‘Tis verily the era of “two models under one brand” phones. We have seen two types of iPhones, two types of Nexus phones and now Moto comes to the party with two flavours of the Moto X – the Moto X Play and the Moto X Style. The X, for those who came in late, was originally considered Motorola’s flagship in its new avatar, showcasing the best and brightest the brand had – the original X won a lot of critical acclaim for daring to fight on experience rather than specs. The fact that it did not do quite as well commercially made Moto fall back on a strong spec sheet for the second Moto X.
But this year has seen Moto seemingly go back to fighting on experience, as was witnessed in the launch of the Moto G (3rd generation) – triggering off another debate between the specs and experience crowd. And the bifurcation of the Moto X range seems to reflect that – the X Style is the one with the big hardware, while the X Play is the one that has a more modest spec sheet, but still hopes to deliver a very good experience, at a price that is much – much – lower (Rs 18,499/$275 for the X Play, Rs 29,999/$400 for the recently launched X Style).
And well, let’s be blunt about it – it succeeds. In many ways, the Moto X Play reminds us of the first Moto G. It comes for the most part with decent rather than exceptional hardware (5.5 inch full HD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor at 1.7 Ghz, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB expandable storage, 4G connectivity), although the 21-megapixel camera at the rear (there’s a handy 5.0-megapixel one on the front) and 3630 mAh battery will make some of the spec enthusiasts look up with interest, as both are relatively rare at this price point. Of course, this being a Moto, you get stock Android, minus all the bells and whistle laden overlays that you get with other devices. Moto did not make as much a fuss of it, but this phone is water-resistant too, although not in the “soak it and leave it” level of the Moto G (3rd generation).
But yes, in all other respects, the Moto X Play does SO remind us of the original Moto G. It is a very smart looking device (although at 10.9 mm thick and 169 grammes in weight, it is neither the lightest nor the slimmest – check our first impressions) and the patterned back gives it a very distinctive look. And while those specs might not set benchmarks on fire, they handled pretty much every routine task we threw at it with ease – yes, the odd lag crept in when we were past the half hour mark on Asphalt 8, but we would still say that in terms of sheer smoothness of performance, this is a very good device indeed for those who want a phone for social networking, mails, messaging and some hectic casual gaming – and before you ask, no it does not heat up to uncomfortable levels. Yes, we have seen brighter displays on some other phones, but the Moto X Play’s 5.5 inch full HD display is good for reading, watching videos and gaming, even though it does not dazzle with its colors like those on the Xiaomi Mi 4 and Mi 4i.
The two departments where the X Play, however, does go toe to toe with higher specced devices are camera and battery. While there is no doubt that this is the most affordable device from a major brand with a 21.0-megapixel camera, its performance was above average rather than exceptional. Yes, it did close ups a lot better than some of the Moto devices we have seen in the past (including the Nexus 6) and in good light conditions, detail and colors were well handled with a leaning towards the realistic rather than the brightly colorful, but in relatively low lights, its performance took a clear dip, with lights flaring and detail getting lost. The absence of a gyroscope in the device also means that you cannot take 360-degree photo spheres – a deal breaker for some of the uber geeks we suspect, but not for the main user. No, we would not rate the Moto X Play as a great camera phone – it is a good one, though, if the lights are decent enough.
What IS great about the phone, however, is its battery life. The 3630 mAh battery more often than not got us through a day and a half of hectic use and with more careful use, through two days. That kind of battery life is rare at this price point with those specs and well, combined with very good voice quality on calls (hey, this is a Moto, after all), make the Moto X Play a very tempting proposition.
But do very good battery life and general smooth handling make the Moto X Play the best option there is at its price point? Well, we think they do make it among the best around. Yes, we know that the likes of the Xiaomi Mi 4 (Rs 14,999) and the original OnePlus One (Rs 18,998) come with better processors and more RAM, that the Nubia Z9 Mini (Rs 16,999) has much better cameras, and that the Huawei Honor 6 and the Lenovo Vibe X2 have more eye catching design, but when you think of the entire package, the Moto X Play compares very favorably with these worthies. It does not have any Achilles Heels in terms of performance, has decent specs (the presence of expandable memory itself will sway some away from the fixed 16 GB variants on the OnePlus One and Mi 4) and scores heavily on battery life.
In short, it might not seem very exceptional on paper. But it attains that status when you use it. Just like the Moto G did. The X Play is Moto playing the G game. And doing so brilliantly.