Further proof that $1000 smartphones are kind of silly.
If you’ve gone out to buy a mid-range Android phone at some point within the past few years, chances are you either bought or came across a Moto G device. Following the immense popularity of the first Moto G in 2013, Motorola has launched a new one every single year — with 2019 seeing the launch of the Moto G7, G7 Power, and G7 Play.
We still have new Moto G phones for 2020, but at first glance, they look a little different. The U.S. doesn’t have a standard Moto G8, with Motorola instead offering the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power.
It’s an interesting marketing ploy on Motorola’s part, with the company hoping to bring some clarity to its smartphone lineup. Whether or not that works doesn’t really matter, though, because all you need to know is that the Moto G Power is a darn good Android phone that gives you a lot to work with at an extremely competitive price.
The G Power does come with some caveats that could keep potential buyers away, but a robust overall package paired with legendary battery life does make it hard to ignore for anyone looking to get a lot of bang-for-their-buck.
Moto G Power
Bottom line: With no baseline Moto G8 being sold in the U.S. this year, the new Moto G Power sort of fills that void by offering a solid Android experience at an incredible price. The phone really stands out in the battery department, offering enough endurance for up to three days of use. Paired with a great software experience, fun cameras, and decent specs all around, the G Power packs quite the punch. That said, the lack of NFC and Motorola’s infamous history with software updates could be reason to think twice before picking it up.
- Ultra-wide and macro cameras are fun to use
- Two or three days of battery life
- Motorola’s excellent software add-ons
- Compatible with all U.S. carriers
- Can’t beat that price
- Fingerprint magnet
- No NFC in 2020 is ridiculous
- Slow charging speeds
- Motorola’s update policy
$250 at Motorola
$250 at Best Buy
Design and display
Taking a look at the Moto G Power, it’s admittedly a pretty bland smartphone. It’s only available in this dull Smoke Black color, and while there are lines on the back that help to make it more visually interesting, they’re only super noticeable in certain lighting conditions. There’s also the plastic back, which feels fine to the touch but picks up a ton of fingerprints after just seconds of holding the G Power.
The Moto G Power certainly doesn’t win any points in the looks department, but its design isn’t functionally flawed in any way. The buttons are nice and clicky with a great texture for the power button, you still get a 3.5mm headphone jack next to the USB-C charging port, and the front-facing earpiece is used in conjunction with the speaker grill on the bottom frame for very loud stereo audio.
I also appreciate Motorola’s use of a traditional rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, as opposed to using a poor quality in-screen one. Not only is it extremely fast and reliable, but you can swipe down on it to bring down the notification panel and quick settings (one of the best and most convenient gestures in history).
There is one design decision you can’t see, and that’s the choice to once again not include an NFC chip in a Moto G phone. I understood this a few years back when NFC and contactless payments were still kind of a niche thing, but services like Google Pay and Apple Pay have taken off in the country to the point where not including NFC on the G Power could make it a no-go for some shoppers.
You could argue that it’s a cost-saving decision, but I’m not buying that. You can go out right now and buy the Nokia 4.2 for a mere $159, and it includes NFC for Google Pay just fine. I don’t know why Motorola is so adamant about omitting NFC from its budget phones, but at some point, it has to stop.
When it comes to the Moto G Power’s display, we have a 6.4-inch IPS panel with a Full HD+ resolution of 2300 x 1080. Considering how much the G Power costs, it’s not a bad display by any means. Colors are nice and vibrant without being overdone (I have the display on Saturated mode), whites are very stark thanks to this being an IPS panel, and I’m really glad Motorola went with a Full HD+ resolution on this year’s G Power compared to the 720p HD one we had on the G7 Power from 2019.
The display isn’t perfect, but for $250, it’s pretty darn good.
My biggest issue with the G Power’s display is that the lighting around the edges seems a bit inconsistent on my model. Looking at the bottom bezel or the hole-punch cutout on a white screen, you can see what looks like a shadow around them. It doesn’t take away from watching videos or playing games, but it is something that catches my eye whenever I’m on Twitter or the Play Store.
Coming from the Pixel 4 XL’s Quad HD+ AMOLED display with that buttery smooth 90Hz refresh rate, switching to the Moto G Power was a stark downgrade at first. However, after just a few minutes of using the phone, I quickly adjusted to the IPS screen and I ended up quite enjoying it. For a $250 smartphone, it’s a pretty solid offering.
Performance and battery life
Under the hood, the Moto G Power is packing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 chipset. It’s a 64-bit octa-core processor and uses the Adreno 610 GPU, which is a noticeable step up from the Adreno 506 that’s been in Moto G phones since 2017’s Moto G5 (yeah, seriously).
For day-to-day tasks, the Moto G Power handles apps like Twitter, Gmail, YouTube, Spotify, and others without any problems. The 4GB of RAM isn’t the best for multitasking, but in general, the phone opens apps on command, powers them just fine, and doesn’t leave you waiting too long to do what you want it to. Animations sometimes get hung up when multitasking or moving too fast in an app, but it’s nothing that completely tarnishes the user experience — more just a minor annoyance.
Call of Duty: Mobile runs surprisingly great on the Moto G Power — minus a couple of slow loading screens every now and then.
Powering up a graphically-intensive game like Call of Duty: Mobile, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well the Moto G Power handles itself. By default, CoD: Mobile plays at High graphics and High frame rate with real-time shadows turned on. Once you get past the occasionally sluggish menu or loading screen, the gameplay itself is perfect. Controls are snappy, everything looks great, and I never feel like my performance is worse just because I’m using a lower-end phone.
Even better, you can keep playing your games and running your apps without having to ever stress out over your battery life. Simply put, the Moto G Power is an endurance beast.
There’s a 5,000 mAh battery crammed inside the G Power, which certainly plays a role in the phone’s weightiness (199g, to be exact). Motorola advertises up to three days of use on a single charge, and thankfully, I found that claim to be very accurate.
Using the Moto G Power primarily for YouTube, Call of Duty, Twitter, and Spotify throughout my days, I easily made it through three full days with 17% remaining at 10:05 PM on day three. That included 5 hours and 33 minutes of screen-on-time, a full hour of which was eaten up by CoD: Mobile.
Everyone uses their phone differently, meaning if you use your phone more than I do, it’s possible you’d kill the Moto G Power after two heavy days. For most folks, however, I don’t see any reason why you can’t reach that three-day marker.
This is easily a three-day phone, and that’s awesome.
There’s something kind of magical about not having to charge your phone every night, which is something I most definitely do with my Pixel 4 XL. That just isn’t necessary with the Moto G Power, and it’s easily my favorite thing about the phone.
When it does come time to finally charge the phone, you’re stuck with 10W wired charging. Motorola calls this “rapid charging,” minus the fact that it’s anything but. Last year’s Moto G7 was also a slowpoke with its charging speeds, but at least it got up to 15W. I’m not sure why Motorola saw the need to further decrease the speed. There’s also no wireless charging, but at the very least, you get a USB-C port instead of Micro-USB.
What’s the deal with the Moto G Stylus?
I mentioned it at the top of this review, but I wanted to take a second to talk about the Moto G Stylus and how it fits in with the Moto G Power.
The G Stylus and G Power share much of the same DNA, including the display, processor, RAM, software, and connectivity. You get bumped up to 128GB of internal storage with the Stylus, a 48MP primary camera, 16MP Action Camera that allows you to record horizontal video while holding the phone vertically, and a smaller 4,000 mAh battery — all for $300. Oh, and there’s the free stylus that comes with the phone.
Motorola’s definitely positioning the G Stylus as the flagship Moto G phone this year, but unless you really need that stylus or the Action Camera, I’m inclined to say that the Moto G Power is actually the better buy. It has a more mainstream camera setup, better battery life, and costs $50 less.
For a closer look at the Moto G Stylus, be sure to check out Daniel’s review.
Moto G Stylus review
Whenever we have a phone priced as low as the Moto G Power, there are some downgrades/cutbacks you come to expect. More often than not, one of the areas that takes the biggest hit is the camera department.
On the Moto G Power, we’re working with a 16MP primary camera, 2MP macro camera, and an 8MP ultra-wide camera. For any selfies you happen to take, you’re treated to a 16MP front-facing camera.
In ample lighting, the Moto G Power’s primary camera is able to pull off some pretty decent shots. It’s nothing that’s going to rival your Pixel 4 or Galaxy S20 anytime soon, but it’s perfectly adequate for posting pictures on Twitter and Instagram. Colors are good, there’s a fair amount of detail, and it even did a good job at not blowing out the highlights in settings with a lot of sunlight.
I also found myself having a lot more fun with the macro camera than I had anticipated. This allows you to get much closer to subjects than you normally can, allowing for some pretty unique shots of different patterns and textures. The detail is a little soft thanks to the 2MP limitation of the sensor, but it is a legitimately engaging thing to play around with.
As for the ultra-wide camera, it’s about what you’d expect for this type of sensor on a $250 phone. It gets the job done of allowing you to cram more into your shot without having to physically move, but there is a substantial degradation in image quality.
In the above comparison, the left image was taken with the 16MP main camera while the image on the right was captured using the 8MP ultra-wide camera. Not only are the colors completely different, but there’s a huge downgrade in sharpness, too. You can clearly see the paneling on the buildings in the first picture, but on the ultra-wide shot, they’re a noisy mess.
The Moto G Power ships with Android 10 out of the box, and as always, Motorola has one of the better Android interfaces out there. It looks and performs almost identically to a Pixel or Android One phone, which I guess is what we’d consider to be “stock Android” these days. The built-in launcher has the Google Feed on the left-most home screen, you can use the all-gesture navigation or switch to the old three-button setup, and the settings page is identical to my Pixel 4.
Where things get really exciting is when you dive into the Moto app. This houses all of the extra software goodies Motorola’s built up over the years, including things like Moto Display, Moto Actions (chop your phone to turn on the flashlight, twist it to open the camera), and the new Moto Gametime mode that allows you to automatically block calls and notifications when it detects you’re playing a game.
Some of these features I love, and for the ones I completely ignore (like the three-finger screenshot), I never have to see or use them if I don’t want to. These extras are there for you to play around with if you want to, and most of them are genuinely great, but they don’t get in the way of the rest of the user experience. In other words, it’s how all OEMs should approach Android. I tip my hat to you, Motorola.
Unfortunately, all of that praise comes with a pretty big matzah ball — Motorola’s software update policy.
Moto G phones tend to get one major Android update in their life cycle and that’s it. We can look forward to Android 11 arriving on the Moto G Power at some point down the road (though not in a timely manner), but after that, don’t expect anything else.
I understand that the target demographic for a phone like the G Power likely doesn’t give a hoot about this, but the idea that you’re buying a phone with the knowledge it’ll only get one major OS update still irks me. Comparatively, you could buy the identically-priced Nokia 6.2 and enjoy two years of software updates and three years of security patches.
This is not a new trait for Motorola phones, but it’s one I’ll continue to complain about until it’s fixed.
Moto G Power Should you buy it?
If you’ve used a Moto G phone before, you know what you’re getting into with the Moto G Power. This is a very good low-cost Android device that gives you a wonderful user experience while keeping your spending to a minimum.
The G Power may not be as instantly striking or exciting as its G Stylus counterpart, but I think it earns the title as the Moto G phone to buy this year. It has solid performance, good cameras, excellent software, and some of the best battery life you’ll find in a smartphone — hands-down. Those are all high accolades on their own, so when you consider all of that with the fact that the Moto G Power costs only $250, it becomes instantly apparent just how good of a deal this is.
out of 5
I do have my gripes with the phone, particularly its lack of NFC and Motorola’s unfavorable software update policy, but neither of those things likely matter to a lot of people. If someone is shopping for a low-cost smartphone that isn’t a piece of junk, the Moto G Power is one of the best options currently available.
Moto G Power
With no baseline Moto G8 being sold in the U.S. this year, the new Moto G Power sort of fills that void by offering a solid Android experience at an incredible price. The phone really stands out in the battery department, offering enough endurance for up to three days of use. Paired with a great software experience, fun cameras, and decent specs all around, the G Power packs quite the punch. That said, the lack of NFC and Motorola’s infamous history with software updates could be reason to think twice before picking it up.
$250 at Motorola
$250 at Best Buy