I really really liked my Nexus 5. Really. I had it almost 2 years and it was still every bit as capable as when I first got it. But sadly, a week or so ago, the power button started failing (apparently many other N5 owners have fallen victim to this) and it fell into a series of reboots and suddenly became unusable. Not wanting to crack it apart and attempt a fix (remember, I’m old, fat-fingered, and with the wisdom that time brings, completely aware that the chances of this going successfully were well beyond slim. So a month away from the new Nexus 5 launch, I was off to buy a new phone.
Initially, my thoughts were to buy a Moto G outright. Not too much pocket expense, for sure a less capable phone than the Nexus in some respects, but then figuring I could upgrade to the new Nexus 5 later on. And I was keen on Motorola’s light touch to the stock Android experience and they’re pretty good reputation for timely updates. But there in the Telus store I was woo’d by the new Moto X Play. Yes, it was a 5.5″ screen. Far larger than my N5 and a little worrisome.. but oh dear, did that screen ever look nice. And it felt significantly smaller in hand than the absurdly big Nexus 6. Larger than the N5 yes. A deal-breaker? No.
And it’s relatively slippery to me. Even though it has a soft touch back insert (the back inserts are interchangeable with different colours and materials available) the edges are thin and it feels significantly less stable in my hand than the Nexus did. Also, the guy helping me actually dropped the display model within the first 30 seconds of showing it to me(!). At that point, I knew I would walk out of there with a case. I bought a clear one (it’s the only one they had that wasn’t a flip case.. I’m not an animal.) But I’ve got a soft-touch black case for it on order from Amazon as well. It’s a pretty and stylish phone, but I need to put a case on it to preserve that. Despite what others might say, I’m not overtly clumsy.. but Murphy’s law being what it is, I’m casing it.
So I took the plunge and signed a 2 year contract, handed over 50 bucks and walked out with it. After a week or so, here are my thoughts:
The screen is significantly brighter than my Nexus 5. I compared it to my Dad’s Nexus 5, and the Moto is brighter. Not a little. A lot. It’s crisp, colourful and absolutely gorgeous to my eye. It’s not quad-hd or whatever.. but it sure looks plenty wonderful to me.
The battery is the biggest single difference to my Nexus. It’s huge. 3630 mAh vs 2200 for the N5. I haven’t done a full 100 to 0 test, but it’s plainly awesome.
Reading reviews of the phone, there was some concern about the mid-range processor, the GPU and smoothness. But I’ve found it completely lag-free and smooth for me. It does seem to take a little longer to launch certain apps (not tested, just going by my perception) but things like Real Racing 3 which are pretty intensive run without hiccups or anything. I’ve been completely satisfied with it performance-wise. But I’m not a hardcore gamer or anything, so even if it isn’t a flagship powerhouse, it seems plenty good enough for me.
The single front-mounted speaker is louder and better sounding than my Nexus 5’s. And being on the front just makes much more sense. It doesn’t get covered up or muffled by hands etc. But it’s a phone speaker quality wise. No amazement here on that front.
The UI is very stock. Which I love. But the Moto additions are surprisingly useful. I do a lot of driving, and having Moto Assist read out my texts and take responses via voice is neat and works surprisingly well. The twist gesture for bringing up the camera is something I find I use all the time too.
The active display notification feature is nice. This is an IPS display and not Amoled, so perhaps it’s not quite as energy efficient as it could be, and it does ‘light up’ the background at night in the dark, but it’s still a useful notification feature. I use it a lot already.
The camera seems very good. It’s 21MP and apparently much improved from past Moto X’s. Better details and quality than the N5 camera for sure. But I’m a DSLR guy so I go into this with the attitude than any phone camera is going to be limited. I go in expecting pseudo point-and-shoot quality. I was happy with the N5 camera (many were not) and I know I’ll be satisfied with this one.
It has an FM radio. I’m not sure whether this is really a pro or not. But I haven’t had one on my phone for ages, and it’s neat to have.
The model I got is only 16GB. But it has removeable storage. I don’t know if this will be an issue for me or not yet. My N5 was 32GB with no removable option. I’ve just ordered a 64GB card for the MotoX so we’ll see how it goes.
Storage space. Like I said, I’m not sure if this is a problem or not. But internally, it’s half of what my Nexus was.
While I stated my expectations for phone cameras are generally low, it does bother me that Motorola doesn’t support the Camera2 api from Google. Hopefully that will change, but for now, there is limited control of manual camera options. It’s not something that affects me, but I’m a geek, and not being able to fiddle with something bothers me when I know others can. :-)
The power and volume rockers are on the right side. Reviews have noted that they are a little loose feeling. I can confirm this. It’s not a huge concern to me because I’ve already got a case on it and this effectively negates the issue, but it’s still a little concerning if you’re all about the build-quality.
It also doesn’t have a gyroscope. Seems like a glaring omission, but truthfully I only think I’ve ever taken a couple of photospheres and I don’t feel missing out on Google Cardboard-style VR is going to be a big deal to me. I don’t see anything else affected by not having a gyro. But it’s definitely a con I suppose.
Overall feelings so far:
I’m really liking this phone. The size is reasonable (Unsurprisingly, my Dad’s N5 already feels tiny to me). The screen and battery are awesome. The camera is completely acceptable. And the whole thing works quite nicely. No, it’s not a leap-forward (except in battery) from the Nexus 5, but it’s a reasonable improvement on all fronts. Not bad for a phone who’s outright price is $420.00 CAD (from Telus anyway). I’m quite happy.