Moto X Play Detailed User Review: Decent Phone With Great Camera
Moto X play launch was eagerly anticipated in India when Motorola and Flipkart announced its release on 14th September 2015. It was anticipated that Moto X play would be approximately priced around ? 25000, given its specifications and pricing of 2nd generation Moto X. However Motorola pleasantly surprised everyone by pricing it very competitively at Rs. 18,499 (16 GB) and Rs. 19,999 (32 GB). Moreover, the 21 MP primary camera puts it ahead of its competitors (in mid-segment), especially for many shutterbugs out there. This is arguably Motorola’s best offering this year so far.
Here are my initial impressions about the Moto X Play after exploring it thoroughly for past 2-3 days.
Design & Build Quality
The phone is pretty well designed and like most of the the build is solid as compared to flimsy plastic builds we are experiencing from some other manufacturers. The phone feels like a premium phone straight out of the box.
Despite its large size (5.5 inches display), phone fits well in the palm and rubberized back cover ensures good grip as well. The back cover is removable & swappable, but the battery is not removable.
The front is covered by large 5.5 inch display covered with Corning Gorilla Glass, 5 MP front camera and openings for speaker & microphone. There is no notification LED available here. The top of the phone provides dual nano-SIM and Micro SD slot along with 3.5mm headset socket. Unlike few other manufacturers, Motorola provides headset in the box.
The bottom of the phone has micro USB port for charging and data transfer. The power switch as well as volume control are located on the right edge of the phone, which is a more sensible placement as compared to left since many flip-covers could unintentionally press volume control on the left.
Unlike its cheaper sibling Moto G3, Moto X Play is not water resistant but it is water repellant with nano-coating technology.
The Moto X Play comes with a 5.5 inch display that offers 1080p Full HD resolution at 403 ppi. The display is quite clear, sharp and bright enough, although it cannot be compared with excellent AMOLED display that 2nd generation Moto X has. Nevertheless, it is much better than most phones in its category.
The display is quite sharp & clear even in the corners and you would not face any problem reading it even in the sunlight. You can use ‘Adaptive Brightness‘ to automatically adjust brightness as per ambient light conditions.
The colour reproduction is excellent and you can choose colour mode as ‘Normal’ for natural, realistic colours or ‘Vibrant’ for enhanced colour and saturation.
Though it was a little disappointing to know that AMOLED is not present in this model, after experiencing this display I don’t have a reason to complain!
Software – Pure Android Experience
One of the important features of Motorola mobiles is its pure android experience. Moto X Play comes with Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) and it is most likely to receive latest OTA software updates given Motorola’s excellent track record of providing latest updates for its phones. That is obviously one of the best assurances that you get when you buy a Motorola phone.
The (not necessarily) bad news is, stock android comes with bare minimum apps and there are no free live wallpapers either. There is no file explorer/manager, no facebook or social media apps and no free games either. There are Google apps for slides, docs and spreadsheets. It also comes with pre-installed Flipkart app! You can obviously install the required apps from ‘Play Store’ but most of the free apps would show annoying ads and the paid ones would cost you some additional money.
The good news is that you can be sure that there are no malicious pre-installed apps running here unlike the phones from few other phone manufacturers.
This plain vanilla version of android offers clean, simple and clutter-free UI that may in fact seem boring to many of us. Some of the important features are either not obvious (eg. camera settings) or are hidden deep down (eg.turning mobile data on/off). Nevertheless, once you get used of it, you will probably enjoy the clutter free interface!
This is definitely the most exciting feature that has generated lot of curiosity about Moto X Play. Moto X play has 21 MP primary camera with dual LED flash and 5 MP front camera for selfies. The 21 MP primary camera puts it ahead of leaders of the category including One Plus Two or MI 4.
I am sharing my experience about this camera in details with lot of photos here and hopefully that should give you a good idea about its camera.
The camera is lightening fast! The quality of photos is pretty good, and it captures the minute details quite well. As it happens with most mobile cameras, outdoor quality in natural light is obviously better. Though I am quite impressed with its indoor photos as well.
The photo can be captured using two aspect ratios – Widescreen (16:9 – 16.1 MP) or Standard (4:3 – 21 MP). You can select your preference with the camera app.
Camera App Settings
The camera app is simple but powerful. It is not obvious how to bring it up while capturing the photo, but once you get it -you actually start loving that large clutter free preview of your capture. To view it, you need to swap from left to right while camera is on. It shows up as a semi-circle on the left part of the display and you get all standard camera setting there such as flash on/off/auto, location etc. Additionally it allows you to set upquick capture that allows to launch camera with a twist of your wrist. It can also capture slow motion video.
You can tap anywhere on the display to capture the photo, and did I tell you that the camera is pretty quick? :P
There is yet another interesting feature in this camera that I really liked. You can drag the focus ring anywhere on the display and the camera will adjust focus accordingly. You can also vary brightness of the photo with the same overlay ring on the display as shown in the screenshot below.
Camera: Drag to focus and vary photo Exposure
The front camera is 5 MP and it captures pretty good photos/selfies. Though there is no dedicated flash for the front camera, the display itself acts as a flash if it is needed and that’s a pretty innovative solution.
Camera In Action
Watch these outdoor and indoor photos to examine the results. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have only reduced size of these photos, no other processing is done here. Click to view them in the larger size.
Outdoor Capture 1
Outdoor Capture 2
Outdoor Capture 3
Indoor Capture 1
Indoor Capture 2
Indoor Capture 3
Indoor Capture 4
Indoor Capture 5
Indoor Capture – Low light, with flash
Camera Bug or Gallery Bug?
This is something that may be of concern. I captured lot of photos today as I was exploring all the camera features. I was also getting few screenshots for this review, and in the process I restarted the phone. I was shocked to discover that all the photos that I had captured today had vanished from the phone, although yesterday’s photos were intact. I did not have memory card in the phone at that time, and all photos were in the internal memory itself. I tried to reproduce the problem by capturing a single photo and deliberately restarting the mobile. I also tried capturing a photo and immediately taking a screenshot. However, I could not reproduce this problem. I could not recover those photos either with the recovery apps. I did search for this problem on the Internet, and found that few people have faced photo deletion problem with Moto X (Gen 2).
Though I haven’t faced it again, I am still a bit confused about this since I do not even know what is causing this.
Storage And Connectivity
The Moto X Play comes in 2 storage variants: 16 GB and 32 GB. Both these variants have 2 GB RAM. Additionally, it can take an external Micro SD card up to 128 GB. The Micro SD card slot is combined with the dual SIM card slot, so when you take out your memory card, you take out SIM(s) as well.
As for connectivity, it comes with dual SIM with dual standby. Both cards support 4G LTE (also 2G & 3G) and this is a big advantage since all mobile service providers will soon support 4G after Airtel has launched it few months ago. It also supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/g/b/n, Wi-Fi direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP. Interestingly, it also provides NFC support, making it complete in terms of connectivity.
I faced a small issue while trying to connect it with my PC running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS since it did not have MTP support. However, quick search and upgrading to Gvfs with MTP support on my PC resolved the issue and it has been working smoothly since.
Hardware And Performance
The Moto X play runs with Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 Octa-core CPU and Adreno 405 GPU. Though Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 is known for overheating issues, I did not face this problem despite heavy usage. Though I have not tried any games on it yet. It does get a bit warm during heavy usage though.
Moto X Play comes with 2 GB RAM which is less as compared to the competitors who are adding 4 GB RAM in similar phones. However, mere specifications do not give complete & real picture of the phone.
Moto X Play UI is responsive and fast without any lags. It never felt sluggish despite customizing it with TSF Launcher 3D Shell and running several apps on it. The performance is smooth and pleasant. The cool transitions and animations that TSF launcher provides are delight to experience with able hardware of the phone. You can flaunt them while showing off your new phone! :-)
Moto X Play Customized with TSF Launcher 3D Shell – Loving it!
Another highlight of Moto X Play is its massive 3630 mAh battery. I could stretch it to 8+ hours of continuous use on the first day while I was exploring it and customizing it for my requirements. With reasonably heavy mixed usage it still lasted for 30+ hours on the second day.
The speakers are loud and you cannot miss the ring on this phone, unless you really have some hearing problem. The calls are loud and clear without any noise.
The sensors work wonderfully well and they are quick. The proximity sensor is smart, when you pick up your locked phone it will briefly show you the clock in night mode. Maps are quick to find the current location and GPS is spot on!
Also, I am glad that Motorola included FM radio in the Indian variant of Moto X Play, I love listening to FM when I am travelling!
While I was considering buying a new phone, I contemplated buying One Plus One (I don’t have patience to wait for the One Plus Two invite) or MI 4. I ruled out MI 4 as it didn’t have 4G LTE support. I chose Moto X play over OPO since it had dual SIM and better Camera. OPO doesn’t have FM radio as well!
I am not sure if it can be termed as The Best phone in its price range. However, this is one of the best bundles you can get at this price.
Given its performance, long-term reliability and Motorola’s track record of providing latest software updates, I think this is good deal and I won’t be surprised if it becomes best-seller for Motorola just like Moto G3!
[About the Author: Manish Hatwalne is a Pune based software consultant with keen interest in psychology and technical/non-technical writing!]