Moto X Play 2015: Review

Front of the phone
Written by Joshua_Daniels

This is Kettle’s first proper phone review, as well as the first article for our relaunched Tech section. We’re going to start doing a great deal more reviews, not just of phones but of all kinds of gadgets. We’ll try our best to make the reviews concise and useful, and to select devices that our readers would be interested in. Let the review begin! 

Motorola makes a few phones. At the top is the X Style and at the bottom is the E. The E retails for around £100 and the X Style for around £500. Second from top of the lineup is the X Play. In spite of its close proximity to the top of the tree, it’s around half the price at about £275. The X Style is Motorola’s attempt to break into a new and growing market: inexpensive but decent Android smartphones. The market has previously been dominated by brands like OnePlus, LG and Google’s own Nexus, but the Moto X Play may well come to change that. 

The companies I’ve named above have different approaches to this price category. Google and LG both retail their older phones in this bracket (the Nexus 5 and the LG G3 respectively). OnePlus sells their Two at a lesser price than other similar phones because they strictly control the supply of the phone using the invite system. Motorola’s approach to building a phone for this price seems to be a little different: take high end but not cutting edge hardware, stick it into a solid but not drop-dead-gorgeous body, slap on a reasonable price tag and hope for the best. 

Is the result of this foray a success?
Answer: absolutely. The phone has a brilliant, bright, high-resolution display that’s more than good enough for everyday tasks like Facebook, Email, surfing the web, Netflixing and gaming. It’s fast enough to run everything smoothly and multitask efficiently (admittedly though, it isn’t as fluid as devices like the OnePlus One, which is a whole generation behind the OnePlus Two). This is almost certainly because the phone just doesn’t have as powerful a processor, or as much RAM (the stuff that allows you to multitask). But this is OK: for the overwhelming majority of smartphone users, this phone will be more than sufficient. Briefly, because there isn’t a great deal to say, this phone has a spectacular, magnificent, infinitely glorious battery. It just lasts, and lasts, and lasts. This is the first phone I’ve ever come across that lasts with actual usage for two days. Motorola killed it with the battery. Additionally, the phone runs stock Android: it’s simple, it’s quick, it’s easy on the eye and best of all, there’s no preinstalled crapware.

How’s the camera?
Cuts have definitely been made in order to get to this price point, and I’ll spend some time on that further in, but the camera doesn’t appear to be one of them. It’s a pixel-busting 21MP sensor, with dual-flash and a decent aperture (how big the lens opening is, how much light get’s let it: a smaller number represents a bigger opening, and is better). Speaking as someone who’s partial to high-end photography gear, I found this inexpensive phone to be really rather good. The pictures are sharp, as you’d expect. It performs well (but not amazingly) when there isn’t much light. The inbuilt camera app just works. I’ve included some sample shots of some fairly shoddy photography. It’s worth noting that although it doesn’t shoot video in 4K (four times full high-definition), it honestly doesn’t matter: the kind of person who’s able to watch 4K video on their 4K screen isn’t in the market for a discount anything.  

Sample images:

Sunset taken by the phonePhone sample
So where was money saved?
I already mentioned that performance was good but not earth shattering. That’s because this phone has 2GB of RAM, which was top-of-the-line two years ago. Today, high end smartphones have 3GB or 4GB. Additionally, this phone has a 615 processor instead of an 8-series processor. All this means is that the individual cores run slightly slower. Using this phone is an expectations game: if you want it to be snappy and glide through normal usage, you’re in luck. Expecting gaming-rig-performance from a phone like this doesn’t make any sense. It seems like money was also saved on the body. Don’t mistake me: this phone feels great in the hand. It’s up there with my beloved iPhone 4 in terms of feel in the hand. It feels fantastic. But the sides are a little plasticky, and the volume rocker and power button shake about minutely. It would take an obsessive and highly bored person (meet me) to care about this, but I’m mentioning it to underline the point that the savings handed onto the consumer didn’t come from nowhere. 

Final thoughts 
If money is a meaningless component to your life then cast this review into irrelevancy and buy whatever takes your fancy. But if, like many people, you care about how much you’re spending then I’d urge you to take a look at this. I love that there are finally phone companies selling relatively inexpensive off-contract handsets. I love that they have the confidence to ask the question: why on earth should you have to pay £40 a month for a handset you don’t need? Does this phone have it’s flaws? Absolutely. Are they enough to put me off? No. 

Screen: 5.5”, Full HD
Processor: Snapdragon 615
Size: H*W*D – 148*75*10.9mm

Some more images of the phone:

Side view of the phoneSecond side viewPhone box

Thanks to Motorola for sending us the review unit.