Since the launch of the first Moto G smartphone, Motorola has been a powerful force to reckon with in the mid-range smartphone segment. Often the go-to recommendation for smartphones under Rs 15,000, the Moto G range has pioneered the idea of combining quality with affordability. The near-stock software and promise of timely firmware updates has only added to the positive image that Motorola has in the Indian market.
Now, while many believed that Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola from Google in 2014 would spell the end of this new and very likeable Motorola, it’s been anything but a hindrance. The Moto range of smartphones continues to capture the attention of the market, and the latest device in that range is the Moto G5 Plus. With a bit of everything you want and need in a mid-range smartphone, the Moto G5 Plus is a smartphone I’ve been looking forward to review since its announcement at MWC this year.
Priced at Rs 14,999 for the 3GB/16GB variant and 16,999 for the 4GB/32GB variant, the Moto G5 Plus is poised to take on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Lenovo P2 and Honor 6X head-on. What’s more, the design of the device has undergone radical changes, and the Moto G5 Plus now feels much more premium in a suit of metal. Does it have what it takes to live up to the promise and legacy of the popular Moto G range? Find out in our review.
The metal philosophy
While other smartphone makers have extensively used metal in device construction, Motorola has been a bit slower to embrace the trends. The first affordable metal smartphone from Moto was the Moto M, which wasn’t quite as well received and failed to convince mid-range buyers to adopt a more lifestyle-centric approach to smartphone buying. With the Moto G5 Plus, the company goes back to the tried and tested formula of offering good specifications at a great price, but not at the cost of good build quality.
The Moto G5 Plus has a radically different look to earlier Moto G phones, with plastic sides and a metal back plate. Like most smartphones in the segment, the Moto G5 Plus has a non-removable battery, although the Moto G5 does give you the option to remove and replace the battery. On the whole, the Moto G5 Plus looks more like the Moto M than the Moto G4 Plus, but that’s a good thing in my opinion. I do like the way the Moto G5 Plus has been designed
The fingerprint reader of the Moto G5 Plus is a bit different from that of the Moto G4 Plus, and is now oval in shape. It isn’t a physical button, but serves as a capacitive key apart from the fingerprint sensor. You can use it to unlock the phone from standby without first needing to wake the device, and it even provides vibration feedback when unlocking. It’s quick, accurate and everything you need it to be, having worked flawlessly during my time with the phone. Additionally, a setting on the phone allows you to use the sensor to lock the device as well, and keeping your finger on the sensor for a long-press puts the phone on standby.
The controls and slots are laid out a bit differently on the Moto G5 Plus, with the SIM and expandable storage slot placed at the top of the phone. Fortunately, it isn’t a hybrid SIM slot, featuring separate slots for both SIMs and a microSD card. This puts the G5 Plus at a big advantage over rival products, which force the limitation of either dual-SIM connectivity or expandable storage on you.
The bottom of the phone has both the micro-USB port for charging as well as the 3.5mm jack, while the right has the power and volume buttons. I’m a little surprised that Motorola hasn’t opted for the newer, more user-friendly USB type-C port on the phone, but having the micro-USB standard isn’t a problem in any way. The left side of the phone has nothing on it, while the front has the new ‘Moto’ logo right above the screen. The classic batwing Motorola logo can be found at the back, right below the camera module. The camera itself juts out a bit, and the large circular module contains the lens, 12-megapixel sensor and dual-tone LED flash.
The sales package of the Moto G5 Plus contains a SIM ejector tool, earphones with a microphone and the Moto Turbo Charger, which offers fast charging capabilities thanks to high wattage power delivery to the phone. With up to 14.4W of power being delivered to the phone, charging is fairly quick, with the phone topping off its 3000mAh battery in about 90 minutes, and a promise of six hours of battery life with 15 minutes of charging.
Another particularly useful feature is nano-coating technology on the phone. This creates a water-repellent barrier that protects the Moto G5 Plus against slight exposure to water, such as splashes and rain. This works well, and a bit of water didn’t cause any trouble to the phone, although you do need to be careful to avoid submerging the phone entirely, as it isn’t waterproof or even as water-resistant as some other phones.
Near-stock Android Nougat
Something that Motorola has offered, and triumphed for as a result, is the near-stock Android experience, with software that is as close to Google’s vision of Android as possible. With the Moto G5 Plus, the software under the hood is Android Nougat, and the user interface is also close to the Google Pixel launcher. This includes the pull-up app drawer, trimmed down settings menu, classic notification shade and more.
However, it is a near-stock experience, since Motorola has added its own small tweaks and software that give it a distinct character. While the reliance on Google’s apps for basic functions such as gallery, clock and messages does remain, Motorola has added small but visible differences in the settings menu and through its Moto app. This gives you access to the always-on display mode, along with Motorola’s signature gesture controls.
This includes one-button navigation, which deactivates the on-screen Android keys, letting you use the home key as a gesture-driven controller for all phone controls. There’s also twist for capture, which opens the camera, chop twice for flashlight, swipe to shrink the screen for one-handed mode and more. These gestures are genuinely useful and I found them extremely helpful during my time with the phone.
Reliable mid-range performance
Motorola’s choice of hardware has usually been spot on, and last year’s Moto G4 and G4 Plus both featured the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 SoC. Although it couldn’t quite compete with the raw power of the Snapdragon 650 on the Redmi Note 3, it did offer a better balance of power and energy efficiency. This year, popular smartphone makers have adopted the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 as the mid-range SoC of choice, and the Moto G5 Plus follows suit.
As is the case with some of the other Snapdragon 625 devices we’ve reviewed this year including the Lenovo P2 and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, the Moto G5 Plus offers a great balance of power and battery life, with the phone easily running for a day-and-a-half before needing to be charged. With an AnTuTu score of 63,349, the phone’s on-paper performance is as good as it gets for the price, and up to 4GB of RAM helps keep the phone running smoothly. Also helping is the excellent and light software, with Android Nougat and the trimmed-down near-stock user interface ensuring optimum efficiency thanks to the lack of bloatware. Power is efficiently diverted towards the operating system and UI, and RAM usage is a bit higher than on other devices we’ve used. However, considering there’s 4GB of RAM, you’ll never mind the phone falling short or stuttering in any way.
There is also either 16 or 32GB of internal storage, depending on what variant you buy (our unit is a 4GB RAM/32GB storage variant). The Moto G5 Plus has a 5.2-inch full-HD IPS-LCD screen, with a pixel density of 424ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection on top. It’s a decent screen with strong color reproduction and is sharp as well. The vibrant color mode forces the colors to look a bit unnatural, but setting it to standard mode ensures a more balanced color output.
The screen size also keeps the phone is a sweet spot when it comes to handling and usage. Where other competing phones have larger 5.5-inch screens, the Moto G5 Plus’ 5.2-inch screen ensure that the phone is smaller and more pocketable than the competition.
The Moto G5 Plus has a 12-megapixel f/1.7 aperture rear camera with dual-tone LED flash, and a 5-megapixel front camera. The rear camera makes use of a focusing system called dual-autofocus pixels, which uses ten times as many pixels to quickly focus and lock onto the subject quickly. This does work as advertised, and helps the phone take well-composed pictures quickly. The front camera has a wide-angle lens for better pictures, and you can also record video at up to 4K resolution with the rear camera and 1080p resolution with the front camera.
Motorola’s camera software is the same as always, with quick toggles for the camera switcher and capture mode alongside the shutter button, as well as toggles for HDR, flash and self-timer. Swiping towards the right brings up the settings menu which gives you access to basic controls, including picture and video resolutions, and more. A professional mode lets you control more aspects of the shot, including ISO, White Balance, exposure and more. Slow motion at 720p/120fps and panorama are also available.
The camera is about as good as it gets for a mid-range smartphone, but this doesn’t mean it’s fantastic either. Pictures are good in proper light, and the auto HDR mode usually triggers at the right time to get the best shots. Zooming in also shows a fair amount of detail, although you will have to spend much more to get top-notch camera performance if that’s what you’re looking for. In low light, exposure issues tend to crop up, with the brighter parts of the frame usually washing out while the darker parts appear too dark.
Camera Samples from the Moto G5 Plus. Tap/click for full resolution.
Close up shots are alright as well, though issues in detailing are visible here. Pictures taken with the front camera are just about satisfactory and good enough for the occasional selfie, but if this is something you intend to use often, you’re better off with devices such as the Vivo V5. However, the presence of 1080/60fps and 4K/30fps shooting are excellent, and give the phone significantly better capabilities with video. Short movies that we shot were great in terms of motion, detail and quality.
Motorola’s approach to the mid-range smartphone segment has been admirable for some years now, and with the exception of some misses, it’s usually been on target with its product development and positioning. Near-stock Android software, a promise of quick firmware updates and a balanced approach to the smartphone help in keeping the Moto G5 Plus as relevant as always.
While there are other phones such as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and Lenovo P2 currently dominating the market, these phones are stronger in certain departments, such as value-for-money or record-breaking battery life. The Moto G5 Plus is priced in the same segment from Rs 14,999 onwards, but offers a differentiator in the form of good software and an all-round sense of quality courtesy of good looks, decent features and great hardware. While the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is more affordable and offers more internal storage, the Moto G5 Plus is definitely worth a look if you’re a stickler for software and design, and has what it takes to give the competition a run for their money, and is worth the price tag.