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Apple iPhone 5S vs. Moto X

Review by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday October 15, 2013.

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Apple iPhone 5S vs. Moto X
Apple iPhone 5S vs. Moto X

Apple and Google have been partners in mobile since the release of the original Apple iPhone in 2007, but they've since become less than friendly rivals thanks to Android's debut in 2008. With the release of the iPhone 5S and the Moto X, by Google subsidiary Motorola, the two companies are also in competition. Is the iPhone 5S or the Moto X the better phone?

Hardware and Design

Apple and Motorola built touch-friendly smartphones that are easily pocketable. Apple's approach is to make a slender phone made of aluminum that feels remarkably light and flat. Motorola opts for a slightly larger frame that curves more and has a smoother three-polymer blend material. Apple's design looks better, Motorola's feels more comfortable to hold because of its curvature and added weight.

The iPhone 5S features dual speakers near the bottom of the device that are not as loud as the Moto X. Both reach a solid volume, but the Moto X raises the decibel level just a bit higher. Unfortunately, it also tends to have higher treble when listening to music, so the iPhone 5S has a more complete sound. One negative about that sound is that it can be blocked or not as rich when held in landscape, while the speaker placement of the Moto X makes it the better option in the orientation common for watching video.

Picking the better screen is somewhat easier. The 4-inch LCD retina display of the iPhone 5S is brighter, has richer colors, and is superior from a quality standpoint. It's less victorious from a quantity standpoint. The Moto X has a 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display that tends to be darker, but it's bigger and closer to the right size of balancing a large display area and compact phone size. I'd rather watch video on a Moto X, but the overall quality of the iPhone 5S for more frequent activities like web browsing makes the 5S display preferable.

As for speed, both phones have dual-core processors and a low-power companion core to support additional features. Both phones are consistently quick to load content and smooth. The iPhone 5S is slightly faster and more responsive in most areas. Despite having 1GB of RAM to the 2GB RAM and higher clock speed of the Moto X, the iPhone 5S still performs faster when browsing the web. The lengthy animations introduced in iOS 7 diminish the visual advantage iOS has in speed, but it does transition between apps and function fairly quickly. On the other hand, the Moto X tends to last a little bit longer. Even though both phones tend to last a full day, when doing the same thing side-by-side - streaming Netflix, podcasts, and then holding a long phone conversation - the Moto X had more power remaining. Android also offers better indicators for spotting the battery draining apps and settings, so the Moto X has a little more juice in its 2,200mAh battery.

Software and Apps

The Moto X runs Android 4.2 and the iPhone 5S runs iOS 7. Both have exceptional features and shortcomings that make choosing the superior software a tough call. I'd personally put Android on top because iOS 7 is just receiving features that Android has had for a long time, and it didn't necessarily best them.

The iPhone 5S has a dedicated control center for quickly adjusting screen brightness, pausing music, or toggling common settings. The Moto X has the same options, though it takes extra steps to access them. That's because Android unifies its notification and controls into one area accessible by swiping from the top down. Quick toggles notwithstanding, I find notifications preferable on Android because they offer more information and the ability to respond to certain actions without having to visit another app.

The Moto X, and Android in a wider sense, offers far more choices because it's geared toward personalization and flexibility. Don't like the keyboard or the default browser, Chrome? That's fine; choose something else. You can also make the home screen yours with widgets that let users glance at information. Best of all, Android is designed to share information between apps, so it's much easier to transfer data from one app to another, something that's not easy or sensible when using an iPhone 5S.

It's clear that iOS 7 is more restrictive. Sharing stinks, there's a take it or leave approach to default apps, and you're options for personalization include changing the wallpaper and repositioning icons, and that's about it. That's perfect fine for millions of people who don't care about customizing every little detail. What matters most to them is being able to do something in a simple manner, and iOS typically offers that. Software like Passbook makes it easy to manage concert or airline tickets, loyalty cards, and rewards, and then bring that information up when it realizes you are near an applicable venue. It also includes Touch ID, a fast way to unlock a smartphone just by pressing a registered finger on top of the home button. The fingerprint scanner has quickly become my favorite way to lock a phone.

The iPhone 5S and Moto X also have personal assistant apps built-in. With the iPhone's Siri, users can ask questions and follow-up questions, or trigger actions like playing music and turning on settings using voice commands. Though the Moto X lacks the ability to toggle settings, it has Siri's other features and more through Google Now. I'd rather use Google Now because I find it to better interact with follow-up questions and offers more relevant or opportune information because of context like location and date. It also doesn't hurt that the Moto X has a wake command that can start it at any moment by saying, "Ok, Google Now." Google Now is available in limited capacity on iOS, but it doesn't have the push notifications for reminders and location-aware features like the Moto X.

App choices tend to be identical when it comes to Android and iOS. With the exception of games, major titles and new features tend to appear on both platforms at the same time. However, there are still cases in which iPhone is on top. The Moto X will have the same options as iPhone users 99 percent of the time, but iPhone 5S buyers will occasionally have an exclusive app or better options for a particular category.


Motorola released an update that took the Moto X camera from bad to acceptable. The iPhone 5S on the other hand took its camera from good to better. It's fast, takes quality photos, and looks better than the Moto X. See for yourself in the images below.


In certain key areas, like the camera and speed, the iPhone 5S comes out on top. The two phones can be closely compared in many regards, yet the iPhone tends to edge ahead in many categories. Despite that, one could easily argue that the Moto X is the better phone depending on his or her needs. Even with the many improvements to iOS 7, currently under construction and more prone to crash, I'd still rather have Android 4.2 on the Moto X because of the flexibility of preferences, ability to communicate freely between apps, and initiate hands-free commands. The feel and daily performance in most areas other than screen and camera are better. People who value choice should gravitate to the Moto X. Others who just want the basics to be done well should opt for the iPhone 5S.

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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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