At a special pre-IFA press event earlier in the week, I finally got to spend some time examining Motorola’s Moto X Pure Edition smart phone, an unlocked wonder with universal radios that provides high-end features, incredible customization choices, and affordable pricing.
Memo to Microsoft: when you make your last gasp attempt at smart phone relevancy with your coming Lumia flagships, this is exactly the model you should follow. Sell unlocked devices that work with all carriers yourself, offer customers great choices, and price them affordably.
Granted, Moto X Pure Edition isn’t perfect. That name is pretty terrible, though it at least communicates you’re getting a “Signature”-style experience (or what Motorola calls a pure Android experience with a few Motorola enhancements). With a 5.7-inch screen, it’s huge, and will be too big for some users. And of course, it runs Android, which is my least favorite of the big smart phone platforms, albeit one that is finally maturing with the most recent OS releases.
If you can get past that, the Moto X Pure Edition looks solid. Indeed, it looks nearly perfect.
Let’s start with the price. For $400, you can get a 16 GB version of the device, which is at the low-end of the spectrum, though Moto X at least supports microSD expansion. A comparable iPhone 6 Plus costs $750.
From there, let’s move on to choice. Where your iPhone comes in three color choices—silver (white), space gray (black), and gold—Moto X offers an amazing array of customization choices via an online configurator called Moto Maker. After getting past the three storage choices (16, 32, and 64 GB), you have three frame/front options (white/silver, white/champagne, and black/dark gray, which map to the iPhone color choices), numerous soft grip colors, wood, and leather back choices, several accent color choices, and engraving options. You can even personalize the greeting you get onscreen when you first turn on your phone.
But it keeps getting better. Because the Moto X Pure Edition is carrier unlocked, it will work on any major carrier, even Verizon. You can’t buy an iPhone—let alone almost any other phone—that works across all four of the major American carriers (and most smaller ones too).
The Moto X Pure Edition is also a fairly clean Android experience, without the preloaded crapware you see so frequently on other Android devices. (And to be fair to Android, you can at least hide apps you don’t want, something that is not possible on iPhone/iOS. Hence, the “crap” folder most—all?—iPhone users toss those apps into.)
I’m not completely up on the Moto enhancements yet, but what I saw included unique lock-screen notifications (similar to those on Windows Phone’s Glance screen, actually) and a hands-free voice control solution. Motorola says there is a Moto Assist feature as well that customizes how the device works in certain places (like the car) and at certain times (so you’re not interrupted while sleeping).
From a specifications perspective, the Moto X Pure Edition is likewise impressive: a 1.8 GHz hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor with Adreno 418 graphics, 3 GB of RAM, and a Quad HD (1440 x 2560) display. The main camera is 21 megapixels—which, yes caused my ears to perk up—so I’ll be testing how well that really works. And it supports TurboPower fast battery charging. USB is just the standard micro-USB, not USB-C, which is a bit surprising. But NFC is available, as are stereo front-facing speakers.
As with the Moto 360 smart watch, I’ll be reviewing the Moto X Pure Edition soon. I suspect this 5.7-inch behemoth may be a bit too large for me—I still think the 5- to 5.2-inch range is roughly ideal for a smart phone—and of course I continue to be suspicious of Android. But I think Motorola has pulled together a compelling package here, and is selling it at very reasonable prices, especially given the way the market is moving away from subsidizing smart phones. This is a phone to keep an eye on.