Introduction

3 Mar 2016

Given that Google dropped patching of Nexus 4, it was definitely time to upgrade. My Nexus 4 also developed a number of its own problems, like overheating and shutting down randomly, camera taking entirely black photos or not being able to take photos at all. So, it was time to retire it.

I was in no mood to spend near a grand on a new phone, so the focus was on the middle of the range. A vanilla or near vanilla Android experience was definitely considered a plus. One of the contenders was Google Nexus 5X, but the specs, especially lack of SD card slot and generally less than positive experiences by folks that got it, steered me away from it.

So, Motorola Moto X Play it was (XT1562, 16 GB model).

First impressions

Just like most other phones these days (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S6), the phone is most definitely too big. Operating it with one hand is rather cumbersome. But, I guess that is the price to pay for getting higher resolution of the screen.

Motorola tried to address the phone being slippery by providing what looks like a rubbery back. Well, it didn't work all that well. The phone is, just like most other phones these days, very slippery. So, getting a case for it that has decent grip is a must.

The shape of the phone is is pretty nice with that curved back and I don't mind it being thicker than flagship models. However, if you do have a tendency to type on the phone while it's sitting on a flat surface, you may get a bit disappointed, because it will wobble on its curved back.

The phone doesn't feel like a premium phone, which is OK. It is a mid-range phone. It is certainly not too flimsy, although the buttons may have been a bit more firm.

Although the back comes off, the phone doesn't have a user replaceable battery. Why would you want some random person fiddling with the innards of your phone just to swap the battery, I have no idea.

The screen is amazingly sharp and bright. Much better than that of Nexus 4.

Everything happens pretty fast and I have not experienced much lag. But, I'm not a very heavy user in terms of pushing the CPU, so that may have something to do with it.

Functionality

The first thing that is visibly different from Nexus 4 is the lack of notification light. Motorola phones have something called Active Display, but that's not the same thing. One can glance at the phone and see the notification light, even from a great distance. Active Display requires user action to activate. Slightly annoying.

The phone has a massive battery and if nothing is going on, it will last quite a while. However, when in heavy use (e.g. updating apps, GPS navigation etc.), the battery will get drained pretty quickly and the phone does warm up. I guess all those new CPU chips are power guzzlers after all.

I don't have a need for VOIP calls outside Hangouts these days, but it is still sad to see that SIP VOIP calling was removed from the phone's software. The fact that the phone can take two SIM cards is pretty cool though. Especially for folks that need work/home numbers or something like that.

Gmail is still terrible for IMAP mail, so K-9 Mail it is. DAVdroid works great on the phone as well. Both of these are highly recommended.

The rest is pretty standard Android stuff and works mostly without major problems.

Motorola's camera software seems to be taking decent photos.

I purchased a 64 GB Micro SD card for the phone and that was only recognized when I formatted it as FAT32. NTFS, ext4 and f2fs did not work. Android formatting used exFAT, which is a proprietary Microsoft format and using that format on my Linux laptop requires non-free software. Anyhow, the card works fine for storing photos, music and other such files. There is a bug in Android, it seems, that fails to show the card's directories to the computer when the phone is connected via USB. Also slightly annoying. With 6.0.1 update, this doesn't appear to be happening any more.

I tested LTE network access with my network provider briefly and got over 65 Mb/s download and over 20 Mb/s upload speeds. That's faster than my current home internet connection, so I'm pretty happy with it. :-)

Calls sound a bit hollow on this phone. Not quite sure why, but it probably has something to do with the earpiece. The speaker is mono and is placed at the bottom of the phone, facing the front, so that's better than Nexus 4, which had its speaker on the back.

Updates

The phone came with Android 5.1.1, which was then immediately updated to 6.0.

31 Mar 2016: Got a bit tired of waiting for an official update from Motorola to fix numerous security issues, so went looking for OTA images that may be floating out there. Found the links to them here: https://github.com/motoxplay/stock. Flashed the 6.0 to 6.0.1 stock OTA update for XT1562 RETASIA (new build MPD24.107-52) using stock recovery option (i.e. booted with volume down key pressed) after copying the image to the phone. The process was pretty simple and straightforward. The update appears to be working pretty well and it may have reduced the battery pressure somewhat.

28 Jul 2016: Motorola is once again very slow to release security and bugfix updates, so I had to search the internet for OTA images myself. Pretty poor service, to be honest. Anyhow, found OTA images version MPD24.107-70 and applied them by copying to internal storage and running built in check for updates.

Conclusion

An OK phone, providing decent value for money.

Be mindful of the fact that Motorola announced in mid 2016 that they won't be following the monthly security patching that Google are providing. A huge disappointment for a brand that pushed the "as close as possible to stock Android" message for a while. Not good enough.

Copyright © 2016 Bojan Smojver, Rexursive.
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