Hands On with the Moto X
Motorola showed off three new handsets today, including the Moto X Style - or "Pure Edition" - for the U.S. market. This handset runs stock Android and offers some solid updates to last year's model in terms of design and features. Here are our initial thought about Motorola's latest.
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Motorola updated the Moto X with a series of under-the-hood improvements and also tweaked the design. It is strikingly similar to last year's handset, but differs just enough to make it a viable upgrade for those who may have a 2013 model.
The Moto X Style — which will be sold in the US as the Moto X Pure Edition — is a big phone thanks to its 5.7-inch screen. It is smaller than the Nexus 6 (thank goodness!), but only slightly. The phone has a metal frame that wraps around the outer edge and customizable rear shells that come in rubber-coated silicon, wood, and leather. As Motorola has done since the 2013 Moto X, the middle of the handset is thick and its shape tapers out toward the edges. This is a core design that Motorola feels is important in aiding grip-ability in the hand. It's a nice shape.
It helps a lot that the Moto X is available in a wide range of colors and finishes. The phones still have a rather plain appearance, but the variety of rear shells makes it much more appealing. Motorola also added some metal to the rear panel to house the camera module; this metal design element can be customized as well with different colors.
The front of the phone has two obvious metal bars where the earpiece and microphones are; these also double as stereo speakers. Surprisingly, the Moto X has a user-facing camera with an LED flash. The flash is plainly visible next to the speaker along the top edge. There are no buttons on the face, as the phone relies on software controls. It has a clean look to it.
The screen is quite good. The quad HD resolution and 5.7-inch diagonal make it incredibly pixel-rich. The colors look great, and brightness is impressive as well. Motorola did all it could to minimize the borders around the screen in order to help keep the footprint in check. It helps.
The side edges are nice and thin. The metal frame has chamfered edges where it meets the glass on the front and silicon on the back. The seams are nice and tight. Oddly, Motorola messed up the buttons. The screen lock button is on the right edge, but it is above the volume toggle. Most phones I've reviewed in recent memory put the volume toggle above the screen lock button if they are on the same side. The buttons are thin, but have good profiles and excellent travel and feedback. The headphone jack and SIM card tray are on top, while the USB port is on the bottom. There are no controls on the left edge of the phone. The SIM tray doubles as the housing for memory cards. Huzzah!
The back covers are pleasing. The new rubber-coated silicon is quite nice. I like it much better than the resin Motorola used on the 2013 and 2014 Moto X handsets. Of course, the wood and leather surfaces return, and they also look/feel great. Who doesn't want a wood-backed phone? The camera module is more in-your-face than in previous generations. The metal housing looks good, but Motorola decided to skip a fingerprint sensor this year.
The user interface is "pure android" — which means Android 5.1 Lollipop and no carrier/OEM user interface skins. This has been Motorola's strategy since the original Moto X and I am happy that Motorola has stuck with it. The UI looks great on the Moto X's screen and was quick thanks to the snappy processor under the hood.
Perhaps the most notable change to the software is found in the camera controls. The rotating dial that slides out from the left side of the screen offers far more tools for customizing the behavior of the camera, which is a nice upgrade.
The Moto X will be sold online only come September. Motorola said it will not be sold by US carriers, but it is compatible with nearly all carriers thanks to universal LTE support. The Moto X Pure Edition is sold unlocked and the price starts at $399.
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I don't personally like this design at all.
And making the Pure edition only available in 5.7" is a bad idea too.
From the Hands On:
"The SIM tray doubles as the housing for memory cards. Huzzah!"
Hurray for the return of the microSD Card slot!