Apple's much-anticipated iPhone 6 has finally arrived, but there's still stiff competition from the Android space. Motorola has also re-launched the latest iteration of one of its critically acclaimed devices too - the Moto X (2014).
As expected, Apple’s latest iPhone is quite far removed from all previous models thanks to its expansion in size – it now accommodates a 4.7in display, up from the 4-inches of the previous model. More than that, the design has received quite an extensive overhaul, it’s still aluminium with a glass front, but the edges and corners are considerably softer for an altogether more rounded appearance. Meanwhile the sectioned end cap design has been changed with a new appearance. While there are enough design cues to make it immediately recognisable as an Apple iPhone product, the iPhone 6 looks unique amongst its peers.
The screen has been enlarged and the resolution improved alongside, but the end result is a pixel density and sharpness similar to the previous 4in Retina setup at the same 326ppi. It’s still IPS LCD, so colour and brightness are still robust, and overall image quality is extremely capable. Rumours of a Sapphire Glass display proved untrue, so you can expect this phone to still fare badly when dropped, and unlike some rival devices there’s no weatherproofing aboard Apple’s latest.
Previous Apple iPhones weren’t the most robust devices on the market, with aluminium being a soft metal to begin with. However, #bendgate has proven the iPhone 6 can in some cases have a weak bodyshell that bends easily.
The Moto X (2014) is considerably bigger than the 2013 edition with an enlarged 5.2in AMOLED display. The resolution is now full HD 1080p at 424ppi for some fantastic visual quality, and being AMOLED the contrast and viewing angles are excellent. The second-gen Moto X has also improved in the design stakes with a stylish metallic surround and little-to-no bezel around the display.
However, the key selling point of the Moto X’s design is the ability to customise its appearance. You can simply buy the phone straight-up with no modification, but purchase it through Motorola’s Moto Maker web store and you’re presented with a choice of two front panel colours (black or white), and a wide range of back panel finishes including wood and leather, as well as various coloured plastics.
On top of this there’s the option to add an accent colour which tweaks the buttons, speaker grilles and camera surrounds. You can also add an engraving to the rear panel, and there are some software changes you can alter, including the welcome message and wallpaper. The Moto X is also splash-proof (though not fully waterproof – don’t go dropping it in the pool!)
Hardware, Storage & Connectivity
On the storage side, both phones reject expandability and are lacking microSD capabilities. The Moto X packs both a lower-end 16GB and mid-level 32GB storage option, while oddly, Apple has ditched the 32GB option in favour of a higher-end 128GB onboard edition, as well as 16GB and 64GB variants. In this regard it really depends on whether you’re after more affordability or a larger quantity of onboard space.
Being flagships, both models come packed with the usual array of high-end connectivity; full 4G LTE, 3G HSPA+, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Both phones have NFC, with the iPhone 6 being the first Apple handset to carry this technology. However, with the iPhone 6 the chip is locked to the company’s Apple Pay service and Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
In other words, you can only use the NFC to make contactless payments with your iPhone 6 (at the moment – Apple may unlock this later), and this feature isn’t coming to the UK until 2015. Meanwhile, on the Moto X, you can perform contactless payments via Google Wallet (and other things, like EE’s own app) but can also use the NFC for pairing speakers, headsets and other accessories. The Moto X has microUSB as the standard charging and data port, while the iPhone 6 uses Apple’s Lightning connector, with the addition of a microUSB adaptor for other functions.
Processor, Software & Performance
In terms of processing power, it’s the usual Android versus iOS contrast; the Moto X crams in a lot of power with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, while Apple’s iPhone 6 uses its own custom A8 dual-core chip, which on paper at least seems less impressive, but actually has some clever tricks up its sleeve.
A big part of the experience, of course, is the software, and both Android KitKat and iOS 8 are extremely well-optimised. In this sense, a lot of the processing power is largely excess, but it does count for something when playing high-end games or intensively multitasking. In each case these devices both perform very well indeed.
Both handsets are guaranteed an update to the next successive software versions when they emerge; the Moto X will get Android L and Apple always supports its previous flagship on subsequent versions of iOS (next year it’ll be the turn of iOS 9).
One of the great things about the Moto X (and indeed much of Motorola’s recent line-up) is that it runs Android in a more-or-less stock setup just like Google’s Nexus devices, making it one of the few ways you can get this “vanilla” Android approach right out of the box. Of course, this isn’t an issue with iOS 8 because it already comes as Apple intended it.
The Moto X also has tweaked voice controls – unlike a lot of Android devices, which require the phone to be awake when you issue an “Ok Google” voice command, the Motorola works from a sleep state as it is effectively “always on”.
Camera & Battery
Cameras and batteries both require a bit more extensive testing before we can really say how good they are, and we will be sure to update this article once we’ve fully reviewed each device.
According to Apple the iPhone 6 battery cell should provide as good as or slightly better performance than its predecessor, and a number of battery tests online have shown it is fairly in-line with current competition – providing the best part of a day’s use before needing a recharge.
Meanwhile, on the camera side of things, the company revealed at launch that it uses a revamped version of the 8MP iSight sensor present in the iPhone 5S, with the same f/2.2 aperture. Amongst the cameras new abilities is the use of “focus pixels” for quicker autofocus and enhanced noise reduction, there’s also support for 43MP panoramic images, and slo-mo video at both 120fps and 240fps. Apple has also added a dedicated image processor on the A8 chip which allows for faster face, smile, and blink detection. The front-facing camera is now a Facetime HD setup with a new sensor, f/2.2 aperture, improved face detection, burst selfie and single-shot HDR modes.
On the Moto X, Motorola has added 4K video capture and a dual-LED flash, plus a 2MP front-facing secondary. We’ll be examining this in more detail at a later date.