Is the Moto X all it’s cracked up to be?

The Moto X was such an important product for Google and Motorola that they gave it two launches. The first just teased the phone without any real details other than the news grabbing headline that it would be manufactured in the United States. When it was finally released though many were a little disappointed with the device: Motorola hadn’t gone for the high end specs of its rivals, but had instead focused on making a mid-priced phone that was well rounded.

Many tech reviewers compared the device to the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z and more recently LG G2 – and unsurprisingly it was left wanting in all categories other than affordability. But if you’re not needing to play the latest 3D mobile games then there’s little reason to opt for the high end specification smartphones – all round useability is more important, and that’s where the Moto X excels. Thankfully some tech reviewers released this, such as Sean Degville over at – but sadly for him the Moto X won’t be launched in his country.

Google has long been a champion of affordable tech that works great. Their Nexus range of phones were never as expensive as the iPhone from Apple, but nevertheless were regarded as competitors as they worked perfectly and had great support from Google. The Moto X appears to be Google expanding that model into its Motorola division. 

The raw speed and performance of the device is obviously lower than the best on the market, but this enables the cost to drop substantially. For instance the processor is still a Qualcomm Snapdragon, just it’s dual-core rather than quad-core and only rated 1.7GHz. This will still give you all the speed you need for daily use, but won’t benchmark as well as the high end phones from other manufacturers. On other specs though the Moto X matches these phones: it has 2GB of RAM, like every current high end smartphone; it’s got a great camera that shoots video in 1080p Full HD and captures 10 megapixel stills; and the built in storage at either 16GB or 32GB is what we’ve come to expect from any decent smartphone.

It’s in the little areas that don’t make the headline tech specs where this device proves itself though. It’s got a 4G LTE radio capable of downloading at 100 mbps. The screen might ‘only’ be standard HD, but at 4.7″ this still puts it ever so slightly lower than the ‘Retina‘ category Apple invented. The front facing camera can do Full HD so it’s perfect for video calling relatives on. The phone has dual microphones – something missed by some other manufacturers – which really improves call quality, as does the active noise cancellation feature.

There is a few downsides though: you can’t remove the battery yourself, which means no spares for long journeys. You also can’t expand the memory with micro SD. While the price is low it also isn’t as low as some competiting phones with headline similar specs, although this is probably a better all round device.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the smartphone is the ability to customise it while it’s in production. Given the phone is being made in the US rather than China, Motorola can afford to ship these individually to customers which opened the possibility of letting customers design their own phone from hundrds of possible combinations. This puts users back in charge of phone desgin – something they hadn’t enjoyed since the days of feature phone replacable shells.

Overall this is a great phone for anyone who isn’t attached to their smartphone by the wrist. It’s perfect for occasional browsing, social networking, and of course what phones were originally designed for: calling and messaging. There’s enough power to handle almost any app, but some games might go a little slow. The phone is well built and affordable, so if you’re on a budget but still need a smartphone this is a great option.

Greg Richardson is an Edinburgh based Android developer who regularly uses dozens of Android phones while developing educational apps for Android. He still hasn’t convinced his wife to switch from her iPhone.