Introduction, design and display
The Motorola Moto X Style arrived as part of a duo earlier this year, with the Moto X Play sliding in below the flagship X Style.
It sports flagships specs and a pure Android experience, as Motorola looks to mix it up with big boys at the top end of the market.
In the US the Moto X Style is known as the Moto X Pure Edition, but aside from the name it’s the same phone.
SIM free prices start at US$399.99 (around AU$545) for the 16GB Moto X Pure Edition (which isn’t available in the UK), and you can head over to the firm’s Moto Maker website to personalise your handset.
The 32GB model will set you back US$449.99 (£360, around AU$615) while the 64GB model tops out at $499.99 (£434, around AU$680). As part of the customisation you can choose the type of back you get with a range of plastic covers to select, while real wood and leather options will cost you $25 (£20) extra.
You can select an accent colour for the metal bar around the camera on the rear, and the speaker grills on the front, plus there’s an option to have your name, or a message, engraved on the rear.
Motorola really wants you to make this phone yours, but if you walk into a retailer you won’t get such options – black, champagne and white will be the only options that greet you.
It is priced comfortably lower than its rival 2015 flagships however, although it’s a little pricier than the disruptive OnePlus 2.
With a 5.7-inch QHD display, hexa-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a 21MP rear camera the Moto X Style sounds like a pretty good deal – but has Motorola been able to deliver? Let’s find out.
OK, there’s no getting around this – the Moto X Style is a bit of a beast. The sizable screen size is your first warning that this won’t be a small handset and that’s confirmed by its 153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1mm vital statistics.
That 11.1mm thickness is pretty noticeable too, especially when many smartphones now rock a sub-10mm girth, with the likes of Samsung, Sony and Apple boasting flagship handsets at less than 8mm.
The slightly curved rear allows the Moto X Style to sit a little more snugly in the palm than the Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6S, and the soft touch rubberised back on my review unit provide a decent level of grip.
It’s one of the weightier handsets on the market too – unsurprisingly considering its size – and at 179g you’ll certainly notice it in your hand and pocket.
Motorola’s done well putting the X Style together, with the metal frame running round the circumference of the phone providing a sturdy finish and a slightly premium look.
They are more expensive though, and considering the X Style’s price it’s still a well put together device.
The dual front facing speakers do mean it’s a little bezel heavy front-on, but you do get improved audio so it’s not all bad news.
The power/lock and volume rocker keys are located towards the middle of the right side of the X Style, falling nicely under thumb and finger.
Up top a centralised headphone jack is joined by a tray which can hold both your nanoSIM and microSD card. It’s a nifty dual-sided affair and a nice little bit of engineering from the Motorola team.
Motorola has used advanced nano-coating technology to form a water repellent barrier on the Moto X Style, but don’t go jumping in the bath with it. As Moto states, this coating protects against “moderate exposure to water such as accidental spills, splashes, or light rain.”
It’s not quite Sony Xperia Z5 levels of water resistant, but it’s definitely welcome.
Those with smaller hands will find the Moto X Style a bit much in the palm, and even I had to employ both hands a lot of the time to ensure the handset didn’t hit the deck.
But if you’re looking for a well designed, big screened smartphone without a flagship price tag the Moto X Style certainly offers a compelling argument.
The Moto X Style sports a great screen, but it’s also a big one. At 5.7 inches the X Style will simply be too big for many. The Moto X Play is slightly smaller at 5.5 inches if you fancy something a little more manageable in hand.
With a QHD resolution of 1440 x 2560 the X Style’s screen is crisp and sharp. Motorola has opted for an IPS LCD panel which means colours aren’t quite as vibrant as its AMOLED rivals, but it still looks excellent.
There’s no cut and dry auto-brightness setting on here, rather an “adaptive brightness” toggle which does a similar job, but is less extreme. That’s fine most of the time, but I did find at night the screen on the Moto X Style could be unnecessarily bright. A waste of precious battery life.
Interface and performance
Motorola likes to keep Android as is, opting not to put its own overlay on Google’s operating system and in turn giving you a pure user experience.
With little to no tweaking of the Android platform, it means Motorola can push out software updates to its handsets a lot quicker than the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG, who have to spend time applying their own interfaces and features before rolling it out to customers.
Anyone familiar with Android will feel immediately at home on the Moto X Style, and the reduction in bloatware will likely be a welcoming presence for many.
On the whole I do prefer stock Android, as it allows me to customise the experience to my liking, but it does mean the X Style doesn’t benefit from various value-add features found on rival handsets.
Swipe from left to right on your home screen and you’ll be taken to Google Now, with your relevant cards displaying things such as your schedule, news and useful location based information.
Move the other way and you’ll find the usual home screen panels which you can fill with apps and widgets. Hit the app draw button and at the top of the vertically scrolling menu you’ll get a row of recommended apps – the ones the X Style thinks you’ll want based on your usage.
I found these app suggestions were usually the ones I already had on my home screen, which sort of defeated the point of having them at the top of the app draw as I only ventured there to access less frequently used applications.
Motorola hasn’t completely shunned Android however, with a trio of applications which come pre-installed on the Moto X Style.
They are Connect, Migrate and Moto. Connect is a potentially handy app if you’ve purchased one (or more) of five different Motorola peripherals with your X Style, be it a Moto 360 smartwatch or a pair of Moto Pulse headphones.
It allows you to adjust the settings of each device when it’s connected to the X Style, but it’s a pretty limited offering and with it only working with Moto branded products I ultimately found it a little unnecessary.
Migrate is an app you’ll use a maximum of two times, as it helps you move your data from your old handset to the Moto X Style, and then from the X Style to a new handset when it’s time to upgrade.
If you’re shifting from Android to Android then Migrate is very useful, moving photos, messages, contacts and more between phones, but if your other handset is on a different operating system it’ll only handle contacts.
The Moto app is the most interesting, and useful, out of Motorola’s trio of pre-installs allowing you to set up voice commands, enable gesture controls and manage handy notifications which display on screen when the phone is asleep.
First is the always listening voice command. Set up a trigger phrase, bark it at the Moto X Style and even if it’s on the other side of the room (you’ll have to speak up if it is), screen off and locked, it’ll spring to life.
From there it’s just your standard Google search voice, so you can ask the X Style things like what the time is, whether it’ll rain today, or tell it to set you a reminder to buy milk at 5pm this evening.
The fact it can be triggered even when the screen is off is a useful feature, and while more and more manufacturers are starting to bring this functionality to their handsets, Motorola’s been doing it for a while.
Next up in the Moto app are a range of gestures, allowing you to quickly turn on the torch with a double karate chop action, or fire up the camera with a double twist of the hand. They’re fun to do, and I found the Moto X Style did an excellent job at recognising my actions.
Another action doesn’t require you to touch the X Style at all. If you just want to check the time, or whether you have any notifications you can just move your hand over the handset and the screen will display those details.
This is perfect when you’re phone is sitting on a desk and you just want a quick update on what is going on. I did find I triggered the screen when I didn’t want to at times though, which is a bit of a waste of battery.
You can however turn off each gesture within the Moto app if you’re not a fan.
The Moto X Style packs in a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor and 3GB of RAM, giving it the same amount of power as the flagship LG G4. In short then, the X Style has plenty of power under the hood.
General navigation is fluid, and apps open and close promptly – although you don’t get the lightning quick reactions of the Samsung Galaxy S6 here. That’s not an issue, especially when you consider the X Style’s cheaper price tag, and you’re unlikely to notice any speed related issues.
The Moto X Style happily ran multiple apps at the same time, and load times for the demanding Real Racing 3 and Family Guy Quest for Stuff games were impressive.
I ran the Geekbench 3 test on the handset several times, and the Moto X Style scored an average of 3557 on the multi-core benchmark. That puts it on par with the likes of the HTC One M9, but behind the Sony Xperia Z5, Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6S Plus.
Don’t let that put you off though, the Moto X Style still has plenty of power and it handles pretty much anything you throw at it with ease.
The Moto X Style turns up with some serious camera credentials thanks to the 21MP camera on the rear, and the 5MP snapper on the front which also gets its own LED flash. Selfie fans rejoice.
That rear camera is joined by a two-tone dual LED flash, and both are located in a metallic strip which also houses a recessed Motorola logo. The camera lens itself is also slightly recessed from the metal plate which surrounds it, giving it some protection.
As I’ve already mentioned in this review the Moto X Style has a rather novel way for you to launch the camera app. Grab the phone in your hand and then twist it twice. You’ll feel a satisfying vibration, alerting you to the fact you’ve engaged the camera.
From here you can snap away without having to even wake the screen manually. You can, of course navigate to the camera app in the normal way, and also launch it directly from the lock screen – but the gesture control is definitely cooler.
The camera app itself is somewhere Motorola has dipped its toe into the interface customisation water, removing the shutter key altogether and bringing in a menu wheel accessible by sliding in from the left of the display.
There’s no deeper settings menu, and those looking for some level of professional control will be disappointed.
It’s a simple set up, but as someone whose come from handsets with tap to focus the fact the whole screen on Moto X Style is a shutter was initially very frustrating. If you want to adjust the focus on the X Style you have to bring up the manual focus option in the menu wheel.
I found it a bit of a hassle and I would prefer an option to toggle an on screen shutter key.
The Moto X Style does boast optical image stabilisation (OIS), which helps reduce motion blur in shots as well as improving low light performance, plus there’s HDR too which is on “auto” as standard. This helps brighten areas of your photos in shadow, making for brighter, clearer results.
Shutter speed is impressively quick, tap the screen and your photo is captured instantly. Results are generally very good too, with a high level of detail and a decent colour palette.
At night some of my photos did have some noticeable graining on them, but they still came out well. I’ve certainly seen a lot worse from high-end smartphone cameras.
The Moto X Style comes with a sizable 3000mAh battery, which sounds impressive on paper but unfortunately it doesn’t perform overly well in practise.
Considering the size of the handset I was a little surprised Motorola hadn’t managed to squeeze in an even bigger power pack to deal with the power hungry 5.7-inch QHD display.
You can’t remove the battery in the X Style, as is the trend for most phone manufacturers these days, but it does boast TurboPower – Motorola’s fast charging tech.
Plug the Moto X Style in and it can regain 10 hours of use from just 15 minutes of charging – an impressive, and useful party trick.
And thank goodness TurboPower exists, because if you’re planning a night out you’ll need to give the Moto X Style a top up before hitting the town.
I used the Moto X Style for over a week during the review period, and everyday the power saving mode kicked in when the battery hit 15% at around 7pm and 9pm each evening.
My daily usage tended to consist of an hour of so of Spotify streaming, an hour of gaming, multiple texts and social messages, a few phone calls and some web browsing and email action.
Heading into the battery settings there’s no surprise as to what is the main culprit for the battery drain – that hefty 5.7-inch display.
By the time I got into bed the battery percentage was down to single figures, and a couple of times it had completely died. Needless to say, if you’re a moderate to high user you’ll be plugging the Moto X Style in every night for a charge.
I ran the techradar battery test which involves playing a 90 minute HD video on full brightness with accounts syncing in the background. After the 90 minutes were up the X Style had lost 30% of its life – which is quite a significant chunk.
Motorola’s claim of all-day battery then is a little misleading, especially if you find yourself with the screen on a lot of the time.
Music, movies and gaming
The Moto X Style comes with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of internal storage (although the 16GB model isn’t currently available in the UK), and this can be boosted with a microSD card up to 128GB in size.
That means you should have more than enough space for your songs, videos and app downloads, and with the glorious 5.7-inch QHD screen on the X Style you’ve got a great surface to view them on.
There’s just one application pre-installed for your tunes – Google’s Play Music. From here you can control tracks you’ve copied onto the handset, or are residing on your microSD card – but this just scratches the surface of the app.
Google also has its own music streaming service to rival the likes of Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music, which involves you paying a monthly fee.
If you’re already signed up with another streaming service, it’s probably not worth switching, but for those of you new to the game you can get three months free to see if you like it.
The Play Store also has a large catalogue of songs and albums for you to buy and download, if you prefer owning music.
With dual front facing speakers the Motorola Moto X Style isn’t a bad casual music player, and I was able to happily listen to room-filling tunes without distortion.
The audio quality isn’t stellar, but it’s not uncomfortable to listen too – although plug in a set of headphones and the X Style kicks out decent levels.
As you may expect, the Moto X Style is a top performer when it comes to video playback. The large display and front facing speakers makes it perfect for a cheeky boxset binge, or a bit of film action during your morning commute (although you’ll probably want to plug in some headphones in that case).
It’s not all plain sailing though – there’s no dedicated video app, so if you’ve manually copied a video file onto the handset it’s not immediately clear where you find it. You video files live in the gallery, which is a little counter intuitive as the Play Movies & TV app could benefit by allowing you to access content on the handset as well.
Secondly, thanks to the size and weight of the X Style you’ll more than likely require both hands to hold the handset up during an extending viewing period. I found myself finding places to prop the X Style up, be it between my legs or against a bag on a table.
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a price you have to pay if you opt for a phablet.
With its hexa-core processor and 3GB of RAM there’s plenty of power inside the Moto X Style to ensure you’ll be able to run the latest games from the App Store.
I fired up the graphically intensive Real Racing 3 and Family Guy: Quest for Stuff, and the X Style was able to handle both with ease.
Graphics were smooth and load times acceptable, and the large screen on the handset is great for watching the action and providing enough space for controls.
Moto X Play
Smaller, cheaper and a little less powerful, the Moto X Play is still a solid smartphone for those with smaller budgets, and smaller palms.
You still get the same, impressive 21MP camera, and the X Play actually manages to squeeze in a bigger battery which performs better than the X Style’s thanks to the full HD screen resolution.
Of course if you’re looking for a true flagship phone the X Style is the only handset in Motorola’s range to offer that, but if you can accept a few compromises you can save yourself some money with the X Play.
The LG G4 is a touch smaller than the 5.7-inch Moto X Style, sporting a 5.5-inch QHD display, the same power under the hood and the same size 3000mAh battery.
Originally the G4 carried a price tag to match the top flight Samsung and Apple handsets, but it can now be picked up SIM-free for pretty much the same price as the X Style.
It’s easier to hold in the hand, has a slimmer build and the slightly curved display looks pretty cool – although I’d recommend you opt for the leather back option over the cheap feeling plastic offering.
iPhone 6S Plus
The iPhone 6S Plus may have a smaller display at 5.5-inches, but it’s taller and wider than the Moto X Style. That said it is also considerably thinner at just 7.3mm and it’s head and shoulders above the Motorola in terms of design.
You’ll need deep pockets to afford one, as the 6S Plus carriers a premium price tag, while its 12MP camera isn’t as good as the 21MP offering on the Moto X Style.
The iPhone’s screen has fewer pixels too with a full HD resolution, but that results it much better battery life.
You do get Apple’s slick iOS 9 operating system, Touch ID fingerprint scanner and new 3D Touch functionality though – but if it’s Android you’re after you won’t give this a second look.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is one of the Moto X Style’s closest rivals when it comes to screen specifications. Both handsets boast 5.7-inch, QHD panels, but Samsung’s offering is curved at both edges and harness Super AMOLED technology.
It means the S6 Edge+ looks far more futuristic, as well as being brighter and more colourful, but it all comes at a cost. It’s almost double of the price of the X Style.
You go get a heap more power for your money, as well as fingerprint scanner, heart rate monitor and a far more premium design.
The Motorola Moto X Style offers something a bit different to other mainstream flagship devices, with a larger display and more robust – if slightly less premium – design.
The pure Android operating system is free of bloat, and simple to use, allowing you to customise your Moto X Style experience to your taste without another manufacturer’s interface getting in the way.
It looks great on the bright, vibrant QHD display which is great for movies and gaming, while the front facing speakers direct sound right into your face.
Performance is also strong, with swift app load times and fluid navigation and while the camera app was a little fiddly the Moto X Style can take some great snaps.
There’s not getting around the size and weight of the Moto X Style, it’s both big and heavy and for many it won’t be a good fit.
If you’re looking for a big screened smartphone the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ offers the same size and resolution display is a more compact body, although the Moto X Style has price on its side.
I was also disappointed with the battery life on the Moto X Style, and I’m surprised Motorola wasn’t able to squeeze in a bigger power pack. I didn’t manage to get more than a day from the handset with moderate use – and at times it was dying before I came to plug it in at night.
The Motorola Moto X Style is a great smartphone and I thoroughly enjoyed using it during the review period.
It’s not a handset with universal appeal, for those looking for a big screen flagship at a decent price the X Style is an excellent option.
I do wish the battery life was better, but it’s not hugely different to other 2015 flagship phones on the market so it’s almost acceptable.
Are there better phones than the Moto X Style on the market? Absolutely. Can any of those rival it in terms of price? Absolutely not. It’s the perfect phablet for those on more of a budget, and you don’t have to sacrifice performance or core features.
First reviewed: October 2015
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