As the constant stream of sequels arriving in movie theaters shows, it’s much easier to sell a product built around an existing franchise than trying to build brand recognition for a new product from scratch. Perhaps this is why Motorola released two different versions of its premier Moto X this generation: the Moto X Play and the Moto X Style. The Moto X Play is the additional cast member, a midrange device situated between the Moto G and the Moto X Style. There’s one additional twist, however; in the U.S., the Moto X Style uses the stage name Moto X Pure Edition.
Motorola Mobility released the original Moto X more than two years ago after the company was acquired by Google. It included several features that proved popular with mainstream users, including the ability to customize the appearance of the phone through the Moto Maker website. It also offered a close-to-stock Android experience, something that was previously only available on Google’s own Nexus phones, with a few unique features such as voice recognition and Active Notifications on the lock screen.
Similar to how “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” closely followed the original trilogy’s blueprint (maybe a little too closely) despite changing ownership from George Lucas to Walt Disney, the latest X sequel, the Moto X Pure Edition, avoids a “Star Trek” inspired reboot under new parent company Lenovo. All of its signature features remain intact. It still runs “pure” Android, and its Nexus 6 derived appearance can still be customized using Moto Maker.
The Moto X Pure Edition comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 SoC. We discussed the pros and cons of using the 808 instead of the top-tier Snapdragon 810 in our LG G4 review, but we feel the 808 is the better choice considering it matches or exceeds the performance of the 810 in most cases while largely avoiding the 810’s power and thermal problems. The 808’s Adreno 418 GPU cannot match the peak performance of the Adreno 430 in the 810, or even the Adreno 420 GPU found in the older Snapdragon 805 SoC powering the Nexus 6, but its better frame rate stability makes it suitable for Android gaming.
The 16GB base storage option is a bit weak, but the Moto X offers both 32GB and 64GB options, along with a microSD card slot for storage expansion. It also comes with 3GB of RAM, which is the sweet spot for speedy multitasking and web browsing when running stock Android.
In a play to boost camera performance, Motorola equips the Moto X Pure Edition with Sony’s new 21MP Exmor RS IMX230 sensor, which supports advanced features such as phase detect autofocus (PDAF) and high dynamic range (HDR) when shooting both 1080p and 4K video. The front-facing 5MP camera has its own LED flash, a rarity for front shooters.
The new Moto X comes with a larger 5.7-inch QHD IPS display. The bigger screen results in a bigger and heavier phone overall compared to the previous version, but it’s still smaller than the Nexus 6P that has the same size display. The Moto X is not too much bigger than most 5.5-inch phones, with the notable exception being the LG G4, which is significantly shorter and lighter. The tapered back is thicker than most phones at its midpoint, but this does not present any comfort or usability issues.
The Moto X Pure Edition comes unlocked and works with all of the major U.S. networks, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon. Buying an unlocked phone from a retailer rather than through your wireless provider is becoming more palatable thanks to bring your own device (BYOD) plans. AT&T, for example, offers a $25/month credit if you already own a compatible phone. That’s a $600 savings after 24 months, which tends to be the typical upgrade cycle. Starting at $399.99, the Moto X Pure Edition is a real value proposition, especially considering that flagship phones generally cost more than $600.
With a solid spec sheet, some tantalizing features, and a reasonable price, the Pure Edition could be a real X factor; however, it faces some stiff competition. Any odd behavior and it could end up an X-File.