Motorola has formally taken the wraps off its latest Android flagship, the Moto X. Yes, it’s using the same name as last year’s model, not the goofy “Moto X+1” codename that’s floated around the rumor mill in recent months. But while its branding isn’t changing, the new flagship looks to be filled with dramatic upgrades across the board, making it a far cry from the midrange power of the original.
The general idea with the new Moto X is to rely less on Motorola’s usual software tricks and make the actual phone more premium on its own. It starts with the display. Last year’s 4.7-inch, 720p panel has been boosted in both size and resolution, up now to a 5.2-inch, 1080p screen that’s good for a pixel density of 423 ppi. Some may lament the decision to ditch the cozier form factor, but taken altogether this appears to be higher quality.
Naturally, the larger screen makes the phone a bit taller and heavier than before, but not overwhelmingly so. The device’s bezels have been shrunk down to accommodate it, and its sides are actually thinner than those on last year’s model. Those edges are now coated in a long strip of aluminum, replacing the (still fine) plastic of its predecessor with a sturdier frame. The device as a whole can still be customized through Motorola’s “Moto Maker” online suite, and now includes a leather option for its back in addition to the usual plastic and wooden choices. Finally, the X’s front now features dual speakers, similar to the setup on the HTC One (M8).
On the spec sheet, the new Moto X looks much more poised to compete with the other Android flagships it’ll be going up against. It runs on a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset, with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. It’ll come in variations with 16 GB or 32 GB of storage space, though unfortunately there is still no microSD support for either. Its battery comes in at 2,300 mAh, which is only 100 mAh bigger last year’s model, and a potential concern given the heftier display it’ll have to power. Still, the unquestionable processor upgrade here means we should see a faster phone than before.
Also boosted is the camera, which is now a 13-megapixel unit with an f/2.25 aperture lens. It’s surrounded by two LED flash lights, and it’s also capable of shooting up to 4K video, if you’ve already spent enough on a monitor or TV that’s compatible with that. Motorola’s camera app is still as minimalistic as they come, devoid of any sort of granular options but supremely simplistic to use. This was a good thing last year.
Speaking of software, the Moto X still runs an almost entirely stock version of Android 4.4.4, despite the fact that Motorola has gone from a Google company to a Lenovo one. Besides the fact that Google’s take on its own OS is still the cleanest and most intuitive, this means that any updates to Android should arrive much quicker than they do on rival flagships.
The signature tricks of last year’s Moto X are still here, though. The “Touchless Display” controls of that phone have now been rebranded as “Moto Voice,” but they work the same way, allowing you to access the many functions of Google Now through voice commands. Now, though, the app’s activation phrase can be customized to something besides “okay, Google,” and its functionality is set to expand to third-party apps like Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp. Other Moto-made features like Active Display (now “Moto Display”) and Moto Assist return as well. The one bit of bad news to report here is that last year’s Moto X will no longer receive software updates once its successor is released, a baffling move given that the former is only a year old.
All in all, the new Moto X seems to improve its foundations while still retaining the quirks that made last year’s model so charming. The best part about it, though, may end up being its price — Motorola says the 16GB model will start at $500 unlocked or $100 with a two-year contract when it launches later this month, which is noticeably cheaper than its soon-to-be competitors. It’ll be available on Verizon and AT&T to start, and unlike last year, users of both carriers will have access to the Moto Maker suite from the get-go. Sprint and T-Mobile options haven’t been announced just yet.