The original Moto X was one of our favorite smartphones of 2013. Between its solid feature set and fun customization options, the Moto X was a breath of fresh air in the crowded Android marketplace. Now, Motorola has released an update to the Moto X and it improves on its predecessor in oh, so many ways.
For starters, the new Moto X has a larger and more dynamic display that measures 5.2″. This new 1080p Full HD 423ppi display is brilliant, sharp and bright with accurate color reproduction. It’s actually one of the best displays we have seen on a smartphone to date and it can go head to head with the likes of the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and iPhone’s Retina display. Unfortunately, the larger display makes the device a bit less pocket friendly, but it’s not unwieldy. Motorola has also upped the ante with the device’s build quality, by using metal materials instead of plastic, and the phone now sports a curved metal frame on its backside. The curve helps make the device comfortable to hold, despite the device being larger this time around. Also, despite being larger, the Moto X is only a bit heavier than its predecessor, weighing just 5.08 ounces. Overall, the build quality feels a lot more reliable and premium, although it’s still not quite as solid as the aluminum frame of the HTC One M8.
Fortunately, Motorola has not dropped the plethora of customization options that are available via Moto Maker. And you can now customize the Moto X with even more cool options than before. To that effect, everything from the front face to the back cover can be customized, and the back cover can now be be customized with not just your own color choice, but a leather or natural wood finish, instead. There is also an option to throw on a laser-etched signature.
The camera on the 1st gen Moto X was the cause of our biggest pain points. Photos came out blurry, washed out, grainy, and were generally subpar. This time around the phone packs in a 13MP sensor and the photo quality has improved significantly. Photos taken with out 2nd gen Moto X review model tended to be very good with accurate color reproduction. Unfortunately, the camera software is lagging behind a bit in features. In any case, we are impressed with the camera’s ability to record 4K video and 1080p slow motion video. We also like how quick the camera is able to snap photos and we also appreciate its easy swipe controls for zooming in and out.
The phone comes running a relatively pure version of Android KitKat, but Motorola has made some refinements. These refinements really do feel just like nice additions, and aren’t too imposing at all. For example, with Moto Actions you can use your hand to wave away and silence the phone when there is an incoming call. You can also just wave your hand to snooze an alarm. Meanwhile, the Moto Display feature also lets you wave your hand over the display while it’s asleep so that you can get a quick glance at pending notifications. And like with its predecessor, you can still flick your wrist while holding the phone to launch the camera. But unlike the Galaxy S5, which also offers gesture controls, these gesture interactions are actually very practical. Our 2nd gen Moto X review model also came preloaded with several unnecessary apps like AT&T Live, Locker, Navigator, etc. Fortunately, there is an option to buy a bloatware free version directly from Motorola.
Voice control was a big deal for the original Moto X, and the same applies this time around. However, on top of the standard Google Now fare, Motorola has also installed their own special Moto Voice control software on the phone. This software lets you customize the initial voice command you use to get your Moto X’s attention. So instead of saying, “OK, Google Now,” you can use your own catch phrase, which can be just about anything. Moto Voice lets you use your voice to do anything from creating a text, to creating an alarm, searching the web, and opening up the front facing camera to snap a photo. Overall, Moto Voice works pretty well and understood our commands most of the time, but it did struggle in noisy environments.
When it comes to performance, the Moto X is nothing short of stellar. That is because the Moto X is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz Quadcore processor with 2GB of RAM. Our 2nd gen Moto X review model earned a score of 21850 in Quadrant, making it one of the fastest smartphones on the market. Overall this is a little speed demon of a phone that can take pretty much whatever you can throw at it. We also tested the device with AT&T’s LTE service in NYC and saw download speeds of 21.46 Mbps and upload speeds of 12 Mbps.
Battery life is respectable for the Moto X and the phone manages to get through a full day of moderate use thanks to its 2,300 mAh battery.
Like with its predecessor, between its prowess and all of its customization options, we’re in love with the Moto X. In particular, the wooden finish is absolutely fab and you’ll find nothing like it on any other phone. Pair the Moto X with the Moto 360, which is our favorite Android Wear-powered smartwatch to date, and the Moto X offers one of the best Android experiences on the market today. You can pick up the Moto X starting at just $99 with a contract, or $499 without contract.
The Good: An already great Android phone that just got even better, excellent display, lots of customization options—including a wood or leather finish, mostly pure Android experience, super fast performance, improved build quality feels and looks much more premium, competitive pricing, voice control software works well, louder than average speaker, camera has significantly improved, offers nice tweaks to Android
The Bad: No microSD support for expandable storage, non-removable battery, Moto Maker customization options are not available for Sprint and T-Mobile users, comes with lots of AT&T bloatware