Last week's rollout of the Motorola Moto X was headline-making for several reasons. Beyond the obvious novelty of being the first flagship release from the company since the RAZR HD line last fall, it’s also the first since Google completed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility in May.
Moreover, the Moto X is also the clear product of a different design philosophy than the one behind the best-regarded recent Android releases, like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One – rather than opting for bleeding-edge hardware and bushels of wild new features, the Moto X focuses heavily on being intuitive and simple to operate, making it arguably a lot more like the iPhone 5 than its fellow Android devices.
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While we should acknowledge up-front that the comparison is slightly skewed, given how much older the iPhone 5 is than the Moto X, it’s still instructive to see how the two devices stack up against each other.
As all but the most die-hard Apple skeptics will admit, the iPhone 5 is a wonderfully engineered piece of personal technology. Its burnished aluminum-and-glass construction has won praise from almost every quarter, and it’s a bit more svelte than the Moto X.
The Moto X doesn’t have the luxuriant fit and finish of the smaller iPhone, but it does boast a wide array of customization options (if you’re an AT&T user), and pundits like the sculpted backplate, which is designed to make the phone feel comfortable when held in the hand.
Both the Moto X and iPhone 5 skip the five-inch, 1080p monster panel that’s becoming more and more popular among flagship designs. The iPhone’s 4-inch backlit IPS LCD screen weighs in at the somewhat unusual resolution of 1136x640, while the Moto X’s larger 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display has more traditional dimensions.
The iPhone’s screen boasts slightly higher pixel density – 326 pixels per inch to the Moto X’s 312 – but most users are unlikely to notice one display substantially outclassing the other. It’s mostly a matter of taste – the full 720p resolution will be attractive to some customers, but others will prefer the smaller device.
The Moto X essentially runs the stock version of Android 4.2.2, with few modifications by Motorola – particularly when compared to HTC Sense 5 and Samsung’s latest TouchWiz versions. That’s probably a good thing, given the simple, clean and flexible interface provided in the stock “Jelly Bean” flavor of Android. Even HTC and Samsung have had to acknowledge the allure of vanilla Android, as demonstrated by the recent release of Nexus editions for the One and Galaxy S4.
The iPhone 5 will eventually run iOS 7, which is Apple’s first major overhaul of the UI in years. However, it’s currently stuck on iOS 6, which, the conventional wisdom has it, is beginning to look a little dated. Existing iOS fans obviously won’t mind, but it doesn’t seem likely to win Apple many converts. When iOS 7 comes to the device, it’ll be a different story.
Being an older device, as we’ve noted, the iPhone 5 is unsurprisingly a little bit behind the brand-new Moto X in this department. Packing a slower processor (1.3GHz to 1.7GHz, both dual-core) 1GB of RAM to 2GB, and assorted other not-quite-cutting-edge components, the iPhone 5 might have less horsepower than the Motorola device, though it’ll be interesting to see where Apple’s next model falls on the hardware spectrum.
In light of the fact that the iPhone 5 still commands a flagship price - $200 and up - despite having been on the market for some time, it’s tough to recommend it as a good value at this point. For a flagship device with slightly-below-top-drawer hardware, the Moto X looks like an exciting choice for its late-August availability date – though it’s important to remember that a brand-new iPhone may shake things up in a big way whenever it finally comes out.
Email Jon Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.