The critics might have raved about the Moto X, but the Moto G was the device that spurred Motorola’s comeback in 2013, with its combination of simple design, pure Android and a surprisingly affordable price for decent hardware. And the fact that it has held its own in spite of the “low price high end” smartphone wave that hit the world later that year should give you a measure of the equity it enjoys among customers. Both the second and third generation of Moto G devices were comfortably out-specced at their price points by a number of competitors, but still did well, as Motorola claimed to fight on “user experience” rather than the spec sheet.

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With the latest edition of the G series, however, Motorola seems to have finally come to the tech spec wars. To an extent anyway. In a manner that is rather reminiscent of a company with a fruity name in Cupertino, Motorola has opted to go for two versions of the fourth edition of the Moto G – one that seems to be sticking to its ‘experience over spec sheet’ positioning and another which seems aimed at those who like to check their spec facts and figures before investing in a device. The former is the Moto G4 and the latter the Moto G4 Plus.

And it is the Moto G4 Plus (3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage edition) that we are looking at in this piece – the device that is on paper the flagship of the Moto G series. It is easily the largest Moto G device we have seen – at 153 mm in length and 76.6 mm in width, it is much bigger than the 142.1 mm long and 72.4 mm wide Moto G (3rd generation), although at 9.8 mm at its thickest point, it is significantly slimmer (the previous Moto G was 11.6 mm thick). Interestingly though, the Plus version of the fourth version of the Moto G weighs exactly as much as the third generation did – 155 grammes.

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It does look very different, though. With its curved edges and array of sensors and camera above the display as well as a single hardware button below it, the Moto G 4 Plus evokes memories of something from the Samsung rather than the Motorola school of design. It is still a mainly plastic affair, although it has a metallic rim running all around it, and yes, before you ask, the back does come off. The front features a  5.5 inch display, with a 5.0-megapixel camera above it and a square-shaped fingerprint scanner below it, flanked by a rather conspicuous pinhole for the microphone (very un-Moto like, we think). There are no touch buttons next to the fingerprint scanner – the typical Android home, back and recent apps buttons are onscreen ones. There is a micro USB port on the base of the device and right at the top is a 3.5 mm audio jack, which sits on a slight bump at the top of the device. The bump itself is caused by the camera and dual LED flash which stick out ever so slightly from the back, increasing the thickness of the device. Below them are the Motorola logo in a dimple-like depression (no, the fingerprint scanner did not go there, as many had predicted it would). The volume and power/display buttons are on the right of the phone and the left side is totally bare. It is a relatively plain design and not one that will turn too many heads turn.

Motorola claims that the G4 Plus’ design is “thin and pocket friendly.” And while there is no doubt that the G4 Plus is more compact than the iPhone 6s Plus (182.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm) and the recently released Zuk Z1 (155.7 x 77.3 x 8.9 mm), both of which also sport 5.5 inch displays, it is not really in the same region as the likes of the Redmi Note 3, which packs a similar display into a 150 x 76 x 8.7 mm frame, or even the Meizu M3 Note, which has proportions of 153.6 x 75.5 x 8.2 mm. Yes, its curved edges and textured back make it comfortable to hold, but we are going to be brutally blunt – those looking for a compact device are unlikely to pick the Moto G 4 Plus.

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The ones who ARE likely to pick it up are those looking for the Moto G experience with a spec boost. For under that slightly bulky exterior comes the best hardware we have seen in the series. The display is a full HD one, giving it a pixel density of 401 ppi, and driving the device is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage (expandable to 128 GB). There is dual SIM connectivity, 4 G support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and a 3000 mAh battery to keep this all ticking, with support for TurboPower for quick charging (there is a TurboPower charger in the box). Running on top of all this is Android 6.0 in all its “pure” glory – hey, this is a Moto after all.

And yes, we have saved the best for last. For, the ‘killer feature’ of the Moto G4 Plus is in fact, the camera on its rear. Motorola claims that the 16.0-megapixel camera is the “most advanced in its class.” It comes with laser as well as phase detection auto focus (PDAF), which should make it a snappy performer. It comes with a f/2.0 aperture as well as bigger pixels, which Motorola claims will enable it to perform better in low light conditions. The 3rd Generation Moto G had sported a very decent camera too (the same as on the Nexus 6 in fact) but had been accompanied by the relatively plain Google Camera app. Not this time. Motorola has added a few tweaks to the camera UI, including a professional mode (allowing you to tweak shutter speed, white balance, ISO and the like), which brings it a step closer to its competitors. Slow motion video is supported although 4K video is not. Gesture support is there as well – so you can twist your wrist twice to launch the camera or switch from back to front camera or vice versa. The camera also automatically scans QR codes and bar codes as well.

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The big question, of course, is whether all this is good enough to take on a competition that keeps getting stronger? It might be better equipped in the spec sheet department than all of its predecessors and compares more favorably than in the past to the opposition, but priced at Rs 13,499 , the Moto G 4 Plus will have to reckon with the likes of the Redmi Note 3 and the Zuk Z1, which ironically is an offering from its parent Lenovo brand.

Just how well it does will be revealed in our detailed review. As of now, all we can do is say: welcome to the spec wars, Moto.


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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.