When we reviewed the first-gen Moto G, we started off by saying that it’s the device that can fulfil its parent Google’s ambition of reaching out to the next billion smartphone users. It was quite successful in achieving that as well, since it was the best-selling phone for the brand that year. Fast forward to 2016, the budget ‘G’ series has reached its fourth iteration. But what’s even more interesting is that Motorola’s parentage has changed now, which makes the latest offering from the brand to be the first one to carry Lenovo branding. But is that all that’s changed with the Moto G (4th-gen)?
The Moto G series is now following the footsteps of the premium Moto X range by bifurcating into two – Moto G4 and the G4 Plus. The latter is the first device from the new-age Motorola to offer a fingerprint scanner (the company offered biometric authentication on the Atrix back in 2011). It also adds a higher RAM and storage option, plus an improved rear camera. We’ve been using the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus for the past few days to find out if these changes are enough to make it a compelling option at its starting price of Rs 13,499. And here’s what we think.
PS: If you want to watch the video review of the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus, then keep watching this space. For now, you can check out our first impressions.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)|
|CPU||Octa core, 1.5 GHz, Snapdragon 617|
|Internal memory||16 GB|
|External memory||Up to 128 GB|
|Capacity||3000 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Primary camera||16 MP|
|Secondary camera||5 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
Design: Bigger. Thinner. Flatter
Dimensions: 153 x 76 x 9.8 mm
Weight: 155 grams
Curves are good.
If you are in the camp that agrees with this quote, and are in favour of the curvaceous design language Motorola has been using for its phones thus far, prepare for disappointment. Gone are the dual curves at the back that offered ergonomic comfort, and instead you get get a flatter rear panel. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s just that we have come to associate Moto devices with a practical design ethos.
Curves are out. Flat is in. Pictured here: Moto G (3rd-gen) (left) and Moto G4 Plus (right)
The fascia of the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus is dominated by the 5.5-inch display panel. Unlike the previous Moto G’s which sported dual front-firing speakers, the G4 Plus gets only one at the top, which is accompanied by a couple of sensors and a secondary snapper. Instead of the usual speaker placement at the bottom, you’ll notice a square-shaped physical module, which houses the fingerprint reader. There’s a primary microphone alongside, which looks quite odd at the front.
Moto G (3rd-gen) (left) and Moto G4 Plus (right)
Similar to all Motorola offerings, the navigation keys are available as part of the software interface. In this case, the decision seems bewildering, since there’s ample room on either side of the fingerprint sensor for capacitive keys. What’s even more ridiculous is that the fingerprint sensor doesn’t do anything beyond authentication, when it should have doubled up as a home button. More often than not, our finger habitually reached out to the physical sensor to jump to the homescreen.
Around its edges, the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus features a metallic frame. Towards the right, you’ll find the power button followed by the volume rocker. The power switch sports a ribbed texture which was present in previous Moto smartphones too, and this makes it instantly recognisable by feel. The left spine is completely devoid of any functional elements. On top, there’s a 3.5mm audio socket, whereas the micro-USB port is present at the base.
The rear panel features a textured pattern offering good grip. Here you’ll find the primary camera module supplemented by a dual-tone LED flash placed in a slightly protruding strip. Towards the middle, there’s the iconic ‘M’ logo placed inside a dimple. The back cover can be removed to access the pair of micro-SIM slots and a microSD card slot. Lenovo is quite thoughtful as it has provided nano-SIM card adapters with the Moto G4 Plus, so that users with nano-SIM cards can easily turn them into micro-SIMs. The battery remains non-removable.
The hollowed-out M logo at the rear is where we believe the fingerprint sensor placement would have made the most sense. It’s a place where the index finger is placed spontaneously while holding the phone, and authentication would’ve been easy and instantaneous.
Our review unit comes in black, but you can also purchase the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus in a white hue. Even though the handset is big, we were easily able to use it with a single hand, though those with smaller hands would find it difficult to reach to the corners of the screen. The weight has been distributed along the body well, since it doesn’t feel bulky. With the curves gone, the smartphone is quite slim with its frame measuring 7.87mm.
The latest member of the Moto G family also loses out on the durability factor as it’s not compliant with the IPxx rating. This means that unlike the third-gen Moto G (review), which was dust- and water-proof, the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus wouldn’t play as nicely with water. Thankfully, it does get a nano coating, and can handle water splashes.
In sum, the design seems to be in the middle – it’s not the best considering the competition touts metallic designs, but it’s not bad when it comes to the build quality. What we didn’t appreciate though is that the Moto G4 Plus has lost the biggest advantage offered by its predecessors – superb handling and waterproofing.
Display: one nine two zero by one zero eight zero
Size: 5.5 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 401 ppi
The Moto G series has always sported a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels, but the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus is changing that since its 5.5-inch screen features a rich full HD resolution.
The display panel offers impressive colours and with a pixel density of 401ppi, it remains plenty sharp. Viewing angles are top notch, and we didn’t find any issues in making out the display outdoors under sunlight, thanks to the ample brightness levels. Protecting the display against scratches and minor knocks is a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
While we liked the vivid colours of the Moto G4 Plus screen, they can be tweaked as you can switch to a normal mode available in display options.
Software: Google’s Marshmallow candy enriched with Moto’s flavour
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 6.0, Marshmallow
The Lenovo Moto G4 Plus comes with the latest iteration of Android, i.e. 6.0.1 Marshmallow. We’re really glad that the Chinese giant has let the Motorola devices continue with their biggest USP – the pure and unadulterated software experience, and now the company is dubbing it as Moto Pure. The interface is completely stock, right from the lock screen to home screen, notification drawer and the settings menu.
You do get some useful options however, which are available with the Moto app. With Actions, you can use gestures for various functions such as a double chop for toggling the torch, and a double twist for opening the camera app. These options were available in the previous Motorola devices as well, but there are other gestures like being able to flip the phablet to initiate the DND mode or lifting the phone to switch to vibrate mode for incoming calls.
You also get the extremely useful Moto Display, which gives you a peek at the time and notifications, without even unlocking the smartphone. The best part is that it doesn’t affect the battery life, and it shows notifications from all the apps unlike the always-on display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 duo (review). It seems Lenovo has removed other useful Moto features such as Alert and Assist, which seems like a step back if you ask us.
While we might not like the placement of the fingerprint module, we have to say that Lenovo has implemented it really well. It’s extremely quick and very accurate. It never failed us when we tried unlocking the Moto G4 Plus, and it accepts 360-degree input. Like most smartphones with fingerprint scanners, you can store up to five fingerprints on the G4 Plus.
All in all, the software offers a vanilla Android experience, and is optimised well to harness the capabilities of the hardware.
Camera: shoots like a pro
Primary camera: 16 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 5 MP
2015 signalled a change for Motorola devices since it started focussing (pun intended) on their imaging capabilities. We proclaimed the Moto G (3rd-gen) to be a sharp shooter, while the Moto X Play (review) seemed to be the best camera device from Motorola’s stable. The latest Moto G siblings seem to continue that ideology, especially the more premium sibling. The Moto G4 Plus has a 16-megapixel Omnivision sensor mounted at its back. At the front, both the G4 and G4 Plus offer 5MP shooters for capturing selfies. To illuminate the poorly-lit environments, they feature dual-tone LED flash. The Lenovo Moto G4 Plus can also focus on the subjects quickly thanks to the laser autofocus and PDAF.
Over the years, we have come to associate Motorola devices with a no-nonsense, barebones camera app that offers maximum screen real estate for shooting images, but perhaps it was way too simple, since there were no additional controls. The Lenovo Moto G4 Plus changes that as it comes preloaded with a new camera interface that’s full of options. When you keep the phablet in the landscape orientation, then you get the shutter button, along with the option to switch to different shooting modes and the front camera toggle on the right. The good thing is that Lenovo has still managed to keep the interface minimal. Towards the left, you get the ability to toggle the HDR mode, flash and self-timer.
The shooting modes on offer include video, panorama, slow-mo video and a pro mode. As the name suggests, the pro mode lets you manipulate various parameters like the focus, white balance, ISO levels, shutter speed and exposure. To access the settings like picture and video size, you can swipe from the left.
The focussing speeds of the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus’ primary shooter are impressive, and it locks the focus on the subject quickly. The shutter speed is also fast across different situations. Coming to the image quality, the G4 Plus manages to deliver superb results in most cases. The long shots are full of detail, and close-up images have enough sharpness even when zoomed in. Colour reproduction is also natural. The HDR mode is quite effective, and results in much better pictures as compared to the normal ones. Although, the low-light imagery could have been better. Selfie enthusiasts will love the fact that the 5MP camera can capture in dim settings too, thanks to the screen flash.
If you are curious enough, then you can check our detailed camera review of the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus. For those short on time, here are some samples for your viewing pleasure.
To conclude, the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus won’t disappoint you with its camera capabilities. It might not be the best, but it’s among the top camera phones in its segment. However, it misses out on 4K video recording and slow-mo videos are recorded in a lower resolution (540p as compared to 720p on most devices).
Performance: it’s got the power
CPU: Octa core, 1.5 GHz, Snapdrago…
GPU: Adreno 405
RAM: 2 GB
Memory: 16 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3000 mAH
The Moto G devices have never been about the firepower, yet they have managed to offer smooth performance thanks to the optimisations. The same philosophy is carried over with the Moto G4 siblings, but this time with better internals. Both the Moto G4 and G4 Plus are equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, which offers eight cores based on 64-bit architecture. While the four high-power cores are tuned at 1.5GHz, the power-efficient cores run at 1GHz. The CPU also comes with Adreno 405 graphics engine. The Lenovo Moto G4 Plus is available in two versions – one with 2GB of RAM, and another with 3-gigs of RAM.
We received the 3GB RAM variant as review unit, and its innards ensure that the G4 Plus is able to fly through anything thrown at it. There was nary an instance of lag while switching between different apps or even playing games. We played titles like Asphalt 8 and Injustice at stretch, and it was a delightful affair.
While Lenovo has managed to offer excellent performance with the Moto G4 Plus, it hasn’t been able to keep the thermal efficiency in check. Not just while gaming, the phablet heated up in several other cases too – while using the GPS, recording a video, etc. for a considerable amount of time.
The Lenovo Moto G4 Plus has received a bump in the storage department as well as it comes with 32GB of memory on board (the lower-priced model comes with 16GB memory). After accounting for the operating system and other resources, users will be able to access 24GB of space for installing apps and storing multimedia files. The storage can be topped up by 128GB with the use of a microSD card. It also supports USB On-the-Go for plugging in flash drives or other USB-based accessories.
The dual-SIM Moto G4 Plus supports 4G with dual-standby on both its slots along with VoLTE compatibility, which is great for users looking forward to Reliance JIO’s network. Other connectivity options remain standard – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.
While you might be disappointed with the fact that Lenovo has dropped the dual speakers in the Moto G4 Plus, you would be surprised by the loudness levels offered by the single speaker. It offers a punchy sound that’s loud and crisp.
Juicing up the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus is a 3,000mAh Li-Po battery. While the capacity might not seem high, in our usage, it managed to offer a day’s worth of battery life and even more if your usage isn’t heavy. Even when we pushed it with cellular data, GPS, and a little bit of gaming among other things, it managed to last an entire day.
The screen-on time was also brilliant and averaged around four and a half to five hours during our usage. In our video loop test, the mobile was able to run an HD video for a little less than 10 hours before giving up, with both the brightness and volume levels set to 50 percent.
In a crunch, you can make use of the power saving mode to prolong the battery life. It can also be set up to kick in automatically once the battery drops below a certain level. The Moto G4 Plus supports fast charging and thanks to the bundled Turbo Charger, the mobile charges fully in about 90 minutes.
While the original Moto G rewrote many rules in the Indian smartphone market, a lot has changed since then. The market has become even more competitive, with not just Chinese brands in the fray, but international giants and Indian companies fighting it out intensely in order to garner market share. Lenovo has kept the pricing of both the variants of the G4 Plus quite competitive – Rs 13,499 for the 2GB RAM / 16GB storage model, and Rs 14,999 for the 3GB RAM / 32GB storage variant.
The Lenovo Moto G4 Plus is up against stiff competition. Pictured here: Moto G4 Plus (left), Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (middle) and LeEco Le 1s Eco (right)
However, the competition is cut-throat. To name a few, we have the MEIZU m3 note (first impressions), Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (review), LeEco Le 1s Eco (first impressions), Samsung Galaxy J7 (first impressions) and even Lenovo’s own ZUK Z1 (first impressions) – all of which pose a major threat to the Moto G4 Plus. However, most of them suffer from availability issues due to the flash sales model they follow.
If there’s one thing which the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus lacks, it has to be a killer feature which will let consumers say ‘shut up and take my money’. The original Moto G played on the VFM factor, something which has become the turf of Chinese brands. The G4 Plus also doesn’t have the design advantages which its previous iteration boasted, and and it doesn’t have any software capabilities like the premium Moto X devices either – features like touchless control for example.
Having said that, a good display, impressive cameras, a smooth performance and a day-long battery life is what the end user values – and the Lenovo Moto G4 Plus ranks high on all these factors. There’s also a fast and accurate fingerprint reader for enhanced security. Add to it the fact that it ships with the latest and pure build of Android, along with the promise that the next iterations of the platform will come as soon as they’re released, the deal becomes a lot sweeter.
Summing it up, the Moto G4 Plus shows a promising sign of things to come under the tutelage of Lenovo, and as such can be taken as a change agent for the Chinese giant. It could also help in sealing the numero uno position for the brand in the smartphone market, just like its computer business.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Gorgeous display
- Fast and accurate fingerprint sensor
- Powerful snappers
- Loaded innards
- All-day battery life
- Fingerprint sensor doesn’t double up as home button
- No waterproofing
- Suffers from heating issues
Photos by Raj Rout