Processor: Octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617, Screen Size: 5.5in, Screen resolution: 1,920×1,080, Rear camera: 16 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (10.8GB) / 32GB / 64GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 153x77x7.9mm, Weight: 155g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1
The new Moto G4 is utterly fantastic, but this year Motorola’s releasing not one, but two different variations of the Moto G, the second being the rather confusingly named Moto G4 Plus. Unlike every other phone with the word ‘Plus’ in its name, the G4 Plus isn’t actually any bigger than the regular Moto G4. In fact, it’s exactly the same size and in most respects shares the same components as its £169 sibling.
It has the same 5.5in 1,920×1,080 resolution display, the same weight and dimensions, the same octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset, and the same 3,000mAh battery – all of which produced identical results to the regular Moto G4 in our tests, so go and have a read of our Moto G4 review to get a better idea of how it stacks up against other budget smartphones. Short version: you simply can’t do much better, even when the Moto G4 Plus costs £60 on top of its the standard’s low £169 price.
Instead, the main difference between the Moto G4 and the Moto G4 Plus is its rear camera and additional fingerprint sensor on the front. The latter is relatively straightforward, as this gives the Moto G4 Plus an extra layer of security, allowing you to unlock the phone with your fingerprint rather than a swipe pattern, passcode or PIN number.
Its squat, square shape looks rather odd compared to other front-facing sensors I’ve seen, such as those on Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Apple’s iPhone 6S, as it looks and feels a lot smaller than either Samsung or Apple’s respective contact points. The good thing is, though, that you don’t need to press it down or turn the phone on first in order to trigger the sensor. In fact, the Moto G4 Plus’ sensor isn’t a button at all, so the phone will unlock automatically simply by placing your thumb or finger against its surface.
It works really well, too, as it recognised my thumb from a variety of different angles and orientations, and its speed easily matched the Nexus 6P‘s sensor. You’ll need to make sure it’s covering the whole sensor, though, and it also won’t work if your hands are wet. Still, at least its metal surround makes it easy to find, and its raised border makes you feel confident you’ve pressed it correctly.
Bizarrely, though, it can’t be used to authorise contactless Android Pay payments as the Moto G4 Plus doesn’t have NFC. This is a real shame, as it would have made the Moto G4 Plus the first budget smartphone with a fingerprint sensor that you could have used with the newly launched UK service. You can use Android Pay without a fingertprint reader, but you need to unlock your phone to do so, which does somewhat detract from the convenience – it’s arguably easier to reach for a card.
The superior specified cameras is a more likely reason why you’d opt for the Moto G4 Plus, as instead of using a 13-megapixel sensor like the entry-level G4, the G4 Plus has a higher resolution 16-megapixel sensor. It also has a hybrid autofocus that combines laser and phase detect technology, something which was decidedly lacking on the basic G4.
The difference, however, isn’t quite as pronounced as you might expect. In our test shots, for instance, the regular Moto G4 had much warmer, more natural-looking colour reproduction than the G4 Plus, which looked positively blue by comparison. The G4 was also brighter overall, but in some shots there were noticeable patches of cloud that were overexposed, something the G4 Plus coped with brilliantly.
^ The Moto G4 Plus (above) produced noticeably cooler photos than the regular G4 (below)
The Moto G4 Plus also captured more fine detail, particularly when it came to the textures of different buildings. The regular G4, on the other hand, tended to smooth these details out in a bit of blur. The same was true indoors as well, as the Moto G4 Plus was noticeably sharper across the board. There was a bit more grain present overall, but it wasn’t too distracting and everything looked more defined and detailed as a result.
However, unless you look at each photo up close at their native resolution, it’s probably not something you’re really going to notice at a glance, which makes the £60 premium seem rather steep when everything else is exactly the same.
As a result, the Moto G4 Plus isn’t quite such good value as the regular Moto G4, even if its camera is marginally better. If it was as good as the camera in the Nexus 5X, then it might be a different story, but when there’s not really that much extra to be gained at its plus-sized price, I’d rather stick with the regular G4 camera and save some money.
That said, the Moto G4 Plus is still a great phone in its own right, as it’s considerably faster than most other phones in the £200-250 price range, including the Samsung Galaxy A3 2016, OnePlus X and Motorola’s own Moto X Play. The only possible competitor in this field is the OnePlus 2, which is the same size as the G4 Plus and is considerably faster. However, the OnePlus 2 didn’t do quite so well in our battery life test, and its camera is more or less on par with the sensor on the G4 Plus, so you’re not looking at any other tangible benefits other than the boost in speed.
The OnePlus 2 is also a fraction more expensive at £250. However, with the OnePlus 3 right around the corner, this may well change over the next couple of weeks, as it might drop in price to make way for its newer, shinier successor. It’s probably worth waiting, then, to see what happens, as a price drop would definitely make it even better value than it already is, and it would severely undercut the Moto G4 Plus.
Ultimately, the Moto G4 Plus doesn’t offer quite enough to make it a viable upgrade over the regular G4, and even its super-fast processor just can’t quite match its nearest competitor, the OnePlus 2, making it something of an awkward middle child rather than a shining star in the Moto G roster. As a result, you’re either better off saving your money and going with the regular Moto G4, or, if you really want a proper cut-price powerhouse, then the OnePlus 2 is your next best bet.