If you’re looking for a well-rounded device running a close to pure version of Android — and Google’s Pixel is more phone than you really need — Motorola may be your best bet. Trouble is, the company has produced many new models in the past year and the lineup can be quite confusing at times, even for seasoned veterans. Our guide to Motorola’s 2017 smartphones take you through the hierarchy, starting with the $130 Moto E4 Plus, all the way up to the range-topping modular Moto Z2 Force.
Pricing: $130, $100 (Amazon Prime Exclusive with ads)
Who it’s for: Someone who needs a basic smartphone and nothing more
In terms of specs and price, the Moto E4 is the bare minimum the company offers. That said, you still get a respectable handset for the money, and depending on your usage, it could be enough to satisfy your needs. The E4 comes with Qualcomm’s low-end Snapdragon 425 system-on-chip (Sprint buyers get a slightly more powerful 427 processor), 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. There is also a MicroSD card slot if you need additional space for apps and media. The display is a 5-inch LCD with a 1,280 x 720 resolution, and the main camera is rated at 8 megapixels. It proved average in our photography tests, which isn’t particularly surprising given the low, low price of the hardware. You do still get a front-mounted fingerprint sensor for your troubles though, a welcome inclusion.
Moto E4 Plus
Pricing: $180 (16GB); $200 (32GB); $140/$160 (Amazon Prime Exclusive with ads)
Who it’s for: Someone who wants the best battery life, and doesn’t need a powerful phone
We called the Moto E4 Plus the best smartphone under $200 when we reviewed it earlier in the summer, and that’s mostly down to one standout feature: The almost un-killable battery. Motorola stuffed a 5,000mAh unit into the E4 Plus’ 5.5-inch chassis. Coupled with the phone’s frugal Snapdragon 427 processor and 720p display, the E4 delivers incredible longevity on a charge. It crushes two days without breaking a sweat, and three is certainly doable. We say if you have the extra $50 to burn, spring for the Plus over the standard E4 — you’ll have a budget phone that does something even the four-times more expensive Apple iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Google Pixel can’t match.
Moto G5 and G5S
Pricing: 230 euros (G5); 250 euros (G5S); U.S. Moto G5S pricing TBA
Who it’s for: Someone who wants a full HD display in a compact package
Here’s where things get a little confusing. The standard Moto G5 is not sold in the U.S., but the slightly improved Moto G5S soon will be. These phones both sport Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 processor, though the G5S features a slightly improved battery — 3,000mAh versus 2,800mAh — as well as a 16-megapixel rear camera to replace the regular model’s 13-megapixel shooter, and metal construction instead of plastic. Otherwise, they’re the same; each has a 5.2-inch 1080p display and 2GB of RAM.
To be honest, there’s little reason to go with the G5 or G5S considering the rest of Motorola’s lineup. Between the excellent value of the E4 Plus and better all-around performance of the G5 Plus, neither device makes a whole lot of sense. The processors aren’t noticeably faster, nor are the designs markedly different. The batteries are substantially less than what the E4 Plus offers, and the cameras deliver similarly average photos. We say go lower or go higher.
Moto G5 Plus and G5S Plus
Pricing: $230 (G5 Plus, 32GB/2GB); $280 (G5 Plus, 64GB/4GB); U.S. Moto G5S Plus pricing TBA
Who it’s for: Someone who wants a jack-of-all-trades midrange phone under $300
The Moto G5S Plus isn’t available in the U.S. yet, but Moto G5 Plus is, and it’s our favorite budget smartphone. For $230, you get a Snapdragon 625 processor — a significant step up from the 430 found in the regular G5 and G5S — as well as a 5.2-inch 1080p display and 2GB of RAM. If you spend $50 more, you can have double the storage and RAM, making the G5 Plus one of the best values under the $300 mark.
But what of the G5S Plus? This phone is slated to go on sale soon, and we don’t yet have pricing data for it. It claims some pretty noteworthy upgrades. The G5S Plus is slightly bigger than the regular G5 Plus, with a 5.5-inch display at the same resolution. It’s also got dual cameras, both rated at 13-megapixels, replacing the G5 Plus’ single 12-megapixel shooter. The base model of the G5S Plus receives an extra gigabyte of RAM for a total of 3GB, though 4GB is again an option.
Pricing: 399 euros (64GB); U.S. Moto X pricing TBA
Who it’s for: Someone who wants flagship-quality dual cameras in an otherwise midrange device
Once upon a time, the Moto X was billed as Motorola’s flagship. That designation has shifted to the modular Moto Z in recent years, but now the company is reviving the Moto X as a midrange product. From the outside, it looks nothing like the previous versions: You’ll find chunky bezels, super-reflective glass construction, and dual cameras.
On the other hand, in terms of specs, it may be too similar to the Moto G5 Plus to really make a splash. The processor is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630, the chip maker’s newest midrange silicon. It should only offer a negligible bump in day-to-day performance over the outgoing 625. Alongside are 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.
Motorola has not yet announced pricing for the Moto X in the U.S., though we expect it to slide in between $400 and $450. It does boast a couple notable upgrades over the G5S Plus, like IP68 water resistance, and an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens serving as one of the dual cameras. Either way, you won’t be able to get your hands on one until the fall.
Moto Z2 Play
Pricing: $408 (32GB, Verizon exclusive); $500 (64GB)
Who it’s for: Someone who wants a modular phone at the cheapest price
The Moto Z2 Play brings the modular capabilities of the company’s Moto Mods platform down to an affordable cost. With a Snapdragon 626 processor alongside 3GB of RAM, it’s not necessarily more powerful than the G5 Plus, but it certainly is longer-lasting despite only a 3,000mAh battery. The system Motorola has devised for its Moto Mods is incredibly user friendly — they simply snap onto the back magnetically. Some are a bit too expensive, especially the Hasselblad TrueZoom camera mod and InstaShare projector. But if the idea truly speaks to you, and you don’t need a device with the fastest processor, the Z2 Play is a solid choice. If you want to learn about more Moto Mods, here’s a list of our favorites.
Moto Z2 Force
Who it’s for: Someone who wants a modular phone with flagship performance
Though they may mostly share the same name, the Moto Z2 Force is a very different beast from the Z2 Play. The latter is a midrange handset at heart, but the Moto Z2 Force is Motorola’s flagship. It features Qualcomm’s most powerful system-on-chip, the Snapdragon 835, and 4GB of RAM. The only similarity between them is they both support Moto Mods.
The Z2 Force features a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440. It’s a remarkably thin device, though Motorola has protected the screen from inevitable mishaps with its proprietary ShatterShield layered technology. Unfortunately, that slimmer profile has resulted in a significant reduction in battery capacity compared to last year’s model. If you want better battery life, the Z2 Play is a better option. Or you can grab a battery Moto Mod to extend the Z2 Force’s life.
The Z2 Force does, however, feature a better camera, and it has two lenses. Both have 12 megapixels, but one is purely monochrome, allowing you to achieve true black and white photography. Bear in mind, though, that for all the Z2 Force’s bells and whistles, it starts at $720 — over $200 more than an unlocked Z2 Play.