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Moto X vs. Nexus 4


August 30, 2013

Moto X or Nexus 4? Let Gizmag help you make up your mind

Moto X or Nexus 4? Let Gizmag help you make up your mind

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The Moto X is, of course, a Motorola product. But as it's the first Motorola phone designed under Google ownership, many consider it to be an unofficial Google phone. How does it compare to the last official Google phone, the LG Nexus 4? And does the Nexus 4's recent US$100 price drop change anything? Read on, as Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Moto X and Nexus 4.


Sizes are in the same ballpark

The two phones are similarly proportioned, but the Nexus 4 is a bit larger. It comes in at three percent taller and six percent wider than the Moto X. Motorola's phone is, however, bigger in one respect, with its extra 14 percent of thickness.


The Moto X is a bit lighter, but weight isn't an issue with either phone

Weights are also similar, but the smaller Moto X is seven percent lighter.


The Moto X is made of plastic and customizable, while the Nexus 4 has a glass back

Like its fraternal twin, the Optimus G, the Nexus 4 has a glass backplate. The Moto X is made of plastic, and is customizable in 252 color combinations through Motorola's Moto Maker website (as long as you're on AT&T).


Resolution and pixel density are also roughly the same

Diagonal screen measurements are identical, but the Nexus 4's 5:3 aspect ratio has it coming in at three percent larger.

Resolution and pixel density are about the same, so that shouldn't play into your buying decision. We are looking at different display technologies though: the Moto X uses an AMOLED screen, while the Nexus 4's is IPS.


Both phones have variations of Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro

The Moto X's X8 system-on-a-chip includes what amounts to a dual core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU. The Snapdragon S4 Pro in the Nexus 4 adds two more cores, but is also clocked a bit lower.


Both phones pack 2 GB of RAM

Both phones are healthy in the RAM department, with 2 GB a pop.


Depending on your needs, storage could be a compromise with the Nexus 4

Google and LG offer the Nexus 4 in a skimpier 8 GB storage model, which helps to keep its price down (more on that in a minute). Its more expensive model matches the cheapest version of the Moto X, at 16 GB.

Neither phone has a microSD card slot. Samsung is one of the few Android vendors that's still including those in phones.


The Nexus 4 won't utilize speedy LTE networks ... at least not without complicated, unsupp...

As the Nexus 4 is sold unlocked and off-contract, it would have been nearly impossible for it to support LTE (it technically has an LTE radio, but it can only be activated through complicated hacks). The Moto X uses LTE by default.


Battery capacities are similar, but the Moto X should deliver longer uptimes

Despite the similar capacities, we'd say battery life is an advantage for the Moto X. We were impressed with its uptimes (even if they aren't quite the 24 hours Motorola is claiming), while the Nexus 4's battery life is typically a bit more down-to-Earth.

Both phones' batteries are sealed shut, so no swapping on the go for you.


Despite its 10-megapixel sensor, we weren't crazy about the shots we took with the Moto X'...

Despite a fairly impressive 10 megapixels in its rear shooter, we weren't particulary jazzed about the Moto X's camera. Colors looked a bit washed-out, with a slight pasty appearance. The Nexus 4's camera isn't exactly cutting-edge here in mid-2013 either, but it might fare slightly better than the Moto X's.

The best thing about the Moto X's camera is how you activate it. Twist your wrist a couple of times, feel it vibrate, and bam: you're ready to snap a pic. It's one of the nice sensor-based bonuses that Motorola threw into the Moto X.

Hands-free voice control

Hands-free Controls let you beckon Google Now without touching your phone

Speaking of cool sensors, one of the Moto X's killer features is its Touchless Control, which lets you activate Google Now's voice control without touching your phone. Utter the phrase "Okay, Google Now" (trained to supposedly match only your voice), and your Moto X will be ready to answer your questions, even if it's sitting on a table.

Active Display

The Moto X's Active Display is an innovative new feature that no non-Motorola currently ha...

What the heck is Active Display? You mean other than being our favorite new feature in the Moto X? Well, it's where the Moto X's AMOLED screen, staying mostly black, subtly pulses an indicator of your notifications. Press your finger on it to see a preview, slide up to wake up your phone and reply, or let go to put it back to sleep. It saves power, and adds another convenient touch to Motorola's new experience-focused phone.


The Moto X runs (mostly) stock Android, but the Nexus 4 runs the newest version of 100 per...

Apart from the Moto X's software extras we just mentioned, we're looking at a stock Android device. It isn't, however, quite as up-to-date as the Android 4.3-running Nexus 4.

Starting price

The Nexus 4's rock-bottom and contract-free pricing (from Google Play) is its bread and bu...

The Nexus 4 is still a very nice all-around phone, but pricing is its killer feature. Starting at US$200 unlocked and off-contract, it just might be the best smartphone value we've ever seen. You'll have to pay $200 and sign a two-year contract for the Moto X (or pay nearly $600 to buy it contract-free).


The Nexus 4 is growing a bit long in the tooth, and we're still betting on an LG G2-inspired Nexus 5 within the next few months. But it still holds up pretty well next to the Moto X. Sure, you have to skip LTE and live with a maximum of 16 GB storage, but the rest of its specs either hold their own or come out ahead. And that terrific pricing is, again, a huge factor.

The wild card here is the Moto X's sensor-based features. We love Active Display, and the new way it has us looking at smartphone notifications. Touchless Controls don't always work perfectly, but how nice is it to beckon the world's best search engine without even touching your phone? And we didn't even mention the handy Motorola Assist, which lets you customize how your phone responds to you when you're driving, in a meeting, and sleeping.

We imagine a lot of folks will be wrestling over this showdown for the next few months. Hopefully this makes that wrestling match a little less grueling.

If this didn't quite whet your Moto X appetite, have no fear. Feel free to peruse our review, our hands-on with the results of our Moto Maker experiment, and our in-depth comparison of the Moto X to the Galaxy S4.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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