Motorola reinvented the budget smartphone with the Moto G, offering up a startlingly strong device for less than £200 – and the second-gen model was even better.
Things got a bit muddled with last year's handset, which bumped up the price and was a bit chunky, and it didn't help that the competition finally caught up and made the £150-£200 smartphone market incredibly competitive. Still, the third-gen model had its perks.
It's a whole new ballgame this time around now that Motorola is under Lenovo's wing. The newly-revealed Lenovo Moto G4 looks like a significant enhancement over last year's model, promising a larger and sharper screen, enhanced performance, and added customisation – and the Plus model seems even better for little extra money.
YES! The screen is massively improved
And "massive" is a good word as the Moto G4 tips deeper into phablet territory, bumping last year's 5in display up to 5.5in this time around. Size isn't everything, however, and the much more significant enhancement here is surely clarity.
The Moto G4 will feature a 1080p display, which provides a nicely crisp 401ppi (pixels per inch) and a noticeable upgrade over the previous 720p screen. Last year's screen was suitable enough, but what was impressive for a cheap phone in 2013 was less so in 2015. That won't be an issue with the Moto G4, luckily.
YES! Feel the power boost
We were actually impressed by the performance of last year's higher-end model of the Moto G, which offered 2GB RAM to augment the quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor. However, we wondered aloud whether the cheaper, base 1GB RAM model could keep up.
Now we needn't worry, as both specs have been upgraded this time around: the base Moto G4 comes with an octa-core Snapdragon 617 processor and 2GB RAM (plus 16GB storage), but now you've got options. And you've got options: a model with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage is available, and so is another with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage.
Does a budget mid-ranger really need 4GB RAM? We'd guess not – but if you're set on the Moto G4 and don't mind paying a little more, you'll surely see some performance gains.
YES! It looks premium
We criticized the 3rd-gen Moto G's chunky build and budget-screaming design, which wasn't going to turn any heads. Thankfully, Lenovo's command of the line has resulted in a serious design upgrade, with a sleeker build and a nicely grippy rubber backing.
Eagle-eyed gadget fans won't mistake it for a flagship, but it's closer this time around. And with Moto Maker, you can add in a bunch of personal visual tweaks to really make it yours.
YES! Extended battery life and fast charging
The battery life of last year's 2,470mAh pack was respectable enough, typically giving us a full day of regular usage, but we ought to see more this time around: the Moto G4 promises a 3,000mAh pack. While some of that extra juice will no doubt be used to power the larger, brighter screen, don't be surprised if you end the day with a little more life still available.
And if not, there's another big perk: newly-added TurboPower fast charging, which lets you add about six hours of mixed battery usage with just a 15-minute charge. It's perfect for topping off your phone just before hitting the pub – or first-thing in the morning before work once you realize you didn't plug it in after the pub last night. Whoops.
NO! Not a big camera upgrade
For all the ways that the Moto G4 improves upon the 3rd-gen model, there's one category that seems to be a wash: camera quality, front and back. Both phones have a 13-megapixel back camera and a 5-megapixel front shooter, and both list similar features for them. As far as we can tell, there shouldn't be a significant difference between the two devices in this respect.
We really liked the camera on last year's phone, which impressed for a budget handset, so it's an upside all around. But as far as we can tell, the Moto G4 doesn't offer a big leap here.
YES! The Plus is even better
But if you pay an extra £30 for the Moto G4 Plus, you will see a camera bump: up to 16 megapixels on the back with the added benefits of laser focusing and phase detection autofocus. You'll also get a home button on the front with a fingerprint sensor, offering a nice bit of bonus security not found on the standard model. However, without NFC included, it won't work with Android Pay.
Otherwise, everything is the same between the two models: the screen, processor, and RAM/storage configurations. Between the camera perks and the fingerprint sensor, £30 seems a small price to pay, but £199 might provide a bit of sticker shock that £169 doesn't. It's your call, but our early hunch is that the Pro is the phone to get.
Initial verdict: Worth the upgrade?
The Moto G4 represents a significant step forward for Lenovo's budget wonder, with an enhanced screen, improved internals, a potential battery boost, and a cheaper entry price.
If you're in the market for a cheap mid-ranger and have been using your current phone for a couple years now, the Moto G4 seems plenty appealing. And the Moto G4 Plus could wind up being the one to get, as the camera perks and fingerprint sensor seem worth the extra funds.
But what about if you bought the third-gen Moto G within the last year? Well, that's a trickier question. If you use a cheaper smartphone, chances are you're more concerned about value over wielding the highest-quality components on the market for that price range. In that case, if your 2015 model still works well, it's probably hard to justify buying a new phone this summer.
On the other hand, the Moto G4 is super affordable at £169 for the base model – so if you can still get some value by selling your third-gen Moto G, you won't have to shell out much more cash to make up the difference. In that case, the Moto G4 should seem mighty appealing. Check back for a full review and further insight soon.