For the fourth year in a row, Motorola is upping the ante on budget phones. But unlike previous years, when the company only had one model split into several performance configurations, this year there are three new Moto G phones: the Moto G4, G4 Plus and G4 Play.
After spending a couple of days with the Moto G4 ($199.99, or $149.99 with Amazon ads on the lockscreen) and G4 Plus ($249.99), I have to hand it to Motorola for pushing the envelope on budget phones once again.
Practically the same
Generally speaking, the G4 (not to be confused with LG’s G4) and G4 Plus are mostly identical save for the fingerprint sensor and better rear camera on the latter.
Both devices are sold as unlocked devices and in the U.S. work on both GSM wireless networks (AT&T and T-Mobile) and CDMA (Verizon and Sprint). The phones take Micro SIM cards, but ship with a SIM card adapter that converts a Nano SIM into a Micro SIM. I tested the two phones with three wireless networks (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon SIM cards) and they all connected immediately to the 4G LTE networks (no restart required).
Display: 5.5-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080)
Processor:Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor
Internal storage: 16GB or 32GB (expandable via microSD to 256GB)
Cameras: 13-megapixel back, 5-megapixel front (G4), 16-megapixel back, 5-megapixel front (G4 Plus)
Battery:Non-removable 3,000 mAh
Fast charging: Yes
Wireless charging: No
The G4 and G4 Plus are made of plastic and feel quite good. I know I shouldn’t expect premium materials from a budget phone, but I also know it’s not impossible to do. Xiaomi’s Mi 5, which sells for about $300, and the $200 OnePlus X both offer slick metal and glass designs that best everything in the sub-$300 phone range. If they can do it, surely, Motorola can as well.
The phones come with removable back covers, which you can swap out if you would like a different color. They’re made from a soft-touch plastic and have a fabric-like feel to them. The phones aren’t nearly as slippery as ones made from metal or glass, but they’re still smooth enough that I almost dropped them a few times.
Underneath the cover, you’ll find a microSD card for expanding either the 16GB or 32GB of internal storage up to an additional 256GBand a non-removable 3,000 mAh battery. I got pretty much 1.5 to 2 days of battery life on a single charge.
Like all of Motorola’s phones, the G4 and G4 Plus support TurboPower charging. In my tests, the phones charged up from 0 percent to 40 percent in 30 minutes. The charging port is still Micro USB. Maybe next year it’ll switch to USB-C.
Classic Motorola design
Fast charging via Micro USB
As far as budget phones go, the G4 and G4 Plus have the same performance for doing regular smartphone stuff like web browsing, reading, listening to streaming music, Snapchatting, Facebooking, etc. It’s about what you’d expect: smooth and fast, but not ridiculously so. It gets the job done.
The octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor and 2GB of RAM hold up quite well for 3D gaming. You won’t get nearly the same ultra-fast performance and power efficiency from higher-end phones with the 820 chip and more RAM, but you can definitely get along fine playing Need for Speed: No Limits, N.O.V.A. 3, and Pokmon Go so long as you’re OK with the phone getting warmish.
3rd-gen Moto G vs. Moto G4
Plays Pokmon Go fine
Compared to the third-gen Moto G, the screen’s larger and sharper on the G4 and G4 Plus, coming in at 5.5 inches with full HD resolution. Yes, it means the physical dimensions of the phone are larger, but 5.5-inch screens are now the norm. One thing I did notice: the G4’s screen is slightly warmer than the G4 Plus. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I preferred the G4 Plus’s more natural display calibration.
As always, Motorola’s loaded up both devices with stock Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Neither phone comes pre-installed with any disgusting bloatware apps. The usual Motorola additions, including gestures like “Chop Twice for Flashlight” and “Twist for Quick Capture,” are still present and excellent. I also like the “Pick Up to Stop Ringing” action, which switches the ringer to vibrate when you lift the phone up. The only action that didn’t work (no matter how many times I tried) was “Flip for Do Not Disturb,” which is supposed to silence notifications and calls when you place the phone’s screen face down.
With each new Moto G, Motorola improves the cameras.
The G4 is equipped with the same 13-megapixel back and 5-megapixel front camera as last year’s third-gen Moto G.The G4 Plus, on the other hand, has a higher resolution 16-megapixel rear camera. The selfie camera is the same 5-megapixel shooter.
I tested both cameras side-by-side to see which phone’s cameras would come out on top.
Moto G4 Plus
Moto G4 Plus
Moto G4 Plus
Moto G4 Plus
Moto G4 Plus
It was a very close call, but the G4 Plus’s higher resolution camera with faster laser autofocus sensor is easily the winner. It’s also got a slightly wider angle lens compared to the G4.
For general photos outdoors, the differences are very minor. Even at full 100% resolution, the G4 Plus’s photos are only a hair sharper. And you definitely can’t see the sharpness differences when looking at the pictures on their mobile displays.
The areas you’ll see the biggest differences are color reproduction, low-light performance and autofocusing speed. The G4 takes photos that are slightly warmer and more saturated, as you can see in the 100% crop outdoors (second pair of photos above). The G4 Plus’s colors are more accurate to real life.
The G4 Plus’s back camera has better color reproduction, low-light performance and faster autofocusing.
The G4 Plus also destroys the G4 for low-light photos. Photos are better exposed even with very little light on the subjects (like in my test shot above) and while the photo is still grainy with lots of image noise, it’s still better than the underexposed, dark and muddy photos the G4 takes in the same scenario.
Both cameras are pretty quick to launch and fire off shots, but the G4 Plus is faster thanks to its laser autofocus sensor, which locks onto targets faster for fewer missed shots.
And for some reason, HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing is faster on the G4 Plus, too, despite the two phones having the same processor and RAM.
Selfies from both cameras should be the same, but time after time, the G4 took the better selfie. Those from the G4 Plus kept coming out softer and with less sharpness. That said, the selfies from the G4 look like they have a haze or filter slapped on top.
Both cameras come with manual modes for more advanced photographers. With the setting turned on, you can adjust camera settings like white balance, shutter speed, ISO and exposure. It’s impressive considering these are both budget phones.
Lastly, both cameras shoot full HD video and support slow-motion video recording qHD (540p) at 120 frames per second. No 4K recording on either phones, but I’m pretty “meh” about it on high-end phones to begin with.
$50 extra gets you so much more
When the first Moto G was introduced in 2013, it quickly became thebudget phone to get. And while the second- and third-generation Moto G phones were better than their predecessors, many companies have swiftly moved in with their own budget phones that have given Motorola a run for its money.
The G4 and G4 Plus both punch a little above their weight in some areas. You can’t go wrong with either phone.
Sure, both devices lack the third-gen Moto G’s water resistance body, but they’re still water repellent, so they’ll survive rain droplets just fine.
After trying out both phones, I’m inclined to highly recommend the G4 Plus over the G4. The fingerprint sensor located below the screen is fast and responsive it even works with damp fingers and adds another layer of security to your phone, although the phone doesn’t support Android Pay because it lacks NFC. The G4 Plus’s camera is also better than the G4’s.
Fifty bucks is a lot of money for some people, but the G4 Plus’s extra features are worth it.
Moto G4 and G4 Plus (2016)
Bigger, sharper displays So affordable Good midrange performance Best cameras on the Moto G series yet G4 Plus has better camera over G4 G4 Plus comes with fast, accurate fingerprint sensor Two-day battery life Expandable storage No bloatware apps
Lost water resistance Slippery Lacks NFC for Android Pay Crappier selfies on G4 Plus
The Bottom Line
The Moto G4 and G4 Plus are both solid budget phones, but for $50 more, the G4 Plus nets you a better camera and a fingerprint sensor.
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