Last week a rumour dropped that we might see three new phones from Moto in the near future: the Moto X3, Moto G4, and Moto G4 Plus. Amid the media flurry around the LG G5, and more-recently the HTC 10, it’s easy to pass over news about mid-range handsets. However, in this particular instance that would be a mistake.
The specifics of the rumours are unimportant, what you need to take away from this supposed leak is that new Moto handsets are on their way, possibly very soon. Get excited.
Moto (no longer called Motorola Mobility) is a people’s champion when it comes to phone pricing. By picking and choosing the direction of its handset development carefully, Moto smartphones consistently offer a user experience well beyond what their lower price tags might infer.
In 2015 things moved even further in the right direction, when Moto finally stepped up and started putting seriously decent cameras on its phones. This was the final piece of the puzzle, and it meant that customers had access phones that could, at times, go toe-to-toe with devices twice their price, in terms of in-the-hand user experience.
I personally have an LG G4 at home, which I break out every now and then when I need it for the photos, but my daily driver is a Moto G 2015 Edition. It’s a fast, fluid device that’s worth well less than half the LG G4, yet I find it lags less and lasts longer between charges. The Moto G camera is fine for day-to-day use, and on top of everything, it’s IP67 water resistant. Really, the only areas where the LG G4 beats it out significantly are photos (the G4 has a famously amazing camera), and the overall appearance of the handset.
How do they do it?
Moto appears to be very careful about picking the areas it’s going to throw its research and development costs at.
For example, most Android manufacturers invest a lot of time and effort in to creating their own user interfaces (UIs) to lie over the top of the Android operating system (OS). While this can be good for said manufacturer, as it can assist in driving users towards buying and using its own proprietary apps, thus generating valuable usage data en masse, it’s usually a loss for the user.
Not only does the ultimate shelf price of the phone reflect the R&D invested in this enterprise, third party UIs are often heavy and slow down the phone on which they’re running.
Moto side-steps this issue by using the default Android UI, and by only investing R&D in to a select handful of proprietary apps, such as the camera. The result is a phone that can operate faster with less-powerful hardware, and costs less than other phones with similar specifications.
Other examples could be found in dual-lens camera systems, heartrate monitors, proprietary health or news apps, etc. It all costs money to make, and you end up paying for it out of the cost of the smartphone.
A second benefit to Moto’s adoption of the ‘vanilla’ Android UI is updates. Where most folk have to wait months for their manufacturer to adapt their proprietary UI to work with a new version of Android, Moto has to make very few adjustments. You’ll end up getting updates around as quickly as an Android Nexus device, which is often within weeks of an update release.
This means your phone will continue to be upgraded as you own it, and you’ll have the latest version of Android far faster than even something like the Samsung Galaxy S7.
There are two main drawbacks when it comes to Moto phones. The first is the camera, the second is the look.
While it’s true that Moto came a long way in 2015 with the cameras on the Moto G, Moto X Play and Moto X Style/Pure, you’re still never going to get the “best” photos out of any of them. If you’re an absolute photo fanatic, going full flagship is still the only way to go.
However, you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars more for that classy shooter. At the end of the day, that’s the biggest difference between an expensive Samsung, LG, HTC, or Apple handset and a cheaper Moto one.
The more-efficient use of hardware and lower pricing of the Moto devices should more than make up for a little visual noise in photos for a lot of people. Make sure you have a think about what really matters to you in a phone before you fork out the big bucks.
Lastly, Moto handsets tend fall short in the visuals department when sat beside something like a Galaxy S7 or HTC 10. If you’re the kind to throw a case on your phone (which you should be doing, anyway), then this isn’t so much of a big deal.
Lastly, the savings continue if you buy a Moto phone outright, because that means you can jump on a BYO phone plan. 2-year contract plans with subsidised phones may look a lot cheaper, but they come with a higher per-month price that often ends up coming to the full price, or close to the full price of the phone.
Moto devices can be cheap enough that you can buy them outright without much worry, and enjoy the cheaper per-month charges, and the freedom, that comes with a no-contract phone plan.