New Motorola Moto X hands-on: A leather flagship to lust after

The Moto X might not have been available in the UK for long, but that hasn't stopped Motorola announcing a new and improved version, alongside the launch of Moto Maker in the UK, with new premium materials like leather.

The original Moto X found fame in the US by being customisable, and being assembled in the USA. Times have moved on a little and whilst the Moto X perhaps didn't find the notoriety that the Moto G did, it's still a handset that offers something rather unique.

We've been playing with the new version of Moto X to see whether it should pique your interest.

New, but old

The concept of the Moto X is the same. It's an affordable flagship (to coin a Microsoft expression) with vanilla Android so you get fast updates when Google updates the operating system, with a few tricks along the way. But some things have changed.

The power, screen, speakers and overall design have been overhauled. So much so in some cases that Motorola could have easily claimed this was a brand new device with a brand new letter of the alphabet, without the fear of usurping the original Moto X model.

New designs for Moto Maker

We won't lie, we liked the first Moto X. We even had a secret love for the wooden back, but that was before we saw the leather back, a brown leather back at that.

This isn't a faux leather effect with stitching like you'd find on the back of a Samsung Galaxy Note or even, gasp, a BlackBerry, but proper cow skin that smells and scratches just like your favourite armchair. There is black of course, for the serious ones that still don't agree with wearing brown to town, but for us it will be brown cow all the way. It's glorious. It's inspired. It's something we actually want.

Still, it's not just about the cow. The Moto X, which will still be made in the US before being shipped to the UK days later, will allow a number of customisations including a multitude of black plates, wallpapers and even the phone set-up for you before Motorola put it in the box, so all you have to do is verify it once it arrives.

Display

The new Moto X now features a much bigger display jumping from a nice 4.7-inch to a much bigger 5.2-inches. Importantly it has stepped up from 1280 x 720 to 1980 x 1080 pixels making for a much richer experience. That sees the Moto X moving into a different class of device. It's the same size display as the Sony Xperia Z3 or the LG G3, and that's big.

The change in resolution is important, however, as it brings the richness and details that's essential for a display of this size. It now sports 423ppi, a higher density than the previous X. First impressions of this display are really good too. It's rich and vibrant, packed with detail and appears to offer good viewing angles. We didn't have the time to fully assess it, but we're keen to see how it holds up against flagship rivals like the HTC One or SGS5. Rather well, we'd suspect.

Dual speakers frame that large display and enhance and improve audio playback whether you are watching videos or playing games. The screen dominates the design, which for the most part is fairly minimal allowing your customisations like the leather back to stand on their own merit.

Inside

It's not just the screen that's new and improved. The Moto X smartphone now comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz processor compared to the now fairly old S4 Pro. We weren't able to fully test the new loadout, but we've seen enough 801 devices to know that it's a great step forward from the S4 Pro. Not only is the 801 more powerful, but it's more power efficient too, so those with the old Moto X should see quite a difference in performance.

Motorola hasn't detailed how much RAM you get (we suspect it's 2GB as before), so we'll have to see how it performs under duress when we get our review unit later in the month.

Other new treats include a new 13-megapixel camera on the back supporting 4k video capture, 4 mics to better hear you bark commands at the phone handsfree and an aluminium frame that should make it all a bit more durable.

There's a bigger battery at 2300mAh, which might be a little on the light side for this size of device. The Xperia Z2, for example, has a 3200mAh battery and has comparable hardware. But it does come with fast charging, meaning you'll get 8 hours of battery from just 15 minutes on a charger - again, a claim we'll have to test thoroughly.

Sadly there's no microSD slot for expanding the memory, but you can get a 16GB or 32GB model.

Hello Moto

One of the cool things about the original Moto X was that you could use it handsfree by saying "Ok Google" at any time as the phone was always listening. This time around you can customise that phrase to anything you want.

If that's "yo dawg", so be it, but with the improved mic, we had no problem asking it to do things without touching it and although we didn't get to experiment with it further, Motorola has said that it will be supporting third-party applications. Moto might promise vanilla Android, but this is a nice extra touch it has decided to add.

Another extra touch is a new camera feature that will take a picture before you press the shutter button and then evaluate whether or not its picture is better than yours. If it is then it suggests otherwise. Called Best Shot, it shows that Motorola is trying to offer something above and beyond the core Android offering Motorola is no known for.

That's won favour from many, as the Android experience is unsullied by some of the agressive customisation you'll find elsewhere and as always, Motorola is saying you'll get an update to Android L when it comes out.

First impressions

The new Moto X is a lovely device that we are sure that it will do well for Motorola. We love the option for a leather finish as it's really unique and distinctive. But the new Moto X is also a very different device from previously. It moves into real flagship territory, challenging the proposition of some of the best Android devices out there. Moving on from the odd mid-range that the Moto X previously occupied is good, as Motorola now has a flagship device.

In the UK prices will start from £419 although the leather option brings it up to £439 (16GB). The Moto X will be available in the UK from the end of September from Amazon. At the moment no UK operators have signed up for the device according to Motorola.