When Motorola released the revamped Moto X a few months ago, there was plenty of discussion about whether it or the still-unannounced Nexus 6 would be a better purchase. It's completely reasonable to prefer the Nexus 6 because of the larger screen and improved camera, but the 2014 Moto X still stands out to me as one of the best Android phones ever made. Now there we've got a little distance, let's see how the 2014 Moto X is holding up.
The 2014 Moto X has a 5.2-inch screen, which is a sizeable increase over the 2013 model at 4.7-inches. A lot of people were worried about how that would affect one-handed use. Granted, a smaller phone is easier to use with one hand, but the new Moto X seems to be almost the perfect size. I'm fine with larger phones personally, but I won't claim they're easier to use—it's more of a trade-off. The more I go back to the Moto X after using the Nexus 6, the more manageable it seems. I think the 5-5.2-inch window is the sweet spot for a premium phone that can be used with one hand.
I still love the overall shape of the phone. The way the back tapers down at the edges makes it feel like a very thin phone , but the thicker middle fits nicely in your hand, and I assume allows for more components to be crammed in. The metal frame is, again, very similar to the Nexus 6. It's one of the sturdiest phones of the last year. I've dropped it a few times and haven't caused any damage yet. Yeah, that's anecdotal evidence, but take it for what you will. The glass front also curves down to meet the metal frame in a pleasant way. I much prefer this to the hard transition on phones like the LG G3.
I've got a bamboo and regular plastic back Moto X on hand, and both are holding up well. I've seen scattered reports of the wood veneers peeling at the corners, but that hasn't happened to me as of yet. The wood is still unblemished, and even if it does get a little scratched or dented, that just adds character, right? The colored plastic is basically the same material that's on the back of the Nexus 6, but no matter the material you choose, there's that huge dimple with the Moto logo in it.
I'm still not a huge fan of the 2nd gen dimple. It's too large and breaks up the design of the back. The Nexus 6 has the traditional Moto dimple that's just a depression in the back material. I have to wonder why Motorola couldn't do the same on the Moto X. My best guess is that it has something to do with the more modular nature of the Moto X design, which is required for the Moto Maker customizations. All that said, the plastic Moto X has less of a sharp transition from the dimple to the back. It's more abrupt with the wood material.
Lollipop Is (Sort Of) Here
I really liked what Motorola did with Android 4.4 on the Moto X. It had a few nice improvements over the 2013 model, but it didn't go overboard with add-ons just for the sake of changing things. I'd even say that Motorola's build of Android is a little preferable to the stock Nexus version. It gave me a lot of hope for Lollipop on the Moto X, and indeed, it's a good update (if you can get it).
So far, Motorola has only released the OTA for the Verizon and Pure Edition devices. It's better than nothing, I suppose. The lack of UI customizations means you can see all the slick, clean design that went into Android 5.0. It's fast, mostly bug-free, and ties into Motorola's awesome custom features. Of particular note is the way Lollipop's somewhat confusing Priority mode works with Moto Assist. When you set quiet hours, it just toggles on downtime (timed Priority) for you with a few extra Moto options. You don't even have to mess around with Google's UI for interruptions.
I don't think I'll ever tire of Moto Display, which is the sleep mode notification screen. Just wave at the phone and it wakes up the display to show you pending notifications. It's brilliant.
Other than that, you're basically just looking at stock Android 5.0 on the Moto X. That's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
The Camera Is Still Lacking
If there's one aspect of the Moto X that should give you pause, it's the camera. It's a modest improvement over the 2013 Moto X, which had a famously crummy camera, but it's still behind the flagship curve. I was hoping that Lollipop would improve the camera with the new API, but it looks like Motorola didn't take advantage of this feature.
If you install one of the apps designed to use the new camera API features, you'll find the Moto X doesn't support them. For whatever reason, Moto didn't include the necessary drivers in Lollipop to make that stuff work. Maybe that's because the update was a little rushed, or maybe there's a technical reason. Whatever the cause, the camera experience on the Moto X hasn't improved. It's the same as it ever was.
In outdoor conditions, the Moto X does just fine. Even in bright indoor light you can take some nice snapshots. However, anything that could be considered a shadow will get grainy fast. The lack of optical image stabilization is also a bit annoying. Even the Nexus 6, which has a very similar sensor, has better imaging performance. That at least gives me a little hope that Motorola can improve camera quality with a future Lollipop update.
The Turbo Charger (actually Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0) is one of my favorite things right now. I love being able to plug the phone in for a few minutes and get a ton of extra juice. Yeah, the Moto X only has a 2300mAh battery, which is on the small side, but it has been manageable for me. If I factor in the speedy charging, it's even less of an issue.
Some phones tend to go downhill with regard to battery life after a few months of use with apps running in the background and unknowable weirdness going on in the system files. I see this a lot with Samsung phones—they work fine at first, then mysterious wakelocks start popping up. The Moto X has thus far proven itself to be very robust in this department. It lasts a day easily with 4-5 hours of screen time.
One thing that does continue to irk me is the lack of wireless charging. It might not be a big deal for everyone, but I really like the convenience of just dropping a phone on a charging pad and letting it do its thing. I have a lot of wireless chargers around, and they're useless when I have my SIM in the Moto X. I hope Motorola can see its way to fixing this obvious shortcoming with the next Moto X.
Still Almost Flawless
I mostly use the Nexus 6 as my daily driver, but the Moto X is a phone I pick up almost as often. Motorola just understands how to make a phone compelling to use and isn't caught up in developing a brand identity around UI or features no one cares about. I hope that doesn't change now that Lenovo is in command.
I continue to be concerned about the camera, so if you're a heavy shutterbug, I can understand wanting to pick up a different phone—maybe a G3 or Xperia Z3. For occasional picture taking, it's fine. I also understand some people want a phone that runs two days on a charge. Again, you should get a different phone if that's a must-have. The Moto X has consistently managed a solid day of use for me without any weird wakelock issues. That should be sufficient for almost everyone.
Most people don't like the idea of carrying a 6-inch phone (like the N6), and that's a reasonable position. As such, the Moto X is still the phone I recommend most often. Maybe that will change in the next few months as the 2015 flagships start rolling out, but right now the Moto X offers the best overall mix of features, at least in my opinion.