This year, Motorola has not one, but two smartphones it wants to call flagship, offering a choice between solid battery life in the X Play or solid specs and looks in the X Style, but does this last model live up to its namesake?
The second flagship for Motorola this year, the X Style takes Motorola’s design used on other handsets we’ve seen thus far, stretches it, and applies the latest and greatest technology for the true flagship.
Does it have the goods to be Motorola’s best yet?
Inside the handset, you’ll find one of Qualcomm’s six-core processors, the Snapdragon 808, clocked at 1.8GHz and paired with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, and offering upgradeable storage via a microSD card slot found at the very top of the unit.
Google’s Android 5.1 arrives on this phone out of the box, meaning you get “Lollipop”, and you get it mostly without the bloat, as per the stock experience Motorola normally provides.
Cameras are offered here, too, providing a 21 megapixel rear camera with phase detection auto focus and 4K video capture, while the front camera provides a 5 megapixel camera when you need that selfie.
Connections are fairly normal for a flagship phone, providing 802.11a/b/g/n and 802.11ac network connectivity, Bluetooth 4.1 with support for Low Energy (LE), GPS, and Near-Field Communication (NFC). Mobile connectivity also caters for Category 6 4G LTE, essentially providing download speeds maxing out at 300Mbps, while upload maxes at 50Mbps, network dependent, of course.
All of this sits under a 5.7 inch Quad HD display, providing a resolution of 2560×1440 under a layer of Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3.
Ports and connections are fairly limited on this phone, with only one pin ejectable tray mechanism up top, providing both nanoSIM and microSD on the same tray, while the remaining ports include a 3.5mm headset jack at the very top and a microUSB data transfer and charge port at the very bottom.
Buttons are small in number too, with a power button and volume rocker on the right edge, while all other buttons are on screen and digital.
The battery is rated at 3000mAh and is not removable.
A bumper is included in the box to protect the edges of the phone.
It’s not unusual for a mobile company to have one major flagship for the year, but in 2015, one of the mobile originals has two, and with the first of the X series out of the way, it’s time to get stuck into the more premium of the two, the X Style.
This is a little different from the Play, not just because it has a different name. No, this one is about having the best of the best in regards to spec, screen, and all that jazz, and Motorola even plans to deck it out with a lovely finish, providing the option for wood among other things.
For our review, however, we didn’t see the wooden model, which in Australia arrives with a silver frame, white cover, and bamboo back.
We received the “black soft feel inlay” variant, which is another way of saying “textured plastic back”, though we’re sure it makes Motorola feel like plastic has become premium when it’s just plastic.
Still, it’s a comfortable back, with a texture you can grip offering thin grooves up and down the handset.
Even the edges are nice, and Motorola has followed in the X Play’s footsteps, providing a home button with slight ridges allowing you to quickly identify which button you’re touching when you need to, different from the flat button of the volume rocker.
It is a touch thick, we do need to acknowledge that, especially in comparison to other phones out there, with a measurement of 11mm at the thickest point size being something that could throw people off, especially since it is much thicker than the competition, which current hovers around at just under 7mm to around 9mm usually at the thickest.
There’s no doubting that the X Style isn’t your ordinary handset, although it also might be, but we’ll get to that in a moment, because it’s time to tackle the screen, one of the areas where it’s clear Motorola is hoping to impress.
While Motorola has been lagging behind the likes of LG and Samsung when it comes to high-end screen technology, it’s even pulling ahead of other competitors in the X Style, delivering the company’s first WQHD display, offering 2560×1440 pixels of pleasing picture quality.
While other large displays go for AMOLED, Motorola is sticking with an In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen that looks very nice, and the clarity is certainly there, with a good 520 pixels per inch offered in this 5.7 inch screen.
That’s not an industry beating display, sure, but it’s lovely all the same.
Powered up and on, and the performance is also pretty solid, with Motorola opting for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, the six-core processor we saw earlier in the year on LG’s G4, providing enough speed to let you get the most of apps found today, and then some.
Throughout our time with the Moto X Style, which arrived with Google Android 5.1 “Lollipop”, even though it felt more like the Android overlay had been updated to 6.0 “Marshmallow”, we found it snapped along from app to app with pretty much zero lag, offering one of the cleanest Android experiences found without going to a Nexus device from Google.
And what makes it like this?
We suspect this comes from Motorola’s time being owned by Google, something that has allowed the company first hand experience as to how an Android phone should look and feel, which means there’s no bloat here, and Motorola’s apps are basically downloaded from the Play Store, helping to keep the phone up to date.
Granted, this isn’t Marshmallow, but it sure looks like it, with the Google Now-based launcher updated to look like it is, offering four frequently used apps at the top of the app menu, which itself now scrolls up and down to help you quickly find what you want.
Google Now and its location based suggestions are also here on the left most screen, and you can always say “OK Google” to kickstart it from the home screen.
When your phone isn’t in use and on standby, but you decide to pick it up, you’ll even find Motorola’s Active Display kicking in, allowing you to quickly get a glance of what’s new in your mobile world, touching an icon on the screen to get a sneak preview without actually switching the phone’s screen on again.
This helps the battery life, which isn’t amazeballs, but is definitely acceptable, yielding a solid day regardless of if Bluetooth is on or off.
In fact, our tests revealed that Motorola’s X Style had no problem with either, as the 3000mAh battery pushed on through powering that massive display and the 4G LTE modem through a solid day of activities.
The 4G modem is worth talking about too, because while the Category 6 technology isn’t totally new, we haven’t seen many phones get close to the full potential of Category 6’s 300Mbps download limits.
And yet this one does, because in our tests, we found over 200Mbps was easily found across Sydney’s CBD on the Telstra 4GX network, though our average was closer to 70 to 140Mbps, providing a pretty sizeable download speed if you really need quick downloads.
Motorola also doesn’t do too badly in the camera department, and while we’re not totally sold on the whole idea of gestures to switch on the camera, it is, at least, another thing that separates the phone from other phones out there.
Back to the camera, though, because in daylight, the 21 megapixel shooter with phase detection auto-focus shines, yielding excellent colours, solid brightness, and even a big of detail when you need it.
From what we can tell, this is basically the same camera from the X Play, and that means while the daytime imagery is good, the low-light image capturing leaves something to be desired.
Basically, be happy there’s a flash on the back, because when the lights go down, the X Style doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence, with images that go blurry quite easily at the first sign of darkness, and little detail.
In essence, the camera is good provided it isn’t being used between the hours 7 PM and 5 AM, just in case you thought you’d go out and take photos of the night sky.
In fact, beyond the mediocre low light performance, there isn’t much that bothers us about the X Style, with Motorola even providing a microSD card slot in a really cool way, fitting it to the same slot as the nanoSIM you have to use.
Rather, about the only thing we really are fussed with is the lack of something in the name, because while it says “style” in its moniker, it is, in fact, a fairly ordinary looking phone, with Motorola taking the G and the X Play and making this model a wee longer and a hair thinner, but that’s about it.
Show it to your friends and it won’t exude style; rather, it will look and feel like another Motorola, and in some ways, it feels so close to the Motorola G, that you’ll wonder if Moto’s mid-priced phone is really just a smaller version of the X Style.
It’s not, by the way, so don’t fret, and the heart of this phone handles its roar quite nicely, but overall, the Moto X Style still comes off feeling like a bit of an ordinary device. It doesn’t even have the water resistance of its Moto G sibling.
And look, it’s possible we’ve been spoiled by the hint that Motorola is crafting a wood-backed version of this phone and we just didn’t get to see it, but we’re more willing to bet that it has less in common with the texture and finish on the back than say a design and thickness that feels more like it needed updating a few years ago instead.
We’ve heard people describe it as a blank canvas, though, so it might be stylish in that way to some, though we think it pales in comparison to the sense of style Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge and Note 5 offer, and looks downright clunky when put up next to the thin sleek sexiness that is Apple’s iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
Perhaps wood will change it, but we’re not so sure.
Convince us this is stylish, Motorola. We dare you.
We’re not so sure if the “style” name quite matches what Motorola is offering, but there’s no denying that the Moto X is a great phone, if not one that’s a wee bit ordinary, or at least ordinary looking.
Offering an excellent screen, a speedy performance, plenty of storage, and a camera that loads up very fast when you flick your wrist, Motorola’s X Style is worth checking out if none of the other flagships have inspired you thus far, and you totally dig an expandable canvas to start your journey with.
Or you like wood, because, you know, there’s that side of things as well.