Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Motorola has been the leader of the budget phone realm ever since they came out with their Moto G line, but the new Moto G4 Plus has taken things to the next level. Whereas past generations of the Moto G made some pretty significant compromises to come in at a low price point, the G4 Plus manages to blow other phones out of the water at only $300.
So is it the phone for you? Let’s find out.
- Price: $300 ($250 version available)
- Chipset: Octa-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor with 550MHz Adreno 405 GPU
- RAM: 4GB (2GB version available)
- Storage: 64GB (16GB version available)
- Cameras: 16MP rear-facing, 5MP front-facing
- Size: 153mm x 76.6mm x 9.8mm (6.02in x 3.02in x 0.39in)
- Weight: 155g (5.46oz)
- Screen: 5.5″ LCD 1920px by 1080px display
- Expansion: microSD card slot up to 128GB
- Battery: 3,000mAh with TurboCharge
- Operating System: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Extra Features: Fingerprint scanner, removeable back
If there’s one aspect of this phone that feels cheap, it’s the plastic body. This comes with its own pros and cons, though. For example, the textured plastic has more grip than an aluminum phone, and it can easily be popped off to give you access to the SIM card and MicroSD card slots (the battery however is still not removable).
But, it does look and feel cheaper. The plastic can be a little creaky in places, but for the most part, it feels solidly built. Strangely enough, the curved design is extremely reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S3.
The power button and volume rocker are along the right side, the left side is bare, the bottom has the Micro-USB port, and the headphone jack is at the top. Because it does still use Micro-USB, all your old cables should work for it, but be aware that the industry is moving towards the reversible Type-C plug, and in a year or two, you might feel a little left behind.
Just below the screen, there’s a square fingerprint scanner that looks deceitfully like a home button, but it’s not (the phone uses software keys instead). Honestly, the scanner is beyond impressive. Rest your finger lightly on it, and the phone unlocks instantly, even without hitting the power button first to wake it up. I was genuinely shocked by how fast and reliable the fingerprint scanner was, and I continued to use it for the whole time I was testing the device.
The screen is a pretty standard 5.5″ 1080p LCD display, but it looks great and is bright enough in direct sunlight.
While the resolution of both the cameras isn’t bad (16MP front-facing and 5MP rear-facing), they quality is lacking, especially in low-light. Photos in daylight were fine, but as soon as you go indoors, photos become grainy and blurry. The worst part was probably the slow shutter speed. There’s a good chunk of time after hitting the button before it actually takes the photo, which means you won’t be taking photos in quick succession.
There is a burst mode, but photos are even more blurry in that. You’ll also find a Professional Mode for manual camera controls, a panorama mode, and slow-motion video. But that’s it. Maybe the best part about it is the simplicity; other manufacturers pack their camera apps with so many unnecessary features that it becomes confusing.
I felt like the front-facing camera left me with especially washed-out and under-saturated selfies. Photos are definitely not the strong point of this phone. But that being said, they’re not terrible. For a $300 phone, it’s actually just as good if not better than other phones in its price range. I don’t think it was even intended to compete with $700 phone cameras.
The speaker on the Moto G4 Plus is actually built right into the earpiece. That means that you get the sound pointed directly at you, not coming out of the back or the bottom of the device. It’s not an extremely loud speaker, but it’s definitely above average.
Front-facing speakers have become a rarity on smartphones. HTC is known for their dual-front facing speakers, but even they moved to an earpiece-speaker combo in their latest flagship HTC 10. So seeing that feature on a budget device is a pleasant surprise.
You might think that with the Snapdragon 617 powering this little phone, it would be noticeably slow — but I haven’t found that to be true at all. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s running nearly stock Android; maybe Motorola (or Lenovo, the company that owns Motorola) has made some tweaks behind the scenes. But whatever it is, this phone is not slow. I’ve only run into lag a couple times, but that was when I was really pushing the phone by charging it, playing Pokemon GO, keeping the screen brightness on high, using it in warm weather, navigating with GPS, and checking Twitter.
But in normal use cases, the G4 Plus is plenty fast. 4G of RAM is more than enough, and getting that much for only $300 is incredible. I promise you, when you’re using this device, it does not feel like a cheap Android phone hindered by lag and bugs.
While most manufacturers change Android pretty drastically, Motorola has basically left it alone — and that’s great. People tend to find manufacturer changes to be unnecessary bloat, and you get none of that here. There’s just plain old stock Android.
Motorola has added a couple little features via a single app called Moto. Here you can adjust the screen light-up during battery-saving mode for notifications, and you can control the gestures like “Chop Twice” for Flashlight. I personally found the gestures to not be very helpful, but the notification display is infinitely useful (especially since the G4 Plus doesn’t have an LED notification light).
Otherwise, there’s not much to the software. But that’s extremely good news for software updates. Lenovo has already promised to upgrade the G4 Plus to Android 7.0 Nougat by the end of this year, though only time will tell if they continue to upgrade it past that point.
With a 3,000mAh battery, battery life on the G4 Plus is really quite good. I wouldn’t say that it’s a standout feature, but it’s certainly better than most other smartphones. I never ran out of juice before the end of the day (unless I spent the day playing Pokemon GO, but then I had a portable charger).
In the screenshots above, you can see that after having 4 hours of screen on time, I still had 31% battery left. Most phones die before 4 hours, but the the G4 Plus just kept going.
There are two models of the G4 Plus. The one we tested had 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and cost $300. The other model is only $250 and has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. But that extra $50 is definitely worth it for all of that.
We’ve covered before why 16GB just isn’t enough storage for a modern smartphone, and you’ll certainly feel the performance difference going from 2GB of RAM to 4GB. Considering most manufacturers charge an extra $100 just to up the storage from 16GB to 64GB, you’re getting quite the deal here.
But even at $300, the Moto G4 Plus is still substantially cheaper than basically every flagship smartphone. The base model 32GB iPhone 7 retails for $650; the cheapest 32GB Samsung Galaxy S7 can cost anywhere from $550 to $700 depending on where you buy it; the new Google Pixel costs $650 for the cheapest 32GB model.
For any of the faults that this phone has, it’s a bit easier to forgive them when you realize that you’re saving $300-$400.
Should You Buy It?
The Moto G4 Plus is not perfect, but it manages to pack a lot into a $300 package. The fingerprint scanner is quick, the screen is gorgeous, the software is clean, and it has expandable storage.
But on the other hand, the cameras are mediocre, it has a cheap build quality, and it still uses the now-dated micro-USB port.
If you can get past its few flaws, the Moto G4 Plus is probably the best smartphone in its price range. But if you absolutely need a better camera or want a metal phone, you might have to look at slightly more expensive phones.