The Moto X Pure Edition has most of the credentials of a great smartphone, including a big 5.7-inch display, a premium design, handy software features and a very affordable starting price point of $399. But it doesn't do much to distinguish itself as a work phone. You won't find any extra security features, and the lack of split-screen multitasking functionality means you can't really take advantage of all that screen space. Below-average battery life doesn't help, either. The Moto X does have its upsides, but are they enough to make it worthwhile for workers?
[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.]
Motorola allows you to make the Moto X yours by offering a variety of colors and materials, then lets you design your dream phone on the Moto Maker website before you place your order. For the back of the phone, you can choose between soft-touch silicone, leather and even real wood. You can choose white or black for the front of the phone, then select an accent color for the front speakers and rear camera.
Our review unit came with a red leather back, which feels luxurious and makes the phone easy to grip. You can also choose between more subdued leather colors like black, brown and navy. Wood options include bamboo, walnut and ebony — all of which give the phone a classy, professional appearance. You'll pay a premium for the special materials, though.
The Moto X is certainly one of the bigger phablets you can buy. The rounded back measures 0.44 inches at its thickest point, though it tapers to 0.22 inches at the edge to give the phone a streamlined appearance. It's hefty too, at 6.3 ounces. Rival phones are easier to handle, including the iPhone 6s Plus (0.28 inches and 6 ounces), Galaxy Note 5 (0.29 inches and 6 ounces) and Nexus 6P (0.28 inches and 6.2 ounces).
The Moto X's huge 5.7-inch display gives you tons of room to work. Screen-intensive tasks like editing large documents or spreadsheets are a lot more comfortable than they were on last year's 5.2-inch model, and so are everyday chores like managing your email inbox.
Size aside, the 2560 x 1440-pixel panel is gorgeous to behold. Text looks crisp, and images are colorful and vibrant. And topping out at 479 nits, it's brighter than the average smartphone (428 nits), though the iPhone 6s Plus and Galaxy Note 5 were brighter, at 537 nits and 490 nits, respectively.
As previously mentioned, the Moto X lacks split-screen multitasking functionality, which is a shame on a phone with so much screen real estate. Currently, Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge+ are the only 5.7-inch phones with that functionality.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
The Moto X Pure Edition runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the latest iteration of Google's mobile operating system. That's noteworthy because very few other phones — outside of Google's own Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P phones — run on the newest version of Android, and even flagship phones like the Galaxy Note 5 will have to wait months to get the update.
So why should workers care? Well, Marshmallow adds a bunch of new features that can make you more productive. My favorite is called Google Now on Tap, which lets you hold down the phone's home button for a couple of seconds to instantly view more information about whatever is currently on your screen. That means if a client emails you the name of a restaurant for a lunchtime meeting, you can use Google Now on Tap to quickly pull up the restaurant's location, business hours, reviews and more.
I also love Doze, a battery-saving feature that can help you squeeze a few extra hours of battery life out of your phone each day. It works by shutting off background updates when your phone detects that it's been sitting still for a while. Don't worry — you'll still get text messages, email, phone calls and alerts from any app you add to the white-list menu in your phone's settings.
Another nice new tweak is a shelf at the top of your app drawer that learns how you use your phone and displays appropriate apps based on a variety of factors like the time, your current location and more. On my test phone, it showed me Microsoft Word, Evernote and the calculator app when I was at the office, then switched to social media and entertainment apps in the evening.
Always-listening voice commands on the Moto X can make you more productive if you learn how to use them. Just utter your pass phrase to activate the voice-command prompt at any time — it works even when your screen is off or the phone is sitting across the room — then say what you want your phone to do. The Moto X can use voice commands to quickly save notes, set reminders, add appointments to your calendar and look up specific information on the Web.
Personally, I love voice commands because they let me complete common actions with minimal effort. For example, manually punching a couple of lines into a note-taking app can almost be more trouble than it's worth, but you can achieve the task in seconds using voice commands. Ditto for entering reminders in your calendar.
The Moto X isn't the only phablet with always-listening voice commands. Google offers it on the Nexus 6P phones, and Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus have it as well. What gives the Moto X a slight edge, in my opinion, is support for the “find my phone” voice command, which forces your device to ring until you pick it up. That helps me find my phone in a hurry before I run out the door.
Motorola packed a handful of genuinely useful software features into the Moto X to help separate it from other smartphones. My favorite is Moto Display, which lets you view incoming alerts without even touching your smartphone. When a new email arrives, for example, the phone will flash an image of the email app, showing a white icon on a blank background to save battery life. You can even press and hold the icon to get a short preview of the message right on your lock screen.
Moto Assist is another nice feature that lets you preprogram how your phone behaves in certain situations. For example, you can force your phone to switch to vibrate when your calendar indicates you're in a meeting, or have it send a prewritten text message reply when it detects that you're driving.
It's not the fastest smartphone on the market by a long shot, but the Moto X Pure Edition has more than enough power to satisfy the average worker. Apps opened and closed quickly during my testing period, and I didn't notice any slowdown during moderate multitasking.
Other phones did perform better on our benchmark tests, though. The Moto X racked up a respectable score of 3,494 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That easily beats the smartphone average of 2,829, but the iPhone 6s Plus (4,405) and Galaxy Note 5 (5,053) were significantly speedier.
The Moto X's big display must be a real battery hog, because the phone died much sooner than I had hoped. The device ran for a meager 6 hours and 27 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over LTE. That's nearly an hour and a half shorter than the smartphone average of 7 hours and 53 minutes. Other big-screen phones also easily outlasted the Moto X, including the iPhone 6s Plus (8:16) and Galaxy Note 5 (8:43). The Nexus 6P blew away the rest of the competition by lasting for an epic 12 hours and 25 minutes on the same test — nearly twice as long as the Moto X.
At least the Moto X offers quick-charging capabilities, which can provide you with several extra hours of juice with about 10 minutes of charging. That's a nice perk if you need to top off your battery during a short layover at the airport, but it doesn't set the Moto X apart from competing Android phablets; both the Galaxy Note 5 and Nexus 6P offer quick charging, though the iPhone 6s does not.
While other smartphone makers are working extra security features into their phones, Motorola is being left in the dust. For example, the Moto X lacks a fingerprint scanner, a crucial security feature you'll find on almost every other top phablet including the Nexus 6P, Galaxy Note 5 and iPhone 6s. To be fair, all of those phones are pricier than the Moto X.
Motorola sells the Moto X in a handful of different hardware configurations. The entry-level model has 16GB of internal storage for $399. Meanwhile, the 32GB model sells for $449, while the 64GB model sells for $499. Business users might want to shell out for a bit of extra storage; since the Moto X lacks a microSD card slot, you can't upgrade the storage later on.
It's not the fastest, most secure or longest-lasting work phone money can buy, but the Moto X Pure Edition is still worth a look — especially for business users on a budget. That's because the $399 Moto X is far more affordable than other 5.7-inch phablets. Plus, it offers some software perks that those phones lack, like Moto Display and Moto Assist.
If you're willing to spend a bit more on your next work phone, the Nexus 6P is probably a better option, with faster performance and much longer battery life than the Moto X, plus a fingerprint scanner, for $499. The Galaxy Note 5, which comes with a built-in stylus for digital note taking, is another great 5.7-inch smartphone for work, but it's comparatively pricey, starting at $699.
[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.]