Confused on what Motorola phone to buy? Our guide breaks it all down

Moto Z2 Play mod install in hand
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re looking for a well-rounded smartphone running a close-to-pure version of Android, Motorola may be your best bet. Trouble is, the company has produced many new models in the past year that the lineup can be quite confusing at times, even for seasoned veterans.

Our guide to Motorola’s 2017 smartphones take you through the portfolio, starting with the $70 Moto E4 all the way up to the top-of-the-line modular Moto Z2 Force.

Moto E4

Moto E4 sitting face up next to watch, pen, notebook

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. 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, 16GB of internal storage, and a MicroSD card slot for additional space. 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 testing tests, which isn’t particularly surprising given the low, low price of the hardware. And you get a front-mounted fingerprint sensor for your trouble, though — a welcome inclusion.

Moto E4 Review

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Moto E4 Plus

moto e4 plus 2
Adam Ismail/Digital Trends

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 easily lasts 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 2 XL.

Moto E4 Plus Review

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Moto G5 and G5S

lenovo moto g5 news g5s promo 1

Pricing: 230 euros (G5); 250 euros (G5S)

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 isn’t available in the U.S., nor is the slightly improved Moto G5S — but the Moto G5 and the Moto G5S Plus are available. If you live in the U.S. you’ll want to jump to the next section. Both the Moto G5 and G5S sport Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 processor, though the G5S features a slightly improved battery (3,000mAh versus 2,800mAh); a 16-megapixel rear camera to instead of the regular model’s 13-megapixel shooter; and a metal body instead of plastic. Otherwise, they’re the same — both have a 5.2-inch 1080p display and 2GB of RAM.

To be honest, there’s not much reason to go with the G5 or G5S in the context of Motorola’s larger lineup. The processors aren’t noticeably faster, and the designs aren’t radically different. The batteries are substantially less than what Motorola phones like the E4 Plus offers too, and the cameras are average at best. Bottom line? You’re best spending a bit more (or a bit less) on something else.

See Moto G5See Moto G5S

Moto G5 Plus and G5S Plus

Lenovo Moto G5 Plus review
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

Pricing: $230 (G5 Plus, 32GB/2GB); $280 (G5 Plus, 64GB/4GB); $280/$350 (G5S Plus, 32GB/64GB)

Who it’s for: Someone who wants a jack-of-all-trades midrange phone under $300

But what of the G5S Plus? If you’re interested in a Moto G5 in the U.S., it’s probably the one to get. 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 G5S Plus has an extra gigabyte of RAM for a total of 3GB, though 4GB is an option.

The Moto G5 Plus, the G5S Plus’s predecessor, was one of our favorite budget smartphones this year. For $230, you get a Snapdragon 625 processor — a 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. The link to our G5S Plus review is below, but if you’re more interested in the standard G5 Plus, read our review of that here.

Moto G5S Plus Review

See Moto G5 Plus See Moto G5S Plus

Moto X4 / Android One Moto X4

moto x4 hands on review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Pricing: $400

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, IP68 water resistance, and a dual-sensor rear camera with an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens.

In the U.S., the Moto X4 is the first non-Pixel/Nexus device available on Project Fi, Google’s pay-as-you-go MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). The $400 Android One Moto X4, which is available from the Project Fi website, comes with free unlimited Google Photos storage, and up to $165 in credits for subscribers who trade in an old Nexus device.

If Fi isn’t your style, the Moto X4 is available from Best Buy, B&H, Fry’s, Jet.com, Motorola.com, Newegg, Republic Wireless, and Ting starting at $400.

It’s $70 cheaper on Prime Exclusive Phones ($330), Amazon’s discount phone program, but there’s a catch: You’ll have to put up with ads on the lockscreen and sign up for Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime program.

Moto X4 Review

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Moto Z2 Play

Moto Z2 Play vs. Moto Z2 Force Moto Z2 Play lifestyle image
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

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 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 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 Play Review

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Moto Z2 Force

moto z2 force tips and tricks

Pricing: $720

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 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  necessitated a smaller battery 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 one with two lenses. Both have 12 megapixels, but one is monochrome, allowing you to achieve true black and white photography. Bear in mind that for all the Z2 Force’s bells and whistles, though, it starts at $720 — over $200 more than an unlocked Z2 Play.

Moto Z2 Force Review

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Updated: Added links to Moto X4 and Moto G5S Plus reviews.