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Motorola Moto X4 review: An awesome midrange Android phone

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The Good The Moto X4 is water-resistant, has NFC, expandable memory and dual rear cameras. Motorola's variant comes with tons of useful software tricks.

The Bad The phone's camera is slow to launch and snap photos. Its wide-angle camera warps straight lines too severely.

The Bottom Line Though it can be slow at times, the Motorola Moto X4 hits all the notes for the right price, making it a worthy midrange contender.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 8.0

Review Sections

Motorola's high-end phones pack punch, but entry-level and midprice Android devices are where this phonemaker really shines. With the Moto X4, the company has another midrange winner that gives you some pretty great hardware and software tricks for a reasonable price (see below, it gets a bit complicated).

Motorola Moto X4 pricing


Motorola Google Amazon
US $399 (now $349) $399 (now $324) $330 (now $279)
UK £349 N/A N/A
AU AU$699 N/A N/A

The Moto X4 sits a tier above the Moto G5 Plus ($229.99 at Walmart), our favorite budget phone, and below the Moto Z2, which has magnetic attachments for accessories like an extended battery pack. (It costs about the same as the Z2 Play, which also works with the same add-ons.) What I like about the Moto X4 is its water-resistant design, dual rear cameras, expandable memory and boatload of software features at an inexpensive price. It lacks a super-fast processor and the ability to customize the phone's colors, which was one of my favorite things about Moto X phones from 2014.

You can buy the Moto X4 unlocked from Motorola.com, Google (with Project Fi service), or unlocked from Amazon with Prime ads. In the US, prices vary from $300 to $400 unlocked, but you should also keep an eye out for deals and price cuts in your area. In the UK, the Moto X4 starts at £349, and it costs AU$699 in Australia.

While it's not as fast as a Moto Z2 phone or the OnePlus 5T ($538.95 at Amazon.com) (another Android favorite that's a great top-tier value), it beats out other handsets in the price range. The Alcatel Idol 5S ($279.99 at Amazon.com), for example, has a notably shorter battery life, and the HTC U11 Life ($674.59 at Amazon.com), although strikingly beautiful and also water resistant, doesn't have a headphone jack. Fitting right between entry-level and top-tier, the Moto X4 settles into its newfound midrange home quite comfortably, and has the right specs and the right performance, for the right price.

Sleek design and water-resistant, too

Though sadly it's no longer customizable like Moto Xs of year's past, the Moto X4 is an attractive, sleek-looking phone. It comes in black and silver and it looks so glossy that it reminds me of the liquid-metal version of T-1000 in "Terminator." Speaking of liquid, the phone's rated IP68 for water-resistance, meaning it can survive in about 3 feet of water (one meter) for up to 30 minutes. I dunked it in a five-gallon bucket for 28 minutes -- three times -- and it kept working just fine.

Back to the phone's looks, that glossiness does result in a lot of fingerprint and smudges. And compared to other premium phones, the Moto X4 is on the thicker side and feels extra chunky. The bulging, watch-dial-like design around the camera lenses also adds more thickness to the back. Another gripe I have is the fingerprint reader. Though it's useful for unlocking the phone and authorizing payments with NFC and Android Pay, maddeningly,  it sits below the bezel. And while others may not have as hard of a time adjusting, it made me reflexively and repeatedly tap the sensor thinking it was the home button. It was a habit I had to unlearn.

In addition, one of our Moto X4s managed to get two long scratches on the front-top bezel, which was a real bummer. I didn't drop the phone, but it likely got scratched in my bag. This is nothing a screen cover can't handle, but if you like to go au natural, be warned that I've tossed many phones into my bag without any issue, yet the Moto X4 ended up getting nicked.

moto-x4-8778-002

The glistening Moto X4 is water-resistant and comes in two colors.

Josh Miller/CNET

Lots of software goodies, lots of assistants

If you buy the Moto X4 from Motorola and Amazon, you'll get a cool new feature called Moto Key (unfortunately, this doesn't come in the Google Fi version). This lets you use your fingerprint to unlock third-party apps and devices like Twitter, Facebook and your PC laptop. If you sign out of your accounts all the time, you'll definitely this useful. It does take a beat to unlock, but it's more convenient than typing out your username and password each time. You can also connect up to four Bluetooth devices at once, so you can hook up a stereo setup or listen to music on wireless headphones with another friend.

An onboard Alexa app (also missing from the Google Fi version) will launch Amazon's digital assistant. To ask about the latest news, sports score or weather, you can launch Alexa from the lockscreen by saying the "Alexa" wake word. If you have an Alexa smart home speaker, you can control it with the Moto X4 as well. If you don't like Alexa, you can use Moto's own voice-control feature (which can launch apps and open the weather or your calendar) or Google Assistant, which also comes on the phone. I suggest sticking to just one to give your head a break.

Asking for the weather via all three digital assistants: Moto Voice, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Lynn La/CNET

Although Google's Moto X4 doesn't have those two features, every Moto X4 includes gestures called Moto Actions, including flicking your wrist twice to launch the camera, and Moto Display, which lets you customize and set lockscreen notifications.

Google's Moto X4 brings you software updates like security patches, as they roll out from Google. Google Assistant is its only voice app, which I prefer anyway since it's so well integrated with the Google ecosystem.

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