Moto G5 Plus Preview

Sometime next week, I should take possession of a 5th generation Moto G Plus, an intriguing and affordable new Android handset. Is it possible to find smartphone happiness for less than $300?

I’ll let you know, but in a sharp break from the past, I’ve been reading up on reviews of this handset, and from what I can see so far, it looks like it’s going to live up to the hype. (I usually steer clear of other reviews before evaluating a product myself.)

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Premium readers know that I first brought up this phone in Let’s Talk About Smartphone Pricing, where I bemoaned the unnecessarily high price of today’s smartphone flagships and wondered whether there were better values to be had. And there were two handsets that came to mind immediately at two different price points, the $400-$500 OnePlus 3T at the mid-tier, which I’ve subsequently ordered as well, and Moto G Plus, which was just revved with a new 5th generation version.

I’ve owned previous-generation Moto G handsets, and have often pointed to them as a particularly good deal at the low end of the market. But the 5th-generation Moto G breaks from the past in a few significant ways, the most obvious being that it sheds the colorful—and interchangeable and expandable—plastic bodies of the past and takes a step up, quality-wise, to a more professional–looking aluminum.

That change may disappoint some, given the fun and colorful ways in which you could customize previous-generation Moto Gs. But that materials upgrade is part of what attracted me to this new version, and the available Lunar Gray and Fine Gold color choices look suitably upscale to me.

No low-end smartphone is going to match the specs or capabilities of a flagship handset, and I think it’s fair to temper expectations compared to, say, the more expensive OnePlus 3T I’ll soon be evaluating, let alone such devices as the Apple iPhone 7 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S8+. But the Moto G5 Plus still strikes an interesting sweet spot, I think, for most users. And will likely satisfy all but the most demanding of needs.

So let’s start with the most important spec, the price: The Moto G5 Plus starts at just $230 if you buy direct from Motorola. That version of the device provides just 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage, but unlike the OnePlus 3T, it’s expandable, so you can always add microSD storage later. If you don’t mind paying a bit more, as I did—I’m really stung by my choice of a 32 GB Pixel XL—you can get a 4 GB/64 GB version (also expandable) for just $300. I feel this is more future-proof and worth the upgrade.

But you can save further if you don’t mind a few ads. As it does with its own Kindle e-readers and tablets, is selling both of these configurations to Prime customers with “lockscreen offers and ads,” plus some Amazon-specific apps. (Amazon will also sell you the normal versions, of course, and you can upgrade to no ads later if you want as well.)

How good are the savings? The 32 GB version can be had for just $185, a savings of $45. And the 64 GB version costs $240, for an even bigger savings of $60. Put another way, if you shop at Amazon, you can get the higher-capacity version for just $10 more than the 32 GB version if you were buying direct.

No matter how you buy a Moto G5 Plus, you’re getting an unlocked phone that will provide 4G LTE capabilities on any major US carrier. I’ll be testing my device on AT&T, since that’s what I’m stuck with, but they’re all terrible, so no matter.

The specs are not terrible: The Moto G5 Plus is powered by a mid-tier, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, Adreno 506 graphics, 2 GB or 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage with microSD expansion, and a 5.2-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. That display is a bit smaller than what I consider the current sweet spot in smartphones—roughly 5.5-inches—but will result in better battery life and pocketability than larger devices. A large 3000 mAh battery will help on that former attribute as well.

There are two potential downsides to this device, depending on your needs. First, while it does offer a 12 MP rear camera that reportedly works quite well in sunny conditions, it apparently falls apart a bit in low light, compared to, say, today’s flagships. This is to be expected, but I’ll be paying particular attention to the camera when I do review the device. Second, I’m surprised that the Moto G5 Plus relies on outdated microUSB for connectivity. It’s 2017, and USB-C is future-proof. (That said, many already have compatible cables and chargers, and in the budget segment, some may see this as a pro, not a con.)

On the plus side—ahem—Motorola does provide TurboPower fast-charging capabilities, which is a neat addition at this price point. You can allegedly gain 6 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes.

Also, the Moto G5 Plus includes a fingerprint reader, another nice touch for such a budget device. As is the case on many phones, it doubles as the Android home button.

There’s a lot more to say about this fun new affordable option, including Motorola’s crazy Moto Experience gestures, and more. But I gotta save some of this for future posts. So I’ll check in again when the phone arrives.


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Conversation 24 comments

  • rob4jen

    Premium Member
    06 April, 2017 - 9:31 am

    <p>I've been using Moto phones for years and they are, for the most part, excellently made. That SD 625 + 3000 mAh battery should give you excellent battery life. The G5 Plus is very similar to the Moto Z Play which gave me 2+ days of battery life when I reviewed it last year. For me mobile tech has reached the point where it doesn't make sense to pay more than $400-450 for a phone anymore. Mid-tier, and even some low-tier, phones are generally good enough these days.</p>

  • ben55124

    Premium Member
    06 April, 2017 - 9:43 am

    <p>My wife's Moto G4 with amazon offers has worked out well. Takes good enough for facebook pictures and the full HD screen is nice. The amazon offers are not intrusive — looks like an extra notification on the lock screen. I'm not sure how amazon ever recoups the $40-60 from that but must be working for them if they are continuing with it. The G4 with offers has never had an update (still on Marshmallow)- not sure if that's because of the amazon lock-in.</p>

  • euskalzabe

    06 April, 2017 - 10:13 am

    <p>$230 and no NFC is a crime if you ask me… I'm looking forward to next month's Nokia 3: $150 and includes gyro and NFC. That's good value. Nobody really needs 1080p on a 5" screen (not that I'd complain, but it's not necessary). The N3 seems like unbeatable value: IPS 720p screen, 2GB ram, 16gb space, expandable throuch mSD, NFC and 2 8pm cameras, front and back. I don't see how Moto can beat that (they were good in the Google years, but Lenovo has completely ruined the brand…).</p>

    • scotttech1

      06 April, 2017 - 11:39 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#96039">In reply to euskalzabe:</a></em></blockquote><p>Are there phones available that people would even consider buying that don't have a gyroscope??? I can see going without NFC especially if you don't care about tap to pay, wireless charging, or android beam. How can a device even rotate the screen without a gyro? I didn't know lack of gyro was such a problem with the phone market.</p>

      • gartenspartan

        Premium Member
        06 April, 2017 - 12:09 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#96099">In reply to scotttech1:</a></em></blockquote><p>Moto G5 Plus definitely has a gyroscope. Just confirmed on my model. </p>

      • MikeCerm

        06 April, 2017 - 1:13 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#96099"><em>In reply to scotttech1:</em></a></blockquote><p>You're thinking of the accelerometer, which has been a standard in phones since the original iPhone. Accelerometers measure the angle of the phone relative to gravity, but don't measure rotation in place. If your phone is flat on a table and you spin it, the orientation doesn't change. Gyroscopes are a slightly more recent feature, and they can measure this sort of spin. Gyroscopes are only really used for gaming, and are not a necessary feature for most people who don't play games that rely on twisting and turning the phone.</p>

    • gartenspartan

      Premium Member
      06 April, 2017 - 12:05 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#96039">In reply to euskalzabe:</a></em></blockquote><p>Other than NFC, which most people still don't use, those Nokia 3 specs all seem like a substantial downgrade from the Moto g .</p>

  • wolters

    Premium Member
    06 April, 2017 - 10:22 am

    <p>Cutting edge is starting to exhaust me and a phone like the G5 Plus is very intriguing. Not only is it "good enough" but no contract or device payment plan and it claims to work on all carriers. </p><p><br></p><p>I currently go between the Moto Z Force Droid and a Pixel XL. The Z Force Droid is my first Moto and I am very impressed. Build quality, almost "pure Android", "twist for camera", "karate chop for flashlight", shatterproof screen, solid performance even with adoptable storage, great (albeit slow) camera. </p><p><br></p><p>I did try the G4 on Verizon and never got above 3G speeds. I hope this has been fixed in the G5 Plus. </p>

  • Tony Barrett

    06 April, 2017 - 12:01 pm

    <p>The G5Plus could be my next phone too. It's sounds like an excellent mid-range handset. I too had my reservations about the lack of NFC, but then I've never had need to use it so far, so probably won't miss not having it. Everything else on the handset sounds great.</p>

  • yaddamaster

    06 April, 2017 - 12:03 pm

    <p>I bought both the G4 Plus and the G4. The G4 has a compass while the G4 Plus inexplicably did not. That was a huge miss. I won't be buying the G5 plus unless it does.</p>

    • gartenspartan

      Premium Member
      06 April, 2017 - 12:07 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#96110">In reply to yaddamaster:</a></em></blockquote><p>G5 Plus DOES have a compass this year in single sim US version only. </p>

  • jrickel96

    06 April, 2017 - 12:31 pm

    <p>Bought two G4 Pluses last year with 4GB and 64GB for friends and family. Both failed in less than 6 months. One had persistent overheating problems and was replaced by Moto with another phone with persistent overheating problems. The other had the screen die out only to be replaced by another screen that died. </p><p><br></p><p>At least last year, the part sourcing was terrible. I wouldn't trust the G-Series based on my experience. Replaced on with an iPhone 7 that has zero issues and the other with an Alcatel Idol 4S that also had the screen die. </p><p><br></p><p>Never ran into these problems with my HTC One M8, Nexus 6P, or iPhone 7 Plus. So there is a purpose to the premium handsets. I also bought a family member a Nexus 5X that is doing quite well. These mid-range handsets promise great value, but I wonder about the build quality and quality of sourced parts. </p>

    • jlmerrill

      07 April, 2017 - 1:38 am

      <blockquote><a href="#96127"><em>In reply to jrickel96:</em></a>Must of had a bad run. I have&nbsp; 2 G4s with no problems and just upgraded to Android 7.0. Great phone for the price. I ask myself why would I want an iPhone 7 or S8 for 5-600 dollars more?</blockquote><p><br></p>

  • MikeCerm

    06 April, 2017 - 1:31 pm

    <p>The only other phone worth mentioning here is the Honor 8, which sits right between the G5 Plus and the OnePlus 3T in terms of pricing. It has an all metal-and-glass build, much more premium than the Moto (which is all plastic except for the thin panel on the back). It has a high-end CPU that's right up there with the OnePlus, and an interesting dual-camera setup that gives you a fun fake bokeh effect, in addition to taking excellent photos.</p><p>The Moto G5 Plus is like a premium cheap-phone. It's cut from the same cloth as a $150 Blu phone, with a notably better camera, but otherwise similar build. Like the OnePlus 3T, the Honor 8 is a cheap premium-phone. These give you flagship-level performance and build, but with some corners cut to keep the price down.</p>

  • davidD

    Premium Member
    06 April, 2017 - 1:40 pm

    <p>Very keen on your observations Paul. This might well replace my (working well&nbsp;but looks like not getting updated to creators update) Lumia 735.</p>

  • ValueTech

    06 April, 2017 - 3:10 pm

    <p>FWIW, my wife and I have the G4 and G4 Play (not Plus), both with Amazon Prime deal, and both on Republic Wireless wi-fi calling. We've had them for 6 months and both work well. Very happy with my moto G4, no issues with it whatsoever.</p>

  • red.radar

    Premium Member
    06 April, 2017 - 5:49 pm

    <p>NFC? </p><p><br></p><p>This is the future of cellphones. Affordable capable and disposal. </p><p><br></p><p>Forget flagships. Phones have no reason to cost more than laptops </p><p><br></p><p>Slightly off topic if we could transfer app/music/movies from one walled garden to another.. does that and affordable phones like the Moto g5 kill apple? </p><p><br></p><p>Also when reviewing "mid range" phones compare against previous flagships. Many may be willing to switch if the performance is the same. Some just need a new phone because the battery is used up.</p><p><br></p><p>I am excited about this venture. Looking forward to your results </p>

    • Darmok N Jalad

      06 April, 2017 - 9:07 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#96250"><em>In reply to red.radar:</em></a></blockquote><p>"Slightly off topic if we could transfer app/music/movies from one walled garden to another.. does that and affordable phones like the Moto g5 kill apple?"</p><p>If you use Amazon for B and C, then all you are left with repurchasing are the apps. If you use Amazon Underground, then you may not be repurchasing that many apps either. </p>

  • skane2600

    06 April, 2017 - 5:49 pm

    <p>I feel the same way paying $300 for a smartphone as I would buying Air Jordans.&nbsp;</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    07 April, 2017 - 2:21 am

    <p>The only real negative I've heard, in German reviews, is that the call quality is very poor – the call partner's voice is very poor quality and distorted.</p><p>I'll be interested to see if that was a one-off problem, or whether it is general to the model.</p>

    • gartenspartan

      Premium Member
      07 April, 2017 - 4:40 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#96297">In reply to wright_is:</a></em></blockquote><p>My G5 Plus has no such issues. Excellent speaker quality with no distortions and no complaints from callers on other end. The speaker isn't the loudest but no issues from a quality standpoint.</p>

      • wright_is

        Premium Member
        10 April, 2017 - 9:10 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#96313">In reply to gartenspartan:</a></em></blockquote><p>Good to hear. It was otherwise a solid phone, given the review. If the call distortion problem was either limited to the review units (they had a replacement for the first one) or it has since been fixed with an update, it should be a stonker of a phone, for the price.</p><p>My daughter has the G4 and is very happy with it.</p>

  • chriswong13

    Premium Member
    07 April, 2017 - 5:45 pm

    <p>Funny, I just picked up a Moto G4 Plus for $200 to check out for a bit. I have a 30 day return period from Amazon. No NFC is kinda annoying tho…</p>

  • mpgnetz

    09 April, 2017 - 10:53 am

    <p>Using one for past week or so. This will stay as my daily driver. Did prime got 4gb. Added in SD card. Mucho storage and speed is good. Ads on lock aren't a big deal they blend in with rest of notifications. First phone in a while I haven't felt I was being f#$@ed by the vendor in some capacity. Kudos to Moto and Amazon for delivering a quality product at a reasonable price point.</p>

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