The Moto X is Motorola's mid-range 'pure' Google handset, available in the UK from February for £380 SIM-free.
- Android 4.4 Kitkat
- 4.7-inch 720p Screen
- 2200 mAh battery
- 10-megapixel camera
- 1080p HD video recording
- Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
- 2GB Ram, 16/32 GB storage
"Talk to Moto X and it learns your voice. With Google Now, it tells you what you need to know – even when you’re not touching it. With two flicks of your wrist, Moto X becomes your camera and captures the shots you used to miss. All of this coupled with its all-day battery means that Moto X is ready when you are."
It's a bit of an oddity that the first big smartphone to be released in the UK in 2014 has already been out in the US for about six months. But whatever the reason for the delay - whether it's dealing with UK accents for its voice control tech, or just marketing focus - Motorola has now decided to bring its sort-of-flagship, sort-of-midrange smartphone to the UK. So how does it stack up compared to its Android competitors, especially the similarly specced, priced and vanilla Android Nexus 5?
Visually the phone makes a decent first impression, and while this is clearly not hardware from the top-tier of design and build quality, it's still pleasant to look at and nice to hold. The back of the phone is plastic, and notably curved with a subtle rounded logo impression which helps it sit nicely in the hand. It's fairly light, solid and well-built, though it's not going to dazzle anyone either. In both white and black, it's a straightforwardly dull, neat phone.
In terms of specs, the most obvious downside is the screen. The Moto X is smaller and lower resolution than the Nexus 5, displaying just 720P at 312 pixels per inch. The dip in quality is not tremendously bothersome unless the Moto X is side-by-side with a better display. Indeed, the Amoled panel is quite strong in general, with good contrast levels. But once it is put alongside a better screen, there's no comparison. Similarly its processor is lower spec compared to the Nexus 5, which boasts a quad-core Snapdragon 800 versus the X's Snapdragon S4 dual-core, plus a natural language co-processor. In practice though both perform well, and we didn't experience much difference between the phones on a day-to-day basis.
Battery life was similar, in our unscientific tests, but the Moto X edged it managing a whole day of use without issuing a low-power alert, unlike the Nexus.
The final big feature battle is in the camera, and here it's a marginal win for Motorola. The Moto X has a 10-megapixels camera, which is a boost versus the the Nexus 5's 8-megapixel sensor, and also boasts an impressively quick 'twist to open' gesture which brings up the camera by just rotating the phone like a motorbike accelerator. Quality was similar to the Nexus in general, though. We noticed sharper images with the Moto X, but both run similar software and it's hard to be too enthusiastic for one over the other.
In software terms, the Moto X does have some pretty neat ideas that the Nexus 5, and many other top-tier Android phones lack. The best is its addition of 'touchless controls', by which you can operate many important functions of the phone without pressing a single button. Just say 'Ok Google Now' and using its language co-processor the phone will start listening for commands, whether it's to navigate to a new area, tell you the weather or make a call. This is partly made possible by hardware, and not even the Nexus 5 has it. It's a nice addition, and while you might not use it much in practice, it's an alluring step towards a truly useful digital assistant.
The Moto X also has intelligent notifications, which use its 'Active Display' to quietly highlight information you need, without waking the whole screen. It's discreet and well designed, and lets you choose when to respond and when to ignore a pulsing notification, depending on where you are. Using the Motorola Connect app you can see and respond to all your notifications using a desktop version of Google Chrome, while the Migrate app lets you port over your SMS messages, contacts and pictures to the new device very easily.
All that combines to a phone with a likeable combination of decent looks, good components and some unique software features. Unfortunately it's also a little hard to recommend when compared on price to its competition. You can get a Nexus 5 for £80 less than the Moto X - and you can get a Samsung Galaxy S4 for not that much more. Without any truly inspiring design options as seen in the US, it's quite hard to recommend in a crowded marketplace. On the other hand, it's also unlikely to disappoint if you do want a basic, pure Android phone with a slightly better camera than the Nexus.
With the same ultra-clear Retina display as the iPhone 5, but now with an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/10/iphone-5s-uk-pictures-release-date_n_3898775.html?1378818683&utm_hp_ref=uk-tech" target="_blank">added fingerprint sensor</a>, a seriously impressive 64-bit A7 chip, an improved camera and a new gold design option, this is the best iPhone ever made. And with its consistent market-leading app selection, easy-to-use OS and delightful design, it's hard to argue against it being one of the very best gadgets ever made too.
Google LG Nexus 5
The new Nexus 5 is based on the internals of the LG G2 - which means you get the same Snapdragon 800 processor, as well as the full version of Google's new Android 4.4 KitKat OS, which integrates SMS messages into Hangouts, freshens up the design and adds new features under the hood. The camera is still a little lacking, while the design is functional rather than beautiful, but at £299 off contract it's still a steal.
Samsung Galaxy Note III
The Note III is huge. It's got a 5.7-inch screen, though with the same 1080P resolution as the Note II. It adds a new leather back panel, which gives it an 'office' feel in line with the productivity-plus-stylus theme of the device. It also adds a Snapdragon 8000 quad-core processor, some new software enhancements and a few new S-Pen functions into the mix. If you're looking for a giant note-taking phone, this is still your best bet.
The 5C was rumoured to be Apple's 'budget' iPhone. It isn't - and not only because it isn't that cheap. The "proudly plastic" 5C comes in five colours (see what they did there) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/10/iphone-5c-uk-pictures-release-date_n_3899557.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech" target="_blank">but has the same internals, screen and camera as the iPhone 5.</a> It's essentially the same beautiful, high-end phone you already know and love, in a more colourful (and potentially divisive) design. As such it's hard to see how Apple won't sell a billion of them.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Though the S4 i<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/24/samsung-galaxy-s4-review-_n_3145186.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech" target="_blank">s in some ways an evolutionary upgrade over its wildly successful S3</a>, it's an extremely attractive, lightweight and high quality phone with a 5-inch HD screen, the fastest processor ever seen in a phone and <a href="http://gdgt.com/samsung/galaxy/s/4/" target="_blank">some interesting new features</a>, including a measure of 'eye tracking' controls and gestures that don't require you to touch the screen.
The HTC One is probably the most beautiful smartphone on the market - and is also the most intelligently designed. With twin, front-facing speakers it's the best choice for watching movies, and its 4MP 'Ultra Pixel' camera punches above its meagre pixel-count suggests.
Sony Xperia Z1
Sony's new flagship smartphone is an evolutionary development of the also-excellent Z. It keeps the same screen, the waterproof design and the nicely-tweaked version of Android, while upping the processor performance, improving the camera and smoothing out the rough (or rather sharp) edges of the Z's blocky design.
Nokia Lumia 925
<a href="http://gdgt.com/nokia/lumia/920/" target="_blank">The Nokia Lumia 925</a> has the same great design and attention to detail we've come to expect from Nokia, but with some crucial upgrades from the 920 including a thinner, all-metal design and an improved camera.
The LG G2 is an extremely high-end 5-inch, 1080p Android 4.2.2 smartphone whose major distinguishing feature is that it has three buttons on the back of the device, which are normally found on the sides. The G2 has its camera button and volume rocker on the rear, which for many people is enough to justify the purchase alone. It also has excellent battery life for this class of device.