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May 17, 2016

Moto G and Moto G Plus: It’s bigger, but it’s still a bargain

by John_A

Lenovo has announced the Moto G for 2016, an updated handset that sticks to those original G aims – being uncompromisingly affordable – but taking this mid-range darling in a new direction. The Moto G is going big. 

This time there are two handsets, a pair of Gs for you to ponder over. They are practically identical, differentiated only by a different rear camera and the addition of a fingerprint scanner on the Plus – and a £30 price difference.

That leaves us scratching our heads. The regular Moto G lacks the appeal of the more fully-featured model, and will anyone really struggle to scrape together the additional tens of pounds they’ll need for the Plus? 

We’ve had our grubby mitts all over Motorola’s latest Androids.

Moto G and Moto G Plus design

The Moto G has changed for 2016, pushing its dimensions out in support of that 5.5-inch display. In many ways, this is Motorola (or Lenovo) keeping up with the Joneses and offering a handset with a competitive size of display, but at the same time, it’s no long the cute but punchy phone the Moto G once was.

But despite moving to a new body that’s 153 x 76.6 x 7.9-9.8mm and 155g, the new Moto G and Moto G Plus carry the hallmarks of Moto design. This is especially evident in the way that this phone is constructed, with a polycarbonate back that clips onto the rear of the phone.

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That leaves the metal frame at the edges, giving a more premium touch point when gripping the phone. That was true of devices like the Moto X and the Motorola-built Nexus 6 too and it results in a phone that’s still nice to grip. There’s still that soft curve over the top where the 3.5mm headphone jack sits, instantly recognisable from any number of previous Moto devices.

Although the phone has grown, it still feels nice enough in the hand. There’s no avoiding the fact that this is a full half an inch bigger on the display than the 2015 model, but for those wanting to go big without breaking the bank, that will be a welcome sight. Some might rue the loss of a more compact but capable phone, however, and that’s something the Moto G was known for. 

The Moto G and Moto G Plus will offer customisation through Moto Maker and you’ll be able to switch those back covers for an instant colour refresh. Again, that was one of the Moto G’s features when the original launched and it’s good to see those fun options retained. The core colour options are white and black. 

For those wondering what the visual difference is between the Moto G and the Moto G Plus, it’s purely in the camera on the rear and the fingerprint scanner. Otherwise, these phones are identical in design and feel.

As for water proofing, the Moto G is protected with P2i coating. This is a water repellent designed to stop water damaging the components if it comes into content with the phone and has been used my Motorola for a number of years.

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Moto G display and hardware

The new Moto G and Moto G Plus sport a 5.5-inch display with a Full HD resolution. Those 1920 x 1080 pixels result in a pixel density of 401ppi. That’s perhaps a little on the low side when compared to flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 or HTC 10, but in daily use it’s apt for a display of this size.

The display, from what we’ve seen so far, is nice and vibrant and capable of producing some good punchy colours. We’ve not had the chance to test the display outdoors, so it’s difficult to make a definitive judgement on its performance however. 

Sitting at the heart of the Moto G (2016) is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset. This is an octo-core chipset from Qualcomm’s mid-range. It will be pared with 2GB of RAM, although Motorola is saying that there will be 3 and 4GB options, depending on the model you choose. 

Likewise, when it comes to storage, 16GB will be standard, but there will be a 32 and 64GB options, although all these options may vary by markets. In all likelihood, you’ll get more options through Moto Maker, if it’s offered in your region: we suspect that retailer versions will be 2GB/16GB. 

The hardware puts this phone firmly in the mid-range, but from what we’ve experienced of devices like this over the past year, that’s no bad thing. Mid-range phones now pack so much power that they pretty much do everything. Sure, they might not handle the latest 3D games, or offer 4K video capture, in the way that the flagship models do, but in daily tasks, the Moto G and Moto G Plus are likely to be slick and fast. 

From the time we’ve spent with these new handsets we can’t fully gauge the full performance, but will do in a full review shortly. The Moto G Plus also offers a fingerprint scanner for additional security. Again, we’ve not had the chance to test it’s performance, but we’d be reluctant to buy a smartphone without a fingerprint scanner in 2016.

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Moto G and Moto G Plus battery

The Moto G and the Moto G Plus battery is 3000mAh, which sounds fairly generous for a phone of this spec. It should offer all-day battery life without too much of a problem. 

Better still, the new Moto G supports quick charging. When paired with the right type of charger, that will see you getting 6 hours of use from 15 minutes on the charger. Now here comes perhaps the killer difference between these devices: you get the TurboPower charger in the box of the Moto G Plus, but you don’t get it in with the regular Moto G.

Unless you happen to have a TubroPower charger already, then that’s probably a tempting feature that will see you paying for the more advanced handset, as quick charging is a definite advantage.

Again, we’ve not tested the Moto G battery performance in the real world yet, so will update when we can judge its full performance.

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Moto G and Moto G Plus software

For those who like Android the Moto G is a safe place. The Moto G launches on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and it is mostly free from bloat and additions. We love that Android is left unfettered: Motorola is calling this Moto Pure, and it means it’s free from skins, apps and services you probably don’t want. Compare it to a Lenovo phone, for example, and we think it’s a much superior experience.

This software goes as far as offering things like the System Tuner UI (if you know where to find it), which some – like HTC – block access to.

While much of what the Moto G is offering is pure Android, there are a few enhancements from Motorola. These very much follow the lines of Moto’s previous additions to its E, G and X handsets, although as Android has got more sophisticated, Moto has needed to offer less. 

There’s the camera app – which we’ll talk about later – as well as a range of gestures. These gestures will let you do things like flip to silence the phone, or make a chopping action with the phone to turn the torch on. Then you have display option to give you ambient notifications, a long-time Moto favourite.

And that’s about it: it’s Moto Pure and simple, and that’s one of the appeals of the Moto G.

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Moto G and Moto G Plus cameras

There’s a difference in the cameras between the regular Moto G and the G Plus. The Plus version carries a 16-megapixel camera, supported by laser autofocus in addition to phase detection autofocus. The normal G only has a 13-megapixel camera. 

Both cameras have a f/2.0 aperture, but the message here is that the Plus offers better low-light photography, as well as faster focusing. In the time we’ve spent with the new Moto G, this isn’t something we’ve had a chance to fully test, but when taking simultaneous shots, we found the Moto G Plus to offer better results in the conditions we were in. It’s anecdotal for now, but we’ll be sure to fully test the camera when we review both handsets.

Outside of the sensor, both Moto Gs offer a range of features through the Moto camera app. This offers an intuitive layout and we found it fast and easy to launch and use. There’s a menu that swipes out from the left (only in portrait however), to tweak the settings, as well as a pro mode for those who want a little more control.

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The pro mode offers control over things like the shutter speed and the ISO, although we found it only going down to 1/5 sec for exposure time. Compare this to the 2 second exposure offered by HTC, or longer exposures offered by Samsung, and it might not be as flexible as those rivals. However, we’ve still got plenty of exploring to do to fully evaluate its performance. 

The front camera is 5-megapixels on both, and it offers a selfie flash, where the display will illuminate to give you better results in low light conditions. 

First Impressions

The new Moto G and Moto G Plus hangs on to many of the characteristics of the previous Moto G phones, importantly it’s still good value for money. However, there’s a general creep in price and size that some might not like: this could be a 5-inch device that’s cheaper than the £169 starting price offered here.

We’re also left scratching our heads over the two different models. With such a small price difference (£30), we’re wondering whether the standard Moto G really needs to exist. The Moto G Plus is going to be the better model and the one we’re more immediately drawn to. 

We like the new Moto G. It looks like a good, affordable, Android handset that will probably suit plenty of users who want a capable everyday smartphone free from bloat. But this doesn’t quite have the cutesy feel to it that the Moto G originally offered, and that’s a shame. 

The Moto G will be available from early-June for £169. The Moto G Plus will be available from mid-June for £199. We will bring you a full review as soon as we can.

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