Scores in depth
Update: Moto X 2014 ended up being one of 2014's my stylish Android phones and looks even better with Android Lollipop. Our review reflects that.
The Moto X name hasn't changed in 2014, but rest assured, this updated Android smartphone packs enough new specs to deserve its own Moto X+1 or Moto X2 title.
With a larger screen, a better but not perfect camera, surprisingly useful first-party apps and, of course deeper customization, the original Moto Maker returns with a competitive price.
It's just $99 on-contract and on sale for as little as $1, or $499 (£419.99, AU$534). Don't let Motorola's low ball price fool you either. Like its low-key name, the Moto X 2014 has a deceptive asking price.
Motorola's flagship phone is slightly bigger in every sense, enough to make it one of the best Android premium phones next to the more expensive Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8. It's also one of the most stylish phones of 2014, enough to be part of our best phones list.
Availability and price
The Moto X 2nd generation launched on September 16, 2014, but that was the AT&T release date in the US. It came out for Verizon on September 26. Both carriers sold the 16GB phone on-contract for $100 and 32GB version for $150.
On sale, it's been reduced to $1 during the holidays, and Motorola eventually followed suit on its Moto Maker website in December. It's next to nothing there too and unlock price begins at $399.
In the UK, the new Moto X GSM unlocked edition became available at the end of September for £420 through Motorola's official website. Bumping the internal storage from 16GB to 32GB takes it to £460.
Wood and leather adds to the price. Moto X 2014 with a premium back costs $425 and £439.99 for the 16GB version and $175 and £479.99 for the 32GB edition, based on the original pricing.
Android 5.0 Lollipop, announced alongside the Motorola-made Nexus 6, has arrived on Moto X, at least from some carriers. Both the unlocked version and Verizon variant benefit from this early upgrade. AT&T customers with Moto X 2nd generation have to wait for the Android Lollipop update into January 2015 or beyond.
Nexus 6, by comparison, has the new Android version from the get-go, a larger 6-inch screen, a camera with optical image stabilization, dual front-facing speakers and a bigger battery. But it's also much more expensive at $650 (£499) for the 32GB base model and it loses that one-handed appeal.
There's more to the Moto X 2014 now that the display literally measures up to its competition. It's 5.2 inches, the same size as the new Sony Xperia Z3 and a hair larger than the 5.1-inch Galaxy S5.
That's up half an inch from last year's 4.7-inch Moto X, a size that Motorola left to the likes of Apple and its, by comparison, pint-sized iPhone 6 display.
With a little reach and large enough fingers, the new Moto X is still a one-handed phone that almost ventures into two-handed territory. Yet it doesn't compromise much on the display when compared to a phablet.
It's again protected by Corning Gorilla Glass with the same AMOLED technology behind it, but the 1080p Full HD resolution makes for a much crisper screen with 423 pixels per inch. You won't want to go back to the original's 720p and 316 ppi display specs.
This sharper display is put to the test as soon as the new Moto X is booted up thanks to the bright and colorful default wallpapers that Motorola included with the handset. It really sets the tone for this premium smartphone experience, especially next to the still 720p Moto G 2014.
It stands bezel-to-bezel with the Samsung Galaxy S5 in this regard, though it lacks the Super AMOLED display. In a few cases, we found the Moto X screen harder to read outdoors. But keep in mind that Motorola has made its smartphone much cheaper than anything in its class.
The Moto X 2014 makes up for its direct sunlight shortcomings with a better way to conserve battery life by default. The return of the extremely efficient Motorola Active Display means that waving your hand over the phone or taking it out of your pocket brings up the current time and simple notification icons in white. The rest of the screen remains off. The popular, always-on microphone is here as well, giving you a way to cut to the chase with voice commands.
Tapping an Active Display icon reveals more information about the notification, like the gist of your latest emails or Hangout messages. It's a great use of AMOLED's ability to selectively light up individual pixels and it sure beats an ambiguous blinking status light on a phone.
An all-new aluminum metal frame means that Moto X 2nd generation is stronger than its predecessor, not just bigger than before. Plastic is no longer binding together Motorola's flagship device. It's closer to the build material of the iPhone 5S, sturdier than the pliable iPhone 6 Plus and, most importantly, doesn't feel as cheap as the metal-looking polycarbonate Samsung Galaxy S5.
What's surprising is that despite the Moto X's naturally larger size care of the 5.2-inch display, Motorola once again used tricks to minimize the overall dimensions, and it worked in its favor. For example, there's very little bezel around the edges and the soft buttons are on-screen, as opposed to the capacitive buttons used by Samsung devices.
This makes the Moto X 2014 roughly the same size as the Galaxy S5 and, remarkably, even the iPhone 6. Its official measurements are 2.9 in (72.4 mm) x 5.5 in (140.8 mm) with a sloped 0.2 in (3.8 mm) to 0.4 in (9.9 mm) curve.
The S5's width and height are 2.9 in (72.5 mm) x 5.5 in (142 mm) with a narrower overall depth of 0.3 in (8.1 mm). iPhone 6 is nearly as big: 2.64 in (67.0 mm) x 5.44 in (138.1 mm) x 0.27 in (6.9 mm). As much as I appreciate the iPhone's home button and Touch ID, it has half an inch less screen real estate to show for its almost-as-tall dimensions.
Moto Maker returns with additional customizations to match the now-premium Moto X with even more personalization. Leather, for example, is now among the choices that can back your phone in one of four colors. It joins last year's four wood options and 17 plastic colors. Black or white fronts and 10 accent colors for the front-facing speaker grills and rear Motorola logo dimple round out the most pressing Moto Maker decisions.
Cradling the Moto X backed in soft leather is a delight, but it's also the most delicate material within Moto Maker. Yes, the Moto 360 smartwatch uses the same genuine leather sourced from Horween Leather Company, but the supple material bruised more easily in our pockets than on our wrists. That's what's great about Moto Maker, though. It's filled with more options than your standard one-size-fits-all smartphone in case that doesn't work for you.
Moto X weighs in at 144 grams vs last year's 139 grams. Considering the aluminum metal frame and 5.2-inch screen, that's a worthy trade-off. Of course, there are beefier specs too.