Since 2013, the Moto G has been our favorite mid-range smartphone — or favorite budget phone, even, depending on how you define “budget.” Now in its fourth generation, the G series has expanded to include three models, two of which we got to take for a spin in a recent review. Indeed, the 5.5-inch G4 and G4 Plus mostly impress, but not every design decision feels like an improvement. Though the phones are more expensive than they used to be, at $200 and $250, respectively, the plastic build feels less durable than we would have otherwise expected.
What’s more, the G4 is no longer waterproof, and its camera suffers in low light, to boot. The G4 Plus at least offers a better camera and faster performance, though it too has a chintzy build that doesn’t feel likely to stand years of wear and tear. Those complaints aside, the handsets nonetheless deserve their strong scores of 84 and 86 — and they continue Moto’s tradition of holding down the “value smartphone” crown.
Lenovo is slowly but surely making an impact in the Android smartphone market, particularly here in India. Lenovo has some fantastic devices on offer, with a smartphone portfolio that is continuously expanding, and one of the most popular of their devices is the Lenovo K4 Note.
Its predecessor was very popular, and the latest offering takes things one step further, with the K4 Note bringing some of the best features of the higher-end Vibe X3 to this affordable series. What does this device bring to the table? We find out, in this comprehensive Lenovo K4 Note review!
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The phone comes in pretty standard packaging, with an image of the phone and the large VIBE branding splashed across the box. Opening the box reveals the phone in all its glory, and it’s nice to see the device already in a protective case. The hard plastic case isn’t the most impressive though, and if you are particularly clumsy, you may be better off picking something sturdier.
Diving in deeper, you will find the standard documentation, an AC wall adapter, and a USB charging cable, and Lenovo also includes a screen guard with the device, which is another nice touch. There are no headphones included, but that does make sense, given the affordable nature of this phone. Setting up the device only takes a few minutes, and follows the standard steps that any Android smartphone user will be familiar with. Once the phone is setup, you will find the official update for Android 6.0 Marshmallow waiting for you.
The K4 Note sees a significant upgrade in terms of design and build quality, when compared to its predecessor. The device now features a metal frame and a polycarbonate plastic backing, which makes the phone feel sturdy and solid in the hand. The combination of dual-front facing speakers and a fingerprint scanner just below the camera makes the K4 Note aesthetically similar to the Lenovo Vibe X3, which isn’t really surprising, given that this device has been released in some markets as the Vibe X3 Lite.
The plastic backing is removable, giving you access to the microSD card and SIM card slots, but the battery cannot be replaced. Removing the plastic back cover is when you notice how thin and flimsy it is, but despite appearances, it certainly holds up very well, and is something you won’t even notice when snapped in place. For those still worried, the device does come with a plastic protective case in the box, and there is also a version of the phone now available with a wood backing. The wooden back doesn’t seem to be sold separately yet, but is something that we can expect to see soon.
Taking a look around the phone, the headphone jack and microUSB port are at the top and bottom respectively, and the power button is below the volume rocker on the right side. On the back is the camera that is centrally located along the top, and below it is the fingerprint scanner. Up front, below the display are the three capacitive navigation keys, but these buttons aren’t illuminated, which can make them quite difficult to see in the dark.
The power button doesn’t come with something like a ridged pattern to help differentiate it from the volume rocker, but the buttons are placed far enough away from each other for this to be a minor concern. The buttons also protrude quite a bit, so you can actually easily see which button you are pressing. The buttons don’t offer as much tactile feedback as might be expected, and the power button in particular feels quite mushy. However, with you being able to unlock the device and directly go to the homescreen using the fingerprint scanner, you won’t need to use the power button all that much anyway.
As far as the handling experience is concerned, a slight curve on the back allows for the phone to nestle nicely in the palm of your hand, and unlike metal smartphones, the device isn’t slippery either, courtesy of the polycarbonate backing. Overall, the Lenovo K4 Note is a very well-designed smartphone, and as is also the case with some of its competitors, the design and build quality of the phone certainly goes beyond what you would expect from a sub-$200 device.
The K4 Note comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display, with a Full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. Many affordable smartphones are starting to boast Quad HD screens now, but 1080p gets the job done here, with text appearing sharp, and watching videos and playing games is a lot of fun as well. The viewing angles aren’t great however, and while the brightness at the highest setting is good enough to allow for easy outdoor viewing, the screen can be quite dull and dark when the brightness is set to less than 40% even when indoors.
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The default color balance is good enough, but the color temperature is on the cooler side. You do have some options available to set the color balance and temperature to your liking, including a manual mode that gives you granular control over these aspects. One preset setting is called Comfort Mode, that helps protect your eyes when browsing the phone for long periods of time. There is also Smart Brightness, which judges when the phone is in harsh lighting conditions and enhances the visibility. It works well enough, but as mentioned, the display brightness is cranked up anyway.
Under the hood, the K4 Note comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T720MP3 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. There is also a version with 2 GB of RAM, but this iteration hasn’t been released in India. The performance has been pretty good, helped along by a clean software package, and there have been no glaring issues. The device handles day to day tasks very well, and opening, closing, and switching between apps has been smooth.
Of course, the K4 Note isn’t a performance powerhouse, and the benchmark scores reflect that, but with average usage, this phone certainly impresses. The gaming experience has been enjoyable as well, and playing games like Stick Cricket 2, UFC, and NBA Live Mobile have been a lot of fun. Games do take a bit to load, and there are some instances of stutter when navigating through the menus and settings, but when it comes to the actual gameplay, things have been smooth and lag free for the most part.
16 GB is the only on-board storage option available here in India, but in other markets, there are 8 GB and 32 GB iterations to be found. However, something to keep in mind is that the latter two come with 2 GB of RAM, while this Indian edition features 3 GB of RAM. If storage is a concern, the device features a dedicated microSD card slot, allowing for up to an additional 256 GB of space.
You get two microSIM card slots here, and you can pre-select which SIM can be used to for calling, texts, and data. The option you select for data will allow for access to 3G/4G LTE, while the other sticks to EDGE. It’s also a nice touch that you can choose different ringtones and message tones for the two SIM cards, making it easy for you to distinguish between them. There have been no issues with voice calling, with both parties able to hear the other loud and clear.
The K4 Note comes with dual front-facing speakers – which is always the best placement for speakers – with Dolby ATMOS features. While these speakers don’t get as loud as I would have liked, you get a rich stereo sound which further enhances the video-viewing and gaming experiences.
The Dolby ATMOS settings allow you to choose between preset options like Movie, Music, Game, or Voice, and you can also set up custom settings depending on your liking. You also get additional features, including Surround Virtualizer, Dialogue Enhances, and Volume Leveler. This is buried in the Settings menu however, and is found under the “Ringtones and Volumes” section.
With headphones on, the audio is absolutely fantastic, with impressive bass that I haven’t found with other, more expensive, smartphones. Something to remember is that it can get really loud with headphones on, so much so that the default volume setting is set to 50%, and you won’t find yourself needing to go any higher than that. If good audio is one of your requirements, the K4 Note is definitely a great option.
The phone comes with a fingerprint scanner on the back, and this is another feature that was very impressive. The setup is quick and easy, and the scanner is very accurate, but while it’s definitely fast enough, it may not be as fast as other sensors out there. Using the scanner unlocks the phone and takes you directly into the homescreen, which means that you will rarely have to reach for the power button.
The scanner comes with a few extra uses when the phone is as well. You can set it up so that a single tap can have it function as a back button or take you back to the homescreen, and a long press can open the Recent Apps screen, or again, take you back to the homescreen. Finally, you can have the scanner function as a shutter button as well, which is very useful when taking selfies. These are similar to the gesture support offered by rival Chinese OEM Huawei in some of its recent flagships.
The K4 Note comes with a 3,300 mAh non-removable battery, that allows for really good battery life. I was able to consistently get up to 5 hours of screen-on time with the device, and an impressive stand-by times means that the device easily lasted through a full day of use, and sometimes even two, depending on my usage. With heavy usage however, while the screen-on time was still pretty good, it was easy to drain the battery rather quickly.
You get the standard Battery Saver mode that automatically kicks in at the 15% mark, and there is also an Ultimate Battery Saver feature, that minimalizes the UI, and allows for only calls and texts. An interesting battery feature is “Scheduled Power On and Off,” that lets you preset a time period where the device automatically switches off and turns back on again.
The Lenovo K4 Note features a 13 MP rear camera with a f/2.2 aperture, and a dual LED flash, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit, also with the same aperture.
The default camera app is very simplistic, and everything you may need can be found easily on the viewfinder. At the top left are the buttons to switch between the cameras and toggle HDR, and at the bottom is the button to toggle the flash. Only two modes are available in the menu, including Panorama and another that adds color filters to your images. Further in the settings is where you fill find the option to choose the settings for aspect ratio, photo resolution, snap mode, triaxial leveling, and guidelines.
Using the front-facing camera adds the Beauty mode, and you also have an option called “fill light,” that adds two, pink or chrome, bars at the top and bottom of the screen to light up your face in dark environments, but it doesn’t really help much, and results in a pink or bronze hue in the shot.
As far as the image quality is concerned, the 13 MP rear camera is capable of taking some nice shots, especially in well-lit situations, and the images can be crisp and clear sometimes. Not surprisingly, some noise and grain starts to creep in as lighting conditions deteriorate though. The camera doesn’t handle shadows particularly well either, with very little detail to be seen, and while HDR tends to help here, it creates an oversharpened, unnatural looking shot. The camera also tends to underexpose shots in a few situations, and when you use the tap to focus feature, it also adjusts the exposure, leading to either overblown highlights or super dark shadows.
As far as video is concerned, the camera is capable of recording at a Full HD resolution at 30 fps. Video quality isn’t particularly impressive, and with no OIS, you can get some noisy and shaky videos. The phone comes with a 3 microphone system intended to help with background noise reduction, and while it does a good job when outdoors, the sound is somewhat muted when recording audio in quieter locations.
Overall, the K4 Note camera is serviceable and will certainly get the job done in a pinch, but it’s in the little details that the camera lets you down. It’s certainly not the worst camera we’ve seen on an affordable smartphone, but it isn’t close to the best either and if the camera is important to you, this is certainly something to keep in mind.
On the software side of things, the K4 Note is running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, but – following the update’s release in India last month – there is now an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow immediately available after you first set up the phone.
The software experience is very clean and minimalistic, at least on the surface, and while it does have significant differences, quite a lot of stock and Material Design elements are to be seen here. The Settings menu and Recent Apps screen are the same as stock, Chrome is the default web browser, and Google Keyboard is the preset keyboard of choice. The notification dropdown and Quick Settings menu are also similar in the look, but it is packed with a lot more options, with even more available when you dive deeper, allowing you to pick and choose which settings are more useful to you.
The app drawer retains the Material Design look, but is side swiping, instead of a top to bottom scroll. A nice addition here is that the app search menu up to also comes with a section that houses the most recent apps opened. There is a lot of bloatware to be seen however, with a slew of unnecessary, often redundant, apps pre-installed on the device.
Luckily you can uninstall most of these third-party applications, and the only ones that can’t be removed are Lenovo staples like ShareIT, SyncIT, and the Lenovo Companion app. There is also a Theme Center, but it isn’t particularly robust, and all you can really do is change the look of the lockscreen, icons, and wallpapers.
The Lenovo Companion app is a very useful tool to have, and provides a quick and easy way to set up service requests, or browse through the forums to find solutions to everyday problems you might come across. There are also video guides available, and also a robust diagnostics tool that lets you check whether all the device hardware is working the way it should be.
Finally, another feature that can be useful to some is Secure Zone; it can be toggled in the Quick Settings menu, and allows you to set up two virtual zones, that help keep your professional and personal lives separate. You can set up each zone to have their own accounts, passwords, and apps, and settings of one don’t carry over to the other.
If a notification arrives in one zone, you will know via a red dot that appears in the status bar, and you will then have to switch over to be able to check it. App data and documents are also kept apart, and if you are looking to share anything between the two, the way to do it is a via an OpenUserData shared folder. However, call logs and messages are shared between the zones.
|Display||5.5-inch IPS LCD display
Full HD resolution, 401 ppi
|Processor||1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
|Camera||13 MP rear camera, f/2.2 aperture, dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
|Software||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|Dimensions||153.6 x 76.5 x 9.2 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The Lenovo K4 Note is currently priced at Rs 10,999 (~$164), and the wooden back version isn’t that much more, priced at Rs 11,499 (~$171).
So, there you have it for this in-depth look at the Lenovo K4 Note! Lenovo has certainly done a fantastic job with this smartphone, and while using, it has been difficult for me to wrap my head around how affordable it is. With a solid design, decent performance, great audio, and good battery life, Lenovo checks all the right boxes.
The software package does have a lot of extras, but you always have the option to de-activate the various settings and enjoy a stock-like experience, and the only real caveat here is the camera performance, which isn’t poor by any means. There are a lot of great affordable smartphones out there, but Lenovo stands out with a great audio experience, and if that is a requirement, I would definitely recommend the K4 Note.
What do you think of the Lenovo K4 Note and do you plan to buy one? If not, what other affordable smartphone would you buy? Let us know your views down below guys!
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Until now, the smartwatch market had seen year-over-year growth each quarter since the devices made their debut. For Q2 2016 though, that wasn’t the case. Global smartwatch shipments were down 32 percent, totaling 3.5 million gadgets during the period. That figure is down from 5.1 million of the wearables shipped during the second quarter of 2015. Apple still led the pack with 1.6 million units, but it was the only top-selling company to experience an annual decline. It’s worth noting that Q2 2015 was when the Apple Watch launched and there hasn’t been an updated model yet.
Speaking of new devices, the lack of updated hardware is a key reason the for the drop in numbers. Improvements to Apple’s watchOS were announced back at WWDC, but they won’t arrive until this fall. There’s a new version of Android Wear on the way as well. Combine that with no new model from the top company and buyers are waiting to nab a wearable if they haven’t done so already. As IDC points out, Apple’s share of the market is nearly half (47 percent), so when it sees a decline that shift significantly impacts the entire segment of devices.
IDC also notes that only a select few traditional watchmakers have delivered a more modern spin on the timepiece. The likes of Casio, Fossil and Tag Heuer have done so, but the analytics company expects the smartwatch market stands to benefit if more of those companies join the tech OEMs that are cranking out the devices at a solid pace. A little brand recognition goes a long way.
That 32 percent figure may also seem like a significant drop, but that has to be considered alongside the overall size of the smartwatch market. 3.5 million total units shipped in a quarter for all vendors is still quite small when compared to other gadgets like phones. Sure, smartwatches have yet to take hold like handsets have, but the comparison shows that those wearables continue to be a niche item. In terms of other top-5 companies, Samsung still ranks number 2 behind Apple thanks to the Gear S2 and its ability to function without being tethered to a phone. Lenovo sits in third after nabbing Motorola as the Moto 360 continues to be a top choice for Android Wear fans who prefer a circular display.
Source: IDC (Business Wire)
Ever since the original Moto X came out, I’ve been fascinated by Motorola. We saw one of the biggest, oldest brands in communications take a long, hard look at where it’s been and chart a thoughtful path forward. Flash forward a few years (and a few Moto Xs) and wouldn’t you know it? Motorola started to lose some of its voltage when it came to its flagship phones. Don’t get me wrong, the Moto X Pure Edition was a fantastic device, but in hindsight it’s not hard to see that it was more of the same.
While we might still see a new Moto X this year, Motorola decided to try something different. We now have two different modular flagship smartphones, the superthin Moto Z Droid ($624) and the sturdier Moto Z Force Droid ($720). Some might bristle that both are exclusive to Verizon and aren’t yet slated for an international launch (I sure did), but there’s no two ways about it: These are still the most exciting Motorola phones in a long time.
Note: For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to bother calling these things “Droid Editions” for the rest of the review.
At 5.2mm thick, the Moto Z is the thinnest flagship phone I’ve ever used, and it’s just stunning. In fact, when it comes to design, the Moto Z couldn’t be any more different from the flagship Moto Xs that came before it — the friendly curves and sloping back are gone, leaving us with something more angular and elegant. Think of it as the lightweight Lamborghini to the Moto X Pure’s friendly VW Beetle. If I’m honest, I was concerned that a phone this thin would feel insubstantial, but Motorola dodged that issue too. Aside from the pane of Gorilla Glass covering its 5.5-inch, quad HD AMOLED display, the Z’s body is crafted entirely of metal, lending it a crucial air of rigidity. Fair warning, though: Our review units came in a two-tone black and gray finish that both looks lovely and acts like a fingerprint-and-schmutz magnet.
All that said, this phone certainly isn’t for everyone. Some people I’ve shown the phone to (here’s looking at you, Devindra) think the Moto Z is too skinny to feel comfortable in-hand. More important, you can’t build a phone this thin without making a few compromises. Motorola could only squeeze a relatively modest 2,600mAh battery into the Z’s body. The 13-megapixel camera juts out from the back in a circular hump. And the most divisive change? The phone’s slim frame meant Motorola had to ax the headphone jack. Motorola is convinced it’s on the right side of history with this move, but in the short term, you’re stuck buying either a pair of USB Type-C headphones or using an adapter that comes in the box.
I’ll delve more into the audio quality a little later, but right off the bat, the change presents some tricky issues to tangle with. Let’s say you’re a klutz like me: You’re probably going to lose that dongle before long. And if you’re listening to music through wired headphones, you can’t charge the phone at the same time. Inconvenient at best; counterproductive at worst.
Motorola is so sure of this decision that the Z’s cousin, the Moto Z Force, lacks the headphone jack as well, even though its thicker body could definitely have accommodated one. Throughout my week of testing, I’ve been looking at the Z Force as the Moto Z for everyone else: It has the same new look, paired with a bigger 3,500mAh battery and Motorola’s Shattershield design to keep you from cracking your screen. Throw in an improved 21-megapixel rear camera and we have a package that more than makes up for Z Force’s heftier dimensions. If owning an incredibly thin smartphone isn’t high on your list of priorities, you’re probably better off looking at this version of the Z instead. It’s just too bad neither of these phones are waterproof: They’re nano-coated to resist splashes, but that’s it.
Despite their differences, the slim Moto Z and the sturdy Z Force share some powerful silicon. Thrumming away inside both devices is a quad-core Snapdragon 820 chip paired with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU — just like almost every other flagship Android phone released this year. The similarities don’t end there, either: Both sport an excellent fingerprint reader beneath the screen, either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot for as much as 2TB of extra space, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. A trio of tiny volume buttons and a sleep/wake key poke out of both phones’ right side, and on the bottom is a solitary USB Type-C socket for power, data transfers and audio.
Both devices are showcases for Motorola’s impeccable workmanship, but they’re made even more interesting by the array of golden contacts on their backs. Those 16 points make up what the company calls its Moto Mod connector, which allows power and data to flow between the phone and optional accessories that magnetically latch to the phones’ backs. The first batch includes a tiny projector, battery case and a JBL speaker, and they add a lot to the Moto Z/Z Force formula, so I’ll be sure to dig deeper on these in just a moment. For now, just know this: Motorola’s approach to modularity is the most elegant you’ll find on the market right now.
Display and sound
Both Moto Z phones feature 5.5-inch AMOLED displays running at 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, and they’re pretty great. In addition to very accommodating viewing angles, you’ll get the usual punchy colors that come with AMOLED screens. If they’re a little too punchy for your liking, though, you can hop into the device’s settings and poke around: The “Vibrant” color mode is enabled by default, but there’s also a “Standard” option that attempts to render colors more realistically. I’ve come to prefer the slightly oversaturated look you’ll see by default, but hey, it’s nice to have choices.
It’s also worth noting that these displays don’t look identical. My Moto Z’s panel seems a little more high-contrast than the Z Force’s screen, and I’m willing to bet that’s because of the Z Force’s Shattershield construction. In case you never owned a Droid Turbo 2, here’s the skinny: Above the AMOLED panel itself, there’s a redundant touch-sensing layer and two protective lenses, all meant to keep the screen from breaking if the Z Force takes a tumble. I reluctantly treated this thing like a jerk throughout my week of testing, dropping it on concrete for laughs and lobbing it onto my desk from across the room. The damage? A couple nicks on the screen and some scuffs on the phone’s aluminum edge. Shattershield is a welcome feature indeed, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t make the Moto Z Force invincible.
Both phones also have a single speaker above the screen, nestled in the same place as the earpiece. It’s a far cry from the stereo setups we’ve seen in other smartphones, but you know what? The Z/Z Force’s speakers consistently churned out crisp (if not terribly loud) audio. It’s not a surprise, really: Lots of companies sort of phone it in when it comes to speaker quality, and it’s clear Motorola would like you to buy one of JBL’s sweet speaker Mods.
Now, about that pesky headphone issue. I’ve used the included USB Type-C dongle with several pairs of cans and in-ears, and it doesn’t seem to affect audio quality at all when playing high-quality tunes saved on Spotify. If anything, my biggest gripes were logistical: When I didn’t keep the dongle attached to headphones, it got lost in the depths of my backpack. When I did keep it attached, it sometimes made the cord long enough to be cumbersome when jamming everything into my pocket (especially when those headphones had an L-plug).
Are these huge issues? No, not really (and if you’re a Bluetooth headphone person, basically none of these gripes apply). Still, these sticking points aren’t going away for a while, so keep that in mind before you buy.
Let’s be honest: Motorola isn’t exactly known as a leader in photography. That’s why the company’s work this year is so surprising: We now have two Motorola phones with seriously good cameras. If the normal Moto Z is your thing, you’ll get a 13-megapixel main camera with a f/1.8 aperture lens and a laser autofocus module. My expectations were set needlessly low. As it turns out, the Z’s camera takes bright, nicely detailed shots with vivid colors almost across the board. It does stumble a bit in low light, where you’ll plenty of grain and soft edges, but really, what smartphone doesn’t? The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are still better all-around performers, but for once, Motorola has done well to close the gap.
Meanwhile, the Moto Z Force’s camera does a slightly better job of capturing fine detail, which really isn’t surprising — it’s a 21-megapixel sensor, after all. What is surprising is how tight the image-quality race can be sometimes. For a while, the Moto Z seemed a little better at rendering accurate colors, but then photos with the Z Force started coming out a little better. Then back. Then forth. You get my drift. What makes this whole thing even stranger is that the Moto Z Force was occasionally slower to focus on subjects than the Z, despite having phase-detection autofocus in addition to a laser-autofocus module. A quick tap or two is all it takes to set it right, but that’s still a little odd. It’s the Z Force’s low-light performance that clinches the deal here: It’s not quite Galaxy S7-level, but it’s closer than I dared dream.
Despite some curious performance quirks, I’d ultimately go with the Z Force as my shooter of choice — it’s as good a camera as Motorola has ever made, even if the underlying software needs some extra polish. Still, the standard Moto Z is no slouch.
Beyond the intricacies of their sensors, the Z and Z Force camera experiences have a lot in common. They share a 5-megapixel, wide-angle camera for selfies that does a generally lovely job of capturing those fleeting moments of vanity. Speaking of vanity, there’s also a new Beauty Mode that irons out the wrinkles and blemishes that might mar one’s selfies. I wouldn’t be at all shocked if this was a feature that parent company Lenovo insisted on; these sorts of cosmetic enhancements have popped up, and continue to pop up, in Lenovo smartphones.
It’s too bad it doesn’t work very well. I snapped selfies at both ends of the Beauty mode spectrum and neither did much for my looks. This year, Motorola also added a Professional Mode that allows for more granular control over your photos. Once enabled, you’ll get full control over ISO, white balance, shutter speed and exposure — change any of those settings and you’ll get a live update on your display. Just maybe don’t go too crazy with them. I managed to crash the camera app a few times doing that.
Of course, the story of the Moto Z and Z Force extend beyond the devices themselves. Motorola has a vision centered on accessories that snap onto the phone with magnets. Not only is this less annoying than LG’s attempt with the G5 — it’s simpler and cleaner too. Motorola has also said that these first-generation Moto Mods will work with next year’s model as well, though the company isn’t promising anything beyond that.
First up: Motorola’s Insta-Share projector. When fully charged, the projector will run for about an hour on its own before using the battery in your phone. Stick it far enough away from a wall and you can get a picture that’s about 70 inches diagonal, a pretty big jump from the clunker of a TV I bought on sale years ago. Your environment needs to be superdark, and it can be tough to get the focus right, but once everything came together, I had a bit of a “wow” moment I didn’t see coming. There are, however, two potential issues to keep in mind. First, the speakers baked into the projector aren’t great, so you’ll want an external set if you’re really after something resembling a movie-theater experience. Second, it’ll set you back $299. If you’ve got money to burn, then by all means, go for it, but for most, it won’t be worth it.
Compared with that, the $79 JBL speaker Mod seems way more modest. I probably pissed off a few people in the office by cranking it up all the way, which can be almost unpleasantly loud depending on the kind of music you’re listening to. It lasts about 10 hours on a charge, and the speaker burns through that juice before switching to the phone’s battery for power. Alas, the audio doesn’t sound as meaty as I imagined; it seems to do better with podcasts and songs with lots of action in the mid and high range. Here’s my issue, though: You could get a portable Bluetooth speaker that sounds better (and works with any smartphone) for around the same price. Either way, you’d have to carry around a second piece of hardware. On the plus side, though, it has a kickstand to prop up the phone — a helpful touch when you’re watching videos.
Really, though, the best Moto Mod is a battery back that basically doubles the Moto Z’s battery life while still managing to feel like a natural extension of the phone. If you buy a Moto Z, this needs to go with it.
By building the Moto Mod connector and inking deals with companies like JBL, Motorola is admitting that we can’t always have everything we want in one single device. The beauty of Motorola’s design, though, means the things we add to the Moto Z feel like seamless parts of the device itself. It’s still early days for the Moto Mods program, and the only way to ensure it goes anywhere is to buy this stuff. Hopefully, enough people invest in this new ecosystem of hardware to keep it alive. It would be a shame to see such an elegant solution flounder.
(Side note: if you’ve got a brilliant idea for a Moto Mod of your own, Motorola is opening up its developer program in August — $125 gets you a hardware-development kit for bread-boarding and hashing out initial designs.)
Motorola is well known for releasing smartphones that run very clean, almost stock versions of Android… unless those smartphones are Verizon exclusives like these. The broad strokes of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow are still there, and for the most part, Motorola seemed happy to leave well enough alone; the most notable visual tweak is a dark theme applied to the familiar Marshmallow menus and app launcher.
Still, Verizon’s influence is undeniable. There’s a separate-but-optional setup process to get started with Verizon’s cloud upon first boot, and lots of preloaded software I never touched. I’m talking VZ Navigator, VZ Protect, Message+, Caller Name ID and a cloud app, not to mention NFL Mobile, Slacker, Audible and a ton of derivative games. You can delete some of them, but the rest need to be disabled in the settings and I couldn’t so this fast enough.
Curiously, the Motorola-made apps that used to come preloaded on the company’s Verizon-bound phones aren’t here anymore. If you want Loop and Zap (which let you keep tabs on loved ones and share content with people nearby, respectively), you’ll have to get them from the Play Store. I love it when companies stop trying to force apps of dubious value on us — HTC recently did this too — but Verizon pushed enough bloatware that Motorola’s cleanliness almost went unnoticed.
On the plus side, Motorola’s thoughtful software tricks are all still here. The sensors on the Z’s face can still detect your hands as they approach, and they’ll light up part of the display to show you the time and your notifications. Like before, you can double-twist your wrist to launch the camera, and a double karate chop turns on the flashlight. As it happens, Motorola added a new gesture this year: If you swipe up from the bottom of the display, the on-screen view will shrink so you can reach the notification shade without having to reposition your hand.
The Moto Z siblings are great at listening for your voice commands, too. Once you’ve trained them to listen to your activation phrase (mine is the dull “OK, Moto Z”), the phones will wake up and take requests like a proper assistant. That might not sound like a high bar to clear — after all, virtual assistants have come a long way since the earliest days of Siri and Google Now — but Motorola was one of the first companies to go big on phones that always listened, and they’re still very good at making them.
We can keep this part simple: The Moto Z and Z Force are damned fast. Is that really any surprise? Both run with the same high-end Snapdragon silicon as most other flagship Android phones I’ve played with this year, and they’ve all been really fast too. As always, my week of testing included all the usual, frenzied multitasking for work, along with loads of Real Racing 3, Mortal Kombat X, Hearthstone and Pokémon Go when the news died down. Try as I might — and trust me, I tried — the Moto Z and Z Force handled all of my trials with gusto. (They do get noticeably warm when you starting to push them, though.) Ultimately, now that premium smartphones like the Moto Z and its ilk all fall into the same performance range, the details that make these devices different are more important than ever.
|3DMark IS Unlimited||29,117||28,964||28,529||26,747|
|GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps)||49||49||45||48|
|SunSpider 1.0.2: Android devices tested in Chrome; lower scores are better.|
Consider batteries, for instance. Thanks to its slim body, Motorola fitted the Moto Z with a 2,600mAh cell. Not bad, but definitely not great. I’ll admit, even though I’ve used smartphones with similar specs and battery sizes before, I went into this review expecting the worst. Thankfully, that was unwarranted. On days of heavy use, the Z would get me through the work day but give up the ghost not long after. That works out to about 11 hours of pretty continuous use, though you can stretch that up to about a day and a half if you’re a very, very cautious user. In our standard Engadget rundown test (looping a video with the screen brightness set to 50 percent and WiFi connected), the Moto Z lasted about just north of 10 hours. That’s on par with the LG G5 and HTC 10.
This means the Moto Z’s battery will probably cut it for most people, but anyone on the fence should consider the next step up. As you’d expect, the Moto Z Force blew its skinny sibling out of the water. I routinely got two full days of use out of its larger 3,500mAh battery, and got closer to three days over a particularly quiet weekend. Not bad at all. And in our rundown test, the Z Force looped the same sample video for 14 hours and 12 minutes, just 18 minutes less than Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge.
I probably sound like a broken record saying this, but there’s really never been a better time to buy a top-tier Android phone. While some are better suited to certain situations than others, there really isn’t a bad choice among them. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are waterproof and still lead the pack in camera performance, though you’ll have to deal with the (much improved!) TouchWiz interface that’s layered on top of Android Marshmallow. The HTC 10’s fit and finish is first-rate, and it handles media better out of the box: It’ll tune your music for your preferences and headphones, for one, and it’s the first Android phone to officially support Apple’s AirPlay streaming standard. Meanwhile, if you’re shopping for flagship power on a budget, the reasonably priced OnePlus 3 brings the speed for a fraction of what the Moto Z and Z Force cost.
But if we’re looking at the Moto Z and Z Force as modular phones, first and foremost, the only real comparison this year is LG’s G5. The broad strokes are similar — Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM, a circle of “Friend” accessories — but the Moto Z’s elegant execution gives those two phones a clear edge. Just look at LG’s setup: modules connect to the bottom of the G5, requiring you to remove the phone’s battery, attach it to the new module, stick that whole thing back into the phone and power it up. At best, it’s an annoyance. On the plus side, though, you’ll be able to swap batteries willy-nilly, and you have a really neat dual-camera setup to play with.
I have to give Motorola credit for doing what LG couldn’t: building modular smartphones that are convenient, cool and worth using. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the Moto Z and Z Force are two of the best-made devices in Motorola’s history, and that they can go toe-to-toe with any other flagship Android phone out there. These devices represent Motorola at the top of its phone-making game.
It’s a shame, then, that some curious decisions have kept me from loving the Z and Z Force more fully. Part of it is the lack of a headphone jack. Maybe I’m old-school, but I can’t be the only one who misses it. Part of it, too, is that some of the Mods are of dubious value. Worse, only a certain chunk of people — Verizon customers — can buy these phones. Ultimately, though, the strength of the Moto Z line and the potential of Moto Mods outweigh the few cons. If you’re a Verizon customer on the hunt for a powerful smartphone, pay attention to these two. (And if you’re a klutz, pay closer attention to the Z Force.) The rest of us will just have to hang in there — Motorola can’t let phones this good stay exclusive for too long.
When it comes to getting the most smartphone for your dollar, the Moto G line has been your best choice for the past few years. We adored the previous model, which came in at a mere $180. Now with the Moto G4 and G4 Plus, Motorola is literally aiming to make its budget lineup bigger and better. They’ve got larger and sharper screens, improved cameras and, of course, speedier processors. With those upgrades come compromises, though. For one, they’re more expensive: The G4 starts at $200 and the G4 Plus at $250. Motorola also made some curious design decisions, which in many ways feel like a step back. Still, they both manage to carry the mantle of Smartphone Value King.
You won’t find any premium aluminum or chamfered edges on the G4 and G4 Plus. They’ve got practical and simple plastic cases. Still, they don’t feel like budget phones. Their curved edges make them easy to hold, and the slightly textured rear cover feels a bit luxurious against your palm. Both phones are also noticeably larger than any previous Moto G, thanks to their 5.5-inch 1080p screens. At least they’re thinner than their 11.6mm thick predecessor, clocking in at just 7.9 millimeters to 8.9 millimeters. Strangely enough, they weigh the same 155 grams (0.34 pounds) as before.
The G4 and G4 Plus feel pretty solid for plastic encased phones. There’s little flex or creaking when gripped tightly. Long-term durability might be a concern though — somewhere during my week of testing I nicked the top of the G4 Plus’s plastic edge. I never dropped it, so your guess is as good as mine as to how it got damaged. It does make me worried about how well they’d stand up to months of everyday use.
Both phones sport removable back covers, just like all the previous Moto G models. In addition to the nano-SIM slot, there’s a microSD slot for up to 128GB of additional storage. They pack in 3,000mAh non-removable batteries, a nice bump from the last Moto G’s 2,470 mAh offering. It’s a shame that the battery can’t be swapped out, but it’s also large enough that that shouldn’t be a huge issue. (We didn’t have a problem with it last year, either.)
Powering all of this budget goodness are 1.5GHz Snapdragon 617 octa-core processors. Both phones offer 16GB of storage by default, but you can bump up to 32GB with the G4 (a no-brainer $30 premium) or 64GB with the G4 Plus (for another $100). They come with 2GB of RAM, though the 64GB G4 Plus gives you a luxurious 4GB of RAM.
Given that they both share so much hardware, you’re probably wondering what makes the G4 Plus, well… Plus? The most obvious difference is the fingerprint sensor on its front, which sits right below the software home button. The G4 Plus also packs in a 16 megapixel rear camera with phase detection and laser autofocus. The G4, on the other hand, has a 13 megapixel shooter without the added niceties.
One unfortunate downgrade from last year: Neither phone is waterproof. Instead, Motorola is calling them “water repellant,” thanks to a “nano-coating” technology that protects them from spills. That means they should be fine during light rain, or if you spill coffee on them. Just don’t go fully submerging them in anything.
Display and sound
There’s nothing budget about the 5.5-inch 1080p displays on the G4 and G4 Plus. They’re not quite as fancy as the quad HD displays we’re seeing in some flagships, but they still pack in 401 pixels per inch, which is plenty sharp for typical usage. Colors were bright and bold, even in direct sunlight, and viewing angles were surprisingly great. I didn’t notice much of a difference between my iPhone 6S while reading long articles from Pocket and the New York Times app. Videos also looked uniformly great. The big downside is that they’re less capable when it comes to mobile VR. It’s no wonder they’re not Google Daydream ready (though nothing is stopping you from plugging them into a Google Cardboard headset).
On the sound front, Motorola made the curious decision of replacing the last Moto G’s solid stereo speakers with a single one. It’s plenty loud, but it doesn’t sound nearly as good as before. Now that Bluetooth speakers are cheap and small, I’d recommend just snagging one as an accessory.
One nice feature that I never thought I’d have to call out in 2016: both phones have headphone jacks! For the uninformed, you use them to connect a wide variety of audio devices, including headphones. Someone should tell Motorola that these audio ports, which have been universally supported for decades, would be a nice addition to their flagship Moto Z lineup. That’s especially true for the Z Force, which is thick enough to fit a headphone jack. (Yes, the Moto Z comes with a dongle, but that comes with plenty of compromises. You won’t be able to charge the phone when the dongle is plugged in, for example.)
Motorola delivered a nearly stock OS on the G4 and G4 Plus, specifically Android 6.0.1. Marshmallow. The phones are devoid of the junkware and sponsored apps you often find on budget devices. None of this is new for Motorola, it’s been trying to deliver vanilla versions of Android since it was under Google. But it’s nice to see the company stick with that philosophy under Lenovo.
Motorola’s unique gestures, which made their debut on the original Moto X, once again make an appearance. Twisting either phone twice, similar to turning a door handle, quickly loads up the camera from anywhere in the OS. Making a double-chopping motion turns their flashlights on and off. What’s particularly nice is that both features work consistently even when the phones are in standby mode.
This is where the Moto G4 and G4 Plus truly diverge. Should you settle with a 13 megapixel camera, or spend the extra cash for the G4 Plus’s 16 megapixel one loaded with autofocusing upgrades? Based on my testing, the G4’s camera is a bit hit or miss. Sometimes it delivered sharp and vibrant photos, but sometimes its color rendering was all off. It was also a constant disappointment in low light. The G4 Plus was a lot more consistent — it was able to lock onto subjects much more quickly, and it was actually useful in low light. Looking at both phones shows how far we’ve come in the world of mobile cameras. But, if I had to choose, I’d opt for the G4 Plus’s shooter without any hesitation.
While Motorola used a light touch with most of the software, its camera app is a very different experience from Google’s stock entry. There’s a radial exposure meter right next to the focusing ring, which lets you lighten or darken the image by dragging it up or down. Flash, HDR and timer settings are also on the left side of the screen, instead of the top. If you want to take panoramic photos, or simply want manual controls, you’ll have to use a separate app, like ProShot or Open Camera.
While I was bracing for a slow experience with the Moto G4 and G4 Plus (due to increased rendering demands for 1080p screens, last year’s display was only 720p), both phones surprised me with their relatively smooth performance. Sure, they’re not as instantaneously zippy as expensive flagships, but they also don’t feel like “budget” devices. Browsing around Android Marshmallow, launching multiple hefty apps like Pokemon Go, and juggling through them was relatively painless. There was the occasional slowdown on the G4, but nothing show-stopping. If anything, their performance feels more in line affordable mid-range phones like the Nexus 5X.
And when it came to demanding usage, I was surprised by how well both phones held up. I was able to capture 1080p videos of both phones’ displays using the AZ Screen Recorder app while running Pokemon Go and jumping through several apps. The Moto G4 showed a bit of slowdown, but Pokemon Go was still totally playable. And the resulting video didn’t have any major hiccups or dropped frames. The Moto G4 Plus with 4GB of RAM fared even better, with no slowdown during screen recording.
Moto G (2014)
3DMark IS Unlimited
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps)
The benchmarks for both phones reflect the strong performance I saw. Compared to last year’s Moto G, they scored four times higher in AndEBench, three times faster in CF-Bench and they were more than twice as fast when it came to the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. Of course, benchmarks aren’t everything, but huge performance bumps like these are noteworthy. I wouldn’t have dared play a complex 3D game on the last Moto G, but the G4 and G4 Plus ran games like Racing Rivals without any issue.
The fingerprint sensor on the G4 Plus was easy to set up, and it had no trouble accurately recognizing my fingers. Its placement on the face of the phone is confounding, though. Motorola would have been better off placing it on the rear of the phone like LG, or making it an actual home button like Samsung and HTC.
As for battery life, neither phone disappointed. Their 3,000mAh offerings had no trouble lasting me throughout a full day, even when I decided to go on some impromptu Pokemon hunts. In our test, which involves looping an HD video at 50 percent brightness, they both lasted around 12 hours and 30 minutes. The previous Moto G, lasted 10 hours and 40 minutes.
At $200 for the Moto G4 and $250 for the G4 Plus, both phones are practically in a class of their own. There are cheaper phones out there, including Motorola’s own Moto E and HTC’s $179 Desire 530, but they all have significantly worse performance in every respect. If you wanted a big upgrade, you could step up to the Nexus 5X, which currently sells for between $280 and $350, and remains one of the best Android phones on the market. Beyond that, there are the affordable high-end options like the $399 OnePlus 3.
If you’ve only got $200 to spend, there’s no better option than the Moto G4 right now. Stepping up to the G4 Plus gets a bit more confusing. If you want the 64GB version with 4GB of RAM, you’d have to shell out $300. At that point, the Nexus 5X is more tempting thanks to its faster hardware, though you’d have to live with its smaller 5.2-inch screen.
Motorola’s big problem with these new phones is that the last Moto G was simply too good. In pushing for larger screens and other upgrades, it also introduced some compromises. Ultimately though, the good outweighs the bad. The Moto G4 and G4 Plus offer plenty of power and versatility without breaking the bank. And they show that, once again, nobody does budget phones better than Motorola.
Motorola’s entire smartphone lineup is getting a refresh in 2016. Following the new Moto Z and Moto G families, the company has unveiled the Moto E3, an update to its most affordable handset. It sports a 5-inch HD display, up from the 4.5-inch panel in the last model, a quad-core processor and a 2,800 mAh battery, which Motorola claims will last you a full day. The rear-facing camera has been stepped up to eight megapixels, while a 5-megapixel selfie-snapper sits on the front. Internal storage is a mystery (don’t expect much) but it will come with a microSD card slot.
The phone is set to grace the UK in “early September” starting at £99 (roughly $132) in select retailers including Tesco, Amazon and Argos. An international release seems likely; the Moto E is an important phone for the company, given its position at the low-end of the market. With Lenovo in charge, the Moto team has a lot to prove with this year’s phones. The Moto Z and its modular accessories are a grand departure from the Moto X line, and initial reviews of the Moto G4 have been less than positive. Here’s hoping the new Moto E can continue the legacy of its capable predecessors.
It’s not all doom and gloom in the PC world… for once. Both Gartner and IDC estimate that PC shipments actually grew in the US for the first time in over a year, climbing in the second quarter to either 4.9 percent according to Gartner (which includes Windows tablets) or 1.4 percent if you ask IDC (which doesn’t). There’s no one answer as to why the computer industry is bouncing back, regardless of who you ask. A stronger US economy is playing a part, but the analyst groups also point to strong Chromebook sales to schools as well as a possible spike in purchases from governments and other public outfits.
Just don’t look at shipments in the rest of the world, as they’re rather ugly. Both Gartner and IDC reckon that worldwide deliveries dropped between 4.5 to 5.2 percent. That’s not as bad as it could have been (IDC was predicting a 7.4-point drop), but you’ll have to forget any visions of an imminent return to the PC’s heyday. Economies are still weak outside of the US, and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are still a higher priority for cash-strapped buyers. Lenovo may have extra reason to worry — its shipments shrank enough that it’s barely holding its market share lead over HP.
On the bright side? While researchers are cautious, they do see ways the industry could climb out of its hole. As upgrading to Windows 10 will soon cost you $119, there’s the chance that people will decide to replace their PCs rather than fork over cash to update existing machines. You could also see the corporate crowd take a serious look at buying Windows 10 computers instead of clinging to aging systems for dear life. Although that amounts to a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” that could easily change, it’s the best hope yet for a PC business that has been declining for years.
Source: Gartner, IDC
Summer is upon us, and as usual it’s a pretty underwhelming affair. Hopefully a brand new Moto G4 will keep you occupied on some of the many rainy days to come, however. The smartphone is one of a couple of recent additions to Motorola’s highly regarded G range, and thanks to Mobilefun.co.uk, we’ve got two of the things to give away this week. Better yet, the retailer has raided its accessory selection to pair each phone with no less than five different covers and cases. To be in with a chance to win, simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below, but do us a favour and give the rules a quick scan first, would ya?
a Rafflecopter giveaway
- Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
- Contest is open to all residents of the UK, 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
- Winners will be chosen randomly. Two (2) winners will receive one (1) Moto G4 and assorted cases.
- If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email or Facebook login. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
- This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Motorola, Mobilefun.co.uk and Engadget / AOL are not held liable to honour warranties, exchanges or customer service.
- The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
- Entries can be submitted until July 15th at 11:59PM BST. Good luck!
If you are sick of hearing about how Lenovo Machines are riddled with security flaws, then this ain’t the story for you. Security researcher Dymtro “Cr4sh” Oleksiuk claims to have uncovered a flaw in Lenovo machines that could let attackers circumvent Windows’ basic security protocols. According to his post on Github, the vulnerable firmware driver was copy-and-pasted from data supplied by Intel. His concern was that other manufacturers might have adopted the same code — with at least one HP Pavillion laptop from 2010 already identified as packing the flaw.
Lenovo issued a public response, saying that it tried to speak to Oleksiuk before he published the flaw to no avail. It corroborated the suggestion that the code was supplied by a third party working from common code that came from Intel. The firm doesn’t go so far as to assign blame to the chipmaker, but there’s enough to imply that there’s a whole heap of fault going that way. Lenovo added that it’s investigating the issue and will work with its partners to develop a fix as soon as possible.
There’s also a theory that the compromising piece of code might not have been created in error, but placed there as a backdoor. Oleksiuk mentions this just once, in passing, but the Register points out that Lenovo’s public statement leaves a few questions. For instance, the manufacturer says that it is “determining the identity of the original author,” because it “does not know its originally intended purpose.” Although we’d like to think that if the CIA (or its brethren) did write it, it had the sense not to leave any evidence of its involvement.
Source: The Register, Github, Lenovo
You won’t have to wait much longer to get your hands on Motorola’s latest budget Moto G models. Both the Moto G4 and its more powerful sibling, the G4 Plus, will be available in the US starting on July 12 for $199 and $249, respectively. Both phones will be unlocked for GSM and CDMA networks, and you’ll be able to snag them from Amazon, Motorola’s website and other retailers. Update: Best Buy will also be carrying the phones, and it’s offering a $50 gift card for in-store and online pre-orders.
They sport higher resolution (1080p) 5.5-inch screens than their predecessors, and they’re powered by Snapdragon 617 octa-core processors. Depending on the storage options you purchase, they’ll come with either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. The big difference? The G4 Plus packs in 16MP rear shooter with a f/2.0 aperture and loads of speedy autofocusing technology, while the G4 has a fairly ho-hum 13MP camera.