Let’s skip to the punch: the Moto X Play is in some ways a successor to last year’s Moto X and in other ways a regression. But in lieu of the more expensive and powerful Moto X Style, which comes to the U.S. in September, Canadians must settle for the Moto X Play, which is remarkable in quite a few ways.
The most stark improvements to last year’s model are where it was most viciously criticized: battery life, and camera quality. The former improves by mere force: it has been upgraded from 2,300mAh to a whopping 3,630mAh, the largest cell we’ve seen in a smartphone this size.
As for the camera, the Moto X Play has a 21MP Sony sensor with an F2.0 lens, and the results are drastically and dramatically improved over the 13MP F2.25 combo from last year.
Similarities come in form of the design, build quality and software, which are largely identical. The Moto X Play has a nice back cover replacement mechanism that allows for custom colours and snap-on cases without diving into Moto Maker, while the extra-large SIM slot has space for a microSD card this time around. The minimal line of the camera and dual-LED flash harken back to the original Moto X, doing away with the rather garish ring light found on the second-generation version.
There are some minor regressions, though. The metal frame of last year’s Moto X has, for cost-saving reasons, been replaced by a plastic frame with vacuum-metalized paint covered with a hardened resin. In practice the differences are subtle, but there’s an overt change in texture over the second generation model.
Internally, the Snapdragon 615 chip inside the Moto X Play performs about the same as the Snapdragon 801 in last year’s model. Apps and games that take advantage of multi-core processing will benefit slightly from the four extra cores, but in theory the 801 should be faster in some real-world applications that require more power clock.
And make no mistake: at 5.5-inches, the Moto X Play is no longer even close to the realm of one hand-friendly. Anyone hoping Motorola would return to that world will be more than a little disappointed here.
Lots more to come with the Moto X Play in the coming days and weeks!