The Moto X Style comes pre-loaded with what’s essentially stock Android 5.1.1, without any bloatware and without any ugly skins. For the vanilla fans out there, this should be welcome news, and of course the lack of bloatware is great on any device. Motorola also has a reasonable track record when it comes to software updates, sometimes delivering new versions of Android to their handsets before Google’s own Nexus devices. With Android 6.0 on the horizon, the Moto X Style should be one of the first handsets to receive the update.
As the software included with the Style is vanilla, you’re not getting a whole ton of new features baked into the operating system. However, Motorola does provide a useful app with the device called Moto that includes some functionality that’s worth setting up and exploring.
One of the most useful features included is called Moto Display, which shows snippets of notifications and the time on the display as soon as you pick up your phone, wave your hand over the display, or remove it from your pocket. As Moto Display activates basically as soon as you touch the device, it gives you all the critical information you need in an instant and at a glance. It’s so clever and useful that it’s the feature you’ll miss most when using a non-Moto device.
The Moto X Style also comes with Motorola’s always-on voice functionality, which allows you to speak a phrase of your choice (I chose “OK Moto X”) to activate voice commands while the screen is off or while you’re in any application. This is by far the best implementation of voice functionality I’ve seen, as it can be activated without touching the phone anywhere in the software, and it just seems to work and work quickly every time.
Motorola’s voice command implementation is slightly different to Google Now in that it can recognize some commands that Now can’t, such as “take a photo” will actually take a photo in the camera app, whereas Google Now will simply open the app. Where Moto Voice isn’t trained to recognize commands, it will simply transfer the request to Google Now, giving you the best of both worlds.
While voice commands are certainly cool, I didn’t use the feature all that often, mostly because it’s often quicker to access apps and write messages by tapping the screen and using the keyboard. There’s times where you might be on public transport and don’t want the whole world knowing what you’re searching or messaging as well, although you can lift the device up to your ear to send messages and hear responses discretely.
Motorola’s also baked in gestures to the Style, two of which are somewhat useful: double chopping the device to turn on the flashlight, and double twisting to open the camera. These aren’t natural gestures or something you’ll use all the time, but with some practice you could make great use of them.
Finally, Moto Assist can automatically adjust your phone’s settings based on triggers. For example, if it’s after 11pm and your phone is plugged in to charge, Assist can mute all notifications to give you a good night’s sleep. If it detects you’re in a meeting or driving, you can set the Style to only display priority notifications. I’d like to see the ability to customize the triggers and actions further, but what Assist provides is a good start.