Motorola Moto X Force review - never buy another phone case or screen protector ever again

The phone with the indestructible, smash-proof screen

Reviews
25 Feb, 2016
5
Price 
£409
ex VAT (32GB version)
Pros 
Very sturdy, robust and well-made; Fast; Lengthy battery life; No fussy Android skin
Cons 
So-so low light photography
Verdict 
The force is strong with this phone - it's just about perfect

Ask people what they want most in a smartphone and two desires inevitably come to the fore – longer battery life and a shatterproof screen. While the Moto X Force doesn’t promise or deliver a revolution in battery technology, it does have what Motorola claims is a screen ‘guaranteed not to crack or shatter’. Given the number of smartphones with cracked, smashed displays that we see on London’s streets, that’s one hell of a claim.

ShatterShield

The Moto X Force’s 5.4in screen survived several drops onto both wooden decking and concrete pavement unscathed. With the help of our colleagues from Expert Reviews, we even batted the phone around with a cricket bat. Even after several hard whacks, the phone and its screen emerged unscathed. We’ll be putting the Moto X Force’s ‘ShatterShield’ screen though more longer-term testing, but even now it’s clear that it’s robust enough to survive most everyday accidents.

There’s no magic behind ShatterShield, just engineering. The screen has two protective layers (an ‘exterior’ and ‘interior’ ‘lens’) rather than just one as on most other smartphones, as well as an additional internal aluminium chassis. The AMOLED panel itself and the interior lens are guaranteed not to crack under Motorola’s screen-specific four-year warranty. If they do, Motorola promises to repair it free of charge. If the exterior lens cracks or shatters, Motorola claims it will be cheap and easy to replace.

There’s little compromise when it comes to image quality. Although it’s not the brightest screen we’ve seen, it’s more than respectable. It’s sharp too thanks to the high resolution of 2560x1440 pixels. Colour accuracy and contrast were both spot on.

Build quality, casing and storage

The rest of the phone feels robustly made too. The aluminium frame and the nylon weave material covering the rear of our review unit give it a hardy, militaristic feel. You can opt for different materials for the back cover when ordering through the Moto Maker website, such as leather, if you want a more traditionally attractive look. We’d rather have the grippy nylon weave though. The phone is water-resistant too. It’s not rated to survive complete immersion, but it had no trouble when dropped in a puddle or taken out in the rain.

There’s no need to worry about storage either. Available in 32 and 64GB varieties, you can add more storage using micro SD cards. Elegantly, the nano SIM card tray also doubles as the micro SD card holder.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that these robust materials would increase the size and weight of this phone. Although it does feel quite chunky in the hand, its dimensions are almost exactly the same as those of the Moto X Style and it’s even 10g lighter than that smartphone at 169g.

It’s a shame the Force isn’t as easy to hold single-handed as the very first Moto X released back in 2013 though. More surprising is the lack of a fingerprint reader – Motorola’s flagship phones increasingly stand out for their lack of this convenient security feature.

Performance and battery life

We were concerned to see the Snapdragon 810 eight-core processor in this phone, as this notorious chip has caused overheating problems in other smartphones. We saw no such problems with the Moto X Force though. Plus, with all the attention focussed on the 810’s heat issues, it’s easy to forget that it’s a very fast processor that’s capable of handling all sorts of demanding apps.

There’s no penalty to battery life. It lasted just under 15 hours and 12 minutes in our video playback test and 16 hours and 41 minutes in our WiFi browsing test. When connected to EE’s network in London’s West End, it lasted just over 30 hours when used for web browsing, photography, GPS and the occasional phone call.

Camera and software

The 21-megapixel camera was a mixed bag. In good lighting conditions the camera produced sharp, detailed, well-lit shots with realistic looking colours. It wasn’t as adept in low light situations where colours were off, noise obscured fine details and there was a lack of sharpness. Either way, autofocus was a tad laggy compared to other flagship phones. Shots were, at least, not too blurry.

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop is pre-installed on the Moto X Force with a free upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow promised for ‘soon’. Lollipop here is essentially identical to Google’s stock version with no egregious, distracting add-ons. There are some handy extras which you can ignore if you don’t find them useful, such as shaking the phone with a flick of your wrist while it’s asleep to quickly wake it up and launch the camera.

Update: Our Moto X Force review unit has now received the Android 6.0 Marshmallow over-the-air upgrade, so other Force handsets should be receiving Marshmallow too or have it already. There are no surprises here – it’s still stock Android just as Google intended. There is one small thing we do miss from otherwise fussy and bloated Android interface skins on other phones – a battery percentage indicator.

Conclusions

Even if you always treat your phones with kid gloves and thus uninterested in the Moto X Force’s ShatterShield screen, this is still an impressive Android phone. It gets almost everything right, with only mediocre low-light photography letting it down. It’s one of our favourite Android phones of 2015.

This review was published on 23/12/2015 and has since been updated, most recently on 25/02/2016.

Specifications 

Processor: Octa-core 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810

Screen Size: 5.4in

Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440

Rear camera: 21 megapixels

Storage: 32GB (24GB available)

Wireless data: 3G, 4G

Size: 150x78x7.6mm

Weight: 169g

Operating system: Android 5.1.1