Last week, Motorola announced three new phones: the Moto G (3rd gen), Moto X Play, and Moto X Style. No, scratch that. If you want to get technical (beyond the fact that two of them are called Moto X’s even though they are completely different devices), there is also a fourth device: the Moto X Pure, which is simply the U.S. name for the unlocked "pure" Android version of the Style. Confused yet?
Naming conventions aside, the fact is that there are two different Moto X’s, the Play and Style, and clarity on their differences would be useful. The Moto X Style (check out our hands-on) is the premium flagship phone with all the bells and whistles. It will be available in Europe, Latin America and North America (and as the unlocked "Moto X Pure" in the U.S.).
The Moto X Play is a midrange flagship with lower specifications that will be also be available in Europe, Latin America, and Canada, but not the U.S. It is a little confusing that both phones are called Moto X’s,however. Only the Style is proper follow-up (as in premium device) to last year's Moto X. Although we get that Motorola wants to leverage the cachet of its flagship brand, we do wish that perhaps the Play was called a Moto S or something similar. This would make it clear to potential buyers that it is a mid-range device.
Now that we've hopefully explained at a high level what the differences between the two Moto X’s are, let's have a look at their specifications in detail and compare them.
|Moto X Style/Pure||Moto X Play|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 1.8 GHz 64-bit hexa-core processor (2 x Cortex-A57 @ 1.8 GHz and 4 x Cortex-A53 @ 1.4 GHz big.LITTLE) with Adreno 418 GPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 1.7 GHz 64-bit octa-core processor (4 x Cortex-A53 @ 1.7 GHz and 4 x Cortex-A53 @ 1.0 GHz) with Adreno 405 GPU|
|Display||5.7-inch Quad HD TFT LCD (2560 x 1440, 520ppi) with Gorilla Glass 3||5.5-inch Full HD TFT LCD (1920 x 1080, 403ppi) with Gorilla Glass 3|
|Memory||16/32/64 GB eMMC ROM,3 GB LPDDR3 RAM / microSD slot||16/32 GB eMMC ROM, 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM / microSD slot|
|Camera||Rear: 21MP with f/2.0 aperture & 1/2.4" Sony Exmor RS IMX230 sensor / PDAF / Dual LED CCT flashFront: 5MP with 87-degree wide angle lens and flash||Rear: 21MP with f/2.0 aperture & 1/2.4" Sony Exmor RS IMX230 sensor / Dual LED CCT flashFront: 5MP|
|Battery||3,000 mAh (non-removable), TurboPower Charging (25w charger)No wireless charging||3,630 mAh (non-removable), TurboPower Charging (15w charger)No wireless charging|
|Operating System||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with Moto apps||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with Moto apps|
|Size & Weight||153.9 x 76.2 x 6.1 to 11.06 mm, 179g (6.06 x 3 x 0.24 – 0.44 inches, 6.31 oz)||148 x 75 x 8.9 to 10.9 mm, 169g (5.8 x 2.9 x 0.35 – 0.43 inches, 5.96 oz)|
|Network||4G / LTE cat. 6 / HSPA+, Nano SIMStyle LTE Bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 20, 25, 28, 29, 40, 41Pure LTE Bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 38, 41||4G / LTE cat. 6 / HSPA+, Nano SIMCanadian XT1563 LTE Bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 28Rest of World XT1562 LTE Bands: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 19, 20, 28, 38, 41|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac / Bluetooth 4.1LE / NFC / USB 2.0||Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n / Bluetooth 4.0LE / NFC / USB 2.0|
|Audio||Front-facing stereo speakers||Front-ported mono|
Looking at the Moto X Style and Play, you can see the first major differentiator is the choice of the SoC. The Style uses the Snapdragon 808, a hexa-core chip in a big.LITTLE configuration. This chip has an Adreno 418 GPU that, although it's not as fast as the Adreno 420 found in the older 805 or Adreno 430 in the newer 810, is still more than capable of powering a Quad HD display.
Although we haven't published our results yet, our time testing the 808-powered LG G4 has shown that it is probably the best and most balanced mobile SoC currently available. It suffers none of the throttling issues that plague its big brother, the Snapdragon 810. Of course, there are still a few compromises in addition to the GPU – the 808 also only supports DDR3 RAM and has a less powerful ISP (Image Signal Processor).
In contrast, the Moto X Play is equipped with Qualcomm's best mid-tier SoC, the 615. This is an octo-core chip, but while that sounds more impressive on paper than the 808's six-core, the 615 has eight slower cores. Instead of a big.LITTLE CPU configuration, it runs two clusters of four Cortex-A53 CPUs at different clock speeds. The 615's performance shows that more cores doesn't always necessarily mean more power.
Although we haven't spent enough time with a 615-powered device to draw any final conclusions, our initial impressions are not too favorable. It simply isn't a very fast SoC. Although it should be adequate to power the Full HD display of the Play, its slower CPU cores and GPU put it at a marked disadvantage to the 808 of the Style. In fact, our initial results show that the Snapdragon 801 found in last year's Moto X (2014) is faster than the 615! So in the SoC department at least, the Play is a downgrade from its predecessor.
Both the Play and Style have bigger screens than the Moto X (2014), at 5.5- and 5.7-inches, respectively. The Style's larger screen is a Quad HD IPS LCD, and the Play's is a Full HD IPS LCD. The move to LCD over AMOLED this year should mean brighter displays and hopefully more accurate colors. It does mean though, that the power consumption of the ambient mode of the Moto Display app is going to be higher.
It is also important to note that despite these larger displays, the screen-to-body of both models is excellent. The Moto X Style boasts a ratio of 76 percent, one of the best of any current smartphone, and the Play's is not that far behind. These excellent ratios mean that the Style and Play are two of the most compact large-screened devices out there. The Style is slightly smaller than the Note 4 and much smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus, and the Play is about the same size as the Moto X (2014) despite having a 0.3-inch bigger screen.
The camera is one area that Motorola has paid a lot of attention to, with its intent to offer "best in class" imaging experiences on all of its new phones. Both the Style and Play use Sony's latest 21MP Exmor RS IMX230 sensor. This is a large 1/2.4" sensor that has advanced features such as Phase Detect Auto-Focus (PDAF) and HDR in 4K video. Motorola has combined this sensor with a wide f/2.0 sensor and Dual Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) flash. The wider optics will help in low light, and the CCT flash will produce flash-lit images with more accurate colors.
Although it is impressive that Motorola didn't skimp on the camera hardware in the cheaper Moto X, the Play's camera does have one big issue. The ISP in the 615 SoC is not as powerful as the Style's 808 ISP. This means that the Moto X Play, unfortunately, cannot shoot 4k video. There is also some confusion about whether the Play supports PDAF. Motorola told us that it does, and the Qualcomm spec PDF for the 615 does mention PDAF support. Even so, there is no mention of this feature on the Play's spec pages, so we'll need to get to the bottom of this.
On the front, both phones have 5MP shooters, but the Style benefits from better optics with a wider lens and also a front facing (regular, not CCT) flash. Perfect for overlit washed out selfies!
Both models have adequate internal storage options, the Style available with up to 64 GB, and it is good to see that both have microSD slots. As for power, the combination of a 3,000 mAh battery, 808 SoC and QHD display means that the Style's battery life should be similar to the LG G4. Our testing of that phone has shown that it is good for a 2015 device, but it's still down on some of last year's best devices.
On the other hand, one of the big strengths of the Play is its huge 3,630 mAh battery. A battery this size combined with an FHD display and lower-powered SoC means that the Play should last a long time. Motorola claims up to 48 hours of "mixed usage," and we are sure it is not too far off from reality.
Along with the battery size, because neither phone has a removable battery, Motorola's answer to better battery life, like everyone else this year, is fast charging. Both Moto X's support Motorola's TurboPower charging, which is its name for Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 tech. The speed at which Quick Charge can juice up a battery is determined by the output of the charger.
From what we were told, the Moto X Pure will come with a 25-watt Turbo Charger, and the Play gets a slower 15-watt Turbo Charger. We are not sure if the Moto X Style outside the U.S. will also come with the 25-watt or a 15-watt unit. Unfortunately, neither phone supports wireless charging. Admittedly, this is a niche feature, but it would still be nice to have. Still, including it, even on the higher-end Style/Pure, would probably have impacted the cost too much, and that $400 starting price would go up.
For connectivity, the Style/Pure supports an almost overwhelming number of LTE frequencies. You should be able to use it on almost every carrier in the U.S. and Europe, including CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint in the U.S. The Moto X Play isn't blessed with as many bands, and there are two models supporting different frequencies. The Canadian model will work on any GSM U.S. carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile.
The last feature we want to highlight -- well, it's more like missing feature -- is a fingerprint reader. Neither phone has one, which is surprising; we expected to see one on at least the Moto X Style/Pure. Again, like wireless charging, a fingerprint reader is currently a niche feature. However, when Android Pay launches later this year, it will be an almost essential feature to have on your device to authenticate mobile payments.
Motorola boasted about the "pure" stock Android nature of the software it installs on its devices, and the next version of Android (Android M), is going to include integrated biometrics. With the expectation that the new Moto X's will get Android M sooner than most other OEM's devices, not being able to use one of its core new features is going to be disappointing.
Design And Customization
|Materials||Metal frame with CSR, Wood, or Leather back||Plastic frame with CSR back|
|Colors||Standard: Black, White, and BambooMoto MakerCSR back: Raspberry, Turquoise, Royal Blue, Black, Slate, Dark Teal, White, Navy, Cabernet, LimeWood back colors: Bamboo, Walnut, Ebony, Charcoal AshLeather back colors: Red, Black, Natural, CognacMetal accent colors:Champagne, Royal Blue, Lemon Lime, Red, Silver, Pink, Dark GrayMetal Frame Colors: Dark Gray with Black front bezel, Silver with White front bezel, Champagne with White front bezel||Standard Canada: BlackStandard Rest of World: Black and White Moto MakerCSR back: Raspberry, Turquoise, Mars Red, Royal Blue, Tangerine, Orange, Pitch Black, Slate Black, Dark Teal, White, Sea Blue, Cabernet, Purple, LimeMetal accent colors:Orange, Royal Blue, Lemon Lime, Red, Silver, Pink, Dark GrayPlastic Frame Colors: Dark Gray with Black front bezel, Silver with White front bezel.|
The overall look of both the Style and Play is similar, and both contain Motorola's traditional design DNA. They have a new metal bar that runs down the middle below the camera, ending in the characteristic Motorola logo dimple. This dimple looks nice and is a comfortable place to rest the end of your index finger when holding the phone. The build quality of both phones is superb, and they are both very attractive devices.
Where the two Moto X's differ is the shape of the back and the materials used. The Style has a rounded back, similar to that of the Nexus 6 and Moto X (2014) surrounded by a metal frame. The Moto X Play is, unfortunately, all plastic and has a flat back surrounded by "vacuum metalized paint finished resin." We guess that sounds a lot better than simply saying painted plastic. The standard material of the back of both models is what Motorola is calling "coated silicone rubber" (CSR). This material has a nice smooth, soft touch finish that resists fingerprints.
As you can see from the chart above, both the Moto X Style and Moto X Play are among the most customizable of any phones on the market. Using Motorola's Moto Maker site, you can order the Style/Pure in 10 different CSR colors and four different woods or leathers. You can combine those options with seven metal accent colors and three different metal frame colors (that determine the color of the bezel surrounding the screen). The wood and leather backs will add around $25 to the price of the phone.
The Moto X Play comes with only CSR back choices. You cannot get it in wood or leather, which makes sense because of its price point. The Play is available in 14 different colors with seven metal accent color choices.
One important thing to note is that Moto Maker is only available in certain countries, and only for unlocked devices ordered directly from Motorola. Those countries are the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Mexico and Brazil (and not Canada). If you buy a Moto X Style or Play from a carrier or another retailer, your color choices are limited to black, bamboo and white for the Style, and black and white for the Play. Well, that is unless you live in the Great White North. There the Play only comes in black. At least it never goes out of fashion.
Availability And Pricing
|Carriers||U.S.: Pure Edition unlocked from Motorola, Amazon, and Best BuyRest of World: Style TBA||Canada: Bell Mobility, Koodo, TELUS, Videotron and Wind MobileRest of World: TBA|
|Pricing||U.S.: Pure starting at $400 U.S. for 16 GB model. $50 extra for each additional storage level.Rest of World: £360, €500||Canada: $400 CDN (approx. $305 U.S.)Rest of World: £280, €350|
Let's just say right off the bat that the pricing for the Moto X Pure Edition is fantastic. A phone with its specs for $400 (even if it is just the 16 GB model) is an incredible bargain, and there is no phone that comes close to its value. Even the higher storage tiers are reasonably priced, and don't forget that it also has a microSD slot. It's a pity, then, that this value only applies to the U.S. The Moto X Style in Europe (if you convert the GPB and Euro costs to USD) is quite a bit more money for an identical device.
The Moto X Play's pricing is a different story. Although at $400 CDN ($305 U.S.) it is a reasonably priced phone, at that outright price I would rather just spend the extra $100 and get the much better X Pure. Of course, that would be if you could buy the Play in the U.S.
At the end of the day, though, the outright price of a mid-range carrier device like the Play isn't important. Most Moto X Plays will find themselves in someone's pocket tied to a contract, and it will probably be a $50 CDN phone with one. In Europe it does look like there is enough of a price difference between the Style and Play that the latter is a good value for its market.
The Moto X Play is coming out in August and will be available in Europe, Latin America, and Canada, but not the U.S. Unfortunately, 16 GB of storage along with the black back is the only configuration of the Play for Canada.
The Moto X Style/Pure is coming out in September and will be available in Europe, Latin America, and North America. It is interesting to note that Motorola said "North America" for the Style, not just the U.S. While the Play is the only device officially announced for Canada at this time, we are sure that the Style will be coming to Canada, too.
What Canadians will not get, though, is the unlocked Pure Edition. Canucks will only be able to get one from a carrier. Also, we don't expect the Play to ever come to the U.S. market, even later in the year. Motorola said in its blog that they'll instead "have more choices for you all later this year," probably referencing new Droid-branded phones coming in the fall.
We do want to say for U.S. readers that if you are a Motorola fan and are considering crossing the 49th parallel to get a Moto X Play, don't. Because of the deficiencies of the 615 SoC, the Play is not an upgrade from the Moto X (2014), which is still available from Motorola unlocked for $300.
The Play is slower, made from plastic and built to be a mid-range phone. Last year's Moto X is still a flagship. The only two features the Play has over the older X is its bigger battery and better camera. Also, any software updates and enhancements the Play has or gets will more than likely come to the Moto X (2014), too.
That's why, with the hardware choices and pricing, Motorola's decision to call the Play a "Moto X" is confusing. It still looks to be a great mid-range phone, but it should be called something else so as not to muddy the "X" brand. Still, we will want to wait until we test the Moto X Play properly before passing final judgment on it.
As for the Moto X Style/Pure, after my brief hands-on with it at the New York launch event, I'd have to say it is my most anticipated smartphone. It appears to be almost the perfect Android phone. It's made from premium materials with an excellent build quality and has a wide variety of customization options. Its hardware specs were intelligently chosen to offer a balance of performance and efficiency, and it has everything I want, apart from a fingerprint reader. Its camera looks great on paper and from the sample shots we've seen, which is very important to me, and it runs almost stock Android. It also starts at only $400.
Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter.Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.