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Motorola Moto M: Hands-on and first impressions

The Moto M shifts Motorola’s brand positioning towards a more lifestyle-centric one, thanks to its all-metal build.

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Motorola’s approach to the smartphone market has varied over the years, but the most recent strategy has been focused on offering phones that are great in every way while keeping the price affordable and reasonable. The Moto G and Moto E lines have been a success for the company, and have succeeded in winning over a lot of buyers in the sub-Rs 15,000 price bracket. One of the key factors in choosing a Moto smartphone was the fact that you got a near-stock version of Android and timely firmware updates along with some sort of water resistance thanks to nano coating. With the newly launched Moto M, there seems to be a shift in this tried and tested approach.

With the Moto M, Motorola wants to take a more ‘lifestyle-centric’ approach. This is a smartphone that certainly offers all the right features and specifications, but the focus is on appeal to that part of you that thinks beyond the numbers. I had a chance to play with the Moto M at the launch event, and here’s what I think about it.

Solid Build Quality

There’s no denying that metal is the new black. Smartphone makers everywhere are embracing this and launching smartphones that feature metal bodies, and the Moto M is just that. There’s no plastic, rubber or fabric masquerading as Kevlar here; the Moto M is pure, solid metal, in a unibody form. As a result, it’s a bit heavier than the Moto G4 Plus that it will hope to replace, and feels heft and solid in the hand. The edges too are well designed and finished, making this a beautiful phone that feels more premium than its price would suggest.

moto-m-hands-on-3The Moto M also has the company go with a fingerprint sensor at the rear for the first time. This sits right below the window that houses the camera and flash, while the rest of the back is plain save for the Motorola logo and some regulation required text. The back of the phone is slightly curved towards the sides, and there are thin antenna lines as well. The right side has the volume and power buttons, the left has the SIM tray, the bottom has the speaker grilles and USB Type-C port, while the top has the 3.5mm jack. On the whole, it’s a good looking phone, but it doesn’t quite have that distinctive Moto feel anymore.

Surprising specifications

On one hand, Motorola is offering a lot with the Moto M, with the higher-spec variant packing in 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space and the lower-spec variant coming with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. However, on the other hand, the Moto M sees the company switch from Qualcomm to MediaTek for the SoC powering the phone. This might upset some users who prefer Qualcomm-powered phones, but the Helio P15 SoC is not a low-end option by any means. This of course won’t make a difference to buyers who aren’t power users, and the phone did indeed show no signs of trouble during my brief time with it. We will, of course, test this more extensively when we have the device for review.

What does remain intact though, is the near-stock Android interface. This is something that anyone who has used a recent Moto phone will be familiar with, and it makes it extremely easy to navigate around the phone or find settings where they’re supposed to be.  However, the phone is powered by Android Marshmallow instead of the newer Nougat, and Motorola’s recent record shows that it isn’t quite as efficient with firmware updates anymore, so we’re unsure as to when a firmware update for the Moto M will come.

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For photography, there’s a 16-megapixel rear and 8-megapixel front camera, which is identical to what you get on the Moto G4 Plus. The camera app has all the usual modes and filters, and there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. The front camera boasts of beautification modes that make for better selfies, in line with the push towards making this a more lifestyle-centric device.

The fingerprint sensor of the device is capable of unlocking the smartphone without first waking it, and can be used from standby mode. It’s fairly quick, but we’ve seen better considering there is a very slight, but certainly noticeable lag between when you tap the sensor and when the screen lights up. The battery of the phone is a 3,050mAh unit, which should be enough to get through a full day depending on how the phone is used, and we will test this properly during our review.

The Moto M’s speaker is at the bottom of the phone and features Dolby ATMOS tuning for better sound when watching videos or listening to music. I could only test it briefly, and while it certainly sounded louder than what I’d typically expect from a budget smartphone, I’ll reserve judgement on this till I’ve had a chance to properly use it.

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Final thoughts

The Moto M is different in that it puts aside the typical approach of reliable performance and good software, and replaces it with an image of style, quality build and pride. It’s a beautiful, well-built phone that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to specifications, but at Rs 15,999 it would be challenged by similarly capable Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, which is also priced considerably lower. The only real reason to want a Moto M over the excellent Moto G4 Plus is if you want the fantastic build quality and feel of having a metal unibody smartphone.

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Motorola Moto M

15999

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
MediaTek Helio P15 Octa-Core 2.2GHz 64-bit Processor
16 MP with f/2.0 aperture, dual-tone LED flash, PDAF
  • Published Date: December 13, 2016 4:58 PM IST
  • Updated Date: December 14, 2016 6:28 PM IST