Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Moto X Style and Moto X Play initial impressions

Every Android purists favourite OEM, Motorola, yesterday announced their 2015 smartphone lineup. In a nutshell, it was a huge hit. Just 11 hours earlier OnePlus had taken the wraps of their 2015 flagship, the OnePlus Two, but after the Motorola event, it was all but forgotten. Motorola did what OnePlus wanted to do, and seriously disrupted the market by offering a pair incredible smartphones at prices that they promised will be about half the price of competing flagships. Many people were worried if Motorola would stay the same after the acquisition by Lenovo. Based on yesterday's event, we have absolutely nothing to worry about. Motorola is here to Play, and they are doing it in Style (lame I know). Here are my initial impressions on both of Motorola's 2015 Moto X's.

The good

Two models, two sizes
With phones getting bigger and bigger, people who prefer smaller devices are left to pick up the crumbs that OEMs leave behind for their smaller, often mid-range devices. If you wanted a flagship device, you had no choice but to choose from the phablet category (thankfully though, Sony saves the day with the Xperia Z3 Compact). So Motorola offering two different devices in two different sizes is great for consumers. More options are (mostly) always better.

Much improved camera performance
Camera performance has been Motorola's weakness for the past two Moto X's, but this year the company was extremely confident that their new camera's are industry leading, mentioning several times during the live event that they "guarantee" it. We'll of course have to wait for reviews to confirm, but for now camera review site DxOMark has some very good news. They tested the Moto X Style and according to them, it's just as good as the Galaxy Note 4, and only slightly behind the Galaxy S6/Edge. That is a huge jump for Motorola, and it looks like they will deliver on that guarantee.

Front facing stereo speakers
At this point in time, not having front facing stereo speakers is just unacceptable for a flagship. HTC got the ball rolling, Sony has followed suit, and now so too has Motorola. This isn't the first Motorola device to have front facing stereo speakers. Last year's Moto G and Nexus 6 both had front facing stereo speakers, but the Style is the first Moto X to have it. The Play unfortunately doesn't have stereo speakers, but the mono speaker is on the front, which is much better than on the back or the bottom.

Turbo Charge
I prefer wireless charging, but while that is absent from Motorola's devices, Turbo Charging is a very impressive alternative. According to Motorola, their Turbo Charging technology is the best in the market. A demo showed a 15 minute charge got the Style up to 34%, while the Galaxy S6 (which also has its own quick charge technology) only made it up to 26% in the same amount of time. The Play will also come with Turbo Charging. 

Better camera-dimple design
I loved the back of the original Moto X. The camera and dimple were both very subtle and blended into the back, they didn't stand out, and just looked very good. I hated them on the 2014 Moto X. They were ugly, stood out like a sore thumb, and just made the back look terrible. Now in 2015, the backs of the Moto devices look much better. A metallic strip connecting the camera module to the dimple make it look similar to an LG device, but it's much slimmer and doesn't house any buttons. Much happier with this design compared to last year's. Add Moto Maker into the mix, which lets users choose between 18 different silicone, wood, or leather backs, and 7 accent colours, and you have 126 combos to choose from to design your phone.
I'm a fan of the new design. Much better than last year's. Source
Competitive pricing
Selling great phones at great prices has been Motorola's strategy for a while now (similar to OnePlus), and it continues with the 2015 Moto X's. The Pure Edition (Style) starts at just $399 in the US, and the Play will be sold for around $300-$400 cheaper than competing flagship smartphones. What we're looking at are two very capable and powerful devices, being sold for around a third to half the price of other flagship smartphones. Whoever bought a smartphone earlier in the year is probably kicking themselves right about now.

The bad

Two big sizes
Two sizes? Good. Two big sizes? Not good. The Style is huge at 5.7", so if you thought the Play would be a bit more manageable, well, you're slightly right. Because the Play is only slightly smaller at 5.5". Want a 5" Motorola device? Moto G is your only choice. Want the best Moto has to offer? You'll have to accept a phone with at least a 5.5" display. 
Two different sizes, but only slightly different. Source
Still saving the best for the West
While the Moto G is Motorola's weapon here in Asia, Motorola's flagships are still largely targeted towards the western markets. They might eventually reach this part of the world say, after a few months. Until then, all we will have is the Moto G. Motorola must really think all Asians are poor.

Larger battery in a smaller device
In the past, Motorola was well known for cramming huge batteries in small devices. The 4.3" Moto RAZR MAXX from 2012 had a huge 3300 mAh battery. This year, the 5.5" Moto X Play has a massive 3630 mAh battery, which is awesome. The larger Moto X Style? Just a 3000 mAh battery. That's even smaller than what the RAZR MAXX had. It's as if Motorola intentionally gives larger phones smaller batteries and smaller phones larger batteries. What's worse for the Style is that is has a higher resolution 2K display, while the Play has a more reasonable 1080p display. This makes the different battery sizes even more of a conundrum.

All things considered, Motorola have what is possibly the best lineup of smartphones for 2015 (so far). Two Moto X devices for two groups of people, and the Moto G is still showing other OEMs how to make great low-cost smartphones. Motorola's products are so well received, that people pretty much forgot all about OnePlus and their product launch. With such great pricing, it's likely OnePlus may have just been outplayed by Motorola. And with other OEMs still selling their flagships for upwards of $600, Motorola has a huge advantage as we head into the end of the year. Great phones, great software, great prices. Motorola hit a grand slam.