Motorola Moto X Play Review

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It seems odd that a mid-range phone might be better than its company’s flagship, however this is what I’ve started thinking about the new Motorola Moto X Play Whilst the larger X Style has the upper in hand in raw specifications, the X Play is arguably better value for money

Motorola have already massively disrupted the entry-level smartphone market in the last couple of years with the Moto G range The newest G seems a little off in the price/power ratio this year, so X Play is a good attempt at attacking the next price tier The X Play is a big phone Slightly smaller than the Style, Motorola's signature curve and relative thickness have a way of reminding you of the phone's presence Personally I like a little extra bulk and at 169 grams it's far from heavy, yet in the face of direct mid-range competition such as a Samsung Galaxy A7, one could accuse the X Play of skipping the gym

There's a fine line between affordability and looking cheap, and it's a wire Motorola have walked very well for a few years now Unless you go through Moto Maker to design your own personalized, engraved, wonder-slab of wood and gold trim, the basic black and white retail versions of their phones have a way of looking approachable and usable The X Play looks like a phone you're supposed to play with, rather than worry about breaking The build is robust enough to not fear the occasional knock, unlike some of the similarly priced competition, not to mention the feeling of carrying a glass baby you get from a brand new Galaxy S or iPhone Otherwise, everything is in place exactly where it needs to be

Micro USB is on the bottom-centre, headphone jack top-centre and volume side-central with power just above The SD / SIM tray is easily accessible and clicks in comfortably without being fiddly The camera and dual LED flash are central on the back panel, which has a really tactile rubber back panel and can be swapped out or replaced with a flip cover version Overall the X Play has a basic, simple design that gets the job done There's nothing flash here and whilst it is on the larger side of modern smartphones, it's still on a par with others

Motorola are the kings of dialing back Android customization The interface, menus and few built-in apps they provide are all perfectly in line with Material Design guidelines, whilst the core system is about as close to stock as any non-Nexus device gets Of the few added tweaks, Active Display will be the most obvious This is turned on by default and acts in place of a notification LED When notifications arrive, the screen lightens up slightly with an interactive icon appearing

Tap or slide this to be taken directly to the app in question The screen stays lit for a few seconds and will shine again with every new notification, or should you physically pick up the phone when there are unread notifications It's not as pervasive as a flashing LED and an interesting alternative It works well and is an example of a simple, well-implemented feature However should you, like me, find it ultimately a bit annoying (as I do with LEDs), then just turn it off in the settings

The other subtle feature you might miss is the quick launch for the camera – located in the settings for the camera app A double flick of the wrist (turning the phone over and back twice), will make the phone buzz and launch the camera, which will also work with the screen locked Inside the camera app this action flips between front and rear cameras There's also Motorola Connect, which uses a companion Chrome extension to allow you to see notifications as well as read (and reply to!) incoming messages from your browser Finally there's Migrate, which can help transfer data from an old phone to this one

Aside from the Google suite and some details regarding an optional Motorola ID (which allows Connect to work and can be helpful in support situations), that's it for built in apps so it's a very bare-bones collection For a phone that isn't really fighting for acknowledgement against other manufacturer's similarly priced and spec counterparts, this is undoubtedly the best option It allows the phone to be as fast and empty as possible, allowing the user as much freedom as they need within the system to use the handset how they wish These few neat interface and navigation features do manage to add value and alongside a truly excellent battery life help the X Play stand apart At 3,630 mAh the battery is a monster

With a 55" screen, Motorola's 48 hour claim seemed a little overreaching, however it does hold up depending on your usage Of course if you sit and stream YouTube videos for an entire afternoon over 4G then you'll see that drop sharply, as with any phone However for what most would consider 'standard' use, a 2 day claim is well within capabilities This is helped by opting for an average Full HD 1080 TFT LCD display, which is is sharp and offers decent brightness

There are some better displays out there but this one does the job admirably, plus the choice not to follow the current trend of going for a Quad HD screen (which is on the X Style) no doubt keeps price and power consumption down Processor wise the X Play's octa-core Snapdragon 615 will tick along perfectly well for some time With 2GB of RAM this can handle pretty hefty multitasking and will take on pretty much any of the top 3D mobile games available as well There's some extra bonus points available for the Play as well, scored by ticking the boxes for NFC, dual band WiFi and a wide range of LTE bands There's not much else you could really ask of the X Play, apart from perhaps wireless charging

A lacklustre camera has been a bit of a sore point for previous Moto X devices Whilst not a game-ending drop of the ball, it has been the area where in many reviewer's eyes, Motorola needed heavy improvement to become serious contenders at the more expensive ranges Thankfully somewhere during the transition from Google ownership to Lenovo, that message worked its way to whichever department needed to get their heads down and sort the snapper out for 2015 The result is the ability to take some excellent outdoor and indoor shots that pick up a very high level of detail The 20 megapixel sensor clearly helps here although it's not all a numbers game in photography

The processing appears well balanced with the automatic HDR setting creating some true to life final images with levelled colours Autofocus is generally OK, with the ability to manually tap to focus on a certain area You get what you pay for in mobile photography and its pleasantly surprising to say that at under £300, this is a contender for the best smartphone camera in the price bracket Perfect pictures of fast moving subjects are hard and at times low-light performance can get fairly grainy and noisy, especially if you use the built-in night-mode Spending more money generally gets improved results here, so serious camera enthusiasts can look at the X Style if they want rapid phase-detection autofocus and a more powerful image processor, without reaching the £500+ arena beyond the screen and battery, this differentiate between the mid-range and high-end units.

The camera on the X Play is well above average and will certainly suit any casual user It would take a very picky person to want more from a sub £300 phone and anyone who is super-serious about mobile photography probably wouldn't step out the door without the newest iPhone or Galaxy S anyway If you're in the market for a new phone and find your budget sitting around the 250 – 300 pound mark then buy a Moto X Play Unless you really have to have something a little smaller, you'll struggle to find better value for money & brand recognition in the market at the time of writing

The X Play combines a good quality build from a respected manufacturer, close to stock Android with swift updates, a borderline excellent camera – considering the price and otherwise mid-range provisions – with a final hit of ridiculous battery life and water resistance If you truly want top of the range specifications then by all means pay the extra, however the X Play should be a phone that easily lasts a full lifespan for anyone other than total power users The hardware, combined with likely updates to Android 60 Marshmallow and beyond will keep the X Play relevant and working well for a few years to come

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