FOX11, Los Angeles - It is no secret, I’ve been a fan of Motorola’s Moto G line of phones since they first introduced them. They truly brought to market a “budget” handset which wouldn’t leave consumers feeling the sting of opting for a device which wasn’t a flagship. Now with Lenovo now at the helm, and going on their 5th generation of the Moto G line, have they been able to continue that streak? Read on to find out. Also, dads and grads, you’ll want to pay special attention to this one!
Watch the brief video review of the Moto G5 Plus:
So, how do you make a cost-conscious phone even better without throwing out that whole “cost-conscious” part? Change its design so that it goes from utilizing plastics to being built with diamond-cut aluminum. And that’s exactly what Lenovo did. New for 2017, the Moto G5 Plus eschews the plastic build for a more robust aluminum but that isn’t all. They’ve also added a fingerprint scanner that is larger than competitor’s offerings but with a very good reason, it’s basically a “trackpad” but we’ll get more into that in a bit. I’ll cut to the quick, this G5 Plus is well worth the cost at only $229 for 32GB and $299 for the 64GB version. Hint: they both support up to 256GB of removable storage. What makes this handset so worth the cost, and as a dad myself, a great gift for a teen or tween graduating this June? Let’s dive into the features, fit and finish.
This is not the thinnest phone on the market, and that’s ok. It isn’t like it’s super thick, but in a race to make everything paper thin, that isn’t what you’re getting here. What you do get is a phone with a water-repellant coating which features a 5.2” full HD 1080P display, that looks gorgeous at 424ppi. The front of the phone is where you’ll find the lone speaker, but it’s front-facing, so that already makes it better than the speakers on many flagship phones. When the sound is actually firing in the right direction, speaker quality becomes a bit less of an issue. Not that this is low quality by any means. Also on the front of the phone, you’ll find the fingerprint scanner/touchpad, the usual array of sensors, and a 5MP wide angle camera which uses the display as a flash. Sides of the phone are where you’ll find the power button, volume rocker, 3.5MM audio port, microphone, SIM card/microSD slot, and micro USB port. That’s right, no USB-C on the G5 Plus. That isn’t a big deal if you haven’t already switched all of your accessories over to the new standard, which I’m guessing most people interested in this device probably haven’t done. The new aluminum back side of the phone is where you’ll find another microphone and the 12MP, dual flash camera.
Getting back to the fingerprint scanner, I REALLY enjoyed this bit. The scanner is larger and wider than most scanners on smartphones currently on the market, but with good reason. The fingerprint scanner on the Moto G5 Plus doubles as a touchpad, allowing you to get rid of the on-screen navigation buttons and get back some screen real estate. And it works wonderfully! I actually found myself enamored with its use and want it to be implemented on all the things. Ok, at least on all the smartphone things. When you enable the feature in the settings menu, you can get rid of the on-screen navigation buttons which allow you to access multi-tasking features, the “Back” button, “Home” button and app switching button. Instead, you now use the scanner for those actions by tapping it to go home, choosing whether you want to swipe left or right to either go back or switch apps. The scanner also allows you to tap and briefly hold to turn the screen off, or tap and long-press to initiate Google Assistant. In a little over a week’s worth of heavy use, the scanner had no misfires, freezes, or anomalies. It worked flawlessly and I have to say that it is my favorite feature on this phone.
The other piece of hardware on this phone which is impressive is the battery life. While reviewing this phone it was connected to a Samsung Gear S3 Frontier and the battery life was worth talking about! The battery inside the G5 Plus is “only” rated at 3000mAh but thanks to having a 1080p screen (as opposed to a more power hungry, higher res panel), and Qualcomm’s 2.0 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor, you’re going to get full day out of this phone. That will, of course, be affected by signal strength and how much actual calling you do (I don’t actually use the phone as much as I do data-driven features) but I was able to get approximately 37 hours out of the phone before it died. My day usually consists of heavy emailing, some text messaging, at least an hour of phone calls, heavy social media use and roughly two to three hours of music streaming. Good news is that, in a pinch, you can charge the phone for 15 minutes and get up to 6 hours of battery life with Lenovo’s TurboPower fast charge technology.
ANDROID NOUGAT AND MOTO DISPLAY, MOTO ACTIONS
One of the best features of Motorola’s take on Android has actually been the lack thereof. Moto does a great job of staying out of Android’s way, while adding strong functionality to the OS through Moto Actions and Moto Display. In this version of Moto Actions, you have the added feature “One Button Nav” which is the option that allows you to use the fingerprint scanner as a “trackpad.” Other than that, it’s the usual menu options like “Chop Twice for Flashlight,” twist to quick launch the camera and a few others. Then there’s Moto Display which, if you’re unfamiliar, allows you to have notifications show up on the screen even when it’s off. They fade in and out and don’t really ding you on battery life.
In addition to Moto Display and Actions, you also get a split-screen option which is actually one of the more intuitive uses of the feature. While you’re in the Recent Apps mode, just press and hold one of the apps and slide it to the top of the screen, filling the top half of the display. Then, simply choose the app you want to share screen real estate with.
Other than that, it’s all Nougat. You get the slide-up app drawer with search at the top, the security features which arrived with 7.0 and all the other Nougaty goodness.
This is an unlocked phone that you’re going to probably buy unsubsidized, and at the price its being offered, it’s going to hurt a lot less than buying a flagship. And, at the end of the day, you’re getting a device short on buyer’s remorse because it really is nearly every bit as good as phones costing much more. While the main differentiator between this and flagships is camera quality, this still takes great shots even though it helps if you know what you’re doing just a bit. And, given the season we’re in, with young folk graduating, and many parents looking for grad gifts, I would absolutely recommend the Motorola Moto G5 Plus to any family looking for a high quality, low cost smartphone to say, “Congraduations!”
Disclosure: Lenovo provided me with a demo unit for the purpose of this review.