Last year was full of drama in the smart-phone business. Apple and Samsung squared off against each other, not only in court but on the shelves. Sony, Google, LG and more all announced new phones and 2017 will probably see a similar refresh from all the household names.
One brand we’ve heard less from over the last few years is Motorola. Once synonymous with quality and innovation, Motorola mobiles faded in the shadow of the super-brands and many thought the people who gave us the Star-Trek like flip phone would go the way of Nokia. Things are looking up though, as Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC maker are breathing new life in to one of the industry’s stalwarts.
Unpacking the Moto G4 reveals the stand-out feature of this gadget, the huge screen. The 5.5” inch screen is impressive but the phone remains a manageable weight at 155 grams and it’s slim at under 10 millimeters. The body has rounded corners and coupled with the micro-texture back this is a big phone that’s easy to hold, and grip.
Although made mostly of plastic, it feels sturdy thanks to the metal rim around the body and the standby and volume buttons on the side are easily found, and identifiable without looking. The back of the phone comes away easily and this back-plate can be customised with alternative shells and front and back can be tweaked online with the Moto Maker.
Powering up the phone reveals the improvement to the screen since this phone’s predecessor. The last version of this phone sported a decent 720p screen but this new G4 has a full HD LCD screen at 1080p. I worked my way around the app screens, customised the layout and tried some games and watching a video. Everything I watched on the G4 looked crystal clear and bright with great colour density. There is no other smart-phone with a screen of this quality, in the same price bracket. Screens aren’t important for making calls, but with a big screen like this, it’s perfect for gaming and watching videos on the train or plane.
There are two cameras on the G4, a 13MP rear facing and 5MP selfie-camera. The rear camera is feature packed with a color-balancing LED flash and a pro-mode as well as some really useful features like slow-motion video, panorama mode and a good 4x digital zoom. It produces bright, crisp images and does a great job on video. The front facing camera is decent also with a good wide-angle view to fit in all the family or scenery behind you and a display flash.
Battery life is good, and while videos and gaming dropped the battery level, I didn’t run out any day during testing, and it required charging only last thing at night. Recharging is a snap though, as the G4’s TurboPower feature will give you six hours of operation after just fifteen minutes of charging.
Perhaps the Moto body could be a little less frill-free and I’d like it to have NFC and a finger-print scanner like it’s more expensive sibling. That said, this is a budget smart-phone that punches way above its weight. Its wonderful screen makes it ideal for watching videos while commuting or traveling and the software and chip combination delivers blistering performance. The Moto G4 isn’t just reviving a well-known brand; it sets a new standard for budget phones.
An edited version of this review appeared in the Irish Mail on Sunday on 8-January-2017.