Lenovo Moto G4 Signals the Fall of a Kingdom

On a fateful day in November 2013, an Android giant released a humble device, one which could not stand up to the knights and princes of the Android world. Little did they expect that this humble little device to become the best selling smartphone the company had ever seen.

moto_G_photo4.jpgSuch was the tale of the Motorola Moto G. Right now, in 2016, if you looked at the specs without knowing this was the Moto G, you’d glance away without the slightest thought. After all, a 4.5″ HD display, a Snapdragon 400 SoC, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of non-expandable storage aren’t specs that we would recommend to anyone this year. To give an estimate of the market situation back then, the Qualcomm variant of the Samsung Galaxy S4 was released in March-April 2013, bearing a 5″ FHD display, a Snapdragon 600 SoC, 2GB RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. We are comparing apples to oranges since the S4 was a flagship and the Moto G was on the opposite end, but this comparison is to just give you a glimpse on how low the Moto G really was.

But surprisingly, despite the specs which weren’t too exciting, the Moto G did excite customers. And a lot of them too. This wasn’t solely because the phone had specifications that one part of the market wanted. It was because this part of the market was willing to get all these specs at the puny $179 price it commanded for the 8GB variant. The Moto G landed in the Indian market with an expectedly inflated price of Rs. 12,499 (close to $195 at prior conversion rates), but the phone was still lapped up by the market.

The magic behind the Moto G was not what individual specs it brought to the table, or how much it costed. The value behind the phone that propelled it to popularity was the sum total of all of its points: You get some good specs at prices you do not mind, you get the trust behind the brand Motorola along with all of its customer support systems, and you get a clean and unburdened OS with solid performance, battery life, and the promise of future updates. The public loved it.

Granted, the Moto G did not entirely capture the market. It had stiff competition from all quarters, as it dipped its toes in the saturated entry level markets that was flooded with cheap devices that did nothing. Everyone claimed to do the same few things, but Motorola went a step ahead and actually did what they claimed. The phone was launched with Android 4.3 Jellybean in November 2013, and was updated to Android 4.4 Kitkat in around December 2013 (Kitkat was released in October 2013). Then the phone was updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop in around January-February 2015 (Android 5.0 was released in November 2014, Android 5.1 was released in March 2015). There was a delay in the last few updates, but Motorola gave one more parting gift to the original Moto G with Android 5.1.1 being released in July-September 2015.

Although the updates were not the quickest, the big point about them was that they were present. From 4.3 to 4.4 to 5.0 to 5.1, the Motorola Moto G saw three major software jumps — that is three more than what one would expect from other phones in that price segment. A manufacturer that cared for its starting lineup beyond their warranty period was rare, and the Moto G was certainly very lucky in this regard.

With the Moto G2 and the Moto G3, Motorola attempted to follow along the same set of strategies that worked for it in the first time. They avoided reinventing the wheel, sticking with similar designs, similar (but upgraded) specs, similar pricing and the similar promise of update. The screen was bumped up to 5″ while still being HD, and the processor was swapped over for the Snapdragon 410 for the G3. Other areas of improvements were the camera and a bump in battery, along with the introduction of IPX7 rating for water resistance. The G series knew its place in the market and was perfectly fine in competing for it only.

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The Moto G4 however, has landed in a time of further heightened competition. And to add to its woes, the G4 barely upgrades over the G3 in key areas. The SoC includes another cluster of A53’s but improves on the GPU with the Adreno 405 (vs Adreno 306). Part of this improvement is then offset by the bump in resolution, with the 5.5″ FHD display being more taxing to run than a 5″ HD display. The base storage does see a bump up to 16GB, and so does the battery with a 3000 mAh pack powering it all up. But again, some of this gain will be offset by the display.

The camera setup on the Moto G4 remains the same. The design is an area which is subjective to every person, but objectively, the phone changes up significantly from its predecessors. And worse, the phone actually regresses on the IPX7 rating, losing a feature that had contributions to its success in tropical climate markets like India. The starting price of the Moto G4 was not revealed during the event, but it is likely to hover around the Rs. 12,499 ($185) mark, which is close to the start points of the predecessors.

So why is the Moto G4 a poor (or poorer) deal? The answer to this question lies in how the G series shaped up the market in the recent years. Other OEMs have stepped their game majorly, or exited out of the market quietly. You get a lot more options in the market right now, and several of them offer a better proposition in various areas.

If you are willing to settle for MediaTek, you get a vast array of Chinese devices with SoC’s ranging from the MT6753’s all the way to the Helio X10 (slightly outdated) and the Helio X20 (which MTK pits as a competitor to current flagship SoCs). If you do need a Snapdragon SoC, you can find several other phones in the market with the the Snapdragon 615, which is close to the Snapdragon 617 in performance. You can even get yesteryear flagship SoC’s like the Snapdragon 801 in this price range, which is still competitive for the starter level.

If you are still not content, you can find devices with the Snapdragon 650 and Snapdragon 652 within the price of the Moto G4. The 650 duo is second to none other than the 820-flagship SoC in terms of raw performance and thermal management, so you can get an unbeatable package while still being around the same price points.

And we haven’t even touched areas like a metallic body or a fingerprint sensor — areas that other devices have been forced to evolve into to keep up with the market trends.

The Moto G4 stands no chance of repeating any of its predecessors success, and a decent chunk of blame also goes onto the Moto G4 Plus. The G4 Plus has been given the preferred sibling treatment from Lenovo, bearing the improved camera setup (according to reviews so far) that other phones in the market may not be able to match. The very existence of the Moto G4 Plus spells doom for the Moto G4 — there remains little reason to buy the Moto G4 anymore. The price difference is a farce, as you do not get the same value out of the package.

The Moto G4 signals the fall of a kingdom: a kingdom built purely on the value to the consumer. The G4 can not size up to the success of its predecessors, and it definitely can not compete with the competition. The prospects are weak as of now, and they will only worsen as more and more phones are released with better specs and lower prices. Lenovo does need to seriously reconsider the pricing of the Moto G4 (and the Moto G4 Plus, by extension) if they wish to repeat the success that they tried to purchase.

What are your thoughts on the Moto G4? How do you feel the phone works against the current competition? Will the Moto G4 Plus affect and dilute the G-series lineup? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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