Lenovo (and Motorola before that) has been the unofficial king of mid-range Android phones for the last few years. Their Moto G line has been a strong competitor in the value market since it’s introduction in 2013. The Moto G line has always offered just the right combination of hardware, software, and price to make it a serious contender in the sub $250 market. Manufacturers like Huawei, Xiaomi, BLU, and others have turned up the heat in recent months, however. Does the Moto G4 Plus have what it takes to compete? Read on to find out.
The 2016 Moto G4 Plus won’t turn many heads in its default configuration. Our review model was the black version but Lenovo offers the chance to add some flair by using Moto Maker on their website. You can customize storage, colors, memory, and more.
Regardless of color options chosen, it’s a flat slab with a slightly raised lip around the glass, plastic sides, and a plastic peel away back. The standout feature on the front of the phone is the fingerprint reader. It’s a small square below the display framed by a shiny metal barrier. There’s a microUSB port along the bottom and a 3.5 mm headphone jack dead-center on the top edge. The buttons are along the right side – power button above and volume rocker below. The power button is nicely textured which makes it easy to find in the dark. I did find the volume rocker to be a little small but it’s nothing to fret over.
The back cover lifts away to reveal microSD and Micro-SIM slots. Lenovo includes a SIM adapter in the device and I was able to use my Nano-SIM without issue. The back is covered with a grippy-rubbery coating and has the trademark Moto dimple below the rear camera. In the weeks I’ve been using it I’ve never worried about dropping it. The Moto G4 Plus design and feel reminds me very much of the old Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Though it reaches 9.8mm at it’s thickest it tapers to only 7.9mm on the edges. It weighs in at 155 grams, lighter than the similarly sized iPhone 6s Plus. The Moto G4 Plus does not feel like a thick or heavy phone.
The screen is a big 5.5 inch LCD at 1080p. That works out to a respectable 401 pixels per inch. I’m disappointed that Lenovo went with LCD. It doesn’t have the same pop that an AMOLED display would. This is definitely not a Samsung or HTC screen. I find 1080p resolution to be sufficient and happily take the performance and battery improvements over the increased sharpness that 2k offers.
The Moto G4 Plus is powered by Qualcomm’s eight-core Snapdragon 617. This isn’t the same high-end Snapdragon 800 series CPU found in flagships like the Galaxy S7 or Moto Z series but it delivers plenty of performance for every day use. The only time I noticed any slowdown at all was when installing particularly large applications like CSR Racing 2. Games like CSR Racing, Hitman: Sniper and more performed flawlessly. OS animations are smooth and the phone handled everything I threw at it with grace.
The included fingerprint reader is still somewhat of a novelty at this price point and it is one of the features that sets the Moto G4 Plus apart from the competition. I’m happy to say that it works, and works well. It’s fast and recognized my fingers consistently and even outperforms my iPhone 6 for unlock speed.
Lenovo has made a habit of shipping near-stock Android on all of its recent Moto devices. The 2016 Moto G is no exception. The unit I received was loaded with Android 6.0.1. Google’s own apps served as the defaults for most functions – keyboard, messaging, launcher, music, and more. This marks a change from previous years where AOSP or OEM versions of these apps shipped as default. Thankfully there’s no adware or bloatware to gum up the works. I’d like to see more manufacturers move this direction.
The G4 Plus builds on the base OS by including features Lenovo calls Moto Enhancements. There’s Moto Display which shows you at a glance notifications. Tapping or nudging the phone causes the display to light up and show recent updates. Moto Display lets you triage notifications easily – dismiss the ones that can wait or go right to the app for the ones that can’t. It’s really one of my favorite software enhancements from any of the major manufacturers and is a fantastic extension of the base OS.
Moto Actions are also back in 2016. Moto Actions let you interact with the phone using motions. Twist your wrist to launch the camera. Chop the phone to turn on the flashlight. Pickup the phone to silence the ringer or flip it over to enable Do Not Disturb. Interacting with Moto Actions really makes the phone feel personal. Once you become accustomed to launching the camera with a motion you’ll miss it when using any other phone.
The Moto G4 Plus main shooter is a 16 MP affair with laser-assisted focus and phase detection autofocus. Photos came out clear in the Florida sun and low-light performance was good. Video tops out at 1080p and there is no image stabilization. I don’t take a lot of video so that’s not critical to me but you should be aware. Video performance is only average.
The camera app itself is an iteration over previous Moto software. Gone is tap-to-take. Tapping anywhere on the screen now changes the focus point. A light sensitivity slider is present on the focus reticle for fine tuning. The camera also supports panorama, slow motion video (540p only), and a professional mode for modifying ISO, shutter speed, and more. Full resolution copies of the images below are available here.
Lenovo packed a 3,000 mAh battery in the Moto G4 Plus and claim up to 24 hours of battery life with mixed use. I never saw 24 hours but I did average over 14 hours per charge with five hours of screen-on time. I never turn off WiFi, GPS, or Bluetooth so I consider that excellent. I’m not one that really ever sees 24 hours of battery life. I’m constantly streaming audio or video and my office is in a metal building with notoriously poor signal. Anything over 12 hours is generally good enough for me. Of course, performance is very much dependent on your usage. I suspect many will see even longer battery life.
The battery isn’t user replaceable but Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 (Lenovo calls it TurboPower charging) is supported. Using the included TurboPower charger can give you a 25% charge in about 20 minutes. Overall, battery and charging performance exceeded my expectations for a device in this price range.
I loved using the Moto G4 Plus as my main phone as I found it to have a great combination of size, speed, and features. I really appreciate the total value that Lenovo is offering. There are a few minor issues – the screen could be better; the design is a bit drab – but overall I give it a solid recommendation. Amazon has the Moto G4 Plus available (with same/next day shipping for Prime members) for $249 for the 16 GB/2 GB version and $299 for the 64 GB/4GB model. It’s hard to beat Moto’s overall package of price and performance.
Lenovo also offers a standard Moto G4 without the fingerprint reader and other options for the more budget conscious among us. Amazon will sell you one with Prime Ads starting at $149. We’ll cover the differences between the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus soon but the TLDR takeaway is that either phone is an excellent value.