Pitting the Moto X (2014) against the iPhone 6 is the 21st century technology equivalent of a David vs. Goliath match-up. Motorola, despite actually inventing the mobile phone and scoring a few hits with its Droids and Razrs over the years, manages only a fraction of the sales and admiration of Apple's flagship phones. But if you've read our recent reviews of the new Moto X and the smaller of the new iPhones, you'll know that they're both among the best smartphones created to date, so I took the time to compare and contrast these two super devices head-to-head in an attempt to crown a single champion.
Both phones really shine here. Apple's obsession with thin devices is on full display with the iPhone 6, which has been flattened and all its edges elegantly rounded. It's quite a departure from the more stark, rectangular earlier iPhones. Likewise, the Moto X also sports an ergonomic design with a curved back that makes it thicker than the iPhone 6, but provides the best feel in the hand of any phone on the market.
Both phones feature metal frames and even curved edges to their glass screens, swooping down to the edge of the chassis, giving the touchscreen a more prominent, elevated feel -- it's subtle, but that is the kind of detail that make these phones top notch. On the flip side, Apple couldn't quite get its camera apparatus to flatten out as much as the rest of the iPhone 6, causing the rear shooter lens to protrude awkwardly from the back panel.
While both phones are bigger than their predecessors, the large bezel around the iPhone 6's 4.7-inch screen to accommodate Touch ID makes the device comparable in size to the Moto X and its 5.2-inch display that's more nearly edge-to-edge. Still, the Moto X is just a smidge larger in all directions, and about 15 grams heavier.
The iPhone 6 comes in the either coveted or mocked gold option that sets it apart from the Moto X, but Motorola's Moto Maker system allows customers to pick a custom back for their phone, including new leather and bamboo options that are super spiffy.
While the Moto X is much improved over its first generation, which didn't have top-of-the-line guts, it's tough to compete with the iPhone 6 here. The 64-bit A8 processor in the iPhone delivers a smooth experience, even with all those cool iOS 8 graphical bells and whistles turned on and only 1 GB of RAM. This is the advantage of what's practically a desktop CPU and designing both hardware and software under the same roof.
Not to say that there is anything wrong with the Moto X and its Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5 GHz CPU, but the components in the iPhone 6 just go above and beyond, whether it's graphics, power management, data speed over an improved wifi radio and even call quality with voice over LTE.
As with its internal specs, the face that the iPhone 6 shows to the world through its 1,334 x 750-pixel display is among the best around, even though the rumored sapphire screens didn't make it on to Apple's new phones.
Again, there's nothing wrong with the screen on the Moto X, which is also much better than its first generation, and actually has a 1080 x 1920 AMOLED resolution and a significantly higher number of pixels per inch (424 to the 326 ppi on the iPhone 6), but the backlit IPS LCD on the iPhone 6 performs better in direct sunlight and produces more accurate and vivid colors.
Indeed, I had no complaints at all about the Moto X display until I actually put it side-by-side with the iPhone 6, which just "pops" more. Things like the parallax effect in iOS 8 and other graphical extras also do a nice job of taking advantage of the delightful display. It's also worth noting that the iPhone 6 Plus offers the same retina quality with 1080p resolution, making it probably the best phone display to date.
This is another category that the iPhone has practically defined. A few models from Nokia's Lumia line not withstanding, the iPhone continues to be more or less the gold standard for cameraphone quality. An already good camera on the iPhone 5S got even better in the iPhone 6 while a below average camera on the original Moto X was basically just brought up to middling on the 2014 Moto X.
Auto-focus and shooting videos have been upgraded in the iPhone 6 and there's also a neat new time-lapse movie feature. The camera's dexterity is on display in this nighttime shot of moving, lighted objects that comes out pretty good thanks to the continuous auto-focus:
To its credit, the Moto X captures more pixels per shot (13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixel resolution to the iPhone's shooter at 8 MP and 3264 x 2448 pixels) and has the useful feature of taking several shots on its own before and after you hit the trigger, then suggesting better images if it managed to capture a superior frame to your own. Here's an example of a low-light shot where the Moto X actually captured a better shot than I did:
The Moto X also has a very handy gesture that instantly loads the camera app anytime you make a twisting motion with your wrist. Otherwise, though, the Moto X camera is just pretty good and doesn't quite best the iPhone 6, which really sparkles here.
Ease of Use
I decided to fold the "software" category into this section, because comparing Android to iOS is really an Apples (pun intended) and oranges sort of thing that is dependent largely on how invested you are into one ecosystem or the other. Also, an update for the Moto X to Android 5.0 and its new "Material" design could be just a few weeks away, making the comparison more like Apples and month-old oranges the day before a fresh shipment is due in.
All that said, let's set aside the mobile OS comparison for now to focus on a few key features that are only found in these particular models (and a few other close relatives like the iPhone 6 Plus).
First up is Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint sensor first introduced on the iPhone 5S. To me, this is far and away the feature that I longed for when I only had a Moto X on hand. Using Touch ID to unlock the phone and as a login is one of the best features the iPhone offers today.
On the other hand, the Moto X has some of the smartest, most intuitive features like Moto Voice, Moto Display and Moto Actions that take advantage of a unique and effective marriage of hardware and software in a way that we could expect from only Apple in years past. Moto Voice allows for completely hands-free access to Google Now via voice recognition, something that Siri can do, but only when the iPhone 6 is plugged in. I've also become so used to the time and my notifications pulsing on and off my Moto X display that I have to tell myself that other phones aren't turned off or broken when they don't behave the same way.
The Moto X also integrates nicely with the best smartwatch on the market, the Moto 360. Of course, the upcoming Apple Watch promises to be even more useful, and the iPhone 6 also boasts Apple Pay, which is launching as I write this.
All that makes this section nearly a tie, but with the Moto 360 on the market now and the success of Apple Pay uncertain, I have to give it to the Moto X for the moment.
Here's where the Moto X likely seals the deal for many consumers. It's essentially half the price of an iPhone 6, but by no means is it half the phone. In the US, an iPhone 6 starts at US$199 on a carrier contract, while the Moto X starts at $99. Without a contract, the Moto X is $499 and the iPhone 6 starts at $650.
Like its sister the Moto G, which is probably the best overall value in a smartphone, the Moto X makes a point of competing on price, and it's among the best deals out there for a top flight phone.
While the iPhone 6 and Moto X both have the advantage in three of our six categories above, the iPhone 6 wins its three sections mightily, while I found the design and ease of use on the Moto X just slightly superior to the iPhone.
That said, if price is your top consideration, and the idea of forking out an extra $100 or $150 for an iPhone over the Moto X seems like madness, then you probably should go with the Moto X. I'd also say the same if you're much more comfortable with the Android ecosystem than iOS and that's a deciding factor for you.
These are both great phones and I don't think you'll regret purchasing either one, but the iPhone 6 is a high-end phone that Apple has been refining for more than half a decade – and it shows. The Moto X is a super-charged upgrade of a smartly designed mid-range phone from last year with a few killer features, but overall the refinement of the iPhone 6 put it over the top to make it the champion of this showdown.