Okay guys, not a snappy title but it’s definitely an important one.
I have the Nexus 5 and my wife has the Moto X. Which is better? Well, Load The Game posted an article on this today which came under heavy fire in the comments because of either price and other factual inaccuracies, omissions on information or just plain feeling out of date.
I’m not here to tear it apart, but to expand on it from a usability perspective.
See, I moved from the Samsung Note II which was a beast hardware-wise, but buggy and slower than it should be, to the fantastic Nexus 5. Nothing else I’ve used since has been able to compare, until I had to research for my wife’s next phone.
We went through the immensely popular Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (she wanted a smaller phone than mine), the Moto G, the Moto X and more, but I suggested she stick with the Moto X after loads of reviews including a fantastic video review by Marques Brownlee (MKBHD). Coming from her lovely HTC One S this was an obvious choice as it was a similar form factor overall, comfortable and very slick. An upgrade in all aspects (except the camera, but even the Moto X speaker quality wasn’t far off from the HTC).
After all my research I have to say Marques Brownlee was right; the Moto X is just such a great phone to use. It’s the most jealous I’ve been over her tech, even though I love my Nexus 5 (also recommended by MKBHD) and even though her new laptop is immensely better than my 5 year old desktop replacement.
It does what the Nexus 5 does – it runs a simple version of Android KitKat with a speed and fluidity I thought only possible on Nexus devices. No HTC, Samsung (bar the Galaxy Nexus when it first came out) or Sony I have used has been quite so consistent in performance.
We don’t get the Moto Maker here in the UK and that doesn’t matter; the Moto X looks fine as it is.
What I have found is her battery life lasts a fair while and she doesn’t exactly skimp on using her phone for games, Facebook and email. This is simply down to the super smart X8 architecture. Dual core CPU instead of quad to avoid unnecessary drain, but a quad core GPU for when it’s really needed. Top that up with a dedicated low-drain language processing chip (making the “Okay Google Now” keyword work in standby mode) and you’ve got magic. Finally there is a Contextual Computing Processor for the little touches such as auto-dimming, auto-screen wakes and all the little computing tasks that don’t need a mega powerful CPU to do the work. This also means those lovely active notifications on the lock screen are made possible, when married with the AMOLED screen.
I must say, I do love the little touches. And that’s all Motorola have done: add little touches to the firmware to make it intuitive instead of bloated.
Colour me impressed – on a day to day basis this means the phone is incredibly usable. Even the little dimple on the back which adds a nice place for your finger to stay when you make a call; a small touch that just works.
Yes, the rear camera under-performs in many situations, but the front camera makes for a good way to check if you have some food in your teeth after a meal and actually has a nice resolution for a front camera.
Another small criticism I’d have of the Moto X firmware is purely aesthetic. I find that the margins around the app and widget grid are too wide. They make the usable space on the screen much smaller than the Nexus 5 and even that phone had beefy margins compared to my Samsung Note II running Nova Launcher Prime.
The reason I haven’t been using Nova Launcher on my Nexus 5 is simply because I love the Google Experience Launcher; Google Now gives me lots of info (it’s how I came across the Load the Game article) and I’ve found myself using the unified search so much more than I used to. The Google Experience Launcher is an acquired taste and my wife prefers to use the stock Moto X launcher so she’s not overly fussed. As long as Chrome glides, as it does on both phones, and apps don’t constantly crash, she’s happy. I think maybe her Moto X has marginally more crashes, but hardly any compared to my old Note II. My Nexus 5 seldom has issues however.
Finally, my wife’s Moto X feels well put together for the most part. However, only a couple of months in, already it creaks. Quite a lot. Turns out she’s not the only one. Still, it doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall apart at all and it’s actually pleasing to hold.
I find both of these phones have it right: vanilla Android (or close enough to not make life difficult in Moto’s case) in solid, responsive hardware. It works, it lags less and you familiarise yourself with it quickly. I think for me, I prefer how nice the Moto X feels in the hand and it’s less likely to slip than my white Nexus 5. In fact it is actually quite durable as well as non-slippy as crazier people than I have tested.
Firmware-wise, it’s a tie for me. I love my Nexus 5 with it’s Google Now/Experience Launcher and I am even liking the new camera app. I will admit the being jealous of the always wake-able Google Now feature the Moto X has and active notifications, because those are genuine innovations which impress me and add value to the phone’s offering.
Some have said these are not the best available options any more so why did Load The Game write about them? Well, what’s come out since? The S5, which is an improved S4 really with some little toys (*cough*bloat*cough*) added in. I’ll pass. The OnePlus One? Ooh, not out just yet, but so close and a powerhouse to boot… Cyanogenmod may be an acquired taste however.
Then there’s the Xperia Z2 – A mighty beast of a phone also, but quite unwieldy and increasing in unnecessary bloat. Not cheap either!
There’s always the HTC One M8 which is a top up to last year’s HTC One – and that phone has some fans let me tell you. Sense 6.0 looks simpler and quite close to being more integrated with vanilla Android KitKat with little touches like Motorola did, but with enough of a HTC flavour to remind you you’re using Sense.
So, what’s as pure, that’s come out since the Moto X and the Nexus 5, running the latest Android KitKat and doesn’t cost the Earth? Well, there’s the Moto G and I’ve tried it too. It is the best value-for-money phone out there right now, but it isn’t quite as impressive, still, as the Moto X. It does a lot for very little money, but the Moto X is just a smarter smartphone.
There is one other pure phone worth considering for all of you in the US: HTC One M8 Google Play Edition, which has stripped the polished and lauded Sense 6.0 and replaced it with vanilla Android KitKat; this means pure Android in a superb shell with some unique features still available without having to use all of Sense. Marques Brownlee liked that so it may be worth considering. I’m in London, UK so for me it would be a no-go, but even still I’d be tempted to try out the original HTC One M8 it seems that good, albeit taller and over 25g heavier than my Nexus 5. Still, I wouldn’t buy one outright. The only phone I’ve bought outright is the Nexus 5 and that’s saying something.