The Moto X phones have been Motorola’s flagship Androids since the company was acquired by Google back in 2012 — it’s since been purchased by Lenovo — but this year, the phone-maker has taken the unusual step of releasing two different Moto X’s: the higher-end Moto X Style and this mid-range X Play.
We weren’t particularly enamoured with the Style: while it’s certainly more-affordable that most (starting at $55 per month on Vodafone) it was missing some ‘modern flagship’ features (like a fingerprint sensor) and its battery life was short thanks to its large 5.7-inch IPS display.
The Play turns that around somewhat, with a slightly smaller 5.5-inch screen but a much larger battery — and it’s a little cheaper too — which arguably results in a much better mix.
The trade-off is that the Play is not as fast as the Style in benchmarks. It uses Qualcomm’s mid-range Snapdragon 615 CPU in combination with 2GB of memory, 16GB of storage and an Adreno 405 graphics chip to deliver adequate but far from award-winning performance numbers.
Not that you’d really notice in day-to-day use; with Motorola’s mostly unmodified version of Android 5.1.1 as the OS, this is a slick and smooth experience when launching and using apps and even multitasking.
While the Play isn’t a particularly slim or striking device, it is a reasonably handsome one — its got Motorola’s traditional curved back, which means it’s comfortable in the hand, and the 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display renders clean, sharp and colour-neutral images: it’s great to look at.
It’s robust too, with the same water and dust-resistance capacity as the Style, meaning it’s made to withstand accidental splashes and things like light rain (though anything more than that is asking for trouble) and the cameras are identical on these two Moto X’s: competent and confident shooters that, while not up to iPhone 6S or Galaxy S6 levels, will satisfy all but the most fussy photographers.
The other thing we loved: unlike the Style, the Play has great battery life. Thanks to its comparatively huge 3,630mAh capacity, we often breezed through a full day with somewhere between 30% and 40% battery to spare, and it outlasted most other devices in our battery tests (reaching a fantastic 8:14 hours in PCMark for Android, as compared to 5:11 hours for the Style), despite having an LCD that’s almost excessively bright at higher levels.
Like the Style, the Play supports fast-charging (it’s actually a feature of that Qualcomm SoC), but Motorola hasn’t provided a charger with the phone: it’s available as an optional extra for around $40.
And there’s a microSD slot with support for cards up to 128GB, so if you want to cart around your media collection (or just take lots of photos) that’s definitely an option.
In short, while the Play may not be the fastest phone around, it offers up a good mix of features at this price point — and it can certainly still go the distance in terms of battery life.