A battery to beat: Motorola’s X Play reviewed

What you’re looking at isn’t just Motorola knowing how to optimise Android to get the best performance, though that’s part of it, for sure.

This is also Motorola packing in one of the biggest batteries we’ve seen out of any standard sized smartphone of the year, with a 3630mAh battery built into the body, roughly twice that of the Apple iPhone 6S, and a good 880mAh higher than the iPhone 6S Plus, with which this shares screen sizes with.

Despite running with the same sized screen, the Motorola X Play feels less like a phablet and more like a standard phone, and that’s great for people after a big phone with big battery life, because that is definitely what is being offered here.


If you’re someone who surfs the web, does the whole social networking thing, takes pictures, listens to music, makes and takes phone calls, and generally uses the phone, you’ll see two days on the Moto X Play without fail, which has to be one of the positive features of this phone.

The thickness and weight, however, certainly have helped Motorola achieve this impressive battery life, and these aren’t the sort of features or design elements worth raving about.


Granted, the 169 gram weight isn’t going to kill your pocket any time soon, but there is a fairly solid amount of heft to a device that isn’t a phablet, and the nearly 11mm (10.9) thickness isn’t far off the 12mm thickness of the iPhone 3GS from

It’s even thicker than a phone we complained about the thickness of earlier in the year, the LG G4 which stretched from 6.3 to 9.8mm depending on where you measured, and reminded us of the early iPhone thickness as well.

The Moto X Play is almost as thick as the LG G4, and that was a thick phone.
The Moto X Play is almost as thick as the LG G4, and that was a thick phone.

This doesn’t make for an easy phone to carry in your pocket, though the extra size does mean it is fairly easy to carry since there is more of it to hold, and more yet still to realise is gone if you ever lose it.

For instance, if you suddenly notice there is an absence of size and weight in your pocket, you’ve either left the Moto X Play somewhere, or there is a hole in your pocket.

Either way, it’s not terribly great news, so make sure it doesn’t happen, because if it does, you’ll feel it. There’s just no other way to say it.

It's a whole heap thicker than the iPhone 6.
It’s a whole heap thicker than the iPhone 6.

There’s also a lack of water resistance Motorola’s cheaper option gets, as the X Play skips out on the IPX7 water-resistance that its less expensive sibling receives.

That’s a shame, because Motorola has included a small amount of water-resistance, but it’s basically just painted on the silicon, so a splash or two won’t kill it, but don’t expect to take this phone into water, as it’s just not made for that.

The camera doesn’t pull its weight either, and this is one area where we get to see the megapixel myth return to the fore.


Remember that time when people used to claim large numbers made the image quality better?

Well it appears we’re back there again, because while the 21 megapixel sensor is technically producing larger images than either of the 16 megapixel cameras in the new Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge/Note 5 phones, and is definitely carrying more megapixels than the 12 megapixels of the Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the quality is by no means anywhere near as good as any of these handsets.

It’s not even close, in fact, and Motorola’s 21 megapixel shooter really doesn’t feel like a winner here, producing decent shots in daylight, but some very soft and noisy images when the lights go down, while also refusing to focus quickly in eight the day or the night.

At night, the Motorola X Play may as well say "use the flash or hug something that doesn't move", because otherwise you get blur.
At night, the Motorola X Play may as well say “use the flash or hug something that doesn’t move”, because otherwise you get blur.

When it’s totally bright and nice outside, images can be clear, but if you don’t wait a second or two for the camera to focus properly, you’ll end up with images that aren’t sharp at all, and are still struggling to find the focus point.

The overly simple interface of the Motorola camera doesn’t help here, and it’s not really a fault of it, but rather the camera.

Touch the screen to fire a shot.
Touch the screen to fire a shot.

You see the camera interface is very easy to use, and you merely have to touch the screen when you want to fire off a photo, doing it on your command. Unfortunately, the auto-focus isn’t always ready, and so you either wait or fire off a shot that is out of focus, which in many situations you won’t realise is out of focus until later on.

Fun stuff, that. We have to hope that Motorola fixes this with a subsequent update down the track, but right now, the camera isn’t the best it can be, and those 21 megapixels don’t exactly fill you with confidence. Certainly not the confidence you’d expect out of that number.

Test image from the Motorola X Play's camera.
Test image from the Motorola X Play’s camera.


There are certainly some good things going for the Moto X Play, and battery life is chief among them, bringing some of the longest lasting performance we’ve seen out of any phone this year, especially one that isn’t technically considered a phablet.

Granted, to get this life you need to resort to something thicker than the standard flagship, and something a little bulky, too, as that’s part of how Motorola gets the life going long. With a big battery and some finely tuned Android, the Moto X Play does offer enough life to not only let you play the day, it could handle an entire weekend, too.

It is let down by the camera, though, and that’s an area that struggles in low light, as well as in the speed of acquiring focus.

If you’re not bothered by a slow camera and one that might have you hug a tree for stability at night, the Moto X Play should do just fine, but this feels like a phone made solely for people who need more battery life than anything else, because that’s really where the X Play reigns supreme.

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Reader Rating0 Votes
Upgradeable storage via a handy dual-use slot; Two day battery life without problems; Very fast mobile broadband support;
Thick; Not as much water resistance as the less expensive Moto G; Pretty weak camera performance;