Tuesday , October 17 2017

Moto X Play — Australian First Impressions

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It’s time to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. Ausdroid has been reviewing the Moto X Play for the last three weeks, and with the announcement today that the handset has finally gone on sale in Australia, we’re finally free to tell you about what we’ve found over the last three weeks. This isn’t our full review; that’s coming in a little while. What it is, though, is an opportunity to get to know the Moto X Play, up close and personal, from a local and trusted perspective.

We should note, though, that what we’ve had to play with is not the final version that will go on sale in Australia. It is, however, virtually identical in every important respect, and from our testing around Sydney and regional New South Wales, the phone performs extremely well.

We need to bear in mind that the Moto X Play is not the flagship of the series; that title goes to the Moto X Style, which we’ve not yet taken an in-depth look at. However, for a mid-range handset, the Moto X Play immediately caught our attention due to its enormous battery, and we wanted to see — as quickly as we could — whether Motorola had finally solved our battery woes (spoiler: they have).

Let’s take a quick look through the Moto X Play hardware and software, and get to some thoughts.

Hardware

Motorola’s Moto X Play (known internally by its model number XT1562) is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8939 Snapdragon 615 chipset, which has been used in a couple of other mid-range handsets in 2015, including HTC’s Desire 820, OPPO’s R5, and Huawei’s P8 Lite. It’s most certainly not from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 series, and benchmarks will reveal that performance (on paper, at least) is a little bit behind. However, don’t let that worry you just yet.

Qualcomm’s SD615 is an octa-core CPU offering 64-bit processing, with 4 x 1.7GHz ARM cores and 4 x 1.0 GHz ARM cores; this means there’s power for the more demanding tasks, and more battery efficient cores to handle things when there’s not significant demand. 4G LTE Cat 4 is included on-board, Wi-Fi 802.11n/ac with MU-MIMO support, NFC, and QuickCharge 1.0 and 2.0 (which Motorola brands as Turbo Charge).

For most of us, one LTE radio is enough, but having a dual-SIM, dual-LTE handset is just next level stuff. Most of us probably don’t need a second SIM, and probably won’t ever use the feature, but being able to use it, if we want, is a nice added bonus. Testing it out, it works really rather well. — UPDATE: We’re confirming with Vodafone and Motorola whether the model sold through stores is meant to be dual-SIM or not; the info we had from Motorola at launch said it was, but the feedback from readers is that it isn’t. We’ll come back with more info when we’ve got it. 

In other words, this thing is a tank.

Paired with the industry-standard 2GB for mid-range handsets, the only real let-down hardware wise for the Moto X Play sold in Australia is the on-board storage of just 16GB; as we noted yesterday, just shy of 7GB of this space is taken up by the system, leaving around 9GB for users to actually use. This is a little disappointing, but with support for 128GB MicroSD cards, there really isn’t too much of a problem — adding in such a card allows the Moto X Play to store music, photos and videos on that expanded storage, keeping your internal storage free for things that have to be there, like apps and games.

Camera and more

We’ve already spoken a bit about Motorola’s cameras this year, and how they’ve been a little less than spectacular in the past. This year, both the Moto X Play and Style feature similar setups; the Moto X Play has a 21MP sensor on the back with f/2.0 aperture, and a 5MP sensor on the front. In our experience, the Moto X Play does take some pretty great photos, though in some situations it can be a little lacking. Importantly, the camera shutter is quick and responsive, meaning that those fast-moving subjects (kids, pets, and running adults) can be captured fairly easily. We’ve got a few sample photos below.

While the Moto X Play does not have an IP rating, it is marketed as water repellant, meaning that spills, splashes or a little bit of rain really won’t affect the phone much, though dropping it into a pool is likely to cause a fair bit of damage, so don’t do that.

Battery life is stellar

The battery life is where the Moto X Play truly shines, and by shines, we mean almost brighter than the sun. This thing is amazing. Motorola quote up to 48 hours battery life from its 3,630 mAh battery, and unlike most claims, we can verify that this is VERY achievable, without having to switch things off, avoid using apps, or use power saving modes.

This example, captured Monday, was a fairly typical day; a fair amount of social media usage, a bit of GPS navigation, streaming music and video, and some heavy usage in the evening (you may recall Monday 14 September was the day in which Tony Abbott ceased to be our prime minister…). Even then, after being off charge at 2am, the Moto X Play was still going fairly strong with 14% remaining at 9.30 pm. That’s nineteen hours, and the phone estimated at current usage, that would last until around 1am the next morning, give or take.

I’m happy to confirm, after experimenting a few days, that even when down at 15% battery life, almost constant usage will not see the Moto X Play start to shut down for another 45 minutes to an hour or so. In other words, you can take this phone off charge at some ridiculous time of the morning, use it all day, and still get your social media fix until midnight, or even past that. This wasn’t a one-off occasion, either. Even on days with heavy GPS and portable hotspot usage, the Moto X Play just kept going, and going, and then going some more.

If that wasn’t good enough, and it should be, Motorola’s Turbo Charging has re-appeared, allowing the phone to charge remarkably quickly. Motorola quotes 15 minutes charge can add up to 8 hours of battery life, and that’s probably not too far off. If you’re having a busy day, with only brief periods at your desk, chuck the phone on charge for a few minutes here and there, and you’ll have all the battery life you need.

This really is, and should be, the new standard in mobile batteries. If you can’t offer this, in a phone that isn’t even a flagship, you’re not doing it right. Other manufacturers need to pay attention.

Performance

Performance really is such a subjective thing. Whether a phone performs well on benchmarks or not doesn’t really give much of a view of how a phone is to use; just as a track-car can perform a really fast lap, but probably isn’t much fun as a day-to-day commuter, so it is with mobile phones. There are plenty of flagships that tear things up with benchmarks, and still have absolute crap performance, with lag, stutter and more.

The Moto X Play is kind of the opposite; on benchmarks, it’s not a track-star. SunSpider performance has the Moto X Play at around the 1235 ms mark, which puts it ahead of the OnePlus 2 at 1471, but behind the Galaxy S6 (1048), OnePlus One (877), and HTC One M9 (867). Geekbench 3, which is generally a bit more of an all around assessment, has the Moto X Play at 2570, well below most other handsets.

In real world use, though, you wouldn’t really notice any difference. In fact, we haven’t noticed a difference and we’re in the somewhat privileged position of being able to compare the Moto X Play to a number of 2015’s top phones, including Samsung’s Galaxy S6, LG’s G4, HTC’s One M9, Huawei’s P8 and more … and there really isn’t a noticeable performance difference.

I know, it doesn’t make sense, but the Moto X Play just feels damned fast, and there’s probably a few factors at play — one, it’s stock Android meaning there’s no OEM-skin overhead, and two, Motorola have evidently optimised the absolute crap out of this phone.

There can be a few moments of stutter, particularly in graphically intensive operations, but in daily use, this phone just doesn’t miss a beat.

Software

Just like with a Nexus handset, there’s next to nothing to talk about in relation to software on Motorola handsets. Why? Because it’s stock Android.

In my Moto G 3rd Gen review, I commented on this, noting that Motorola offers “as close to stock Android as you can get without being a Nexus handset; running Android 5.1.1 out of the box, there is no visible indication that the software is customised in any way”, and that holds true for the Moto X Play as well.

The only signs you’re using a Motorola handset, as opposed to a Nexus, is the slightly modified lock-screen which shows you notifications a bit differently (and we’d argue, more usefully too), and the presence of two Motorola apps, Migrate and Moto. That’s it. Better yet, Motorola have done a deal with Vodafone (the exclusive distributor in Australia for the time being) which will see no carrier apps or bloatware installed, meaning your phone has less cruft on board, and OS updates will come significantly more quickly.

Without re-inventing the wheel, here’s what you need to know about Moto and Migrate:

Moto

Like the previous iterations of Moto handsets, the Moto X Play has a cool way of showing you notifications without unlocking / powering up the entire display. Called Notifications at a Glance, it works like this: whenever the phone registers you’re taking it out of the pocket or picking it up from a table, it lights up a clock on the locked screen, and icons for any pending notifications. Tapping and holding each icon allows you to swipe up to preview the notification (and if you release, to unlock the phone to that app), or to swipe down to just unlock to your homescreen or to whatever you were doing before.

The Moto app hides another exclusive Moto features, which is quickly twisting your wrist to activate the camera. It works well. Sadly, though, the chop-chop gesture is not present on the Moto X Play, though there is some suggestion it might be added in a future update.

Migrate

Migrate is a fairly simple app which is designed to help you migrate data from one phone to another; and it isn’t one sided. You can migrate data to your Moto X Play, which is what most people will probably be doing, but when it comes time to upgrade or whatever, you can use Migrate to help you move your data from your Moto X Play to something else.

It’s simple, easy to use, and works well. It’s not new on the Moto X Play, and we’ve not tried it this time around, but the functionality is the same as on other Moto handsets.

So, our first impressions…

The Moto X Play is one hell of a phone. With a retail price under $600 (though it’s unclear whether Vodafone will sell it outright just yet), this handset kicks all kinds of goals:

  • All day battery life, and even all TWO day battery life
  • Fast performance, while remaining energy efficient
  • A reasonably well-rounded camera, though low-light suffers a bit
  • Good size with great in-hand feel

There’s really very little letting the Moto X Play down. I’m thinking of cons … and can’t really come up with any. I suppose if there has to be a con is that’s performance can drop a little below superb at some points, but those points don’t come often. The camera really doesn’t have the same finesse as the LG G4 or Samsung Galaxy S6, but it also doesn’t come with their price-tags.

At a time when mobile prices are only increasing, Motorola have really done something brilliant here; a moderately priced handset with flagship features puts a great experience within reach of everyone.

Motorola’s Moto X Play is available nation-wide from Vodafone stores for $5 per month on the $40 Red plan, or just $3 per month on the $60 Red plan. Other pricing options are available for new and existing Vodafone customers.

 

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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34 Comments on "Moto X Play — Australian First Impressions"

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Lachlan
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Lachlan

I’m tossing up between this and an xperia m5 which I’ve seen as a grey import for $550. Would be importing dual sim moto X play as well, so no difference in support there I guess. Thoughts anyone?

BrainBeat
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BrainBeat
So far so good with my new X Play except one minor error created with the play store when my brother added his account to my phone too. It is now fine after removing it and adding it again. I can’t say I know how good the battery is but it would seem to be better than what I had. The GPS seems extremely good compared to all my previous phones as I seem to be able to get nearly instant locking while indoors wheres all my others would either take many minutes to get a bad lock or get… Read more »
Mimmo
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Mimmo

3.5 hours of screen on time, I don’t know if I’d call that “amazing”. My old Samsung S2 would get 3 hours of screen on time. Android Police said the Snapdragon 615 wasn’t overly power efficient, seems they were right. The 3,630 mAh battery should give the phone more screen on time than 3.5 hours, surely?

leetrevor81
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leetrevor81

Mine gives me 6-7 hours SOT. Check out the android central forums, lots of people getting similar usage, some even better

My nexus 6 I get 3-4 hours SOT

Joshua Hill
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Joshua Hill

Thanks for the detailed 1st look. Especially battery life 🙂

Definitely interested in the Moto X Play but it’s battery life doesn’t look to be quite as good as the incumbent champ, the Z3 Compact. It’s not unusual to get 4 to 4 & 1/2 hours screen on time with approximately 24 hours between charge on the Z3 Compact and that’s without using Sony’s stamina mode.

Nigel A
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Nigel A

Chris, You mentioned turbo charger was one included in the box as some reviews indicate that whilst the phone can fast charge it only comes with standard charger.

Tia
Valued Guest

That’s great, Chris! It sounds like Moto are back on track, their last really good phone being the RAZR HD. I’m keen to get my hands on the Moto X Play. How did you find the in hand feel?

Chris
Valued Guest

It’s really good. Not too heavy, not too bulky, and equally not to narrow like the S6 .. it’s just about right. Definitely pop into a Vodafone store and try it out .. you won’t be disappointed with it, and yes, it reminds me of the RAZR HD / RAZR M quality 🙂

Frawly
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Frawly

chris, just got my moto x play when i learned that vodafone stanhope have 2 units. really feels good in hand. the salesguy was not sure if its dual sim though. i’ll open the box later tonight but can you confirm if its really dual sim? thanks!

Chris
Valued Guest

It’s dual SIM; they both go in the SIM slot at the top of the phone. Pop it out with a paper clip or SIM tool and you’ll see straight away where they go 🙂

Frawly
Valued Guest
Frawly

chris, it appears the sim2 slot has been covered. i might be missing something but the “cover” on the slot is not removable.

Jamie S
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Jamie S

The weird thing is the phone appears to have pins for 2 sims inside the sim/microSD slot. Maybe the wrong sim tray has been included??

Chris
Valued Guest

Hi Frawly, that’s not a good sign; our model here is dual-SIM. Is yours the XT1562 model? (Settings->About)

The Moto X Play sitting on my desk is that model, and has the dual SIM adaptor. The info we’ve seen suggested that’s what Voda would be selling, too.

Jamie S
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Jamie S

The weird thing is the phone appears to have pins for 2 sims inside the sim/microSD slot. Maybe the wrong sim tray has been included?

Jon
Valued Guest

could you get confirmation from vodafone that the models we get in their stores will have the dual sim tray. Seems to be conflicting reports around the place if this is the dual sim model

Frawly
Valued Guest
Frawly

Chris, yes, i have the xt1562. also, the sw shows no options for dual sim settings.

Frawly
Valued Guest
Frawly

thanks chris! my moto x 2014 will be up for sale then haha

leetrevor81
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leetrevor81
Another cool feature not mentioned, in Assist hit the plus symbol, select ‘add your place’ (I avoided this at first because i thought it only referred to ‘my place’ as in home) then you can select a place for your phone to change settings. I have my phone set to go silent when I arrive at work! So no need to set my phone to silent when I get to work. No more missing calls because I forgot to turn my volume back on! Also driving assist is great, The phone detects your driving and reads out your messages taking… Read more »
Pumpino
Valued Guest
Pumpino

Thanks for the initial review.

“The camera really doesn’t have the same finesse as the LG G4 or Samsung
Galaxy S6, but it also doesn’t come with their price-tags.”

The G4 is currently available for $499 via Kogan’s group deal on eBay. Otherwise, it can be had for $550ish. I think the Play will have to come down in price to really compete.

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

I was about to make the same comment 🙂

Always staggers me how quick LG are to drop their prices on really high-end hardware. I’m just waiting for the LG Nexus announcement to see how it compares to the G4 for price and performance.

Andrew
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Andrew

LG’s pricing dropped on the G4 because it’s not selling well in the market.

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

In a sense you’re right – LG always find themselves having to compete on price because they haven’t got Samsung’s brand cache’ at the moment. But this is not a new thing either, LG consistently drop their phone prices sooner and more dramatically than other brands.

The moral of the story is, if you want top end hardware for a great price, by an LG flagship a few months after it’s released.

Fred
Valued Guest
Fred

So, basically, it was one plus point – the big battery.

Otherwise, the LG G4, which is at around the same price, is better in every respect?

leetrevor81
Valued Guest
leetrevor81

If you like the moto features, and stock android, then it’s more than one feature 🙂 Also I like the build, this phone might even be smaller than the LG, very compact for a 5.5 inch screen phone. I like the soft touch back and in general like the look of motorola phones

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

You’d have to say the software set-up is a big tick in the Moto’s favour – LGs skin is a big turn-off for the G4.

Chris
Valued Guest

I actually prefer the Moto X Play to the G4, and having used both extensively, make of that what you will 🙂

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

What does that come down to Chris? Is it the software experience? The in-hand feel? Or just the biiig big battery?

I’m guessing the Nexus-like UI makes a huge difference, and as someone who has used nothing but Nexus since the release of the Nexus 4, I need to consider this for my next purchase.

Chris
Valued Guest

It’s all of the above really. The battery is amazing. The software is fast and fluid, and it doesn’t stutter nearly as much as some other phones do. Plus, in hand, this phone just feels lovely; it’s just the right size, and (imho) the G4 was perhaps just a shade too big, or it certainly felt it, whereas the S6 perhaps almost feels a bit too … narrow.

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

I know Android Central in their review we’re picking up some show-stopper performance issues. You didn’t see anything like that? If not perhaps it was down to software bugs that have since been ironed out.

Chris
Valued Guest

I didn’t think any of the comments by Android Central were fair or even accurate when it came to performance. Nitpicking (as LeeTrevor81 below said) is exactly how I would characterise it. The Moto X Play is as smooth as any other top-tier handset, if not more so.

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

I’m sure they were perfectly fair and accurate – as applies to the actual device they had for review, which I’m guessing was gimped somehow. Alex at AC is generally a great reviewer, and he wouldn’t be saying the Play performed worse than the Moto G unless that was his experience (with what may have been a gimpy unit).

Chris
Valued Guest

I think he’s just being overly critical. Yes, the X Play stutters. All phones do. I don’t think the X Play does any more than others. Hell, I’ve seen some wicked stutter on the S6, G4, Z3, and others, which the X Play hasn’t quite replicated, but it has slightly different stutter characteristics.

I wouldn’t say it negatively affects any of the experience of using the phone, though, while it does in some other handsets.

leetrevor81
Valued Guest
leetrevor81

I’m inclined to think that the criticism is nit picking. Reviewers looking for faults, noticing the slightest stutter (that most phones have) then making it seem like a bigger deal than it actually is. If I nit picked I could compare it side by side with the nexus 6 and notice split second differences in some animations etc, but in day to day use, no issue! Compared to skinned phones I’m sure this phone is just as smooth as the top end maybe smoother?

Jamie S
Valued Guest
Jamie S

First impressions for me, I absolutely love this phone!, Thanks to the Vodafone guys in Hobart CBD store for looking after me and thanks to Motorola for producing such a wonderful device. Oh, and thanks to you Chris and the Ausdroid team for keeping us up to date;)

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