Moto X Pure Review: History Repeats Itself

The original Moto X boldly bucked trend after trend. It wasn’t a phablet. It didn’t come with a ton of features, a skin or high-end specs. It only cost $400, which was pretty low for its time. The Moto X was the opposite of everything on the market and absolutely refreshing. Two years later, the Moto X Pure is pulling a 180° – sort of.

In The Box + Specs

  • Moto X Pure, 32GB
  • Fast charger with cable attached
  • Sim removal tool
  • Plastic Bumper
  • Guides & Warrenty Booklets
  • Android 5.1.1 (6.0 update available)
  • 6.06 x 3.00 x 0.44 in – 6.31 oz
  • 5.7″, IPS LCD 1440 x 2560 (~520 ppi)
  • 21MP Back / 5MP Front Camera
  • 3GB RAM – 16/32/64GB Storage
  • Hexa-core Snapdragon 808 Processor

Same ol’ Moto

A bunch of sensors and front camera still dot its face like freckles. The power button, volume rocker, sim tray (now a microSD slot as well), audio jack, and charging port are all in the same place. It’s still wrapped in a metal frame and still wears Moto Maker designs (pink is not its color).

On the back, a new metallic strip connects the infamous “dimple”, camera and dual LED flash. Two impressive front-facing stereo speakers flank the top and bottom of the display. They’re not HTC BoomSound, but they’re loud and clear enough to make my roommate come out of her room dancing. The same can be said for audio quality using headphones.

On paper, the Pure no longer stands out against the competition. It’s officially a phablet thanks to the bigger display, which gets almost annoyingly bright and doesn’t wash out easily in direct sunlight. Pictures and videos look detailed with colors that pop but aren’t oversaturated.

The bigger display adds a few inches and ounces to the Pure. It’s a hair thicker and more curvaceous than the competition, but those curves can actually help improve grip during one-handed use.

moto actions
moto actions

“Pure” Power

The Moto X Pure ships with an older version of Android, which is odd. You’re immediately greeted with a notification to update to Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), but you can only take the update using WiFi. This may seem trivial, but at the time I didn’t have WiFi access. I did have a data plan with more than enough data (15GBs) to take the download. I did not have an option to determine how I wanted to use the phone in that moment.

It’s little things like this that reinforce the digital divide in seemingly innocent ways. In this case, access to wifi is a barrier between keeping up and getting left behind.

The Pure remains on a strict diet of Google apps with a small amount of useful features on the side like Moto Display, Attentive Display (keep screen on while viewing) and Moto Actions (twist 2x for camera, chop 2x for flashlight). Unfortunately, they’re not as responsive as they were on previous Moto X phones. I have to chop four to six times before the Pure’s flashlight turns on and gave up on the twist gesture, which worked flawlessly on the Moto X 2013 and 2014.

Flagship specs keep the Pure responsive and nimble when multitasking, watching videos, gaming and switching apps. Putting the Pure’s specs to test won’t cause extreme heat either. In fact, the only time I notice a slight change in temperature is while charging the Pure. Despite the specs, the Pure doesn’t outperform the competition, though it isn’t far behind them. This was a great strategy when the Moto X was just an underdog. Now it just makes the Pure feel underwhelming next to the competition.

Moto X Pure camera
Moto X Pure camera

Shoddy Shooter

The camera has always been a sore spot for Moto X devices and the Pure is no exception. Without the right lighting, the back camera struggles to produce images that don’t look smoothed over with a blur tool. Highlights are often blown out, losing lots of detail and color. The lack of OIS makes it too easy to snap a blurry photo. HDR mode helps improve images, but not by much. Overall, the Pure’s back camera is capable of taking a great shot, it just might take a few tries.

The front camera’s image quality is downright terrible. This isn’t surprising for a front-facing camera, but it is surprising for a device of the Pure’s caliber.

The Moto Camera app is much like before. It takes a second or two to load, but there’s zero shutter lag once you start snapping. It has features like Burst Mode, HDR, Panorama, SloMo and 4K video recording, gestures and an option to turn shutter sounds on or off. Adjusting and locking focus and exposure is dead simple, but requires both hands.

Auto scan is a new feature that automatically scans QR codes, bar codes and business cards for information that can be added to your contacts and more. It’s great at filling in contact information, missing only the job titles in my tests. Oddly, a picture of the business card is attached as the contact’s photo.

Noticeably missing from Moto Camera are manual camera controls that are becoming a standard for other flagship phones. Of course, there are plenty apps to remedy that.

Expansive Storage

After the lack of microSD card slot on the Moto X 2013 and 2014, it’s good to see one on the Moto X Pure that accommodates an extra 128GB.

MicroSD card slots can make it easier to quickly set up a new phone and transfer media without cables or data. In addition, a microSD card can be formatted and treated as additional internal storage with the Android Marshmallow update. Since the Pure only comes with a cable for charging, the microSD slot can eliminate the need for an extra cable to transfer files.

Turbo Charging Mediocre Battery Life

moto x pure battery
Moto X Pure Battery Life

The Moto X Pure made it from 11am to 7pm with 65% battery left after light use, mostly calls. Two hours of constant use killed the battery by 55%. After 3 hours and 26 minutes of SOT, 3 hours and 6 minutes of calls, 50 minutes of casual gaming and 15 minutes of flexing on Instagram only 6% battery life remained.

The Pure’s 3000mAh battery is decent for average use and mediocre for power users. It’s saving grace is turbo charge technology, which promises 10 hours of extra battery life in 15 minutes. Within that time the Pure’s battery jumped from 10% to 43% with a turbo charger, which is faster than quick charge 2.0 on the Moto X 2014 by 10-15 minutes.

This might equate to an extra 10 hours of battery life if you don’t use the Pure much thanks to Doze and App Standby in Android Marshmallow. With both enabled, the Pure lost ~2% battery life after 9 hours of being idle. However, if you use the Pure after a quick charge, you’ll see closer to 3 hours of additional use.

All in all, in only takes about an hour and 15 minutes to charge the Pure’s battery from 5% to 100%, which is just long enough to get through my morning routine.

Better to Email Than Call

The Pure works with every major US carrier. However, call quality continues to plague the Moto X series. “Can you hear me now?” could be their slogan. People either can’t hear me or I sound choppy. Speakerphone calls are no better. It makes me long for the days when a phone actually worked like a phone.

At least the internet works and AT&T’s download speeds make me a very happy customer with 86.77Mbps. Verizon’s not too shabby either with 53.28Mbps.

Conclusion: History Repeats Itself

The Moto X Pure’s specs may have improved, but it can’t seem to shake the shortcomings of its predecessors.

For $400, this is a great entry level flagship phone. However, if you’re considering upgrading from the Moto X 2014, I’d wait to see what Lenovo announces this year. Feature junkies might find the Pure’s simplicity underwhelming, though Nexus fans who weren’t happy with the Nexus 6 and can’t afford the 6P or 5x should consider the Pure as a alternative.

For now, camera and call quality are headaches that I’d pay extra to not have.

Corvida Raven

A natural pioneer at grasping the rapidly changing landscape of technology, Corvida Raven talks tech in plain English on