Moto G

The Moto G line has a history of being there for the people who don’t want to spend crazy amounts of money for specifications and features that they might not prioritize. But in these uncertain times, Moto might be bringing back the line at a price point that is plenty palpable for the masses. The interesting part is that Moto has brought some unique features to the table.

Getting what you pay for

Let’s start off with the most important part of these devices – the price. While the Moto G line has always been known for bringing a great value prospect, these two new editions look to bring a couple of very specific feature sets. The Moto G Power is the cheaper of the two, coming in at $249 and boasting a large 5,000mAh battery as its selling point. A smaller battery is found on the Moto G Stylus, but as the name implies, a stylus nestled in the corner of the phone is meant to justify a $50 increase to $299.

For a price of sub-$300, expectations do have to be tempered. While it would be easy for me to just compare these budget phones to the many flagships that tend to dominate smartphone conversation, using affordable smartphones does do a great job of recalibrating one’s expectations. After days of using these phones, I might wish for a few features I am used to on phones that scrape the $1000 price point, but I am plenty able to get many of the different work and play aspects of my daily smartphone life done.

Both the Moto G Power and G Stylus have rather thick bodies with a curve on the back that helps with the handling along with the accessible screen size. While some might find the build quality a little on the cheap side, my only real complaint with these phones is how easily smudged the backing gets. On that note, I definitely prefer the purple color of the G Stylus here, compared to the honestly unremarkable black patterned design of the G Power. There are a few things that you’ll notice on this phone compared to even flagships — a headphone jack with audio tuned by Dolby is quite welcome, but also that M logo on the back is actually where the fingerprint reader lies. And I gotta say, I actually have missed the tactile reliability of a rear fingerprint reader.

The screens are 6.4 inches and come in at Full HD+ resolution, providing a decent experience for basically all applications that I threw at them. The displays are still used for some signature Moto features like the Moto Display, which shows you your notifications at a glance. More on Moto features later.

Underneath the surface, the Snapdragon 665 is the processor backed by 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for the G Stylus. The G Power gets 64GB of storage. This is a middling processing package and it shows in Moto’s version of Android — mostly in opening applications, I find there to be a bit of a delay, but once you’re in even high end games, the experience is normal, if not totally snappy.

That Moto DNA

In both phones, Moto provides many of the same software features we’ve come to expect over the last number of years. All of these are baked into what is mostly a stock version of Android complete with Google Now on the side and full screen gestures that are turned on by default. Gesture control for things like the camera and the flashlight are familiar and still useful, while plenty of others can be activated in the Moto app, like a three finger swipe for taking screenshots. And the Moto Display is still one of my favorite implementations of the Ambient Display, allowing you to trigger it at will with a tap on the screen and then small previews of notifications via holds on the icons. While we have things like Always on Displays on other devices, the fact that Moto can bring this to pretty much any of their phones helps the convenience factor.

Other additions include a Game mode, which docks a small button over on the side for quickly taking screenshots, turning off notifications, and quickly opening up certain messaging applications. It doesn’t bring any boosts as the the Snapdraogn 665 can only give you so much power, but it’s good to see Moto throw a bone to the mobile gamers.

All day, err day

Your eyebrows might have raised at hearing that the Moto G Power only gets 64GB of storage. It points to a configuration in this particular phone that is borderline peculiar. The term ‘power’ might invoke thoughts of performance, but in this context it basically just means long lasting battery life. This is not unheard of in the Moto camp, but it is interesting to see how Moto valuates certain features that come on the G Stylus instead. After all, the processors, screens, and main hardware before the camera are basically the same.

A 1000mAh increase in the battery capacity of the Moto G Power is impressive, no doubt — and in my usage of the phone, I actually had problems draining the battery down with my usual mix of YouTube viewing, music listening, and mobile game playing. After a day that included even camera testing, I wasn’t even able to get the phone down to single digits. For such a low price, if all you’re looking for is a long lasting smartphone, the Moto G Power definitely fits the bill, but what happens when you actually run out of battery? Unfortunately, both the Power and the Stylus stick with wired 10W charging, making the fill up from 0 to even 50% quite the slog. Sure, you’ll end up just plugging the phone in during the night but even 15W charging would have been nice to see from the same company that helped pioneer TurboPower in other Moto devices.

Writing it off

So, if the Moto G Power is all about that battery life, what exactly makes the G Stylus a $50 premium? The first part is unsurprising — the Stylus. In a first for Moto and as a general rarity in any smartphone, this phone comes with a stylus that is nestled in the corner. Now, the actual stylus itself is pretty normal — it’s a regular nub pen that doesn’t have any smart features or special buttons. Moto does try to add in a few extras to make it worth your while, like a Moto Notes application that can open up immediately when removing the stylus. It’s nice to see this added into even a budget device, but for most people this won’t be more than an extra way of pointing and dragging around the interface. And don’t take that as me minimizing its usage — I know plenty of people that would prefer to have a precision pointer for plenty of tasks, even for some games.

Different views

But a stylus alone isn’t 50 extra dollars. The G Stylus also comes with more storage, as I mentioned, which makes sense because it comes with the much better camera setup. The Moto G Power is definitely made for just long lasting general usage, as its cameras imply: a 16MP main shooter with a 8MP wide and a 2MP macro. While the app does have quite a few modes that you can take advantage of, my main takeaway was that the cameras of the Moto G Power are really great to have in a pinch. The front facing camera is still a 16MP shooter that automatically bins down to 4MP results — this is the same for the Moto G Stylus.

That said, the G Stylus comes with a 48MP main shooter, which sounds great for a $250 phone, but technically you won’t be using all of the pixels because it always bins down to 12MP results. This isn’t a bad prospect for a little bit of a boost in lower light situations, but it would have been nice to have the option. The other lenses are the 2MP macro and then the 16MP ultrawide which is literally only used for video. This is where things get funky — the ultrawide is cropped in through portrait orientation so that you can get a proper 1080p frame while holding the phone normally in your hand. In this mode, called the Action Cam, you could get some decent looking shots faster and without fiddling too much to get there. It’s a novel idea that can only yield 1080p results, so if you are one for higher resolution video, you have to go landscape orientation for 4K capture. By the way — 4K capture is not possible on the Moto G Power, furthering the gap between these two phones.

Overall, the results are decent. Videos in particular suffer from a lack of dynamic range, but pictures can come out quite well especially in the Moto G Stylus. Honestly the weirdest part to me in comparing these two phones is that the ultrawide camera in the Stylus can’t be used for photos. It’s specifically tuned for the Action Cam capture.

Final thoughts

I have to say, testing both of these phones at the same time has been an interesting experience — had I only gotten one of these phones, I probably would have easily viewed it through a vacuum, but when both are in your sights, the differences between them might seem odd at best, jarring at worst. This is not to say these phones are that bad at all — especially for their price points, anyone looking to save money can find plenty to like.

Both phones are available now across major online retailers and on many of the carriers in the US, making it a very accessible duo of phones. In the context against more expensive, higher end phones, what you pay for is faster convenience — but in the context of these two specific phones, $50 is the difference between solid basics and, let’s say, the budding creative. If I had to pick, the Moto G Stylus provides more than enough incentive to make $50 extra feel like a good deal. But I want to know which one you would pick —

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