In 2013, Motorola and Google unveiled the first Moto X device. The product of unfortunate (and severe) overhype, Moto X’s debut was underwhelming to say the least. The specs were mediocre, the price was too high, and the famous Moto Maker that would give it the personality it would always be remembered for hadn’t been released yet. From the looks of things, even Google couldn’t bring back Motorola’s once shining reputation.
As luck would have it, things did turn around for the Moto X. Soon after its debut, almost everything that was wrong with the Moto X was fixed. Prices were slashed, matching its average specs, and Moto Maker was released, giving buyers an incentive to give the Moto X a second chance; after all, no other OEM had ever offered as much control over a phone’s design as Moto Maker did. Changing the phone’s color, texture, and accent color was completely unheard of. These changes solidified Moto X’s place in smartphone history as one of the better, more memorable devices on the market.
2014 and 2015 both brought new iterations of the Moto X brand, despite ownership of the Motorola brand changing hands from Google to Lenovo in late 2014. However, 2016 came and went with no mention of Moto X. Instead, Lenovo introduced the new Moto Z line of smartphones. As flagship devices, it appeared the Moto Z would completely replace the old flagship Moto X line. The name change was warranted, as Moto Z’s focus on mods was very different from the more simplistic nature of Moto X.
As it turned out, Moto X’s lineage didn’t end in 2015. The first official day of IFA, which began last Friday, brought with it the announcement of the 4th generation Moto X device, aptly named the Moto X4. And although the Moto X4 won’t be the customizable gadget it was previously known for being (there are only two colors to choose from), there are still some features worth mentioning about the X4 that make it stand apart from other mid-range devices.
“Wait, mid-range?” Yep. One big change to keep in mind with the Moto X4 is that, unlike its predecessors, the X4 is not a flagship. With Moto Z in the picture, it makes sense that the Moto X gets a demotion. It’s 2017, though, and smartphones are in a good place. Despite its mid-range classification, many mid-range phones exceed expectations and performance needs of most people, and the Moto X4 appears to be one of them.
The Moto X4 features a 5.2-inch 1920x1080 display, Snapdragon 630 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with microSD support, dual cameras on the back (12-megapixel and 8-megapixel wide-angle lens), 16-megapixel front-facing camera with flash, 3000 mAh battery, 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C, and ships with Android 7.1.1 Nougat. It comes with Amazon’s Alexa assistant built-in and supports up to four Bluetooth devices at one time.
The dual-camera set-up is the first thing that really caught my eye about the Moto X4. Dual cameras are probably the second-most talked about feature in new smartphones, right behind small bezels. However, dual cameras have a tendency to be a feature of flagships, so to see it featured in a mid-range smartphone shows good effort on Lenovo/Motorola’s part.
The Moto X4’s design also looks more premium than its previous iterations, choosing to go with the aluminum/Gorilla Glass combo and a “3D glass” (slightly curved glass) design. Bezels, on the other hand, are still on the larger side. The Moto X4 also features IP68 rating, making the X4 ready to withstand harsh encounters with water and/or dust.
On a personal note, while the phone might look shinier and nicer, I just wish that the Moto X had remained… more Moto X-ish, at least in this regard. The 2013 Moto X ended up being one of my favorite phones. It was the perfect size and had the perfect feel, but I also never had to worry about its backside.
While details on pricing in the U.S. are mum for now, it would appear that its mid-range specs keep the Moto X4 at a modest, affordable price. At €399, it’s about $450 USD, but some are predicting that it might be closer to the $400 mark when it comes to the U.S. sometime this fall. If so, that makes for a pretty good price tag considering everything that makes up the Moto X4.
Overall, despite losing its unique angle of having plenty of personality at the user’s choosing, I can’t say the X4 is a disappointment. The Snapdragon 630 is this year’s upgrade to last year’s 625, which was designed for long-lasting battery life. Between that, a decent-sized 3,000 mAh battery, and impressive camera quality on both the front and the back of the device, the Moto X4 looks quite good performance-wise on paper. Having Amazon's Alexa built-in is nice if you're an Amazon afficionado, and being able to connect to up to four Bluetooth speakers at once make it easy to set up a home speaker system on your own terms. It might not be as unique as it used to be – and it would be awesome if Moto Maker came back, just putting that out there – but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Moto X4 ultimately ends up being a substantial addition to this year’s mid-range line-up.