Budget smartphones need to be lean machines. Motorola has cooked up a winning formula over the past few years with its Moto G-series and has successfully applied it again with the 2019 Moto G7 lineup. There’re three phones on the docket in the U.S. this year. The Moto G7, the Moto G7 Power — a new entry — and the Moto G7 Play.
What about the usual Moto G7 Plus? It’s only being sold in international markets, and won’t have a presence in the U.S. Three is still plenty for the U.S., so what are these sub-$300 phones like? We spent some time with each to find out.
Clean design, solid display
The Moto G7 is the flagship of the series, and it’s much better looking than its $300 price may suggest. It has Gorilla Glass 3 on the back, adding to its high-end feel, with curved edges that make it comfortable to hold. The camera bump sticks out a lot, which is par for the course on Motorola phones, but we’d rather it wasn’t as pronounced. We do like the indented fingerprint sensor, which doubles as the Motorola logo on the back.
We looked at the “Clear White” color option, and it looks slick and clean. The frame is made of plastic coated with metal in a process called vacuum metalization, and Motorola said this helps hide those pesky antenna lines around the phone that can clutter up the look. It works, and the Moto G7 is gorgeously minimal. There’s a “Ceramic Black” color option available as well, in case you want a subtler look.The Moto G7 series is exactly what we want to see in budget phones.
Up front, the G7 sports a teardrop notch. It’s where the selfie camera rests, and it dips into the display just a little. It’s not as elegant as the teardrop notch on the OnePlus 6T but it offers a modern, bezel-less design. A bezel lines the bottom, but it’s only used for Motorola’s branding.
The 6.2-inch LCD screen looks sharp, with 2,270 x 1,080 resolution, and colors were vibrant. It wasn’t bright, as we had a little difficulty seeing the screen in direct sunlight.
We like the textured power button, which helps distinguish it against the volume rocker that sits above. There’s a USB Type-C charging port at the bottom. Most importantly, there’s a headphone jack, so you can still use your 3.5mm earbuds.
Performance, battery, and software
The entire Moto G7 range uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, which helps eliminate a lot of confusion. You’re getting the same power across all three phones, but RAM differs, so the G7 will be able to handle multitasking the best of the lot, as it comes with 4GB. In terms of storage, the phone comes with 64GB, but there’s a MicroSD card slot that lets you add more space if needed.
Motorola said the phone is 50 percent faster than last year’s Moto G6. In the few interactions we had with the G7, apps opened quickly, and moving through the interface was fluid. We’ll be doing more testing to see how far the Snapdragon 632 can go before it starts to struggle, but you can expect to complete most tasks without issue. Hardcore gaming will be the weak link. Still, this is a significant improvement over the Snapdragon 400-series chips found in last year’s Moto G6 range.
The software experience continues to impress. It’s not as good as HMD Global’s Nokia phones under the Android One program, which promise software updates for two years and offer stock Android straight from Google with nothing more. Motorola’s software is close to stock Android in that it’s a clean, uncluttered version with no Motorola-made “skin.”
The Moto G7 is gorgeously minimal
There are Motorola gestures that we’ve seen before, such as chopping the phone twice to launch the flashlight or twisting the phone twice to open the camera. These are genuinely useful.
We do have to report one major bummer, though. The entire Moto G7 range, which currently runs Android 9 Pie, will get one Android version update (Android Q) in its lifespan. We expect two years of updates at the minimum.
Another feature missing is NFC, which means there’s no way to use these phones for contactless payments via platforms like Google Pay. If HMD’s $160 Nokia 3.1 Plus has NFC, we don’t know why the $300 Moto G7 can’t.
Camera and battery
We haven’t spent much time with the camera, but it’s a dual-camera system on the back of the G7. It pairs one 12-megapixel lens with a f/1.8 aperture to a 5-megapixel depth sensor. The few photos we took in broad daylight looked good, and the camera reacted snappily. There’s an 8-megapixel selfie camera on the front.
Many of the features we saw on the Moto G6 are back, such as Cinemagraphs, Portrait Mode, and Spot Color, but the G7 series introduces three new camera features as well. The first is called Auto Smile Capture, exclusive to the Moto G7. Essentially, the camera detects smiles and will snap a photo automatically using artificial intelligence. It’s something we’ve seen on other phones from LG and Samsung before, but it worked well on the G7.
Then there’s Hyperlapse. After you capture a video, you’ll get the option to speed things up to turn it into a hyperlapse for a neat effect. There’s also High-res Zoom, which Motorola said enhances the quality of a photo when you zoom in. It sounds similar to Google’s Super Res Zoom, but we’ll need to do more testing to see how it stacks up. Both features are available on the entire Moto G7 range, but we haven’t tried them yet.
The Moto G7 has a 3,000mAh battery inside, and there’s support for 15-watt TurboPower fast charging via the USB-C port. It should last a full day, and not much more.
Moto G7 Power
Next up on the roster is the Moto G7 Power. It’s a new member of the Moto G family, somewhat replacing the Moto G Plus in the U.S., but it has the same 6.2-inch LCD screen size as the Moto G7. The screen resolution is lower, though, at 1,520 x 720 pixels. It looks good but doesn’t get as bright as we’d like. There’s also a bigger notch on the Power, which may put a few people off, though it does help the phone look more contemporary than last year’s Moto G6.
Many design elements are the same as the G7, such as the fingerprint sensor on the back, the curved edges, the textured power button, and the protruding camera bump. There are a few small differences, such as the headphone jack resting on the top of the phone, the plastic frame, and the polymer glass back. It feels just as good in-hand, though there’s a difference that will be immediately noticeable — thickness.
The Moto G7 Power is 9.3mm thick, while the G7 is just 8mm. Why such a difference? There’s a massive 5,000mAh battery inside that should keep this phone chugging along for days easily. Motorola claims a whopping three days battery life. It also has a USB-C charging port with 15 watt TurboPower fast charging to make sure you can juice this phone back up quickly.
This is the signature reason to buy the Moto G7 Power. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of charging your phone every day, or you’re tired of carrying battery packs, this is the phone for you.
Motorola said the entire Moto G7 range will only get one Android update in its entire lifespan.
We also like the phone’s striking blue color — the only color it comes in — as it stands out from the usual mix of colors we see on smartphones.
It’s the same Snapdragon 632, but with 3GB of RAM and only 32GB of internal storage. The camera specs are a little different — it’s just one 12-megapixel lens on the back with a f/2.0 aperture, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera.
The rest of the features, from Android 9 Pie software and Moto gestures to the camera features, are all the same as the Moto G7.
Moto G7 Play
The cheapest phone in this lineup is the Moto G7 Play. It easily looks the part, mostly due to the materials it’s made from. There’s a microtextured resin back, along with a plastic frame. It feels cheap, but the saving grace is size. There’s a 5.7-inch screen with 1,512 x 720 resolution. That may sound big, but with the reduced bezels around the edges, the Play is quite compact. We could easily wrap our palm around the phone, which makes it ideal for people looking for a small budget phone.
As mentioned earlier, the processor is the same. There’s just 2GB of RAM, though, and 32GB of internal storage. We didn’t notice much of a difference in performance compared to the G7 and G7 Power, but we’ll need to test the phone to really tell.
There’s a 3,000mAh battery like the G7, but only with support for 10-watt fast charging via the USB-C port. The camera specs are a little different — it’s a 13-megapixel lens with f/2.0 aperture, but there’s a similar 8-megapixel front camera.
Phone size seems to be one of the few reasons to opt for the G7 Play over the G7 Power, other than the fact that you can save $50.
Price and availability
The Moto G7 is most expensive at $299. It’s followed by the Moto G7 Power, which is $249, and the Moto G7 Play is priced at $199. All three phones will be available through retailers and carriers when they launch in the spring.
Motorola’s decision to stick with clean, uncluttered software and refine the fundamentals is exactly what we want in budget phones. These phones look like winners, but we’ll have to do more testing to find out if they deserve the crown in our best budget phones guide.