What can £169 get you in the smartphone world of 2016? You can forget about the Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 6S or Huawei P9 – you'll need three or four times that for those. It will get you a new Moto G, though, and for many that will be plenty.
The budget phone of choice for many, and three-time TrustedReviews Budget Phone of the Year winner, has received an update. And while it’s now officially a Lenovo phone, the magical combination of performance, features and value hasn't been lost.
It’s fast, has a great camera for the cost, a bright screen and Nexus-like software. I do have some reservations about the size, but honestly every other affordable phone maker should be worried. Seriously worried.
The Moto G has never been a flashy phone. It’s grounded, durable and functional. It also has to meet a substantially low price, so unnecessary extras and luxuries have to be ditched.
It’s still made mostly of plastic, but it far outweighs its £169 price-tag. The front is simple and clean, with no branding and no buttons of any sort. There’s the smallest hint of flair with a silver-rimmed speaker opening at the top, but that’s it.
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The metal frame adds some quality and strength to the mix, but I’d like some tougher, less plasticky, buttons. The volume and standby keys on the sides require a good hit of force and they’re a bit mushy, but I’m being overly picky – they're still perfectly functional.
The rear panel has been a bit divisive in the TrustedReviews office, and I’m not completely a fan. Gone is the heavily ridged, almost rubbery, feel of the 2015 version and it’s been replaced by a soft-touch textured plastic. It’s grippy, but it feels strange and seems to get oily and greasy very quickly.
The once-iconic ‘Moto Dimple’ is getting less and less pronounced with every phone. On the original Moto X it was the perfect spot to place your finger, but now it’s barely noticeable. Above the batwing logo sits the camera and flash, encased in glass and surrounded by a silver oval.
Like previous Moto Gs, the back pops off to allow some colourful customisation through sold-separately backplates. This is also where you access the microSD card and SIM slots, meaning you don’t need an annoying SIM tool to access them. Interestingly, the SIM slot works with both a Micro and a Nano card – a nice touch I haven’t seen before.
Even though the back comes off, the battery is firmly attached. Sorry to those of you who love replaceable cells. The Moto G4 has also lost its predecessor's water-resistance powers, though it still should escape a trip through the rain unscathed.
My biggest issue with the Moto G4 is the size of the thing. It’s well and truly a phablet, and it’s as wide as the iPhone 6S Plus (though not as tall) making it cumbersome to hold unless you have large hands. It’s a two-handed phone for sure, and my thumb can’t easily move from the top of the screen to the bottom unless I grip it with my palms.
The jump from a 5-inch to a 5.5-inch display is clearly the main factor in this growth, but in doing so I feel it loses some of the mass-market appeal that made the previous iterations so great. It’s not heavy or particularly thick, but I have passed it between friends and the vast majority have said it’s too big for them.
With Lenovo releasing two versions of the G4 and one boasting a ‘Plus’ branding, it seems odd they’re both 5.5 inches. I’d have much preferred one to stay at a more manageable 5-inch size, or even 4.7-inch, and the other sitting higher above.
The screen might be large, but it’s also fantastic. There isn’t anything better out there for the price.
While previous Moto Gs have been stuck at 720p, the G4 bumps it up to Full HD 1080p and it’s all the better for it. The LCD panel is bright, colourful and pixels are impossible to pick out. Viewing angles too are fine – obviously not as good as on pricier competition, but great for the mid-range.
It’s a very warm panel, with oranges and reds looking particularly rich. This makes it great for videos and it’s fantastic for gaming. Whites aren’t muddy and while blacks certainly aren’t as deep as on an AMOLED panel, they’re still very good.
Another point I have noticed about the display is just how precise and sensitive it is – something which you rarely see on more budget offerings. It reacts instantly to my touches and doesn’t miss the target. Impressive stuff.