Thursday, April 18, 2024

This $200 Android phone looks like a good deal, but it’s not

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Moto G 5G (2024) in Sage Green.

Moto G 5G (2024)
MSRP $200.00

Score Details

“The Moto G 5G (2024) impresses with the overall design and battery life, but that’s about it.”

Pros

  • Vegan leather back adds grip
  • Plastic frame doesn’t feel cheap
  • Long-lasting battery life

Cons

  • Low-quality LCD display
  • Performance issues
  • Bad cameras
  • Slow charging
  • Only one major Android update

Motorola is a brand that offers a wide range of smartphone tiers. It has its flagships like the Motorola Edge and even the signature Razr flip phone, but it also offers plenty of more budget-friendly options.

Contents

  • Moto G 5G (2024): design
  • Moto G 5G (2024): display
  • Moto G 5G (2024): software and performance
  • Moto G 5G (2024): cameras
  • Moto G 5G (2024): battery life
  • Moto G 5G (2024): price and availability
  • Moto G 5G (2024): verdictShow 2 more items

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If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t need the fancy bells and whistles of flagships and instead just needs a basic phone for simple tasks and entertainment, Motorola has the Moto G lineup. Today, we’ll take a look at the $200 Moto G 5G (2024), the latest affordable Android phone in Motorola’s lineup.

Moto G 5G (2024): design

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Moto G 5G (2024) boasts a simple and elegant design for a phone in this price range, though it only comes in one color: Sage Green. It features a plastic frame with rounded edges, which is expected for a $200 phone, but it doesn’t feel cheap once it’s in your hand. I honestly found this surprising.

Another interesting aspect of the design is that the back is not glass, but vegan leather, with Motorola’s signature “M” logo in the middle. This means it’s fingerprint-repellant, and, in my opinion, the leather adds a nice grip to the phone, making it more comfortable to hold and use versus a phone with a standard glass or plastic back.

The Moto G 5G (2024) doesn’t feel cheap despite the plastic frame.

The materials that Motorola used for the Moto G 5G (2024) also mean that it’s fairly water-repellant. In other words, you shouldn’t need to worry about accidental spills, splashes of water, sweat, or light rain. However, the phone does not have a proper IP rating, so you can’t submerge it underwater, and it’s not rated for dust resistance.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The camera bump is almost sitting flush with the rest of the back, which I thought was nice. When it seems like every phone is just getting larger and larger camera bumps, this very small bump on the Moto G 5G is a welcome sight.

On the left edge of the plastic frame is where you will find the SIM card tray, which also houses a slot for a microSD card (up to 1TB) if you want more than the 128GB of internal storage. The opposite edge has the volume and sleep/wake buttons. Along the bottom edge are the USB-C charging port, speakers, and — gasp — a 3.5mm headphone jack. In a world where it’s almost impossible to find headphone jacks on a phone anymore, this should be welcome news to those who still use wired headphones or earbuds.

The small camera bump is a welcome sight.

Thanks to the rounded edges and leather back, I found the Moto G 5G quite comfortable to hold and use. Overall, it’s a clean, simple, and understated design that you don’t typically see with budget phones. Motorola did a great job here.

Moto G 5G (2024): display

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the display is where you can really see that the Moto G 5G (2024) is a $200 phone, unfortunately.

With the Moto G 5G (2024), you have a 6.6-inch HD+ 720p (1612 x 720 resolution, 267 pixels per inch) LCD screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. For an LCD display, colors look decent enough, and text is OK, but when most phones use OLED these days, this just falls short. Plus, it only gets up to 430 nits of peak brightness, so if you are outdoors in bright, sunny conditions, it can be a real struggle to use.

And even though it has a 120Hz refresh rate, scrolling is far from the smooth experience you get on other phones. However, I believe this has more to do with the other specs, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The display can be a struggle to use in bright sunlight.

You also have a hole-punch cutout at the top for the selfie camera, which is pretty standard. There are also some rather unsightly bezels around the display, with the thickest at the bottom. In a time when device bezels continue to shrink in size, the Moto G 5G (2024) sticks out like a sore thumb.

Moto G 5G (2024): software and performance

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The specs for the Moto G 5G (2024) are another big downside. Inside, it is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 chip, and it only comes in one configuration: 128GB of storage with 4GB RAM.

Yes, you read that right: 4GB RAM. That’s painful when the fact is that most phones these days have at least 6GB RAM or more. Motorola tries to rectify the RAM issue through software with the RAM boost feature, which is on by default and set to 2GB. With RAM boost, you can extend the RAM by 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB by partitioning available storage space. So, as long as you have enough available storage, you can boost that RAM up to 8GB if you really want to.

The Moto G 5G (2024) comes with Android 14 and Motorola’s My UX custom interface installed. As far as software updates go, however, the Moto G 5G (2024) is only going to get one major Android OS update to Android 15 and three years of bimonthly security updates.

Using this phone has been painful as the lackluster specs have led to performance issues.

For a $200 phone, you shouldn’t expect the best performance. Costs have to be cut somewhere, and lesser performance is usually expected fromcheaper smartphones. Even so, using the Moto G 5G has been a bit painful. There is very noticeable lag and stutter, even when just opening apps, navigating through the phone, and scrolling. It’s because of this that the 120Hz refresh rate doesn’t feel like the great display perk it should be.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Even adjusting the volume is a pain. I press the volume button and then tap on the “more” button on the screen to fine-tune my sounds, and it takes a good two to three seconds before the sound and vibration menu pops up, at least with the first attempt. It seems to get better after that, but it’s pretty jarring that there is even a delay to begin with when bringing up the sound and vibration menu.

I also tried the Glance lock screen feature, which is supposed to show live and relevant information on the lock screen. I thought it would be relevant for my tastes, but so far I’ve just seen random news articles for topics that I don’t care about.

Similarly, when you initially set up the phone, Motorola will try to preinstall random apps like LinkedIn, Booking.com, Walmart, Wayfair, random games, and more. I made sure to deselect all of these because I don’t like extra junk installed that I don’t need or even want, but it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

On the bright side, Motorola has some cool exclusive gestures that make using the Moto G 5G easier. For example, you can do a chopping motion twice to turn the flashlight on and off, or twist your wrist twice quickly to open up the camera app at any time. These have been standout features on Motorola phones for a few years now, and they’re very handy.

Moto G 5G (2024): cameras

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Though it looks like it has a dual camera setup, the Moto G 5G (2024) actually has a single-camera system.

The camera module on the back of the device is a 50-megapixel lens, and there’s a useless 2MP macro lens to go with it. Motorola uses a quad-pixel binning system, which means four nanopixels to a single pixel, so the end results will show up as 12.5MP images. For the selfie camera, it’s a pretty basic 8MP lens.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

I’ve tried using the Moto G 5G (2024) camera, and it really leaves a lot to be desired. There’s always something wrong with the photos I take. It has trouble focusing, especially when there’s a slight bit of movement or even a gentle breeze. The shutter is slow, so it would actually capture the image a second after what I thought it had. It doesn’t handle shadows very well at all, leaving people half-visible in photos. Colors are too bright, details are too soft, and don’t even try to zoom in on anything, because it just gets worse as you zoom in more.

I wasn’t expecting the best camera with a $200 phone, but there really isn’t anything redeeming about any of the images I took with the main camera. And the 8MP selfie camera? It made me look pale and sickly with uneven skin tones behind my glasses. It’s really bad.

Moto G 5G (2024): battery life

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

If there’s a strong point for the Moto G 5G (2024), it has very good battery life. It packs in a 5,000mAh battery inside, which will easily get you through a full day and then some with heavy usage.

But again, I found using the phone to be quite excruciating, so my usage was very light. Still, with my basic social media usage and messages with some video playback, I barely made a dent in the battery.

Motorola includes a USB-C cable in the Moto G 5G (2024) box, but no power adapter, and it only has 18-watt fast charging speeds. With a 5,000mAh cell, it will take a while to go from empty to full. There is no support for wireless charging, either.

Moto G 5G (2024): price and availability

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Moto G 5G (2024) comes in one color and configuration, which costs $200 retail. It’s available now from T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile, and it will come to other carriers at a later date. If you want to buy the phone unlocked, you’ll need to wait until May 2.

There is also the Moto G Power 5G (2024), which is marginally better than the Moto G 5G (2024) and costs $300. With the Moto G Power 5G, you have a slightly larger 6.7-inch LCD screen with Full HD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. It has 8GB RAM and a MediaTek Dimensity 7020 chip, so it has a little more power, though it’s nothing compared to more expensive phones. And it has a dual camera system with an ultrawide lens, but that’s not the best either.

Truth be told, there are better options in this price range that don’t come from Motorola. There’s the OnePlus Nord N30 5G, which also has a 6.7-inch LCD display, but it actually looks good and is bright enough to use outdoors. The Snapdragon 695 chip is also much faster than those in both of the new Moto G phones. It also has a slightly better camera system with a 108MP main shooter, though it lacks optical image stabilization. It also has 50W wired charging for the 5,000mAh battery.

You could also consider the OnePlus 12R if you can stretch that budget a little further. For $500, you get a beautiful 6.78-inch AMOLED panel, a dynamic refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz, and a peak brightness of 4,500 nits. It uses Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and has a 50MP main shooter with an 8MP ultrawide camera, a 2MP macro camera, and a 16MP selfie camera. The 5,500mAh battery will last almost two full days, and it has 80W wired charging speeds. It’s basically a 2023 flagship phone for just $500, which is an incredible value. You could also go for the new Genshin Impact version for a little more at $650.

Moto G 5G (2024): verdict

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

At one point, Motorola was making some pretty good Moto G phones. Unfortunately, the Moto G 5G (2024) is not one of them.

While I like the overall design of the Moto G 5G (2024), with its vegan leather back, small camera bump, and curved edges, that’s not enough to redeem all of the phone’s other flaws.

The low-res LCD display just feels so out of place given today’s standards. There are budget phones out there that use OLED panels, so still relying on a low-quality LCD screen is hard to accept. Combined with the low brightness tha makes its next to impossible to see outdoors, it’s a really disappointing setup.

Use your $200 on something better.

Not to mention, the performance is bad. The Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 with just 4GB RAM is barely useable, and even when it is, it’s not enjoyable with all the lagging and stuttering. The 120Hz refresh rate display doesn’t save you from janky scrolling. The camera is lacking in almost every way possible. Battery life is good, but again, 18W charging speeds are definitely slow compared to other options on the market.

The Moto G 5G (2024) isn’t the very worst phone you could buy for $200, but it’s also far from the best. With a little bit of research and a slightly bigger budget, your money is better spent elsewhere.

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