Motorola’s Moto X flagship Android smartphone had a certain charm, which made it well received by pretty much everyone who used it. It was followed by the Moto X (Gen2) and the Moto X Style in the subsequent years, but we haven’t had a new Moto X phone since 2015. With Lenovo now in charge, the company introduced the Moto Z series as its new flagship series, leaving the fate of the X series in limbo.
Fast forward to 2017, and Lenovo has now introduced the Moto X4 as a new mid-range smartphone, and quite possibly as fan service for many users. This new model tries to capture the same essence of the original Moto X, especially its compact form factor, but with some modern touches. Priced at Rs. 21,000 or Rs. 23,000 depending on which storage variant you choose, the new Moto X4 is positioned well, as the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) (Review) is the only smartphone with similar features at this price that comes to mind. Let’s see if the Moto X4 is as good as it looks.
Moto X4 design and build quality
Lenovo has done an amazing job with the design of the Moto X4. The combination of an outer aluminium frame and glass back looks and feels extremely premium, and the overall shape and size make it easy to hold. It lacks the typical curved back of previous Moto X models, but it's comfortable nonetheless. However, it’s on the heavier side for sure at 163 grams, which you’ll feel when it's in your pocket. The disadvantages of the glass back are that it attracts fingerprints very easily and makes the phone really slippery. When the phone is placed on surfaces with even the slightest incline, it will start sliding off.
All the buttons are placed on the right, but they’re quite tiny and it's tough to distinguish between them by just touch. The power button has a slightly different texture to it but due to its small size, and it’s not easy to make out. The dual-SIM tray is placed on the top but it’s the hybrid variety so you’ll have decide between a second SIM and a microSD card. At the bottom of the phone, we have a USB Type-C port and the headphones socket, but no speaker grille. That’s because the Moto X4 uses its earpiece as the loudspeaker.
Lenovo hasn’t yet joined the herd when it comes to taller displays. While this might be a sore point for some, the regular 16:9 screen is still very good. Honestly, we didn’t really miss a taller one. It still has relatively slim borders on the sides, and the ones on the top are still slimmer than those of, say, the Google Pixel 2 (Review). The 5.2-inch IPS display has very good brightness and produces a vivid image, thanks to the saturated colours. There’s Gorilla Glass for protection, and the full-HD resolution is acceptable at this price point. The oleophobic coating also does a good job of keeping the display smudge-free during everyday use.
The camera bump on the back juts out quite a bit but thankfully we didn't see any scuffs on it during our review period. There’s no support for Moto Mods here as that’s reserved for the Z series. Lenovo has placed the fingerprint sensor in the capacitive home button, and it works well for authentication. Navigation is handled by on-screen buttons but you can switch to manoeuvring through the OS using just the Home button, using gestures across the fingerprint reader. You can perform the usual functions of opening the app switcher, going back, and even locking the screen, solely with gestures. It’s useful as you canhides the on-screen buttons, thereby giving you a bit more screen real estate. In the box, Lenovo ships the Moto X4 with a charger, data cable, SIM eject tool, instructions, and a headset.
Moto X4 specifications and software
In terms of specifications, the Moto X4 is pretty well equipped to handle most apps well enough. It uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 mobile platform, which is very similar to the 626 and 625 SoCs usually found in this segment. This chip has eight ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores with a maximum clock speed of 2.2GHz, so benchmark numbers are similar too. In AnTuTu, we got 67,361 points, and 23fps in GFXbench. The Snapdragon 630 has some improvements like a faster X12 LTE modem which supports a peak download speed of 600Mbps (versus 300Mbps) and additional features such as the aptX codec for high-quality audio streaming and Quick Charge 4.0. Lenovo sent us the higher-end variant of the Moto X4, which has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, but you can opt for the 3GB plus 32GB combo if you want to save some money.
4G works well on both SIM slots (but only one at a time) and VoLTE is also supported. You also get FM radio, NFC, USB-OTG, Bluetooth 5, and dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac. Sensors include a gyroscope and compass along with the usual proximity sensor, accelerometer and magnetometer. The phone also has proper water resistance with an IP68 certification.
Internationally, the Moto X4 ships with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, but in India, it’s missing. This is a bit odd considering that Aamzon’s Echo speakers are now official available here with most of Alexa’s Skills working just fine. However, at the time of the launch, Lenovo told Gadgets 360 that the feature will only available once Amazon releases the Moto Alexa app here. In the US, the Moto X4 is also sold as part of Google’s Android One programme through Verizon.
In India, the Moto X4 ships with a near-stock version of Android 7.1.1, with a planned Oreo update down the road. Everything is kept pretty much close to stock here, save for the custom icon set and a suite of Moto apps and gestures. There are also a bunch of preinstalled apps including Outlook and LinkedIn, which strangely cannot be uninstalled.
The Moto app offers similar features to what we’ve seen on other current Moto phones, such as gestures for activating the flashlight and camera as well as Moto Display for a peek at your notifications, the battery level and the time without having to wake the screen up. Lenovo has added a Night Display feature, which is a blue light filter. You can schedule this to kick in for a particular time period but there’s no way to adjust the intensity, in case you want a stronger effect. Moto Voice lets you launch apps and check you calendar appointments by using the phrase ‘Show me’, and it works well. A list of supported commands are provided. This feature works as advertised, even when the screen is off. There's also a feature called 'Voice Security', which is supposed to detect your voice specifically and allow commands when the phone is locked, but we couldn't get this feature to work.
A new addition here is Moto Key, which lets you use the phone’s fingerprint sensor for authentication when you log in to a Windows PC or on websites that require a password. For this to work, you’ll need the Moto Key application for Windows (sorry, no Mac support), which will establish a connection between your PC and phone over Bluetooth. Through the setup process, you’ll also have the option to install the Moto Key browser extensions (only Internet Explorer and Chrome are supported for now). Once everything is configured, the Moto Key extension will override your browser’s default autosave function. Your fingerprint is required each time you need to save your credentials for a website. Once saved, you’ll see the Moto Key symbol in the password field and almost immediately, get a prompt on your phone to authenticate using your fingerprint. It sounds like a complicated process but it works pretty seamlessly once set up. The same works for logging into Widows too.
The Moto X4 is the first phone to debut Tempow’s multi-speaker Bluetooth solution. Just like Samsung’s implementation in the S8 series, the Moto X4 has a feature called Wireless Sound System in the Settings app, which lets you connect up to four Bluetooth devices at the same time. These can be a mix of speakers and headsets. Once connected, you can adjust the volume of each speaker or headset individually through your phone. You even have the option for a stereo configuration (left and right audio channel separation) but in order for this to work properly, you will need to use the calibration feature in the app, else the effect is not very good. We tried it on a host of different speakers and it works pretty well. Remember that when this feature is on, you will be disconnected from your other Bluetooth devices as the Tempow Audio Profile (TAP) overrides all other connections.
Moto X4 performance, cameras, and battery life
Thanks to stock Android, general performance is smooth without any hiccups. 4G reception is good and the earpiece is plenty audible for calls even in noisy environments. The compact size of this phone is great but the slippery back makes single-handed use a little tricky at times. To make life easier, the X4 does have a gesture which shrinks the display to either of the bottom corners of the screen. We liked that the phone doesn’t heat up too much, even when gaming. App performance is good and we didn’t face any lag during multitasking. Heavier titles like Asphalt 8 and Dirt Xtreme ran smoothly.
The display’s touch response is very good and the we love the vividness of the screen, which is great for viewing video content. The speaker gets decently loud, for both voice calls and media files but of course, we miss having a proper stereo effect. The bundled headset is of the in-ear variety and sounds really good. The tonal signature is quite balanced and the silicone ear tips offer good isolation from ambient noise. You can enable the ‘Talk to me’ feature in Moto Voice, which announces incoming calls and texts when you have a headset connected. You can also answer or reject a call by voice commands alone.
Another big feature of the Moto X4 is its dual camera setup. It has a 12-megapixel primary camera with an f/2.0 aperture and PDAF, and an 8-megapixel secondary camera with a 120 degree field-of-view for wide-angle shots. You can switch between sensors at any time with the dedicated button in the viewfinder. The main sensor is quick to focus during the day with fairly good detail for landscapes and macro shots. We noticed that at times, under bright sunlight, the camera tends to overexpose scenes, so you’ll need to manually dial down the exposure using the ring around the focus reticule. Low-light image quality from the main sensor is also a bit noisy.
Wide-angle shots let you capture more of the scene, but this is only useful for landscape shots as it’s impossible to get clear closeups. The quality for images is slightly inferior when taken with the secondary sensor as opposed to the main one. This is most evident in low-light shots. Barrel distortion is also unavoidable with the wide-angle lens. Auto HDR is present but processing is not very quick. It works well in daylight but in low light, it’s quite sluggish so its impossible to get clear shots when you’re moving about.
You can switch between sensors for video recording but you need to do this before you hit the record button. Video resolution goes up to 4K but there’s no stabilisation, so you often end up with shaky footage even with slight movements. Continuous autofocus is quite slow here. Other shooting modes include 1080p at 60fps, and slow-motion 720p at 120fps. Video shot in low light is a bit noisy.
The Moto X4 has a bokeh mode but the effect isn’t very good even with human subjects. Even after multiple tries, parts of our subjects' heads and ears were also blurred out, which shows that the camera is not very good with edge detection. You can adjust the level of blur before and after taking shots, but the whole process feels very clunky. Spot colour is a fun shooting mode and there’s a Professional mode too. The front 16-megapixel camera captures decently detailed selfies under good lighting, and there’s a front-firing LED flash to help you out at night. We found that the front flash messes up the white balance of shots most of the time, so you're better off not using it unless you absolutely have to.
The Moto X4 has a feature called Smart Camera, which tries to identify an object or landmark in the viewfinder. An icon pops up in the viewfinder, and upon tapping it, the app captures a temporary snapshot of the object or place in focus and tries to identify it. The process takes a while, during which you cannot use the camera. It works for simple objects well enough, but landmarks didn’t work, possibly because we weren’t around any notable ones.
It also claims to be able to read addresses and phone numbers, but this is more of a hit or miss. This feature is somewhat like Google Lens, but works much slower and isn’t as accurate. Lenovo mentions other beta features such as Selective Black & White and Background Replacement on its website, which aren't currently present.
Battery life is good considering that we managed to get an entire day’s worth of heavy usage from the 3000mAh battery. This was with gaming, lots photo and video capturing, Web browsing, a few calls, and some GPS usage though apps like Uber and Google Maps. We managed to run our HD test video continuously for 11 hours and 33 minutes. Fast charging is supported through Moto’s TurboPower feature. We managed to get a 50 percent charge in about half an hour, which is good.
We’re quite happy with what Lenovo has done with the Moto X4. It looks and feels great, and has plenty of useful features such as the Moto suite of gestures, and proper waterproofing. Between this and the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) (Review), we’d recommend the Moto X4 as it does have a slightly better camera, even though the X4's camera itself isn't great. The main sensor isn’t that bad and the wide-angle lens has its uses, but the sluggish HDR, slow focus speeds in video and ineffective bokeh mode left us wanting more.
With a starting price of Rs. 21,000, the Moto X4 is a good pick if you’re looking for good looks, decent performance and water resistance in a compact body. If you need a better camera, then there’s the Oppo F5 (Review) or for a bit more money, the Moto Z2 Play (Review).