Motorola Moto X Play first impressions: playing the mass market game

“The Moto X Play brings the X factor in a more mainstream avatar”

We loved the original Moto X. Read our review if you don’t believe us. We thought it was a unique device with capabilities we hadn’t seen before – referring to the touchless control feature, of course. However, that smartphone couldn’t really become the darling of the masses, unlike its more mainstream sibling, the Moto G. But then, the original Moto X didn’t really have the hardware that many spec-obsessed prospective buyers wanted, especially given its sticker price. The Moto X 2nd-gen (review) turned the tables completely as far as specs were concerned, coming across as a loaded device… carrying forward and improving upon the legacy of its predecessor. However, we aren’t sure if it flew off the shelves as fast as the brand expected. Perhaps this is the reason why Motorola has decided to play it safe this time, and launch not one, but two variants of the Moto X… so as to address different sets of users across different price bands. It’s like firing two bullets instead of one – better chances of hitting the target you see. The Moto X Style (first impressions), with its more loaded specs, is the higher-end half of the duo, while the Moto X Play comes with more mid-rung specs. On the eve of its expected launch in India, here’s a sneak preview of the Moto X Play, so you can get a good idea of what it brings to the playground (pun intended).


Sporting a 5.5-inch 1080p display, the Moto X Play sticks to the norm as far as the design of the fascia is concerned, complete with the usual elements such as the earpiece, front camera (5MP in this case) and sensors on top. There are no hardware keys as they’re part of the software interface.

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A metallic frame runs around the sides, and on the right, you’ll see the power key sporting a ridged pattern so you can find it easily by feel alone, along with a volume rocker. The micro-USB port is at the bottom, while the headset socket and an ejectable tray for the SIM and microSD card are located at the top.


The rear is where things get more interesting. The rear panel is fashioned out of rubberised plastic, and sports a chequered pattern… adding to both the looks as well as the grip. As you can see, our demo unit flaunts a blue rear (we have a black variant pictured below as well), but since the panel is removable, you can swap it with differently-coloured ones to customise the device. That’s pretty much the only functionality that the removable back offers, as the battery isn’t user-replaceable. The lens for the 21-megapixel primary shooter can also be seen at the rear, along with the LED flash. The camera comes with f/2.0 aperture and boasts features like Auto HDR, Phase Detect Autofocus and the ability to shoot slow-mo video. Now these are some serious photography chops, and we’re quite keen to test it out and see how it fares in real life. The camera lens sits on a vertical metal strip, along with the flash and the dimpled Motorola logo.

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Now one of the mainstays of Motorola smartphones has been the provision of stock Android, along with the promise of timely updates. The Moto X Play sticks to the same ethos, and runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1 in all its Material Design glory. You do get the usual Moto goodies in the form of Moto Assist, Moto Actions, Moto Display and Moto Voice. As usual, Assist helps automate phone behaviour based on time or other conditions, Actions lets you launch the camera with a double twist (among other things), Display lights up the screen with actionable notifications and Voice is basically touchless control in a new avatar.

The innards don’t really make us go weak in the knees though, as horsepower is provided by a 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor clocked at 1.7GHz. There’s 2GB of RAM alongside, while the internal storage on offer is either 16GB or 32GB depending upon the variant you choose. Both models let you add more storage via the microSD route, and you also get 4G support, NFC and dual-band Wi-Fi for connectivity. The device comes in both single-SIM and dual-SIM models, and the latter is expected to make its way to India. Just like its more accomplished sibling, the Moto X Style, the X Play plays well with water to some extent, thanks to a nano coating that makes it impervious to minor liquid spills. We wouldn’t take it to the pool though – it’s not waterproof. Still, it’s a useful feature to have, at least for added peace of mind.

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In our brief usage, the screen looked crisp and we didn’t encounter any lags, though a proper test would reveal how well the Moto X Play works as a daily driver. What definitely looks great, at least on paper, is the 3,630mAh battery that promises to stay away from a power source for two days once juiced up fully.

The Moto X Play, in a way, seems to be the poor man’s Moto X – offering features hitherto present only in the brand’s premium flagship in an easier to ingest pill. The Play’s US pricing places the starting price of the device in the region of Rs 20,000, though that price bracket in India is already crowded with heavyweights like the OnePlus One (review), along with the ASUS ZenFone 2 (review) and its variants, such as the ZenFone Selfie (first impressions). Unless Motorola can price it very aggressively, the Moto X Play could face some very tough competition, and we’ll wait and see whether an in-depth evaluation of its performance, shooting prowess and battery life can show results that help it come across as a clear choice. The Moto G 3rd-gen (review) proved to be a very capable smartphone despite facing some tough rivals too, and defied its specs to present a worthy option – so we’re quite hopeful for the Moto X Play’s prospects as well. As far as the details on exact pricing are concerned, we expect to have that in the bag for you very soon – the X Play looks set to land in India as soon as Monday, September 14th, and go up on sale via Flipkart the same day. 

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