Motorola Moto X Pure Edition review: Moto flies solo

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In 2013, Google instructed Motorola to reboot and reinvent itself as a producer of Android devices different from anything else. Motorola did almost nothing to stand out from the pack up until then. The brand and its devices couldn’t stand out from Samsung and HTC despite being heavily promoted on its own and with help from carriers in the United States. Motorola was releasing phones and tablets at a pace not unlike as Samsung but without the same success. Consumers couldn’t understand why they should be buying from Motorola. So Google pushed Motorola to change for the better and the company’s massive lineup was brought down to just three phones focusing separately on entry-level, mid-range, and high-end tiers. The Moto E line is for those who need a cheap phone with value while the Moto G line adds a bit of flashiness to affordability. And the grand Moto X line is for when you want to drop a few hundred dollars to get a top-notch phone. The commonality between the three lines is having simple hardware and a clean software experience. No more debating which Motorola device is right for you. Based on your budget and needs, you could tell exactly which one you should be buying.

The new Moto X Pure Edition (known as the Moto X Style outside of the United States) aims to carry Motorola’s flagship into territory complete free of carrier chains. Its design is nicely refreshed, the specifications are among the best around, and price is attractive as possible.

The first two flagships after Motorola’s rebirth seemed to feel like they were missing something. The Moto X (2013) shipped with brilliant software, but the hardware was behind the Galaxy S4 and HTC One M7 which were released months prior. Motorola felt a 720p display was good enough to satisfy consumers in a world where 1080p became the norm. The following year, Motorola learned its lesson and beefed up the Moto X (2014). However, a longtime issue, one that has existed in every Motorola-made device in history, went unsolved: poor camera quality. Motorola knows it, too, because the company admitted at a July 2015 event it hasn’t been successful in releasing phones with cameras capable of taking good pictures. Either an epiphany was experienced or the people at Lenovo told them to get their act together. Motorola can’t mess up the Moto X Pure Edition’s camera now, right? You’ll learn whether the camera is good or bad in this review.

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Motorola is leaving behind the safety net of having carriers promote and sell devices in favor of going directly for consumers. The Moto X Pure Edition cannot be bought from any carriers. Amazon, Best Buy, and Motorola itself are the select places in the United States selling the phone. Pricing starts at $399 and creeps up when you add more internal storage and fancier materials through Moto Maker. The specifications included, which you can see in the Hardware section, aren’t normal for that price point. But Motorola is ready to undercut the competition, likely with great thanks to Lenovo’s wallet, and give you a no-compromise phone for less than $500.

Design

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No hesitation was shown by Motorola upon announcing the Moto X Pure Edition’s size is unlike anything else the company has ever released. Let’s get right to it: the phone is gigantic. It measures 153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1mm, putting it right up there as one of the largest phones on the market today. The Samsung Galaxy Note 5, LG V10, and the Nexus 6P are of comparable sizes. Even their weights are similar with the Moto X Pure Edition coming in at a solid 179g. Between them, the obvious exterior differences come in their look and feel.

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The design can be perfectly described as casually premium. While the Galaxy Note 5 and Nexus 6P have all-metal builds with glass located in select areas, the Moto X Pure Edition only offers metal for the frame and rubber or fancy materials for the back. Not having a wealth of metal or glass doesn’t mean the phone is ugly or cheap, though. Its entire build quality is well-made, feeling solid in the hand. And despite being gargantuan, Motorola figured out a way to make the phone very comfortable to hold in one hand or two. Like the Moto G (2015), the Moto X Pure Edition has a slightly curved back causing it to gently lay in your hand. The wood and leather backs allow for a nice grip, but the rubberized back isn’t the greatest when wet. Fortunately, holding on to the phone by its metal frame is comfortably safe option.

If you have smaller-than-average hands, you’ll probably be forced to keep two hands on the phone at all times to reach items near the top of the display. The Moto X Pure Edition is tall and there’s no getting around that. Meanwhile, the width isn’t any problem because Motorola has such slim bezels to keep you from having to reach very far for something on the other side of the display.

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A nice little treat Motorola fit into the Moto X Pure Edition’s design is IP52 certification, meaning the phone can repel water. The body and ports have a nano-coating to wick away moisture. Spill a little liquid on your phone and you have nothing to worry about. It’ll come off of the Moto X Pure Edition with the phone unharmed. Just don’t try taking the phone for swim because its IP52 certification doesn’t cover depth.

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Facing you at all times is the 5.7-inch display, but that’s not the only thing on the front of the Moto X Pure Edition. Above and below the display are front-facing stereo speakers, an approach to audio HTC introduced to us a few years ago that many companies are starting to implement themselves. The bottom of the display isn’t busy outside of having two motion sensors because Motorola enjoys using on-screen buttons. But above the display, things are a little busy. The ambient light sensor, front-facing camera, front-facing LED flash, and another motion sensor are all up top.

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Turn the Moto X Pure Edition around and you’ll see a setup inspired by previous models but maintains its own identity. The little Motorola logo is present on the bottom a metal strip oriented vertically. And, yes, you can rest your index finger on the logo since it has a little dip. At the top of this metal strip is the camera module.

The only physical buttons used are the power and volume buttons, both of which are situated on the right side of the frame.

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What you won’t see anywhere on the phone is a fingerprint scanner. The Moto X Pure Edition was released before Android 6.0 Marshmallow’s release, the version of Google’s mobile operating system that will give a huge boost to the component’s use, and Motorola likely figured including one would greatly raise costs on their end and for consumers. Without question, we can expect to see the next Moto X have a fingerprint scanner. Motorola likes following Google’s lead.

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Another component missing from the Moto X Pure Edition is a USB Type-C port. This omission isn’t really one to be disappointed or angry about because the new charging and data transfer standard doesn’t feel ready for primetime yet. Everyone owns an abundance of micro-USB cables; therefore, Motorola is allowing everyone to go about their routine like normal with the phone’s micro-USB port on the bottom of the Moto X Pure Edition. And at the top of the phone, sitting in a very controversial spot, is an auxiliary port. A surprising inclusion, on the other hand, is the microSD card slot.

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One of the biggest advantages of choosing Motorola’s flagship and then buying it through them directly is Moto Maker. The customization suite is now three years old and serves its purpose better than ever. Just about every area of the phone is customizable at this point and the extra cost to do exactly what you want isn’t astronomical. Internal storage and premium backs like wood and leather are the only things that raise the cost of the phone.

These are the areas you can touch with the Moto X Pure Edition in Moto Maker:

  • Storage: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
  • Front & Frame: White/Silver, White/Champagne, Black/Dark Grey
  • Back:
    • Soft Grip: Winter White, Black, Slate, Raspberry, Cabernet, Lime, Turquoise, Dark Teal, Royal Blue, Deep Sea Blue
    • Wood: Bamboo, Walnut, Ebony, Charcoal Ash
    • Leather: Natural, Cognac, Black, Red
  • Accent: Lemon Lime, Silver, Dark Grey, Champagne, Red, Pink, Blue
  • Engraving: 14-character limit
  • Greeting: 18-character limit

You can also pick up a SIM card from Motorola to use the phone with most of the major carriers in the United States. Motorola will throw in a Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular SIM card for $5.

At checkout, Motorola will tell you when to expect your Moto X Pure Edition to be sitting on your doorstep. The typical estimated delivery time is about ten days and you’ll be given an order number that provides updates on what phase your new phone is in. But before you complete your order, I urge you to think safe long-term and sign up for Moto Care. While the Extended Service Plan for $19 is nice, the two Accident Protection plans are well worth the little added cost. Fifteen months of coverage is $49 and two years of coverage is $79. If anything happens to your Moto X Pure Edition (outside of it losing it), Motorola will replace it for free by sending you a like-new phone before you ship the damaged one to them.

Hardware

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The Moto X Pure Edition features a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) IPS LCD display covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, a Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor, Adreno 418, 3GB of RAM, 16/32/64GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot for up to 128GB, a 21MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, a 3300mAh battery (non-removable), NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, and Bluetooth 4.1.

Bands:

U.S. version
4G LTE (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 41)
3G (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100)
2G GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900)
2G CDMA (900, 850, 1900)

EU version
4G LTE (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 20, 25, 28, 29, 40, 41)
3G (800, 850, 1700, 1900, 2100, 900)
2G GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900)

Performance

The phone’s display is ginormous and gorgeous, sporting an incredible screen-to-body ratio of 76% which bests most of the phones you’ll compare it to.

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Motorola made the bold move to switch display technology from Super AMOLED to LCD. What could have caused Motorola to switch? Perhaps Samsung’s asking price was far too much or Lenovo wanted Motorola to use a technology not built by a competitor. The Moto X Pure Edition still benefits from using an LCD display because it gets much brighter. Colors shouldn’t be as vibrant nor should they pop quite like they do on a Super AMOLED display, but whatever Motorola is using produces crisp, attractive text and images. The colors emitted are rich and bright enough to satisfy anyone except a true Super AMOLED fanboy. No matter how you slice it, the Moto X Pure Edition’s display is better than its two predecessors’. Neither of those had Quad HD (2560×1440) resolution and they weren’t nearly as nice to look at. The resolution can be credited with the success, but there really isn’t any true struggle in color reproduction.

Real dissatisfaction will come from Motorola fanboys because of what an LCD display means for Moto Display, one of the selling points for Motorola’s phones. Moto Display appreciates Super AMOLED’s ability to illuminate only the areas of a display that need to show content. With LCD displays, Moto Display has no alternative but to turn on the entire panel. That can drain battery life, but Motorola is using a large battery with good optimization to alleviate concern.

You shouldn’t care what Motorola’s reason for choosing an LCD display is because the Moto X Pure Edition is still a treat to gaze upon.

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These days, releasing a phone with front-facing speakers is nothing out of the ordinary. Motorola is among a small-yet-committed group to give people high-end audio in their phones. The front-facing stereo speakers on the Moto X Pure Edition come in handy when you want to watch a video on your phone or play music loud enough to hear from a distance. I don’t get the need for front-facing speakers on any device, honestly, because usually generic speakers are acceptable. If I want to watch a movie or listen to music, I’ll call upon the Chromecast or Chromecast Audio to handle media. Big sound isn’t help, at least to me, when watching a 5-minute video on YouTube (that I can still cast to Google’s Chromecast).

Looking at the whole package, the Moto X Pure Edition is the best phone for consumers seeking a multimedia beast. The display is awing and the speakers are powerful. So you’re covered with consuming video and audio. Furthering my declaration of this phone being an entertainment master is the microSD card slot. We’ve seen even Samsung move away from the microSD card slot (although they’re probably returning), but Motorola is standing by its side and giving people even more storage than they buy with the Moto X Pure Edition. If you’re someone who likes having a pool of files stored on your phone and not in the cloud, this phone is for you.

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Since all but a handful of brave souls are terrified of the Snapdragon 810 due to overheating concerns, Motorola decided to play it safe and use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 as the engine inside the Moto X Pure Edition. This processor, which has six cores to its name, is paired with 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 418 GPU to ensure everything operates smoothly and coolly. I launched Minecraft: Story Mode, a more complex title for mobile devices, and was impressed with the speed at which the phone got me through loading screens and into the cubed world. Hopping between that game, Twitter, Chrome, and Hangouts was impressively easy. The only time I really thought the phone’s temperature was too high was when I had a mountain of app updates to take care of. And you can’t hold that against the Moto X Pure Edition because pretty much every device in the world gets a little toasty when updating apps.

Battery

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The battery fueling this monstrosity is 3300mAh, which is down from the 3450mAh battery Google has in the similarly-sized Nexus 6P. Surprisingly, the Moto X Pure Edition doesn’t last very long on a single charge. The phone, for me, would reach about eleven or twelve hours before begging for a wall outlet. I’m not sure why this is the case, especially since I’m not one to push heavy apps and games on my phone. It’s possible that the 5.7-inch display and its Quad HD resolution is asking of a lot, though. At least overnight the battery doesn’t drain whatsoever because of Android’s Doze feature.

On the plus side, Motorola is using its own TurboPower technology and Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology to quickly get you and the phone away from wall outlets. With a compatible charger, the Moto X Pure Edition should go from 0% to 100% in less than 80 minutes. I think being able to charge faster makes up for the ‘eh’ battery life and lack of wireless charging.

Software

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Although it shipped with Lollipop, Motorola already has the Moto X Pure Edition running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. And Motorola sticks to using a near-stock version of Android, giving owners of this phone a clean software experience with software updates pushed quickly. That’s an advantage no other company has (outside of those making Google’s Nexus devices). The Moto X Pure Edition comes months after flagships from Samsung and LG, but neither of those two companies have yet to give the Galaxy S6 or G4 the big jump to Marshmallow on a widespread level. Motorola simply sees what Google releases, heads into the lab, and pushes out software updates when ready for showtime.

Motorola’s pre-installed apps include Camera, Gallery, Help, Messaging, and the Moto app. The only non-Motorola apps you’ll find on them Moto X Pure Edition come from Google. The company figures you only need what you need. There’s no real reason to pull a Samsung or LG and throw everything and the kitchen sink into a phone if people aren’t going to use even a quarter of the features. The unique features that Motorola hides inside the Moto X Pure Edition, however, are extremely valuable.

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The Moto app is home to Moto Actions, Moto Voice, and Moto Display — the features that Motorola hopes will cause consumers to choose its phones and stay with the brand into the future. Their names are rather self-explanatory, but I’ll give you a brief overview of two of them before getting into the star of this phone.

Moto Actions utilizes the phone’s sensors to predict what you’re trying to accomplish: look at the display and it will stay on; do a chopping motion to turn on/off the flashlight; twist your wrist to launch the camera; lift the phone to your ear for Moto Voice; approach the phone to trigger Moto Display.

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Moto Voice is straightforward in that it’s always listening to you, ready to perform everyday tasks. The Moto X Pure Edition can send messages, post to Facebook, play a specific YouTube video, take pictures, and much more just by you using your voice. If stumped, the phone will redirect you to Google Search in hope of an appropriate response appearing there.

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Moto Display could be enough to attract people on the edge of buying this phone. It’s Motorola’s flagship feature for their flagship phone. The Moto X Pure Edition doesn’t have a notification light — well, it does but you’ll need a special app like Light Flow for use — and so Motorola uses an on-screen solution to calmly show notifications. When a notification hits the phone, the display glows lightly with the app icon showing for the corresponding notification. Press your finger on it and you’ll get a preview of who is the notification is from and what the notification is trying telling you. Swipe up from the app icon and Motorola will launch the app. Swipe down from the app icon and the phone unlocks. But swipe to the right and the notification will be dismissed. If you don’t do anything, Motorola will continuously have Moto Display do its job.

Notifications fading in and out is nice because you won’t have to keep your eyes locked on your phone and constantly check it. I’m sure you’ve been fooled many times while waiting for a specific message only to realize Candy Crush is begging you to return. That’s not the case with the Moto X Pure Edition because you always see what the notification without touching the phone. The implementation worked better in the past with Super AMOLED displays, but Motorola still has a winner on its hands despite the Moto X Pure Edition’s LCD display.

Camera

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This could be Motorola’s final chance to get the camera right before everyone gives up and believes it’ll never happen. The Moto X Pure Edition has a 21MP rear camera with color-balancing flash, one that the company says is ready to “take phenomenal pictures faster with rapid focus and zero shutter speed” in “any light.” Big statement, yes? It’s more like a huge statement when the world knows you haven’t excelled in mobile photography. So, here I am with the verdict: the Moto X Pure Edition takes good pictures outside with average-to-good lighting. When the sun goes down or you’re in a shaded area, the phone’s camera reverts back to its old ways. Basically, the camera is very inconsistent.

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They may have an underwhelming camera once again, but I think we should applaud Motorola for its improvements. The Moto X Pure Edition has the best camera ever…. for a Motorola phone. The controls are easy to access and simply to use, stripping down to bear necessities for people that want to take pictures and share them with friends and family. And hey, if you enjoy taking selfies, this phone has one of the best front-facing cameras in the business.

Closing

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Motorola’s Moto X Pure Edition is the perfect phone for you as long as you’re not seeking a flashy package. The phone isn’t as bold as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 and it lacks the attempted innovation of LG’s V10, but yet Motorola beats those companies’ current flagships in software, customization, availability, and price. The Moto X Pure Edition can be in your hands, customized to your liking through Moto Maker, for as little as $399 and it doesn’t force you upon a specific carrier. You’re also getting timely software updates that are practically guaranteed for about two years, a promise normally left to Google with Nexus devices. So then maybe it’ll come down to Motorola’s flagship or one of Google’s two Nexus phones. If you can afford it, I’d say go for the Nexus 6P. The Nexus 6P has a bigger battery, better camera, more suitable display, and software updates are coming to it first. But if you are struggling to pick between the Moto X Pure Edition and the Nexus 5X, you should probably follow Motorola. The choice was clearer when the Nexus 5X was priced at $379 and then $349, but that phone is now $299. I wouldn’t consider the Nexus 5X a real flagship because its specs and in-person performance are a little lackluster. So if you’re seeking something off-contract and high-end, the Moto X Pure Edition has to be the choice.

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Where Motorola now runs into a problem is reaching consumers. Lenovo needs to step up and write checks for advertising campaigns because not having carriers selling the Moto X Pure Edition will leave the phone in the dark to the public. I doubt people who don’t keep up with the mobile industry know the phone exists or, if they do, where they can buy it. Best Buy is one of its few retailers and we haven’t seen them promote the Moto X Pure Edition either. Who knows what the phone is and where to get it? I do, you do, and other readers of Talk Android do. But we’re not the conventional consumer who has to be exposed to marketing to become aware of a product and understand where it fits in with our life. The only party to be blamed by the Moto X Pure Edition’s lack of exposure is Lenovo, the company that spent $3 billion on a brand to fight Samsung and Apple. Kudos to Motorola for being independent and different, but a dependency on Lenovo is the honest path to success.

[Motorola]


About the Author: Justin Herrick

Born and raised in New Jersey, Justin is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University where he studied marketing with a focus on digital marketing. He's very talkative and enjoys discussing anything from technology and sports to video games and television. As for Justin's current device rotation, he carries around the HTC 10 and Nexus 9. In the rare case that his phone or tablet is not in his hand, he is either flicking through cards on his Moto 360 (2015) or typing away on the Microsoft Surface Book. Justin is patiently waiting for the day that Google replicates the Galaxy Nexus with modern day specifications. When not glued to his Android devices, Justin works as Sequoia Technologies' Social Media Coordinator.


  • https://plus.google.com/103224826726209519547 TJ O’Connor

    Now that the development of the Moto X Pure has started to take off, I now LOVE my Moto X Pure Edition. I was thinking of selling it because lack of development, but in the past week the community has has 3 custom ROMs in 3 days!

    • Justin_Herrick

      Which ROMs have you used?

      • https://plus.google.com/103224826726209519547 TJ O’Connor

        TruePureXXM until ACIP MM came out. Then we had a 3 day spurt where 1st Resurrection Remix came out, then Bliss, and last Beanstalk. I requested Resurrection Remix a few months ago and it finally came out. Bean Stalk was put on hold for a bit cause of instability. As of now and since it came out, I been using RR. I’m just glad we finally got some action. I was gonna get rid of my MXP because of lack of development. Now things are starting to roll….