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Moto X Pure Edition review: A clever phone with a killer price

JR Raphael | Sept. 18, 2015
It isn't perfect, but Motorola's latest flagship has a lot of compelling qualities -- and considerable bang for the buck.

Software that shines

Even with the display-related quirk, the Moto X Pure Edition manages to deliver an exceptional software experience. The phone follows Motorola's now-familiar method of sticking with Google's clean and clutter-free Android Lollipop (5.1.1) user interface, with no arbitrary visual modifications and only a small handful of excellent features added into the mix.

Beyond the aforementioned Moto Display system, highlights include Moto Voice -- an expanded version of Google's Android voice control system that lets you set your own custom launch phrase for waking your phone -- and a new pivot-and-twist gesture that allows you to use the voice command system discreetly by speaking directly into the phone (as though you were making a call) and then hearing responses in the earpiece instead of through the loudspeaker. There's also a handy system for having your phone automatically detect when you're driving and then switch itself into a fully hands-free voice-controlled state -- something all smartphones should provide.

The common thread with all of Motorola's feature additions is that they're clever, genuinely useful and completely unobtrusive. They make your phone a little bit smarter without getting in the way or venturing into silly gimmick territory, as many other manufacturers' efforts tend to do.

Similarly, it's what missing as much as what's present that makes the Moto X delightful to use, particularly in this new Pure Edition -- no bloat, no overlapping services and no carrier-added garbage. It's just an attractive, intuitive and all-around pleasant user experience from the moment you power the phone on.

And while Motorola's reputation for providing lightning-fast Android upgrades took a major hit with the Lollipop release, the company has renewed its commitment to making speedy rollouts a priority. Motorola says the new Moto X's completely carrier-independent nature will allow it to avoid extra variables (cough, cough, carriers) that slow the process down.

Performance, stamina and photography

I do have to mention one unexpected downside: While the phone itself is fast and snappy, system animations are surprisingly jerky at times. I've noticed some very apparent and consistent stuttering when opening the app drawer or swiping to Google Now from the home screen as well as when scrolling through cards in the Overview (a.k.a. Recent Apps) list.

It isn't anything horrifying -- and, as with the display, its importance is relative. If you're a typical user, you probably won't even notice what I'm talking about. If you fall more into the techie and/or enthusiast camp, on the other hand, it might drive you crazy. But either way, there's no reason a phone with this type of hardware and software should be exhibiting that kind of behavior. Both the 2014 Moto X and the first-gen Moto X feel meaningfully smoother in comparison, and that just doesn't make sense. I'm going to be optimistic and hope this is something Motorola will fix swiftly with an over-the-air update.

 

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