Moto X4

Back in July (2018), I upgraded to the Motorola Moto X4. After over four-and-a-half years of faithful service, my Moto X (2013) was no longer cutting it. The battery was not lasting a day. I was pretty much out of storage (16GB is not enough), even with a minimal set of apps and music on the device. Topping it off, things were getting generally sluggish.

While I had been looking at phones since December (2017), nothing hit the value mark I was looking for and worked on the Verizon network (they sure do not have “the devices” unless you want a phablet or an iPhone). I was considering the Google Pixel, but given its price point I was disappointed in the second generation device (the screen to body ratio was worse than the Moto X (2013)). I ended up settling for the Moto X4, and picked up the Amazon Prime version on Prime Day.

The Good

As with any modern mid-range smartphone, the Moto X4 includes USB C, is dust and waterproof (IP68), and a fingerprint reader. As with the Moto X (2013), the Moto X4 sticks with a close to stock Android setup which is appreciated.

Moving from the Moto X (2013) to the Moto X4 was as simple as moving my SIM card to the new phone and using Andorid’s NFC identity transfer/clone mechanism—much to the dismay of Verizon. I’m also sure Verizon is upset that this phone is free of their bloatware. Yes, it has the Amazon apps. However, I use more of them than the Verizon apps (3 vs 0).

Audio quality out of the 3.5mm jack is surprisingly good. In fact, the audio quality is hands down the best of the smartphones I have had (OG Moto Droid and OG Moto X).

The camera, while not a good as what is found in high end phones, is the best I have had in a phone. Under decent lighting it does quite well. Low light performance is not great, but it will occasionally surprise me with a great shot. Honestly, I do not really consider the camera quality when looking at phones. Sure, it can not be absolute rubbish, but it is not the only camera I have.

Disappointments

Moto X (2013) on top of Moto X4

For the most part, I am satisfied with the system specifications except for three points: the storage, the RAM and the screen.

Fitting the Moto X4 with 3GiB of RAM was stupid. While it is not a problem today, in 2 to 3 years it may be. I understand that 2017 and 2018 saw a DRAM and flash shortage, however, they ship the 64GB version with 4GiB of DRAM and should have done the same for the entire Moto X4 lineup.

32GB of storage is a little light, especially when Android + the default apps takes half of that. Of course, there is a 64GB version, however availability of it from reputable sellers is not stellar. The good news is the Moto X4 has a micro SD slot, and support for keeping media on it is pretty good.

The Moto x4 ships with a large and bright screen. However, being IPS rather than OLED, moto display now illuminates a full screen instead of just the area that needs it. This is especially noticeable at night or in poorly illuminated areas.

The Bad

The Moto X4 in its native habitat: a case

While there has been a trend to introduce more “premium” materials, such as metal and glass to the bodies of smartphones, the process has lead to less durable phones. Even with advancements in glass, plastic is going to be more durable. Glass may not scratch, but plastic is not going to shatter if you look at it wrong. Add on a “soft touch” coating, and that plastic is not going to accidentally slip out of your hand.

Moto X4 next to Moto X (2013)

As for body size, it is way too large. While Motorola has not really increased the size of the Moto X after the X2, the Moto X4 is larger than its high-end competition (pixel 2). Additionally, the screen to body size ration has dipped significantly below that of the Moto X (2013).

A combination of body size and fragile materials used in its construction lead me to place the Moto X4 in a case. The need for this was made evident after almost dropping it several times in the first week, and one successful drop forced the issue. Luckily, none of the glass cracked in that event.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, while the Moto X4 is significantly newer than the Moto X (2013) that was my “daily driver”, I still look at the Moto X and miss its size, its lightness, and its robustness. The fact that the Moto X4 is the first phone I have felt the need to place in a case for its own protection should be telling. And, for the first time, I have to admit I am a little envious of the iPhone for its diminutive size.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

2 thoughts on “Moto X4

  1. Glad to hear the Moto X4 is performing well so far :-)

    Have you adjusted to the larger size?

    Also, have you tried the Google (Pixel) Camera app? (a.k.a. gcam)
    https://forum.xda-developers.com/moto-x4/how-to/guide-x4-camera-gcam-hdr-night-sight-t3874674
    I love what gcam can do on a variety of phones, I expect the X4 would be quite impressive with it.

    I eventually went with a Pixel 3 (fairly small), specifically wanting to downsize from a Note 8 (huge). Camera quality is superb and the speakers are actually darn good. The smaller size keeps me off of my phone (which is a good thing).

    Enjoy the X4 and please keep us posted! :-)

    • I had written the majority of this post back in late August after using the Moto X4 as my daily driver for a month. In the process of taking the pictures for the post (which happened just before publishing), handling the original Moto X, really made me miss it. There are plenty of things I like about the Moto X4, but I do miss the size of the OG Moto X. And, to be honest, the Moto X4’s size would not be so bad if it didn’t require a case—I dropped it three times in the first two weeks that I had it, and that was when I ordered a case for it.

      I haven’t played gcam yet. For the most part, I only use the Moto X4 for photos when I don’t have a different camera on me.

      I have coworkers that migrated from the OG Moto X to the Pixel 3. While the Pixel 3 is smaller than the Moto X4, I really don’t like that the design of it is almost exactly the same as the Pixel 1. I was hoping they’d shrink the bezels and either increase the screen size or shrink the phone. I realize that the bulk of most phones now days is allocated to the battery so I can see why they haven’t made the Pixel smaller. Regardless, should Google redesign the Pixel, I’d probably upgrade to it. Otherwise, I may end up dumping Verizon so I can go with the more exciting GSM phones that are available.

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