One could argue that the Moto line of unlocked Android smartphones were the first to crack the unlocked, 'buy it at any retailer' market in the US. Moto brought awareness at a time when most folks were locked into carrier-offered phones and contracts--it certainly helps that the phones were at big box stores like Best Buy and that Motorola was a trusted brand. Previously, unlocked phones came from overseas importers and the brands were often obscure. Later, the OnePlus appeared, but it was more of an enthusiast phone that required an elusive invite to buy (forget picking it up at a store near you). Moto phones have also done well in India, where phones like the Moto G have offered a great deal of quality and brand confidence at a nice price. Despite this, Moto's changed hands a few times: first Motorola sold their phone division to Google, and then Google sold it to Lenovo. Moto phones still carry the Motorola brand name, and they're still largely doing their own thing. That means through three owners, the phones still have a distinctive look and Moto Maker customizations for colors and trim levels.
The Moto G and Moto G Plus 4th generation models aren't the small and easy to pocket phones we saw with earlier generations. Big screens are in, so the Moto G and G Plus 4th gen have 5.5" displays. Since these are budget phones, you won't get tiny bezels and miraculous feats of engineering to make their bodies small despite the big screen. These phones are a handful. Priced starting at just $199 for the Moto G4 and $249 for the Moto G4 Plus, you do get solid specs and good cameras for your money. Both phones have 4G LTE and they support the big 4 US carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless) along with smaller and regional carriers. Few phones this cheap are unlocked and support both GSM and CDMA networks since that requires more radio engineering.
Specs at a Glance
The phones run on the midrange 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octa-core CPU with Adreno 405 graphics. They have 2 gigs of RAM (4 gigs is also available on the G Plus higher end configuration) and 16, 32 or 64 gigs of storage, varying by price. They have a microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 128 gigs, a nano SIM card slot, dual band WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS but no NFC. The phones aren't IPX7 rated for water immersion, but Motorola says they're dust and water resistant (a little splash or a dash in the rain shouldn't kill them, but don't dunk them in the pool). Both phones have a bright and colorful full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS display, which is more than adequate to render sharp text and images. The display is biased toward warmth (yellows), which makes skin tones and movies look good, but I know some of you prefer cool displays that run toward the blue.
What's the Difference Between the G and G Plus?
So what's the difference between the Moto G4 and G4 Plus? The G4 has a 13MP rear camera that uses the usual baseline contrast based focus system. The G4 Plus has a 16MP rear camera that adds PDAF (phase detection autofocus) and laser autofocus for noticeably quicker focus in low light and moving subject situations. Both phones have sharp 5MP front cameras.
The Moto G Plus has a fingerprint scanner on the front, which the Moto G lacks. The scanner works very well, and our only complaint is that we kept pressing it as if it were the home button. It is not: the home, back and multitasking are on-screen, there are no hardware navigation buttons.
In the US, both models seem to come with the Moto Turbo Charger, a quick charger that's akin to Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology. In other countries, the Moto G may come with a standard (err, slow) charger.
The two phone models look identical, and our matte black backed review units with black front bezels look somewhat bland and anonymous, but not cheap. The faux metal trim on the sides with the usual complex Moto curves and a pleasing design make the smartphones look pricier than they are. You can use the Moto Maker website to custom order yours with a variety of mostly bold back colors, a white or black front bezel and even a colored accent line around the rear camera. The colors don't cost extra, but beefing up RAM and storage do come at a price. It's $30 to move from 16 to 32 gigs of storage on the Moto G (a fair price) and $100 to move from the base Moto G4 Plus with 2 gigs of RAM and 16 gigs of storage to 4 gigs of RAM and 64 gigs of storage (a reasonably fair price).
Horsepower and Performance
These are budget priced phones, and performance largely matches the price tag. The phones run a relatively clean Android 6.0 Marshmallow build, with just a few thoughtful Motorola customizations, but they're not quite as impressively spritely as some older Moto generations that truly impressed us with their speed. That's not to say these are slow, but we did notice occasional lag when moving about the OS and when launching apps. This could be sorted out with a firmware update and we're optimistic since Moto has a good track record and the Snapdragon 617, though midrange, is still a very capable CPU that's much faster than midrange CPUs from a few years back.
2 gigs of RAM is standard, but if you opt for the high end Moto G Plus configuration for $349, you can get it with a flagship-like 4 gigs of RAM and 64 gigs of storage. The base model for each has 2 gigs of RAM (perfectly adequate unless you're a very heavy multitasker) and 16 gigs of storage. Both have a microSD card slot so you can add more storage.
Geekbench 3: 730/ 3179
3DMark Sling Shot: 384
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited: 9792
Deals and Shopping: