Motorola Moto G4 review - Extremely refined


Updated: May 6, 2017

My wife (pronounced Wi-Fi) and I had a big row. She said she wanted an Android phone. I said, whaaat. Are you abandoning our love child, the Windows Phone? She said, nay. She just wanted another baby - all that she wants is another phone, with dual SIM, all that she wants is Android, oh-oh. Ahem. So, in addition to her Microsoft Lumia 535, she be getting a Motorola Moto G4. Hence this review.

This should be interesting. For many reasons. First, I'm going to tell you my story of how I bought and tested this USD229.99 phone, and more importantly, how I feel about Android nowadays. It's been a while since I played with this operating system, and who knows, it may no longer be the chaotic little thing of the past. Let's see what gives. Dedoimedo Does Moto.

Teaser

Specifications

First, the flavor. Moto G4 comes in standard, Play and Plus versions, which offers slightly different hardware. Then, you can choose single and dual SIM. And you can also go for the basic 16GB storage with 2GB RAM, or double that in memory size and four time as much internal capacity.

Motorola Moto G4 Plus is the model I chose, because of its camera. White, as it offers dual SIM capability, a handy feature if you feel like being adventurous. Also, quite useful for trips abroad and such. Moreover, I shipped this exact model to my book contest winner, as Canonical stopped shipping the M10 tablets, and this was a sort of a replacement prize. Anyway.

Box

The phone comes with an 8-core Snapdragon 617 processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, Adreno 405 GPU, 5.5 inches of screen equity at 1920x1080px resolution and 401ppi density. You can increase the internal storage with a micro-SD card up to 128 GB in size, and the whole thing weights 155 grams.

Front view

Back view

The design is pretty, with rounded edges, some silver trim, and it feels upmarket. The back cover comes off easily, which means you can replace the original 3000 mAh battery - identical in size to Lumia 950 - if needed, and there are two slots for SIM and one for a micro-SD card. The SIM slots are weirdly advertised as micro and nano, but they are both actually micro, with empty adapters provided, which is a nice little touch. We will talk about the actual functionality soon.

Nice design

Back cover off, dual SIM slots

The Wireless antenna supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and the sensors list includes fingerprint reader, gyro, accelerometer, micro USB for charging, 3.5mm audio jack, and Bluetooth. The rear camera is 16 MP, the front 5.5 MP, and you get the whole plethora of modes and filters and such. A pretty thing, and it feels quite all right in your hand. But does it work well?

G force

As you know, I've never really liked Android, and my first encounter was particularly bad. since, I've tried and tested this operating system in many guises, including a whole variety of Samsung products, the likes of S4 and S5 smartphones and even purchased a Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Overall, Android is sort of okay, it works well, it is improving, but it just isn't my cup of boiled water with herbs. I really do appreciate the Linux levels of tweakability, and there's 10 apps for every need and then some, and Google's Play Store is extremely rich and powerful, and you can literally do anything you want, but still, something is missing.

There's a whole philosophical debate, so please bear with me. This will help you understand my lunacy. Anyhow, I love Windows Phone. The simple, square, OCD-friendly design, offline navigation, and just the right level of customization make it ideal for my needs. To wit, my choice of Nokia Lumia 520 and recently the very awesome Lumia 950. Then, for quite a while, I've also tried, tested and used iPhone 6, and I found it to be quite restrictive. You don't get too much freedom, and, cue in Android, on the far side of the spectrum, you do get too much freedom, which is why the Windows Phone sits so well in the sweet spot in the middle.

But then, Moto G4 comes with a vanilla Android setup, only barely spoiled by third-party software and branding, and this could be the critical differentiating factor compared to Samsung devices. Lastly, with Android 5.0 onwards and the adoption of Material Design, a certain dose of healthy professional minimalism has crept into the Droidsphere, making it less busy, less cluttered, with fewer options but no less freedom, and thus, more easily accessible to a wider variety of people. The word de jour is - more mature.

And so, this should be interesting. Motorola Moto G4 comes by default with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, a semi-flat and unbusified UI, and no extra layer of crap that is often the vice of so many vendors, desktop and mobile alike. Let us begin with the setup, shall we.

First contact

I have to admit I was extremely positively surprised by how Moto G4 decided to treat me. The initial setup was quick and elegant, with only a few questions asked, most of them truly useful and essential. Wireless setup, user import, some privacy options. That's it!

I was expecting a flood of pollution and marketing offers, but none of that materialized. Not even a gentle nudge to register my phone with Motorola. The home screen is simple and clear, shiny and vibrant with bright, slightly trippy colors, but only a small number of buttons. It's 99% Google, 99.9% Android, and only a tiny bit of fluff. This is in stark contrast to all my previous experiences with Data and Lore. Plus, it does actually look fairly pretty, which is a high compliment from someone like me. But then, after many years and iterations, Android is starting to look professionally presentable. Once again, the word de jour is - adult, but in a safe for work way kind of thing. Blimey.

Import account Google Now setup, optional

Home screen, intro Home screen, ready

Google apps Quick settings tray

Simple, clean, elegant. I likez.

I did re-use an old account, just to see what gives, and even with limited backups done in the past, Google smartly imported a lot of stuff, including even Youtube playlists down to individual clips and time markers, which actually shows that the system saves quite a lot of info, even if you sparingly use data and backups. Naughty naughty, but useful.

Store & Apps

I don't think there's any big need for me to talk about the Store. It's great. It's huge. There's everything you need, and then some, plus a very decent all-included integration, with music and movies and books and games and whatnot. It's the stable of mobile, and it works brilliantly. The presentation layer is quite busy, but it has a more professional look than in the past. Google's done a very decent job polishing their cash cow.

Speaking of apps, the default set is modest but extremely practical. No junk. Essential Android stuff and a lone Motorola icon. I am quite impressed by this humble approach.

Default apps, no junk Store

Offline navigation

Behold. I always praised HERE Maps as the ultimate navigation machine, and this is still true in 2017. Offline functionality is a great bonus and advantage over many similar solutions. Until recently, this software has been only available on Windows Phone, but you will recall my beta testing on Android, and now it's here, in full might and splendor, and this does diminish the advantage of the Microsoft platform ever so, especially since Windows Maps, while largely based on HERE Maps, is not 100% as refined as its predecessor. Lovely jubbly.

HERE Maps HERE Maps, language

You must use UK English RP female voice for navigation. You just must.

Navigation Offline maps download

You can navigate provided you can read the offered route. Easy, honest. Ausfahrt, the biggest city in Germany, FTW.

System updates

I had both several app updates and a firmware upgrade available, and these worked fine and without any fuss. Fast, too. The phone was quite speedy, and it completed the tasks much sooner than it claimed it would. Excellent.

Firmware update App updates

Settings, security & privacy

In the past, Android was a jungle of conflicting options and tweaks, and if you suffer from an even moderate level of OCD, you would never be happy. But this Marshmallow thingie is quite sane. There's still a lot to do, but it is comparable to Windows Phone, and in some cases, it even offers less. For example, you cannot choose manual backups or what to backup, and the encryption requires a separate password during bootup, very similar to my Galaxy Note experience. But then, this is a typical Linux thing. Not a biggie.

However, small differences aside, the balance between freedom and information is just right. You can select whatever you need without feeling lost or overwhelmed. It is possible to go through the entire settings menu in about 15 minutes, very similar to what I had with Windows Phone 10 on my Lumia 950. Simple, clear, accessible, another bonus point for Android, and another layer of dislike peeled off my soul. But you see, I'm open and receptive to change and all that nonsense. It just has to be non-moronic change, and not the whole happy-go-lucky Lalaland stuff.

Settings VPN configuration

On the VPN front, seems like no OpenVPN out of the box, or maybe I'm reading the menus wrong, but this is the same problem like Windows Phone. Then again, you can actually download various VPN apps, which are not available for Microsoft's mobile operating system.

Fingertip scanner & other cool security features

Security is quite decent, and you can encrypt your phone, too. Also, when you connect via USB, you will be prompted to choose the protocol - charging only, MTP, PTP, and so forth, so this prevents unauthorized access to your phone, and if it's encrypted, no one can really touch your stuff.

I tested the fingertip scanner, too - and the beauty is - it allows more than one person to be configured, or more than one finger for that matter, and it works well, with no false positives, and no bugs. You can always fallback to PIN, password or pattern. This rivals the Iris scanner feature in Microsoft Lumia 950. Not sure which one is more practical, but it's good either way.

Fingerprint, begin Fingerprint, get ready

Fingerprint added Fingerprint, lock screen

Encryption USB protocol, security

Dual SIM functionality

One of the strong selling points of this budget killer phone is that is comes with two SIM slots. I tried this, and it works beautifully. I had two SIM from two different providers from two different countries, with 3G and 4G capability, respectively, SIM-specific apps, and roaming enabled, and whatnot. No problems.

Android lets you select the preferred SIM for SMS, data and calls, and you can choose between several existing profiles or manually configure each action. For instance, you can decide which SIM to use for calls every time you make one. The phone had no problems, and it never got confused, and I tried both incoming and outgoing calls, MMS, everything. You can even select specific SIM for individual phone numbers, and you can disable each one in case you do not want to be using them in specific areas or countries, or whatever your plan may be. Wunderbar.

Dual SIM setup Dual SIM profiles

Dual SIM preferences Dual SIM ready

Call selection

Multimedia

I ever so slightly struggled here. At first, Play Music was asking me to subscribe, but this meant paying, which I didn't want to do. It seemed as if the app would not work. After I copied some music over onto the phone, both using the standard MTP transfer and the Airdroid app, Play Music launched fine and let me listen to my local content. Other than that, there really aren't any issues, nor should you encounter any. 'Tis Android. Everything plays, or there's an app that will do it for you if the defaults do not. This is truly one of the great advantages of running the most popular operating system platform. Much like Windows on the desktop compared to everything else.

Play Music, subscribe loop Local content works

You may actually need some music, as the default phone ringtones are all absolutely mad. Psychotic and quite annoying to be frank, but then, just copy the right MP3 file or whatever into the Ringtone folder, and Bob's your uncle. Simple and elegant. Audio quality is good. I'm no audiophile, but the sound is crisp and clear.

Music, playing Ringtone

Performance

The phone is brisk, the operating system fast. No lags, no confusion. You do have sufficient memory to eat your candy in peace and quiet, and about 7 GB out of 16 GB is used by the operating system, so you realistically have about 8-9 GB of storage for data and offline maps. This is where the SD card comes in handy.

Storage Memory

Camera

Motorola Moto G4 Plus model comes with an enhanced 16MP camera, compared to the standard 13MP and Play 8MP models, so you should enjoy some level of artistic quality. Well suited for opportunistic fun. I did check and compare the camera to Lumia 950, as well as the iPhone 6, as it was important for me to understand how good the sensor and the laser focus actually are. After all, it may come handy, who knows.

Camera, begin Camera, direct light

Camera, quality Lumia 950 camera

Motorola Moto G4 on the left, Microsoft Lumia 950 on the right; the Windows Phone with its Carl Zeiss optics definitely leads in terms of color separation and detail quality, and there's less glare from the light source. That said, Moto G4 performs quite well, and it has a very decent device for its price. Most people will be quite pleased.

Coffee shot, Moto G4 Coffee, Lumia 950

Artsy shot, because I'm a high-society Bohemian, and everyone needs to know that. Lumia on the right.

Battery life & charging

Not bad. You don't get as much juice as with Lumia, but you can still go about 2-3 days without charging. When you do, your 15W wall plug should flex its muscles and do something called TurboPower, which is a fast charge functionality. No Wireless charging out of the box. Still, seems quite decent, but the power drain has always been one of the problems with Android phones in my book.

Charging, TurboPower enabled

Customization

Another strong point - well, this has always been the case - of Android is that you can molest the UI to your liking and then some. Add, move, remove icons and widgets, replace wallpapers. Go wild. Simple and quick. I only did a modest amount of work, because Marshmallow is pretty enough, and there's no reason to fiddle. Well, behold.

Customized screen 1 Customized screen 2

Conclusion

People once accused me of being biased, but then, I'm a Microsoft and Apple shareholder, I love the Windows Phone, I don't like the iPhone at all, I've always hated Android, but with Moto G4, I've changed my mind. Not completely, not utterly, but this is a phone I could live with. Honest. It's stylish, it's elegant, it comes with a clean operating system, it's easy to use, the app store is rich and powerful, the camera is decent, you even get offline navigation, and pretty good security and performance. It really offers excellent value for money.

I believe this is probably the most rounded product in the mobile market out there. Again, you need to reserve my opinion, because I'm not a typical user, and I'm somewhat against this whole smartphone hype. But I believe I'm a fairly balanced person, especially when I take my happy red and blue pills, and I give credit when it's due. It's never anything personal, just pure professional take on products and services.

In this case, I must praise both Motorola for assembling a great phone and Google for improving Android to a very high degree. In its vanilla form, it's most palatable, and this combo just works great. And this for only about 200-odd dollars, which is about one half or even one third of what you'd pay for top-end devices, and you sure don't get 2x or 3x more. Clean, simple, secure, fast, I only have positive attributes to share here. This from a Linux guy who loves Windows Phone and does not like mobile devices at all. Sounds mad, but that's what it is. Now, off you go, enjoy your lives and apps and such. 9.5/10. Color me surprised, Motorola Moto G4 is an excellent product. Most recommended.

Cheers.

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