Gadget Review 2016 Motorola Moto X Play review: A brilliant, customisable phone at a low price

This 5.5-inch phone handset rocks a full HD display, a great 21-megapixel camera, a meaty processor and a version of the Android Lollipop operating system that’s free of the painful bloatware most companies insist on installing. Add a splash-proof body that protects the internals from all kinds of spilled drinks, and the option to wildly customise the colours of the phone to suit your exacting tastes and you’ve got yourself one hell of a smartphone.

The cherry on the top of this already delicious dessert is the affordable price. In the UK, you can pick up the Moto X Play directly from Motorola (building it yourself using the Moto Maker tool) for £280, with 16GB of storage. The Play launched in August in 55 countries, although the US was not one of them just yet — there, Motorola is instead pushing the larger Moto X Pure Edition (called the Moto X Style outside of the US). For reference, its £280 price converts to about $435.

In Australia, the X Play is a Vodafone exclusive, but is only available in black. You’ll pay AU$5 per month on the AU$40 plan over two years (minimum cost is AU$1,080). Motorola has mooted the idea of a version coming direct to retail at a later stage, possibly for AU$569, but says this is “to be confirmed.”
The Moto X Play sits in the middle of Moto’s new lineup of handsets, which includes the cheap and cheerful Moto G at the bottom, and the more premium Moto X Pure/Style at the top. The latter is slightly bigger at 5.7 inches, but packs a higher-resolution display and a more powerful processor, and you can have it wrapped in luxurious leather or various types of wood.
The name Play suits this Moto X model as it looks like the more rough-and-ready sibling of its higher-end X Style. Instead of that phone’s leather and wood panelling, the Play’s back skin is made from rubberised plastic, with a tyre-tread style pattern. Together with the waterproofing, which I’ll come to in a moment, it feels like a phone that’s built for a tougher life than simply sitting inside a jacket pocket.

Not that it doesn’t look good. My review model of the Play came in the most plain colours available: black and grey, which looks arguably more professional than fun. Using Motorola’s Moto Maker online tool, however, it’s hugely customisable. There are 14 different colours available for the back panel, with seven colours to choose from for the metal accents. Mix in the choice of a black or white front and the option to add laser engraving to the back for free, and it’s possible to tweak your own phone very much to your own tastes.The resistance to water is a welcome new feature for the Moto X series. The Play isn’t designed to be fully submersible, so it’s not the phone to take with you on a scuba diving trip — for that, check out the new Sony Xperia Z5 . What the Play’s waterproofing is for is to protect it from spilled drinks in the pub, rain showers or an accidental fall in the toilet. I knocked several cups of water over the phone and it’s still working perfectly. It certainly adds a little peace of mind to know that your phone can shake off spills.

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