As the title suggests, this article is aimed at better informing individuals who are considering Motorola’s 2015 flagship smartphone, the Moto X Style, as their next device – hinting my own experiences, having used the device as my daily driver for months now.
Hello Moto! : Challenging price-value ratio
With regards mobile technology generally, only a few companies have impacted the landscape and still maintained relevance decades after. Motorola is such a company. Regardless, the company had its share of hard times and looks nothing like the company we knew in its hey days. The firm split into two independent companies at the start of the decade: Motorola solutions, and Motorola Mobility. The latter in a rather short time has been owned by Google, and then Lenovo. This Motorola is responsible for the current “Moto” smartphone offerings. The arsenal includes: E, G, X, and more recently C, and Z – range of devices.
Motorola’s smartphone market share is nowhere near the market leaders’. As a brand, it is not necessarily garnering any substantial amount of consumers mindshare with regards smartphones neither. However, the company has no doubt been influential in redefining the consumer smartphone segments by continually challenging price/value ratio. The original “Moto G” from 2013 is a device which quintessentially embodies this approach. Fast forward a couple years, and it was not only the entry level or mid tier oriented devices that were reflecting this price-to-value optimising strategy. Flagships were beginning to embody it as well.
Enter Moto X Style
The Moto X Style brought competitive hardware components for its time and close-to-stock Android experience at a marginally cheaper cost than the competition. From a design perspective, the X style is not necessarily flagship quality. There’s the sealed-in battery (3000 mAh in this case), ergonomic design and metal frame. Cosmetically, that’s all the similarities to its running mates from other manufacturers. This is not to imply that the soft touch finish material on the back of the device is in no way useful – it certainly helps gripping the device. Perhaps just less desirable by users accustomed to traditional premium materials on their flagship phones.
The front of the device is similar to most android running smartphones with its corning gorilla glass finish. However, sensors and components on the face of the white version appear to be too prominent. Plus, the X style has a number of these sensors which are responsible for the unique Moto features we’ve come to be familiar with in Motorola devices.
The metal frame that wraps around the body of the device is home to buttons and ports: micro USB port below, 3.5 mm jack next to the ‘SIM and memory card’ housing above. Both power and volume buttons are next to each other on the right side – placed within good reach for my rather big hands.
Impressive hardware department
Screenwise, there’s a 5.7″ LCD display with over 500 ppi – pixel dense by any standards. The auto brightness works well, adjusting responsively to different levels of brightness. Both upper and lower limits are impressive, achieving good brightness in intense sunlight and dimming real low in dark environments. The properties of the screen are impressive and up to date. The quality on the other hand leaves a bit to be desired. I can’t help but keep thinking I’ve seen QHD screens that look better than this, or even 1080p screens that could compete with it. Not to be misconstrued, it is a very pretty screen albeit slightly missing perfection.
With respect to hardware, less design, the X Style is mainly on par with other manufacturers’ flagships from its year of release. There are variants with 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of inbuilt storage. The device also allows SD card expansion of up to an extra 256GB. My review unit is the intermediary size coupled with 3 GB of RAM and Adreno 418 GPU. The Snapdragon 808 is the processor of choice. Some might argue it’s less powerful than its contemporaries, however it provides similar efficiency without the early heating reports of the 810.
Quality multimedia package
Media oriented hardware is top notch on the device; the screen details have been touched on above. With respect to sound, we’re looking at dual stereo speakers. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest bit of the hardware package. Sounds are loud and clear, even at the highest volume, be it consuming media or having a conversation hands free. Cameras are a leap from the previous X range of devices, but still fall short when compared to flagships from other manufacturers in the same year. The main shooter on the back is a 21 megapixel one, complemented by a 5 megapixel shooter in front with a dedicated flash. Nice!
Resulting photos are typical. In good lighting they produce good pictures with an impressive amount of detail. But reduce the lighting and the story changes. It becomes a case of photos with substantial amount of noise. On the connectivity front, the X style is competitive. There are the usual suspects: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and NFC chip. SIM size is nano. No micro USB C here, micro USB is the port of choice.
Software is the not so satisfactory aspect of this device. The Android version is close to stock and that’s appealing to us who appreciate Android as is. However part of that appeal is built on a position that latest versions of the operating system can be had on older devices as they can be pushed since minimal manufacturer tweaks or network permissions are needed. The Moto X Style seems to deviate from this paradigm: even in June 2017, no Nougat update has been released for the device in the UK and many other regions. One might argue that it is reflective of my personal bias. However a quick glance at forums discussing update issues for the device show many users being bugged by this inconvenience.
Asides this support issue, the software is competent as expected; the device’s hardware runs it smoothly without hiccups in day to day usage. Additionally, to be fair to Motorola, the service did get updated to Marshmallow from Lollipop which it was released with. Perhaps Nougat will come, just a matter of time. However leaving users with no date, or time-frame at least feels rather irresponsible in such a competitive market where switching costs are getting increasingly lower as innovation progresses.
The regular range of Motorola’s value adding features like the interactive, active display, and gestures to carry out certain functions – which are made possible by the Moto X’s hardware. Quick wrist flick to activate the camera, and a double chop to toggle the flashlight – both very useful in my opinion. If the features are not your cup of tea, it’s as easy as turning them off through the Moto app.
Implicitly, I have alluded to the X Style being a stellar device, albeit with scepticism regarding future support. In 2017, the device still possesses a brilliant screen – both in size and resolution. The build makes the 5.7 inch panel easy to navigate, if you’ve got big hands like me. Outside of USA, Brazil and India, if you’re considering the device, then be ready to run Android 6.0 officially. At the time of writing, Motorola hasn’t been able to meet their planned 7.0 update dates. Additionally, the battery life of the device makes it hard to recommend to power users – who might find the rest of the hardware package appealing, especially at its price. Heavy use will leave you needing to top up before the end of the day, however the quick charging makes it just a bit bearable.
Conclusively, the Moto X Style has aged well. The lack of a premium build I contend has helped the aging of the device – less metal to dent and leave marks on. The camera still competes with most of the competent and more recent mid-rangers. The audio output through the speakers even at its age easily tops the devices I’ve used in the past couple years (and I’ve used quite a number in that time). If you can find the X Style in your market for the price of an entry level mid-ranger, then it is a bargain. If you have to shell out more than that, my advice would be to pass. Motorola themselves have a number of newer devices like the Moto G5 Plus – which packs decent hardware, albeit a build that tries too hard to mimic a flagship. If the case of Android updates was different, the X Style still proposes a good price to value ratio. This doesn’t seem to be the case however, which in my opinion is a shame.
You can check out the Moto X Style specifications.
IB ‘Hi Beezle’ Sam-Epelle is passionate about smartphones and mobile technology; a solution provider; critical thinker; entrepreneur; the founder, Grand-Monumental Ink.