If you’re looking for a comparison, Motorola are the Leicester City of the smartphone world. The Olly Murs. Maybe the Donald Trump. Whichever way you put it, they’re the once-ridiculed brand who are now most definitely in-form, and exceeding all expectations.
See for yourself. The third-gen Moto G continues to reshape the expectations of affordable phones. The Moto X Play is the best sub-£300 handset available. And the Moto X Force looks set to revolutionise the mobile industry with its indestructible display. So what, then, of the company’s iPhone 6S-rivalling flagship phone – the Moto X Style?
Well, at £399 the phone isn’t as affordable as its siblings, but still undercuts the direct competition. Considerably. It plays host to features you’d be more inclined to see on devices north of the £500 marker – namely a QHD display and OIS-enhanced camera – and wraps them together in a stunningly simple user experience.
Yes, it might not be the prettiest flagship phone on the market. But it continues Motorola’s good work and is one of the better Android phones available right now. Samsung, HTC, et al? It’s time to watch your backs.
Affordable price tag
Stock Android OS
Poor low-light photography
No fingerprint scanner
Slightly bulky design
Moto X Style Design: Style by name, not necessarily by nature
Motorola has made massive strides in reigniting its smartphone standing over the past 12 months. Design, however, is an area that the company is yet to master. The Moto X Style is far from an ugly device – as its name suggests, it’s aiming for a la-di-dah fashion-friendly feel – but it’s not going to garner too many looks of lust either.
Lining up at 11.06mm thick and a portly 179g in weight, it’s a big device – and not just because of its 5.7-inch display. It’s not unmanageable though. Styled similarly to last year’s Motorola-made Nexus 6, it’s a slightly bulbous offering with a metal edge. This gives the phone a decent look but slightly harsh, unforgiving feel – albeit one that should give it a bit of added protection against those inevitable knocks and drops.
If you’ve got small hands, you’re going to struggle to reach all corners of the sizeable display with a single hand. But the same can be said for the (smaller) iPhone 6S Plus and LG G4. And while the Style’s considerable frame might not be quite as svelte as the sleek lines of the iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S6, it boasts something its rivals lack – a water-resistant coating. Accidental spillages and splashes are of little concern here: knock yourself out.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if you’re not too keen on the Style’s overall look though. If you don’t like it, you can change it. Playing nice with the manufacturer’s Moto Maker service, you can reskin the Style in all manner of soft grip, wood and leather rears – with extra customisation options like coloured metal accents and engravings . With hundreds of Style combinations available, it’s not too hard to transform this into a device you’re proud to wave around.
Moto X Style Screen: Big and beautiful
One of the few brands to have held off jumping on the QHD display bandwagon, until now at least, the Moto X Style sees Motorola finally turn its back on Full HD in favour of a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution. Stretched across the device’s oversized 5.7-inch panel, this offers a stunningly detailed 520 pixels-per-inch image density.
To the naked eye, it’s not a major step up on the hugely impressive 1080p visuals of the Moto X Play or the Sony Xperia Z5, but there is a notable improvement – especially in the colours. This thing is obnoxiously bright with sharp, accurate colours that really pop. There is a subtlety to hues that is only rivalled by the likes of the S6 and LG G4, and blacks are deep and immersive.
Combined with effortlessly sharp, detailed images, fluid screen motion and razor-edged text, the Style’s screen impresses at every turn. Your mobile-based Netflix ‘n’ Chill sessions are about to get a whole lot crisper.
Moto X Style Features & Performance: Where’s the fingerprint scanner?
This is a device packed with high-end features. There is one glaring omission, however: an integrated fingerprint scanner. The biometric sensor is now a standard sight on most top-end – and some mid-market – smartphones. Someone should really let Motorola know then. A missing fingerprint scanner might not taint the phone’s overall user experience, but when all of its rivals are rocking an extra layer of seamless security, it feels like you’re missing out.
One thing the phone’s not missing out on is grunt. The Style isn’t just a phone big on size: it’s big on power too. This thing can handle anything you can throw at it. From heavy duty multitasking to serious, power-intensive 3D gaming sessions, the phone’s Snapdragon 808 processor and 3GB of RAM work effortlessly together, never breaking a sweat or offering a stilted user experience.
All this power doesn’t eat through the battery too badly, either. That thankless task is left to the phone’s display. Featuring a 3,000mAh power supply, the Style will comfortably see you through a full day’s use. Those hoping for a second day without a trip to the charging port, however, are out of luck.
Despite being the big brother, the Style’s battery is considerably smaller than the Play’s 3,630mAh offering. On the plus side, though, a TurboPower charger adds 24 hours’ worth of power in minutes, not hours.
Its battery life might be distinctly average, but the Style’s front-firing stereo speakers are slightly above par, offering reasonably crisp, deep and detailed sounds. Expandable storage is a bonus, too. Available with either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage as standard, microSD card support can add a further 128GB to the phone’s storage capacity.
Moto X Style Software & UI: Android, without the faff
Clean, simple and uncluttered is the best way to describe the Style’s pleasing user experience. Like many of its flagship Android rivals it runs Google’s Android 5.1.1 Lollipop OS. Unlike most, it hasn’t covered it with a clunky, repetitive skin. This is as close to stock Android as non-Nexus devices get, and it’s great.
Removing the all-too-common, duplicated, core services that plague the UIs of Huawei, Sony and LG phones, Motorola has made just a spattering of subtle additions. Moto Assist is a welcome add-on to bare-bones Android, helping guide you through the phone’s capabilities, ensuring you’re making the most of its bountiful gifts.
This software experience is about to get better too. An Android 6.0 Marshmallow update is waiting in the wings, bringing a number of improvements, including the battery-boosting Doze feature.
Moto X Style Camera: Offering good but not great imagery
Camera quality is the one area where the Moto X Style falls short of its more illustrious, and higher-priced competition. That’s not to say it features a bad snapper though. As long as the sun is out, the 21-megapixel, rear-mounted camera will provide sharp, vibrant shots with strong levels of depth and decent, speedy focusing. Video capture is decent, too, with the phone capable of recording 4K clips.
As the sun comes down, though, so too does image quality. Unlike the Sony Xperia Z5, this is not a phone attuned to low light photography. In less ideal lighting conditions, focusing is a little soft, colours muted and results noisy.
The camera’s software setup does little to aid these hardware shortcomings. While usually tapping the screen-based viewfinder will let you select of point of focus, on the Style it instantly triggers the shutter. This is great for those passing must-capture moments, but a pain when looking to sort the levels on late-night shots.
There’s good news for selfie lovers, though. The phone’s f/2.0 wide-angle 5-megapixel front-facing camera is enhanced by its own dedicated flash. But despite bringing party shots and selfies from drunken nights out to life, the camera still suffers the all too familiar forward camera foibles. Shots are flat and lacking sharpness. You’ll get pics good enough for Facebook, but little else.
Camera criticisms aside, the Moto X Style is up there with the best Android phones of 2015. And that’s before you take into account its wallet-friendly price tag. This really is Motorola’s most accomplished flagship phone to date.
With a combination of high-end features and an affordable price that sees Motorola again reshaping the expectations of the smartphone scene, the Style will not disappoint – unless you take a lot of low-light snaps, that is. As soon as team Moto can nail smartphone design, the Galaxy S6 could have a rival at the top of the charts.
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