Motorola struck a chord with Android purists with the original Moto X back in 2013, and it resonated loud and clear in India too. Since then, the company has been on a winning streak with very successful launches in the budget and upper mid-range phone segments. The company’s outgoing flagship, the Moto X (Gen 2) (Review | Pictures), added some much-needed improvements to the camera and battery performance of the original. Today, we have the third generation of the device, but instead of calling it ‘Gen 3’, Motorola has gone with the name Moto X Style or Pure Edition, as its known in some countries.
The Moto X Style features incremental updates in most areas and fixes one major gripe we had with its predecessor, which was the lack of expandable storage. But is this enough to make it a must-have for those shopping in the Rs 30,000 segment? Motorola’s own Google Nexus 6 (Review | Pictures) retails for around the same price point today, and offers very similar specifications as well as the added advantage of being the first to get the latest flavor of Android. Let’s see if the Moto X Style can manage to win the hearts of Android purists.
Look and Feel
The one thing we really love is that Motorola has stuck with its iconic design language, which makes the Moto X Style instantly recognisable. It’s not a head-turner by any means and one could easily mistake it for a Moto G (Gen 3) (Review), which is the company’s current value offering. This is only in terms of looks though, as the phone feels very premium when you actually hold it. The metal frame and soft-touch rubber back feel very comfortable, and give you adequate grip too. The Moto X Style is also noticeably heavier at 179g, and fatter, measuring 11.1mm in thickness.
The power and volume buttons are well within reach, with the former featuring a coarser texture to make it more easily identifiable. The Micro-USB port is placed at the bottom while the 3.5mm headphone socket and SIM/microSD card tray sits on the top. The Moto X Style sports front-facing stereo speakers as well as an LED flash for the front 5-megapixel camera. There are three infrared sensors spread along the edges of the front fascia which are used to activate Moto Display. There isn’t a notification LED but then again, you don’t really need it since Moto Display gives you a lot more information by simply hovering your palm over the screen.
The Moto X Style packs in a 21-megapixel primary camera, which is lifted from the Moto Turbo (Review). There’s also a dual-LED flash unit just beneath the sensor, followed by the Motorola logo. This recessed logo would have been a great spot for a fingerprint sensor, which we’re hoping will feature in next year’s upgrade. Finally, there’s a non-removable 3000mAh battery underneath the back cover.
The size of the display has been bumped up from 5.2 inches to 5.7 inches and so has the resolution, which is now Quad HD (1440×2560). The Moto X Style also gets an IP52 certification which makes it dust- and water-repellent. While all these improvements are welcome, we’re a little disappointed that Motorola went with a TFT display instead of a Amoled panel like it has with its earlier flagships. Don’t get us wrong, the display is very good in terms of brightness levels and colour saturation, but we miss the inky blacks and vividness that we’re used to on Motorola’s previous flagships. This also affects the way Moto Display functions, as the entire screen now has to be lit up as opposed to just the pixels which show you the notifications. Last but not least, there’s Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 for protection.
The phone is packaged in a much more elaborate retail box than previous models have been. Inside, you’ll find the charger, headset, SIM ejector tool, instructions, and a clear plastic bumper case. The case is a nice afterthought but makes the phone bulkier and ruins the look so you might prefer going without it. The bundled charger supports Motorola’s TurboPower feature which promises 8 hours of use with a 15-minute charge. Unfortunately, it’s not modular so you can’t use the cable to connect the phone to a PC to transfer data.
Specifications and Software
The Motorola Moto X Style rocks a relatively new Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SoC, which is a hexa-core chip with four ARM Cortex-A53 cares and two ARM Cortex-A57 cores. There’s 3GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of onboard storage which can be expanded by up to 128GB. Other specifications include 4G LTE (Band 40), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GLONASS, NFC, USB OTG and Miracast. Wireless charging and FM radio are absent.
Android purists will really love the Moto X Style for its Nexus-like software. You get vanilla Android 5.1.1 out-of-the-box with a guaranteed update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Motorola has added its usual suite of apps including Connect, Migrate, and a new consolidated app for Assist, Actions, Voice and Display simply called Moto. You also get the slightly tweaked Gallery app which can create a ‘highlight reel’ from your recent photos and videos for easy sharing. We’ve already talked at length about Motorola’s gesture and voice features in the Moto G (Gen 3) review and the Moto X (Gen 2) so we’ll just skim over them here.
Moto Voice is similar to Google’s voice search feature, which lets you perform tasks like making calls or searching the Web by simply speaking. You can set up a launch phrase which wakes up the voice assistant when the phone is in standby. Training it to record the launch phrase is a bit of a pain but once set up, it works well.
Moto Display lets you see your notifications without having to turn the display on. You can even block certain apps from showing notifications through Moto Display. Moto Actions now lets you turn on the torch by performing a double karate chop gesture, while Moto Assist can automatically perform a set of preset tasks when you’re driving, in a meeting, or sleeping.
With no custom skin bogging Android down, performance is very snappy. The interface is smooth with no noticeable stutter in transitions and when multitasking. The phone handles demanding games and apps very well. We noticed that it does tend to get warm rather quickly, even when watching standard definition video content for long periods.
The Snapdragon 808 SoC posts some good numbers in benchmarks. AnTuTu gave us a score of 47,990 while GFXBench returned 24fps. However, these figures pop are only marginally better than last year’s model, which had the Snapdragon 801 SoC, and is at times inferior to the Google Nexus 6, which is powered by the Snapdragon 805. This doesn’t make the Moto X Style a slouch by any means, it’s just that the performance improvement isn’t much when compared to its predecessor.
Call quality is good and the phone easily latched onto 4G networks wherever possible. In fact, we managed to get a strong 4G signal where other phones sometimes struggle. There’s also LTE support for both SIM slots.
The phone handles video playback very well. All our test files, including high-bitrate ones, played without a hitch. Watching videos or listening to music is especially enjoyable thanks to the front-firing stereo speakers. The sound doesn’t distort at high volumes and is easily audible even in noisy environments. The audio and video player is from stock Android Lollipop, although Motorola has added an ‘Audio effects’ option in the Settings app which lets you tweak the audio for the headset and speaker. Speaking of the headset, audio quality is quite average and the ear buds don’t sit in your ear comfortably.
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The 21-megapixel camera looks great on paper but in reality, it’s strictly average when compared to other flagship phones. Landscapes and macros look good on the phone’s display but zooming in reveals a lot of missing detail. The post-processing in the camera tends to make a mess of finer details in the picture, which is noticeable once you zoom in. Motorola has also stuck with the same annoying autofocus system, which feels outdated when compared to other implementations. You have to drag the reticule around to focus as tapping the screen will immediately take a picture. Low-light shots aren’t very good either, and appear blotchy.
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We do like the half-carousel design for quickly changing camera settings. For video, we now have 4K along with 1080p and 720p slow-motion. Recorded videos are good, especially 4K, but slow-motion videos are pretty poor. It’s not about the resolution being limited to 720p but more to do with the quality itself, which appears interlaced. Thanks to the expandable storage however, you should have no reason to not shoot in 4K all the time. The front-facing camera does a decent job at taking selfies, and the flash comes in handy in low light.
Battery life on the Moto X Style is a bit disappointing as well. We only managed 7 hours, 52 minutes in our video loop test, which is less than what the Moto X (Gen 2) delivered. We feel the two probable reasons for such an underwhelming performance are the QHD screen and the power-hungry SoC. With everyday usage, we just about managed to squeeze out a full days’ worth of usage but then we had to consciously keep gaming and camera usage to a minimum for this.
The Motorola Moto X Style is far from the home run we were expecting, which is quite disheartening. All the ingredients are present on paper but somehow they just don’t come together, and the end result leaves you wanting more. We like that the company has stuck with the philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ when it comes to the design and has only made things better by adding metal to the construction. The phone also checks all the boxes when you consider expandable storage, 4G LTE, general performance, and a good display.
The trouble is that Motorola’s very own Google Nexus 6 poses stiff competition to the Moto X Style and, it’s a tad less expensive as well. It has a more powerful SoC, better battery life, wireless charging, and optical image stabilisation for the camera. If expandable storage isn’t much of a concern then we recommend picking the Nexus 6 over the Moto X Play. The former doesn’t support LTE on Band 40 but it does support Band 3, so you will be able to use it once other carriers roll out 4G later in the year. The LG Nexus 5X is another option to look out for if pure Android is what you’re after. However, we’ll only know how good (or bad) it really is once we test it so we’ll reserve our judgment on that for now.
As a flagship, the Motorola Moto X Style is a little tough to recommend at its current price, especially when you have a much better all-rounder such as the Google Nexus 6 going for roughly the same amount. Unexciting camera performance and battery life continue to haunt Motorola’s flagship phones, which prevents the Moto X Style from becoming an otherwise excellent package.
Motorola Moto X Style
- Key Specs
- Battery life
- Value for money
- Expandable storage
- Excellent build quality
- Good display
- Pure Android experience
- Weak battery life
- Average camera performance
Read detailed Motorola Moto X Style review