Moto Display have trickled down to lower-end devices like the Moto G 3rd-gen as well.
As far as shooting prowess is concerned, the Moto X Style’s cameras are just about the same as the X Play, barring two key differences. The first is that the X Style can shoot video in 4K, while the X Play is just limited to 1080p. Second, the higher-end model also gets a front-facing LED flash for the 5MP selfie camera, a feature lacking on the Play. Otherwise, you get the same 21-meg primary camera with a true-tone flash and phase detection autofocus.
The camera app is the same too, offering touch-to-shoot and a minimal UI with a settings wheel that slides out from the left.
The image quality matches what you get from the X Play for the most part. This means that the primary camera can shoot good, detailed stills in most conditions as long as the Sun God smiles, with pleasing landscapes, and sharp close ups. That said, the images don’t look worthy of a flagship and leave a tad to be desired, especially when you compare them with others like the OnePlus 2. Images shot in low light are riddled with noise and don’t impress too. The selfies are also so-so, except for low light conditions where it can fare slightly better than the Moto X Play thanks to the front-facing LED flash.
Here’s a look at a few image samples…
Most Motorola phones we’ve seen recently manage to defy their specs and turn in a smooth performance, and the Moto G 3rd-gen is the perfect example of that. As far as the Moto X Style is concerned, the brand has chosen to go with the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor (with two 1.8GHz Cortex-A57 and four 1.44GHz Cortex-A53 cores), which is mated to Adreno 418 graphics and 3 gigs of RAM. Stock Android runs beautifully on less powerful hardware, so we expected it to shine on the Moto X Style as well.
We weren’t disappointed, as the device delivered on most counts – turning in a smooth performance without noticeable stutter for menu navigation, multitasking, and even heavy games. The metal frame does tend to get hot when the phone’s stretched to its limits though. Surprisingly, we did find some lag while scrolling long lists such as the call logs and SMSes, which takes away from the overall experience.
The Moto X Style comes in two storage variants – 16 and 32GB. There’s a 64GB version as well, but that hasn’t been launched by Motorola in India. Both the 16 and 32GB models also come with microSD card slots for adding more storage, and unlike many new phones, don’t need you to sacrifice the secondary SIM slot for doing this. In other words, the X Style is a proper dual-SIM device with a separate microSD card slot and not a hybrid dual-SIM phone. 4G is supported, and you also get USB OTG, dual-band Wi-Fi (with the ac standard supported), NFC, Bluetooth and A-GPS. Our 32GB review unit offered about 21.5GB for use.
Coming to the all-important battery life, this is one area where we wish the X Style had followed its sibling, the X Play’s footsteps. The 3,000mAh sealed battery inside the Moto X Style packs enough juice to last a full working day, but only if your usage isn't too heavy. With heavy use, you’re looking at a top-up charge by late evening. Our standard video loop test ran for seven and a half hours before the battery put up its feet and died, which is an average result and corroborates our real-world usage. On the positive side, the Moto X Style supports fast charging and comes with a Turbo charger included in the box. We can verify that using the supplied charger, the X Style sips juice like a man lost in the desert would on finding an oasis. So you reach about 35 percent battery levels in about 15 minutes flat, and full charge in about an hour and 45 minutes. This is impressive, but we’d trade this for better battery life any day.
On the positive side, the call quality is very good, and those front-facing speakers can get pretty loud.
Priced at Rs 29,999 for the 16GB model and going up to Rs 31,999 for the 32GB variant, the Moto X Style is a decent all-rounder. It scores in build quality, while it’s pretty good in terms of other aspects like performance and camera quality. This explains our rating for it, since it does deliver on most counts. That said, our main gripe with the Moto X Style is that apart from the voice features, it doesn’t really stand out in any of those aspects we just mentioned, and the average battery life just adds to that. Worth mentioning that those voice features we allude to are available in the cheaper Moto X Play as well, so perhaps Motorola has diluted the key proposition of the X series by launching two models at different price points. The Style also doesn’t include a fingerprint scanner, a feature which is now becoming standard on most Android flagships and can even be found in a few affordable offerings.
In the same approximate price range, the Moto X Style competes with the likes of the OnePlus 2 (review), the Samsung Galaxy A8 (review), the Google Nexus 5X (first impressions), the LG G4 (camera review), and the recently-launched Gionee Elife E8 (first impressions). In case a large-screened smartphone isn’t a necessity, the Samsung Galaxy S6 has dropped in price and can be another option to consider. Out of this list though, we think the LG G4 stands out as the strongest competition for the Moto X Style, considering it matches the Style very closely in terms of specs, but boasts a superb camera. The Moto X Style still works as an option if you’re enticed by stock Android and voice features, but some of its failings, especially related to the camera quality and battery life, keep us from recommending it wholeheartedly.
Photos by Raj Rout
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