Another year, another Moto X. For 2015 things get really exciting with the Moto X Pure Edition (Moto X Style overseas); it's a much more powerful phone than anything we've seen under the Moto X, G and E labels, and it's much bigger. The Moto X Pure Edition has a 5.7" QHD display, putting it squarely in phablet territory with the likes of the more expensive Samsung Galaxy Note 5, iPhone 6 Plus and the LG G4. Last year's X wasn't a high end phone in terms of processing power, but this time we get the 1.86 GHz Snapdragon 808 CPU with 3 gigs of RAM. While that might not be the very fastest CPU available, it's pretty darned quick and it's the same as in the LG G4. The price is still relatively tame, coming in much cheaper than the iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5, but it's still considerably more than the run of well-made, inexpensive phones that have hit the market this year like the Asus ZenFone 2, OnePlus 2 and Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. Still, you get a lot for your money and at $399 for the base model, you're spending several hundred dollars less than on a flagship.
Ah, but that $399 price tag probably isn't for the phone you want. Moto still tempts us with Moto Maker and the array of back materials, colors, accents and storage capacities that will raise the price tag. Our unit has a walnut wood back, champagne accents (you must buy the 32 or 64 gig to even qualify to buy champagne) and 32 gigs of storage for $475. Honestly, that's still much more affordable than several of the flagships, and you get a unique and pretty phone for the price. The base model has 16 gigs of storage and each storage increment adds another $50. Wood or metal backs add a reasonable $25 to the price. Other than the champagne sides + accents, other trim colors and front face colors (black or white) won't cost you more.
This Android smartphone has dual band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, NFC and a GPS. It has a 5MP front camera, rear 21MP camera and a microSD card slot. It's sold unlocked for use with any carrier (yes, one model works on all major US carriers).
Calling Big-Handed Folks
The Moto X first gen (we're on the 3rd gen now) won over a lot of people because it was manageable and comfortable in the hand. Each generation grew larger however thanks to the big phone craze and the second gen Moto X was 5.2", while today's model is 5.7". It's not particularly thin or light either, so you'll need a tight waistband, big pockets and sizeable hands to handle the Pure. I do have large hands and prefer large phones, so I'm fine with it, though I do find it a bit heavy banging against my thigh in a roomy front pocket. The phone is about the same size as the LG G4, Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and iPhone 6 Plus, though it's thicker than Apple and Samsung's offerings by a noticeable margin. The tapered sides do make it comfortable in hand and easier to hold onto compared to the wafer-like iPhone and slippery glass Galaxy phones.
New for the 2015 Moto X is a microSD card slot-- awesome! In fact, the phone will offer to move your media files to a card if you have one inserted. The card lives in a slide-in plastic carrier that also holds the nano SIM card at the top of the phone. This requires a particularly thin poke tool (included). Even a paperclip is too thick to eject the card holder. Why Moto, why? Many of us will misplace the tool, but paperclips are readily available.
The battery is sealed inside as with previous generations, and the front is covered in Gorilla Glass 3 with lovely side tapers. It looks and feels like a classy phone, at least with a wood or leather back. The plastic backs aren't too shabby either but they definitely aren't as chic despite the seemingly timeless Moto design and aluminum sides that have a little plastic too, which detracts and distracts from the design.
Unlocked Phone FTW!
The Moto X Pure Edition is one of the few phones that's unlocked and supports all four major carriers (and several smaller and regional carriers). Not many phones do both GSM as well as Sprint and Verizon's flavors of CDMA, and that puts the Moto X Pure in small but good company. Just pop in your AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon SIM card and you're ready to go, with LTE 4G too. Of course you won't get some carrier specific features like WiFi calling or VoLTE, but you will be able to use the phone when travelling overseas with any SIM you like. You can switch carriers with no need to buy a new phone.
Motorola has always excelled at voice quality and reception, and the Moto X Pure Edition is no exception. Calls were clear and full on both ends with average call volume. Reception was a tiny bit better (-2 to -4 db) than several other current carrier phones. Data speeds were par for the course on the carriers we tested (the same as other high end phones).
Motorola, now owned by Lenovo and previously owned by Google, has entered the specs war full force when it comes to display size and resolution. This time we get a QHD 2560 x 1440 LCD. It has pleasing warm colors, better than average brightness and mediocre viewing angles. To bring the phone's price down, obviously Moto couldn't give us the best of everything. It's not as color saturated and contrasty as Samsung's Super AMOLED displays since it's not AMOLED (I know, duh), but some folks prefer more realistic like colors. It's not quite as vibrant and colorful as the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus either, but it looks very good compared to the LG G4 and HTC One M9. The M9 has a lower resolution display with distinctly average colors and the G4's display isn't as bright.
As with other Moto phones, we have Moto Display, a feature I really like. Just move the phone and the sleep screen wakes to show you notifications without having to unlock and turn on the phone. You can also use Motorola's voice command, or stick with Google Now.
Performance and Horsepower
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 with Adreno 418 graphics is no slouch. Yes, there's the Snapdragon 810, the latest generation Samsung Exynos CPUs and the Apple A9 that can beat it in benchmarks, but realistically, do you really need a super computer in your pocket? The nearly pure Android 5.1 OS and native speed of the 808 make for a very fast phone that handles multitasking nicely. It has 3 gigs of RAM and is available with 16, 32 or 64 gigs of storage. If you were to hesitate about buying a Moto X Pure Edition rather than a more expensive flagship, CPU concerns shouldn't be the reason.
Deals and Shopping:
Moto X Pure Edition (2015) Video Review
Moto X Pure Edition vs. LG G4 Comparison Smackdown Video
I'll be honest: Moto's phone cameras have been mediocre to atrocious, varying by model. The Moto X Pure Edition finally changes that. Not because it has a 21MP sensor--honestly pixel count is less important than lens quality, imaging software, sensor quality, exposure control and other factors. The Moto X Pure takes good photos in good lighting and the new night mode helps a little (just a little) with dim to dark shots. Colors are pleasing, exposure is correct, dynamic range is good and there's no color cast. Images are a little oversharpened, but most folks prefer sharp to fuzzy. Autofocus is the weak link here, and the camera often misses focus, particularly in poor light and indoor home lighting. That's remarkable not only because the camera app forces you to tap to focus and shoot (giving it a clue as to where to focus) but also because camera phones tend to have wide depth of field and focus zones that keep most things in focus easily. This is something Moto could fix with a firmware or software update, and we hope they do. How do the photos compare to the top dog Samsung Galaxy phones and the LG G4? Not as good, but then you're paying less too.
The phone can shoot 4K video via the rear camera and it can automatically scan bar codes and QR codes. Video quality is good but not as good as the Galaxy S6/Note 5 family, LG G4 or iPhone 6 Plus (only comparing 1080p for the iPhone 6 Plus since it lacks 4K recording, a feature that's coming to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus). Colors are a just a little muddier on the Moto X and there's no optical image stabilization to smooth out jittery handheld video. Still, overall it's a good showing in this price range.
The front 5MP camera has a wide angle lens that lets you capture more of the scene behind and around you, but it also introduces wide angle distortion (we can't have it all). There's even a front flash, and once you blind yourself at close range, you'll probably never use it again. The front camera can shoot 1080p video. The front camera doesn't handle high contrast lighting or low light settings well, but in a well lit environment, it's decent though not as good as Samsung and LG's top phones.
The 3,000 mAh battery is sealed inside. That's a similar capacity battery to other current smartphones in this size range and unsurprisingly, it has somewhat similar battery life. Since Moto went with the huge high res screen and faster CPU to compete with flagships, battery life isn't as good compared to previous generation Moto X models. We found it typically lasted until 8pm with moderate use (4 to 4.5 hours screen on time). That's not as good as the LG G4 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, but it's not far from the smaller Samsung Galaxy S6. This time around, Moto includes the Turbo Charger, a chunky quick charger that can top up the battery by 40% in 30 minutes. Assuming you're near an AC outlet now and again, that really helps if you're a heavy phone user.
It's hard not to really like the Moto X Pure Edition for 2015. For a relatively fair price you get a truly stylish phone that you can customize to order. Just as important, it's also fast and has a big QHD resolution display. Even if you add on a few options, it still sits under $500, making it the built to order flagship that doesn't cost $650 to $850. Of course, the LG G4 and HTC One M9 aren't as expensive as the offerings from Samsung and Apple in this size range, and they're also worth a look. But with the Moto X Pure Edition you can buy one unlocked phone that will work on any carrier. It won't have carrier bloat, should get OS updates quicker and it runs a very clean version of Android. For those who want even faster CPUs, better cameras and the complete absence of plastics, the flagships might still be for you. But for anyone looking for a really nice phone under $500, the Moto X Pure Edition is worthy of your consideration.
Price: starting at $399. $475 with wood or leather back and 32 gigs storage (as reviewed).
Display:5.7" IPS display. Resolution:
2560 x 1440. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor.
Battery:3,000 mAh Lithium
Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. Supports quick charging, Motorola Turbo Charger included.
Performance:1.86 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 6 core, 64 bit CPU with Adreno 418 graphics. 3 gigs RAM. 16, 32 or 64 gigs storage.
x 3.00 x 0.43 inches. Weight: 6.31 ounces.
Phone:GSM quad band world phone with EDGE 2G. 3G and 4G LTE. Also has CDMA dual band digital with 3G EV-DO Rev. A and 4G LTE that works on Verizon and Sprint. Uses a nano SIM card.
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 900, 1700 (AWS),1900, 2100 MHz)
CDMA (800, 850, 1900 MHz)
4G LTE bands (B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 38, 41).
Camera:5MP front camera with LED flash and 1080p video recording. Rear 21MP camera with LED flash and 4K video recording.
in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
Networking:Integrated dual band
WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 LE and NFC.
Software:Android OS 5.1.1 Lollipop with very light Motorola customizations for motion, location and voice interaction.