There are some folks that truly enjoy carrier and manufacturer customizations, a la Samsung’s TouchWiz for devices like the Galaxy S4. Others want a pure Android experience that forgoes manufacturer extras in favor of quick updates and a less cluttered, arguably faster experience.
Right now if you are looking for a stock Android experience on a smartphone you have more choices than ever before. First, we have the Google Play Editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
Basically these are the original flagship devices but stripped off of manufacturer extras like Zoe and Smart Pause, in favor of a Nexus-like experience.
There’s also the trusty Google-backed LG Nexus 4, which was designed from the ground up for stock Android.
What if you want something that is still a Google device like the Nexus 4, but adds extra features and value over a pure stock Android device? That’s where the Moto X comes in.
The Moto X represents the first Motorola handset to be directly influenced by Google since the company was purchased back in 2010. That means you get a device that is somewhere in between being a Nexus device and a traditional Motorola handset.
So how does the Moto X stack up to Google’s other flagship device, the Nexus 4? Let’s take a look:
We’ll start with design. While both handsets have curved corners, the same display size and reasonably similar dimensions, there are quite a few differences.
First, the Moto X is actually a bit smaller at 5.09 inches high, 2.47-inches wide and .41-inches thick. It also weighs a bit less, at .29 lbs.
In contrast, the Nexus 4 is 5.27-inches high, 2.7-inches wide, .36-inches thick and weighs .31 lbs.
In hand, the two devices like will feel pretty similar, though the Moto X has more curves to its design which Motorola claims makes it fit better in user’s palm.
The Nexus 4’s back also differs significantly, as it utilizes a sheet of glass. The end result is a very attractive device, though some people feel that having a glass back is just asking for trouble.
We already mentioned that both devices pack the same size of display – 4.7-inches. That said, both use considerably different technology to get the job done.
For the Moto X we get a 1280 x 720 resolution (316ppi) AMOLED display. With the Nexus 4 we get an IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 768 (3320ppi).
In terms of performance? They seem to be pretty close, and so it really comes down to the argument of IPS versus AMOLED.
The Nexus 4 arrived on November 13th of 2012, meaning that it is quickly moving in on its first year of life. With nearly a year of tech advancement, does this mean that the Moto X stomps all over the Nexus 4? Yes and no.
The Nexus 4 is powered by a quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro with 2GB RAM, 8 or 16GB storage, NFC, Bluetooth and a 2,100 mAh battery. What it lacks compared to many other modern phones is LTE network support and microSD expansion.
The Moto X does have LTE, though it also ditches microSD and instead includes 50GB of Google Drive (cloud) storage for two years, after which you’ll have to pay to keep using the cloud space. The device uses Motorola’s new X8 Mobile Computing system, which includes a 1.7GHz dual-core CPU, a quad-core Adreno 320 CPU and two extra processors for tasks like contextual awareness and natural language processing.
Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi, and a 2,200 mAh battery.
So how do they actually compare when all is said and done? Based on the benchmarking software AnTuTu, the Nexus 4 averages around 18000, while the Moto X averages around 19000 – the higher, the better. In terms of real-life usage, that means they perform pretty close to the same.
So if hardware affects your buying decision, know that the Nexus 4 and Moto X are rather evenly matched. Want to know the full technical specs for the two devices? Check out the detailed spec list from Phone Arena.
While the Moto X’s battery is only marginally bigger than the Nexus 4, the Nexus 4 is known for poor battery life. As an owner of the Nexus 4, I can attest to this, though it meets my needs, as I’m usually not too terribly far from an outlet.
So if you consider battery life to be a major factor, you might want to lean towards the Moto X.
The Moto X’s hardware might not be massively better than the Nexus 4 in most departments, but when it comes to the camera, the Nexus 4’s 8MP shooter wasn’t all that wonderful even when it arrived last year. This means that the 10MP shooter with 1080p found in the Moto X will capture better images and video, plain and simple.
As for the front cam, the Nexus 4 only has a 1.3MP versus a 2MP on the Moto X, so even here – the Moto X has the edge.
The Nexus Experience
As I said before, the Moto X provides an experience that is close to stock Android, but it isn’t pure Android by any means. With Nexus devices, you get no bloatware, no added on special features and a faster update schedule.
Right now the Nexus line is already at Android 4.3, while the Moto X will ship with Android 4.2.2 and get a 4.3 update sometime in the near future.
Still, since Motorola is owned by Google, there really isn’t too many noticeable changes to the UI found on the Moto X. With Nexus devices, Google handles updates instead of the carrier. The same will go for the Moto X, Motorola will handle updates instead of carriers. This means that the Moto X might not get as quick of updates as a true Nexus device, but it will still be a lot quicker than with devices like the Galaxy S4 or Note 2.
Bottom line: The Moto X looks a lot like stock Android but the difference is that it adds quite a few features that you won’t find on a Nexus device.
Added Value with the Moto X
So what does the Moto X add to the table that you won’t find with the Nexus 4? While Guiding Tech already has a post that goes further into detail, here’s a break down of some of the coolest added features found on the Nexus X.
Touchless control: With the Moto X you can operate your device by talking to it, even if the display is off or the phone is on the other side of the room. In fact, there is an entire processor devoted to helping process voice-spoken commands to the X Phone.
Moto X Assist: Whether you’re driving, sleeping or in a meeting – the Moto X can be configured to recognize these situations and change settings accordingly.
Active Display: With active display, you can always check the time, without turning on the display. This works by having your phone fade-in just certain pixels on the display in order to let you see the time or quickly check notifications.
Moto Connect: With the use of a special plugin, you can get all your messages and missed calls directly to your browser. Even better, you can respond to the messages straight from your PC.
Moto X Customization
Finally the last major advantage to the Moto X is customization, at least if you are an AT&T subscriber. While Motorola plans to eventually bring customization to all U.S. Carriers, initially the MotoMaker customization tool will only work with AT&T.
Using the tool you can choose from 18 different colors for the device’s back plate, volume rockers and power button. You can also choose between a black or white front trim.
Additionally, Motorola is teaming up with companies like SOL Republic to bring customizable accessories that can be mixed and matched with the Moto X.
Pricing and Availability
The Nexus 4 is available in quite a few different countries including Canada, the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Spain directly through Google Play for just $299 (8GB) or $349 (16GB) outright.
In contrast, the Moto X is limited to those of us in the United States and will set you back over $500 outright, or $199 with two year contract. The Moto X is expected to start shipping within the next month or two.
Ultimately, the Moto X seems to provide an improved experience over the year-old LG/Google flagship device, though the jump isn’t that dramatic.
For the price, it’s hard to beat the Nexus 4. Unless you absolutely want phone customization and the added special features found with the Moto X, the Nexus 4 is still arguably the better deal.
What do you think? Which device you’d be more interested in buying?