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Motorola Moto X Play review: big battery on a budget

Update: Unlikely accident confirms Droid Maxx 2

Apparently, Motorola wants to establish a new category of smartphones. According to one of Motorola's engineers, the Moto X Play is intended for users who want a great camera with longer battery life. The Moto X Play is kind of a hybrid between the Moto G (2015) and the Moto X Style. Find out how well it achieves its ambitions in our full Moto X Play review. [Note: the Moto X Play will be known as the Droid Maxx 2 in the US]

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  • Decent display
  • Big battery
  • Moto maker customizations
  • Stylish design


  • Mono speaker
  • Camera performance below expectations
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Motorola Moto X Play release date and price

The Moto X Play was launched on July 28. The Moto X Play release date in Canada was August 21. Although there had initially been no planned US release, it now looks as though the Moto X Play will make it to Verizon as the Droid Maxx 2.

On October 14, Verizon and Motorola sent out press invites for an event to unveil "the newest DROIDS". Two days later, a screenshot of Motorola's new stock email client, Moto Email, on the Google Play store showed an email with a signature reading 'Sent from my DROID MAXX 2'. This improbable accident all but confirms the device, so we can expect to see it announced at the October 27 event.

The Canadian Moto X Play price is as low as CA$399 outright through SaskTel and Videotron, CA$410 at Koodo, CA$420 with Telus and CA$449 from Bell. We don't have a Droid Maxx 2 price for the US market yet, although it's been reported that it'll be around US$300.

The Moto X Play became available in parts of Europe on August 14. In the UK, the 16 GB version is available for £279, and the 32 GB version for £319. Elsewhere in Europe the 16 GB version is available for €349 but the 32 GB version has not been released or had a final price announced. 

You can customize the look of the phone with Moto Maker, but that is not included in the cost.  

Motorola Moto X Play design and build quality

The Moto X Play is not too dissimilar to the Moto X (2014), but any changes have been made in the right places. The Moto X Play feels more ergonomic and less slippery than the Bamboo-backed Moto X (2014).

In my opinion the Moto X Play is a better-looking phone that the Moto X (2014), but if you're looking for the same feel and level of craftsmanship, you'll be disappointed. The materials and build quality of the Moto X Play are quite different. Where the Moto X (2014) and Moto X Style are housed in aluminum, the Moto X Play is made of plastic made to look like metal. This does not mean that the Moto X Play is an ugly phone. But the polycarbonate frame and fake metal definitely feels less high-end. 

This is the Motorola Moto X Play. And some grass. / © ANDROIDPIT

The top edge houses a SIM and microSD card tray (up to 128 GB) as well as a centered headphone port. There's a microUSB charging port on the bottom edge. 

The power button and volume rocker are located on the right-hand side of the phone and, as usual, the power button is textured to make it easier to identify with your fingertip. Both buttons are within easy reach when using the phone one-handed.

play moto x
The Moto X Play looks good, but it doesn't have the same impact as the Moto X Style. / © ANDROIDPIT

The rubberized texture on the back of our Moto X Play review unit feels good in the hand. Moto Maker offers you a choice of 14 different back plates, which each have their own texture and feeling. The battery cover is easier than ever to remove but the battery itself is not removable. 

The Moto X Play weighs 169 g and is 10.9 mm at its thickest point. The new model is 25 g heavier than the previous one and 0.9 mm thicker. While it looks like there are stereo speakers on the front, only the bottom one produces any sound (the top one is just the earpiece speaker for calls). There are two microphones on the back too.

IMG 1491
The USB port of the Moto X Play and the metallic-look plastic trim. / © ANDROIDPIT

Although I didn't particularly like the materials Motorola chose, the design of the Moto X Play won me over. Motorola has retained its general style but managed to create a unique identity for this new entrant in its product portfolio.  

motorola moto x play back white
The Moto X Play is larger than the Moto X Style. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola Moto X Play display

The Moto X Play display is perhaps its most controversial component. It is a 5.5-inch Full HD LCD with a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch. The panel does have balanced color reproduction and high contrast, but it's not quite up to par with the saturation or contrast levels of an AMOLED screen.

The Moto X Play has a 5.5-inch LCD display with good colors and balance. / © ANDROIDPIT

However, the problematic yellowish tint on previous AMOLED-screened Moto devices is nowhere to be seen. The LCD panel is more reflective than I'd like, but it's generally cooler than previous AMOLED displays and has a more neutral white balance. It's also brighter than the Moto X (2014).

The sharpness of the Moto X Play screen is quite good for such a relatively low pixel density and viewing angles are impressive – stable up to around 75 degrees. Contrast isn't quite so high though, and in bright sunlight it can be a little hard to see, even with the brightness pumped right up. Fortunately, you can tweak the display settings in a custom calibration section within the settings menu.

Motorola extends the frame of the Moto X Play around to the back of the phone. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola Moto X Play special features

Splash protection

The Moto X Play has a nano-coating that protects it against moderate splashes of water. The sealing is not the same as that found in the Moto G (2015) and so the Moto X Play is not water-resistant, but if you splash some water on it by accident it shouldn't be any worse for wear.

Moto Maker customizations

The Moto Maker customization options are an intrinsic part of choosing a Motorola device these days. There is barely anything you can't customize, from front and back colors, different back covers and accent colors, engraving and custom boot screen messages.

Moto Maker offers plenty of customization options for the Moto X Play. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Moto App

The Moto App is the nerve center for the smart features found on the Moto X Play. It can be used to configure gestures and motion controls or set a hotword for controlling the Moto X Play with your voice. Motion controls can be set to launch the camera on either the front or back, but unfortunately not for the flashlight.

AndroidPIT Moto X Play moto app twist camera
Motorola has shifted a lot of software features into the Moto App, which controls gestures and voice controls. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola Moto X Play software

Since its days under Google, Motorola has become known for keeping Android relatively stock with a few select apps and features added on. The Moto X Play software runs on Android 5.1.1.

Most additional features, such as voice controls and gestures, which used to have their own sections in the settings menu, are now contained in the Moto App. While I can appreciate this will make the Android update process faster, I do miss having dedicated Moto sections in the settings.

IMG 1495
The software experience is "pure", according to Motorola. / © ANDROIDPIT

There are quite a few pre-installed apps, at least on our review unit. Some of these apps can be instantly uninstalled and others can be disabled (although you won't get any internal storage back for disabled apps). The best part of Moto software is that the more you use it, the more it learns about you.

AndroidPIT Moto X Play home screen quick settings
The new Motorola interface looks a lot like stock Android. / © ANDROIDPIT

We asked Motorola when the Moto X Play Android 6.0 Marshmallow update would arrive and were told it would be either the end of 2015 or early 2016, depending on when Google delivers the source code. Android Marshmallow should be out in October and considering how few changes Motorola has made to stock Android, we don't think the update will be far behind Nexus devices.

The Moto X Play should update from Lollipop to Marshmallow by the end of 2015. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola Moto X Play performance

The Moto X Play is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor, the same processor found in the HTC Desire 820, Samsung Galaxy A7, Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. Four of the eight cores are clocked at 1.7 GHz and another four at 1.0 GHz.

As with previous Motorola devices, the Moto X Play has a special co-processor for processing natural language and contextual awareness. The GPU contained in the Snapdragon chip is the Adreno 405, which is a mid-range graphics processor. The Moto X Play also has 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB or 32 GB storage options and a microSD card slot for memory expansion up to an additional 128 GB.

I found performance to be entirely satisfactory during the testing period for this Moto X Play review. I experienced no crashes or software glitches. Motorola's choice to keep Android as stock as possible is clearly a good one in terms of stability: the fewer modifications you do the less chance there is of bugs, stutters or lag. At least if there's a problem you know it's a core Android problem and not something Motorola did.

Even under heavy stress from gaming the Moto X Play doesn't lag or heat up too much. / © ANDROIDPIT

During testing I found no heat problems, even after heavy gaming sessions including Real Racing 3, Sonic Dash, Crossy Road or GTA: San Andreas. Despite the phone's mid-range processor, all game graphics could be left at their highest quality without stutters, dropped frames or excessive heat.

During testing I registered no heat problems, unless the unit was flying absolute full load, for example after I played games like Real Racing 3, Sonic Dash, Pitfall, Crossy Road or GTA: San Andreas. Despite the mid-class processor I could leave the graphics at the highest level in these games without causing any problems in system performance.

At one point while I was playing Pitfall there were 32 apps in the multitasking menu, various notifications coming in over an LTE network, email syncing and more. Nevertheless, the game ran without stuttering. In the AnTuTu benchmark app the Moto X Play managed a moderate 35,074 points (newer high-end flagship devices are inching towards 70,000). This result may be lower than expected, but my subjective experience with the Moto X Play test is not reflected by this benchmarking figure.

play moto x camera
The rear camera on the Moto X Play has a 21 MP sensor. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola Moto X Play camera

Motorola has paid a lot of attention to the cameras on both 2015 Moto X devices. The Moto X Play camera has a new Sony sensor and while it doesn't have OIS, the sensor is sensitive to individual colors, combining light intensities individually for each color.

motorola moto x play front camera
The Moto X Play's front-facing camera boasts 5 MP and is reasonably impressive. / © ANDROIDPIT

The results of the 21 MP rear-facing camera are impressive, as are the efforts of the 5 MP front-facing camera. The Moto X Play features 1,080p slow-motion video recording and a dual-LED with color correction. There's also panorama shooting, night mode, macro, tap focus and exposure control.

In low-light situations, the Moto X Play camera's f/2.0 aperture performs well. Our low-light shooting efforts were very satisfactory, especially for a phone at this price, although it did struggle without a flash. The camera software doesn't overdo it with automatic editing and it maintains sharpness and color balance nicely. Even at night there isn't excessive noise in the images, showing how seriously Motorola took getting the camera right in the Moto X Play.

IMG 20150814 161225554
The HDR mode on the Moto X Play is pretty great. / © ANDROIDPIT
IMG 20150815 224653068
Without a flash the Moto X Play struggles in the dark. / © ANDROIDPIT
IMG 20150815 205338680
Night Mode on the Moto X Play produces quite acceptable results. / © ANDROIDPIT
Even in Auto Mode the Moto X Play performs quite well at night. / © ANDROIDPIT
This blurred photo is a result of Auto Mode without HDR enabled. / © ANDRODIPIT

HDR mode is excellent and manual exposure controls are very handy. Not everyone will make use of them, but if you want to step your photography up a notch it's nice to have them available.

Stabilization comes via software, not optical image stabilization, which is a shame. Selfies are good quality though, and produce accurate skin tones.  

Motorola Moto X Play battery

The Moto X Play battery is one of its main selling points. It's big: 3,650 mAh is among the largest batteries on any smartphone right now, of any size. A Full HD display means the power demands from the screen aren't that high either, so this phone will really appeal to those who demand great battery life. So how good is it?

moto x style fast charging
Motorola assures us the Moto X Play charges faster than even the Galaxy S6. / © ANDROIDPIT

Pretty great, actually. You can see our Moto X Play battery life examples below, but it was generally very easy to make it through a full day of use, except when doing serious gaming or streaming YouTube via Chromecast for long stretches.

The Moto X Play also comes with Motorola's turbo charger and can be fully charged in about two hours and 10 minutes, with up to eight hours of charge in just 15 minutes. Motorola claims that the Moto X Play will make two days without a charge, but you'd have to be using it very lightly to get that kind of battery life.  

Usage type WLAN LTE
Social networking 21 hours 15 hours
Games / social networking / YouTube 12 hours 10 hours
Camera/ social networking 15 hours 13 hours
Games / Chromecast / social networking 8 hours 7 hours

During the Moto X Play review process I tested the battery under various conditions, which you can see in the table above. To kill the battery in eight hours requires serious use, but with moderate use, it wasn't uncommon to kill it within 15. On light days with occasional social media, email and always on Wi-Fi, the Moto X Play could manage around 23 hours without the use of battery saving mode.

Motorola Moto X Play technical specifications

    • Type:
    • Phone
    • Model:
    • Sorry, not yet available!
    • Manufacturer:
    • Motorola
    • Dimensions:
    • 148 x 75 x 10.9 mm
    • Weight:
    • 169 g
    • Battery size:
    • 3630 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 5.5 in
    • Display technology:
    • LCD
    • Screen:
    • 1920 x 1080 pixels (401 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 5 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 21 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • Dual-LED
    • Android version:
    • 5.1.1 - Lollipop
    • User interface:
    • Stock Android
    • RAM:
    • 2 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 16 GB
      32 GB
    • Removable storage:
    • microSD
    • Chipset:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
    • Number of cores:
    • 8
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 1.7 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1

Final verdict

The Moto X Play is a solid, affordable choice for anyone who wants ;above average battery life and camera performance for a mid-range price. The phone itself is mid-range in terms of specs, but Motorola had to make some compromises to keep the price low. Unfortunately neither the camera nor the battery performed quite as well as Motorola said they would, but they are both still above average for the price.

If you currently have a Moto X (2014), the Moto X Play probably won't entice you as much as the Moto X Style will, but the Moto X Play will definitely appeal to a large segment of the smartphone audience.

There is increasingly stiff competition in this price range, however, from the likes of the Asus Zenfone 2 and Huawei P8. The first offers fantastic value for money and the second more high-end specs (but a much smaller battery). The Moto X Play is a good phone, but the mono speaker is disappointing and despite increased resolution in the camera, it still doesn't produce the high-end results we expected.  


Write new comment:
  • My Moto X Play is just 7 months old and I'm facing an issue in making calls. It does not start the call duration once the person answers the call and they cannot hear me. Please help!!

  • Am using moto xplay for the last 3 months. Am facing heating issue while using 3g net only. And battery drains within 14 hrs with heavy net or camera usage.. Moto claims 30 hrs battery backup for xplay. Is this a common issue to all ? Do I get more battery than this..? Please help me moto users...

  • Sarath S 5 months ago Link to comment

    Not water resistant. Lost in rain. Support says it is "Beyond Economic Recovery" Do not Buy!!!! Please check this

    • It is slightly resistant to drops and light rain. Not being fully waterproof is anyway understandable by looking at the specs.
      Sorry for your unfortunate accident.

  • dont buy moto x play. and if you want to buy it, then first go through this website

  • neo 8 months ago Link to comment

    i also could not find to off the camera shutter option after upgrading to marshmallow

  • how to off camera shutter sound... i am facing problem with camera shutter sound

    • Hi. To do so, when using the camera app, you have to swipe right from the left border: a circle with different options appears. Move this circle up and you'll see a sound symbol. Just tap on it to switch off the sound. Another tap to reactivate it, and so on and so forth ^_^

  • Just bought my new motorola moto x play and can not wait for a NanoSIM to be delivered so I can swith it in on and start experience!

  • Rob Oct 18, 2015 Link to comment

    I've had my moto x play for two months now, and I love it. Battery life is awesome, compared to the moto razr I used for the past 4 years, which lasted 4 hours if that, with moderate to heavy use. I love the moto apps, which will apparently be removed with update to marshmallow. why update to something that gives me what " Google says is new" but I, and all moto x owners already have and enjoy. Google on tap? My x play is already listening, and learning my habits, the system is so intuitive, I am happy with how it runs. I will wait and read comments on how marshmallow works out for other x play owners, before considering upgrading to marshmallow. If it ain't broke...

    As far as heating up, I don't have that problem. If heating up was a real problem, the phone would reboot or act erratic, no signs of that either. Screen is beautiful, I don't need a quad hd phone, I think it's stupid to put that in a phone, unless for vr headset use.

  • My phone starts to heat up when i play a subway surfer for 10min....even when i simply listen to music....plz it normal?? I'm worried about it...😢

    • From my experience with the phone, I think it's either not normal (check out for substitution) or it depends on your sensitivity to temperature (listening to music doesn't make it hot, not even if the music comes from a continuous 4g YouTube stream).

  • Writing to you from my Moto X Play. It's a beast of a phone, in all the good possible ways.
    The Screen On Time is around or more than 6h, but then you'll have to recharge it after one full day, otherwise I noticed a >4h SoT but a longer overall battery life span of 2 full days. Every time a ~10% of battery remains before I recharge, anyway. It means, you have a trade-off between SoT and overall life time. Remember that the so-called flagship phones out there offer something around 4h of SoT, but you have to recharge in less than a day.
    I tried hard but really found the (few) Motorola apps pre-installed to be of no use for me, so I disabled them all... Apart from the double-twist feature to shoot photos! It's amazingly useful.
    Other than these, the screen is bright and don't have to set to 100% brightness, not even in sunlight. And it's clear and sharp.
    The audio of course is another plus. As all the others, I was hoping to have double front-facing speakers, but then again, the single speaker on the X Play is more than sufficient to reproduce a clear and loud sound (keeping in mind, this is a smartphone and not your leaving room hi-fi stereo).
    The size is optimal for me. Coming from the 5.2inches of the LG G2, which is quite compact, I was worried to carry around a monster... But it turns out that I was wrong, and the size is quite balanced and portable, with a fantastic ergonomic design and the right weight/size ratio.
    Camera is very good. Of course in low light conditions you might want to use a real camera or other better smartphone cameras, but it is not bad either, as in pubs or indoor shootings it performs quite decently.
    My daily use of ~1h music streamed from 4g and with Bluetooth headset on, ~1h of feeds reading, ~1 of browsing plus lot of Whatsapp, some photos or videos, some Google Maps navigation, some weather, etc. make me an average-to-heavy user.
    Hope it was helpful.

  • Kevin Aug 29, 2015 Link to comment

    Battery is the main thing for me, other features like 1080p, support Android 5.x + future updates. Backcover design with choice of flip cover by Motorola and TurboCharge (Quick Charge 2.0) it's all my major needs.

    The price made it even more attractive. So I got the phone just a few days ago from Koodo, $35 CAD monthly unlimited evertying Canada wide + 1GB Data and a free Moto 360 Smartwatch. Initial fee only cost me $6 for the nanoSIM.

    About this article, a lot of people are too focus into what's "feels to be premium phone" I'll be honest, it's just a dam phone premium or not. I am happy that is not metal edge, so I can avoid tinks or dents. PVC Plastic is more flexible to absord impacts. I started to hate glass back phones especially iPhone 4 and Nexus 4 I had. I'm done with those. It's slippery in winter with gloves and these glass back phones always need a case for them which add extra bulk.

    Moto X, i love those backcover and especially the one with rubber feels that clip right behind the back without adding bulk to the width and height of the phone.

    Battery life, coming from iPhone 4 and Nexus 4. They only last 2-3 hours of on screen usage. The battery wear level after 2 years is about 80% effectiveness. But regardless those 2 phones battery is shy of 2000mAh capacity. Moto X Play, so far with such a massive 3600+mAh battery. Light-moderate use on regular work day. Last charged 12 hrs ago and it is still sitting at 75% battery life when I got home.

  • Looks like a decent phone. Sick of waiting forever for updates on my G2. Would this or a nexus 6 be a good upgrade? I could wait for the 2015 nexus phones as well. What say you?

  • I would touch it for free.

  • Your review conclusion about the camera makes absolutely NO sense. Under the bad is listed: Camera performance (you spelled it "peformance" btw) below expectations. Yet, in the body of the review the camera is generally praised with a few critical remarks. What kind of expectations should have one for a phone that costs $399 CA or $300 US?

    • I noticed exactly the same, the only "not good" thing in the body of the camera review is that it doesn't perform well in low light environment without the flash, but then again, what mobile camera does? None! Looks like the only thing is the mono speaker but only annoying teenagers use this feature for listening to music, for that I carry nice earbud headphones.

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