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.)
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, Amazon.com 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.