How does the Moto G4 stack up to other budget phones?
The Quick Take
The Moto G4 is a 5.5-inch Android phone that lacks any kind of definition to help it stand out. With a single top speaker grill, and its rounded corners, it blends in. It delivers a great display that is easy to see both inside and outdoors, along with a battery that will keep you going all day — and then some. It's got a decently-performing camera, and new access to manual features for photos.
- Solid feel in your hand
- Good camera with manual features
- Great battery life
- Processor gets overworked from extensive use
- Camera lags when opening
- Only 16GB of onboard storage
About this Review
I (Jen Karner) after a week of using a Moto G4 for about ten days, running Android 6.0.1 with the May 1, 2016 security patch. The build number is MPJ24.139-48. It was connected to the AT&T network in Halethorpe, Maryland.
The best of plastic
5.5-inch Full HD display, 401 PPI, Gorilla glass 3
Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 SoC (Octa-core Cortex-A53)
16GB, expandable by 128GB Adoptable storage
153 x 76.6 x 7.9 mm
In your hand, the Moto G4 feels sturdy, but definitely made of plastic. The back plate is smooth, with a textured cross hatch that can feel a bit strange at first, especially if you're moving to the G4 from a metal framed phone. Despite its large screen, the phone fits and can be used with a single hand.
When you're looking at it, the phone could pass for any other rectangular, round-cornered phone. There's only one piece of branding at all, on the backplate: the Moto logo just underneath the camera. This is a phone that is striving for simplicity, something you can tell by glancing at it. There are only two buttons, both located to the right of the screen. The power button is seated on top, with a textured pattern to help tell it apart from the volume rocker. The rocker, is seated just under the power button and is smooth. Both of the buttons are metal, and are easy to tell apart from the phone's plastic body.
The screen does its job well, delivering a great experience even in direct sunlight.
There are only two ports on the phone, the micro-USB charger at the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a single speaker located above the screen, and while not amazing, it gets the job done. To the right of the speaker grill is the lens for the front facing camera. On the back of the phone you'll find your rear facing camera. The back plate of the phone also pops up revealing your SIM card slot, an microSD card slot, and the unremovable battery.
The screen on the Moto G4 is a 5.5-inch Full HD display with a Gorilla Glass 3 overlay that reaches nearly across the entire phone, with space above and below it. The screen does it's job and well, delivering a great experience even in direct sunlight. You'll get vibrant and poppy colors that aren't washed out, or oversaturated. Even when you dim your screen, it's never so dark that it's unusable so long as you are indoors.
The Snapdragon 617 processor is adequate to let you get everything done, but doesn't go above and beyond. Likewise, the phone occasionally heats up when playing a battery-intensive game like Pokemon Go or Avengers Academy for a prolonged period of time. For the most part, though, the phone is capable of handling anything from social media and the web to playing Match-3 games for an hour and a half.
Android all the way
Happily, the Moto G4 is running Android 6.0.1 out of the box. Having the most up to date software possible is a must for many people, and seeing a budget level phone up to date is always a good thing to see (though it won't be up-to-date for long). Instead of seeing overbearing Moto software, there is an emphasis on Google and stock Android, with a few Moto flourishes thrown in.
Those flourishes include gestures, but sadly lacks the Moto Voice feature that allows you to quickly access specific notifications usually found on more expensive Motorola devices. You will be using those Moto gestures as you become more acquainted with the phone. You can launch your camera by quickly double twisting the phone, or flipping it to lay face down to silence an incoming phone calls.
When the phone did start to heat up was when there were some issues with the performance of the phone.
There were some issues when the phone was used for an extended amount of time, though. The entire thing would heat up, and while never becoming too hot or issuing a warning, it did become uncomfortable in my pocket or hand. When the phone did start to heat up was when there were some issues with the performance; apps would stutter, and it was easier to just put the phone down and let it cool back down before trying to do much of anything.
To storage, if only 16GB of space seems like too little, you're still in luck. The Moto G4 takes advantage of Google's Adoptable Storage feature, letting you mount up to 128GB microSD card to augment the storage you have access to.
An expected flaw
The Moto G4 is running on a Snapdragon 617, with 2GB of RAM which, while technically an upgrade from its predecessor, is aging quickly and as you're running around doesn't always stand up to the abuse. That's not exactly rare with a lower-end phone, but it is still just a bit disheartening.
For most people, the processor will be exactly what you need out of the phone. However when used heavily, the phone does occasionally try to rebel. On several occasions during my time with the Moto G4, it got hot and jittery enough that I had to clear all of the open tasks, or even restart the phone. This was generally after heavy extended use that most people wouldn't get to.
Fine tuned controls
For plenty of people, the camera on their phone is a pretty big deal. You want something that can capture the moments in your life that matter. For the most part, the Moto G4 has delivered a great camera. With a 13MP sensor on the back and a 5MP front facing shooter you'll be covered. The one big flaw, though: no matter how you open the camera it takes several seconds to load. It's not a deal breaker, but it can be frustrating when you're trying to grab a shot in the spur of the moment.
Once it opens up, you're good to go. The camera allows you to adjust between regular shooting, and with the G4 they've added manual controls. While many people don't want to fuss with these, there are others who like being able to fine tune the photos they snap and now they can. LG is already known for their manual settings, but it's nice to see Moto joining in as well.
Switching between photo and video capture is simple, and just involves a few taps. If you want to adjust your default settings for photo and video, the settings are available by swiping to the side. If you decide to dive into the professional mode, you'll have access to all of the manual settings. These settings pop up on a sliding scale for adjustment after you tap on the appropriate settings on the right side of the screen.
Another small downside to the camera: how long the HDR takes to process. Occasionally you'll get a message asking you to hold your phone steady while taking a photo. For most people holding still for an extra second or two isn't a big deal, but it can produce problematic blurry photographs if your hand is shaking. This didn't happen often, but it's worth noting.
Overall the camera performs really well, especially for a phone under $300. The fast autofocus also means that you can easily grab great candid shots. You'll just need to make sure the camera is open in advance. It would have been nice to see some optical stabilization, but given the small size of the phone it's usually pretty easy to hold steady.
It just keeps going
There's something to be said for a phone that has a battery capable of getting you through the day without needing a charge. The Moto G4 is packed with a 3000mAh battery that will get you through your commute, and work day, along with getting you home. A single full charge got me through nearly a full day when I needed to charge it.
The adapter included with it is equipped with TurboPower charger, Moto's take on Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 standard. It's easy enough to just plug in for 10 or 15 minutes and see a 20% improvement in the battery. If the Moto G4 dies on you, which only happened to me once, it'll only take about an hour and a half to get you back up to a full charge again.
For everyday users this battery will get you through at least a full day. For heavier use, it's good for about 16 hours.
It's worth it
So is the Moto G4 worth the $199.99 price tag? In a word, yes. This phone packs a serious punch for its asking cost. You get fantastic battery life, a decent display, and a camera that delivers great results. While there are some small issues it doesn't take away from the whole package, and the Moto G4 is a contender in the budget range of phones.
While Motorola used to dominate the budget range, those days might be running out. There are progressively more budget phones, and each one has it's own particular perks. While the G4 may not be the best overall phone, you can deny the appeal of a battery that can take whatever you feel like throwing at it.
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