What you really want to know about, though, is those customizable backplates. (It's OK, you can admit it; you don't really care what processor is inside.) And let me tell you, Motorola has knocked it out of the park. The new silicone backs are soft and lovely in a way that you don't come across too often anymore on smartphones. They feel difficult to scratch or mark and, at least on the light champagne finish, collected exactly zero fingerprints. Even more impressive was the natural Saffiano leather. Now, obviously this is a matter of personal preference, but I love the feel of the Saffiano leather. Most commonly, you find this material on handbags and briefcases. It's a leather that's stamped with a crosshatch pattern that makes it scratch-resistant and offers great grip and texture. It won't age in the same way smoother leathers will, or develop the same type of patina, but it will still gain character as you
beat it up use it.
What about the software? Well, it's Lollipop. It's Android. It's pure as the driven snow. OK, maybe not that pure, but pretty close. There's no ugly skin, no carrier bloatware. The only additions to the basic Google package of apps are a few Motorola tools that are actually pretty useful. Moto Assist, Moto Display and Moto Actions are there to add more features to your voice commands and automate things like turning on and off your ringer based on your calendar or location. The boost in processing power, including the dedicated context and language processors, means that all these features (and the phone in general) zip along with nary a hiccup. (At least until you've installed a few dozen apps and taken a few hundred photos.)
The one new hardware feature that you can't avoid noticing is the screen. It's big. It's crisp. It's beautiful... so long as you don't turn down the brightness too much. When cranked to top brightness the Moto X Style's display is lovely. Samsung, Apple and LG hold a bit of an edge in pure quality, but that's hardly a knock on Moto and more a testament to the insane level of work that goes into those company's screens. The only issue with the display is that when you drop the brightness too low, the screen takes on an unmistakable blue hue. It hardly ruins the experience of using the phone, but it's something to be aware of if you're a stickler for color accuracy. It's also surprising since Motorola is touting the Style's photo capabilities. It does take excellent photos, but if you're trying to save battery by dimming the screen, you'd never know it.
What's most impressive, though, is that you'd never realize this phone only costs $400 when you're playing with it. It feels and looks better than many phones that would cost $600 or even $700 off contract.
Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.