The Moto X 2015 has been officially announced, except it isn’t the Moto X 2015 at all, and unlike Highlander, there cannot be only one, there are in fact two; the Moto X Style and the Moto X Play.
If you’ve been anticipating the arrival of Motorola’s 2015 flagship, then the Moto X Style is the one that’ll be of real interest to you, being the lead model and true successor of the Moto X line.
Moto X Style Design
As with previous generations of Moto X, the Moto X Style can be purchased directly from Motorola’s Moto Maker webstore, allowing you to customise the handset and personalise it to your own tastes. Motorola has expanded the range of options to include three metal frame finishes (we observed metallic grey, silver, and gold) and seven accent colours (for the camera lens, metal strip on the back, other trim elements and physical keys). On top of this you have the many and varied options for the rear panel.
The basic, entry-level setup is a silicon backing instead of Motorola’s old soft-touch plastic, and instead of a smooth, plain finish these are textured with a grip-friendly diamond pattern. As with the old Moto Maker this base option is available in a bewildering array of colours, from your basic black, white, or grey, to deep reds and navy blues, and eye-popping lime greens, yellows, and oranges.
Then there are the slightly more expensive natural finish options; wood and leather are both making a return from last year. Motorola assures that the wood backs, including bamboo, cherry, and walnut, are all responsibly sourced from sustainable forestry. As for the leather, Motorola has sourced high-end Saffiano leather which has a much improved look and feel over the previous generation of leather backings. The model we went hands-on with was a rather eye-catching red leather backed handset, of course there’s a range of colour options to choose from here too, and there is something very luxurious about the feel of this high-quality leather in the hand.
On the whole the Moto X Style design has not changed much apart from being ever-so-slightly tweaked and refined, and sporting a larger screen-to-body ratio. It’s still a nicely proportioned and relatively lightweight phone with a slight curvature to the rear panel that fits comfortably in the palm. The metal surround is really very nice indeed, it’s substantial enough to feel secure when handling the phone and accommodates the control keys comfortably (they’re not along an awkward curved edge or positioned oddly, jutting out at weird angles) and at at thumb or index finger level. At the same time the frame avoids the trap of becoming overly bulky; this is no brick of a phone by any means. Additionally the shape is a nice elegant blend of sweeping curves and tapered edges, and the metal finish gives things a quality feel and touch.
Around the back the signature metal strip makes what often becomes a bland expanse of samey bodywork much more visually interesting. The top has the camera module and flash, while the lower section has a recession housing the Moto ‘M’ logo, but this is also somewhere your finger will naturally find to comfortably rest during one-handed operation. I’ll be looking out during our full review testing to see whether this stip also makes it easier to avoid accidentally putting your finger over the camera lens, although somehow I doubt that’s an intentional aspect of the design.
Moto X Style Display
The Moto X Style also features water resistance (note: NOT waterproofing; splashes are ok, dunking is not) and front-facing stereo speakers, but the majority of the fascia is taken up by the display. It’s a 5.7in LCD with a QHD (1440x2560) resolution at 520ppi. As you might expect from a flagship display this is razor sharp with robust colour and contrast; particularly apparent when swiping through the interface of stock Android 5.1 Lollipop’s Material Design aesthetic. Viewing angles were also nice and wide. Brightness levels seemed very capable inside Motorola’s event but we’ll be sure to test how things go taking the phone outside in the sunshine for our full review.
Moto X Style Processor
On paper the processing power isn’t as muscular as many might have expected of a new flagship; the Moto X Style doesn’t carry Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 quad-core chip or the next-gen 820, instead it has a 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 hexa-core setup (the MSM8992), complete with an Adreno 418 GPU and a couple of other onboard processors; a Natural Language Processor, and a Contextual Computing Processor. All of this is backed up by 3GB of RAM.
During our brief hands-on with the device there was no chance to really put the phone’s engine through any serious testing, all we can really observe is that, as with so many other handsets at least reasonably well-equipped and optimised for Android Lollipop these days, swiping around the interface was silky smooth with nothing in the way of stuttering, pauses, or hangs.
Moto X Style Battery
The battery is quite a sizeable cell rated at 3,000mAh and Motorola promises the fabled “all day” battery life, a difficult promise to keep as drain is very context sensitive and dependent upon user habit. But still, of most devices we’ve seen that can hold a charge for a full day they tend to be in the 3,000mAh or above range and we know that Android’s central architecture has come on leaps and bounds in terms of battery optimisation with things like Project Volta aboard Lollipop. Meanwhile, the hexa-core processor shouldn’t be overly greedy either. In other words, yes, we are being optimistic about the Moto X Style’s battery performance, but as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Another point of interest is the Moto X Style’s “Turbo Charging” for the battery, allegedly offering around 8-10 hours from a 15 minute charge time. Again, difficult to have demonstrated at a launch event so we’ll see how this goes with a full review unit in hand.
Moto X Style Cameras
Cameras are another aspect that require deeper testing, but on the surface it seems Motorola has gone all-out on the Moto X Style’s imaging hardware. The primary camera boasts a promising spec sheet including a 21MP sensor with a wide f/2.0 aperture, phase-detect autofocus, two-tone dual-LED flash, slow-motion video, 4K video, and HDR. If some of the shots allegedly taken with this camera that Motorola showcased on the big screen are to be believed, this is one seriously impressive piece of kit that should have competitors quaking in their boots.
I did, in fact, get a little demonstration of the front-facing 5MP selfie camera in action side-by-side against the iPhone 6’s alternative. Again this features an f/2.0 aperture and a wide-angle lens, and has been tailored for low-light conditions, complete with an LED flash. In the demo I was given it seemed the overall image quality was better than the iPhone 6, although it was hamstrung slightly by what I’d consider an overzealous flash which generated some serious red-eye that the iPhone 6 managed to avoid, while still providing an excellent quality photo.
Moto X Style Connectivity
In terms of connectivity the Moto X Style has all your usually expected high-end options with 4G LTE (Nano-SIM), Bluetooth 4.1 LE, Wi-Fi with MIMO, microUSB GPS and NFC. There are 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage flavours with microSD support for cards up to 128GB.
Moto X Style Release Date, Availability & Price
The Moto X Style will be available to buy from September 2015. Buyers will need to purchase via the Moto Maker website directly from Motorola in order to customise the phone, or they can buy one of the two standard models; a black silicon back with grey metal frame and accents, or a bamboo back with silver frame and accents. Standard models will also be available through third party retailers and with contracts on carrier networks.
The only thing we know about pricing so far is that Motorola expects to significantly undercut the competition and that the leather and wood-backed Moto Maker variants will cost a bit more than the silicon backed models or standard models, but having observed Motorola’s previous use of the Moto Maker platform that was all par for the course anyway. Naturally we’ll keep this article updated with more pricing details as they are revealed nearer the time of release.
Moto X Style Conclusion
Very, very, very promising stuff indeed. The Moto X is making all the right moves and noises in terms of catering extremely well to that sector of the market that also enjoys products such as the OnePlus One, OnePlus 2, and Google's Nexus devices (back when they had a cheaper price tag). That is to say, offering competetive specs with a comparatively low price (bang for your buck, essentially), but also stock Android software and a balanced, optimised and tailored experience in terms of key features (battery, camera, performance, software).
On top of that you have the existing Moto X appeal; a customised device personal to the user. This was already something Motorola did quite well, but it's refining the experience and pushing boundaries, with more colour options, a refined design to make things that much more premium, and even more luxurious material finishes. It seems like there's something for everyone here.