Hello Moto! Mobile phone company Motorola Mobility is back with the Moto G5 and Moto Z, a set of lifestyle-oriented smartphones. Launched in Accra on June 20 in partnership with MTN Ghana – the first in West Africa – the new Android-powered Moto G5 and Moto Z smartphones build on Motorola’s heritage and eye for innovation. I spent two weeks test-driving the new Moto G5 and also got a preview of the Moto Z with its Moto Mods during a private Motorola event on June 21. Are Motorola’s comeback smartphones a hit or a miss? Read on to find out.
In 1973 Motorola debuted the world’s first commercial handheld mobile phone, the DynaTAC, at US $3995. Thirteen years later, the company unveiled the StarTAC, effectively launching the world into the era of clamshell and flip mobile phones. The US $1000 price tag on the device inspired by the Star Trek communicator did not deter consumers from lapping it up; an estimated 15 million units were sold in the first six months. The Motorola Razr series followed in 2004 with its sleek design, quickly becoming a favorite and selling over 50 million units within the first two years. Almost 50 years after the first mobile phone call was made on a mobile device, a Motorola device, the phone manufacturer – now a subsidiary of Lenovo – is back with a simple message: “Different is better”.
The Moto Z and its Moto Mods
Dubbed “the world’s thinnest premium phone,” the brand new Moto Z boasts an eye-catching and robust 5.5 inch metallic design with shatter-proof Gorilla glass display. It is also splash and dust proof. Heavy smartphone user or live in a country with frequent power outages? You’ll be happy to know that the Moto Z battery does not only last between 24-30 hours on full charge, but also has turbo-power charging capabilities which adds up to 7 hours of additional battery life in only 15 minutes. The Moto Z’s low-light camera might also be welcome news for anyone who has struggled to find their light during a selfie-shoot. With the Moto Z, customer experiences are taken seriously. As Lenovo/Motorola West Africa Marketing Manager Bolade Oyekanmi shared during the private preview, “the phone is smart enough to respond to your gestures”. A simple shake can (de)activate the flashlight, while a touch on the finger sensor can log you into your favorite social media platform or app. With 4GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage and up to 256GB of microSD capability, you may never have to delete another app.
“We’re past building products. We are more about building lifestyles. We want to ensure that phone you have has access to every other thing you might need.” – Bolade Oyekanmi, Lenovo/Motorola
Moto Z technical specifications aside, the smartphone’s best selling point for me is it’s highly customizable nature. I watched in awe as the Moto Z transformed from an ultra-thin smartphone into a power-bank, a digital camera, a gamepad, a boombox, and a movie projector – all in the space of a few minutes. The secret? Moto mods or interchangeable backs that clasp onto the Moto Z and zap you into another lifestyle mode. Take the camera mod for instance. Developed in partnership with camera manufacturer Hasselblad, it can extend the functionality of the standard 13 megapixel rear camera with a 10x optical zoom as well as 180 and 360 degree capture capability. My favorite mod from the preview is the projector mod – oh, how joyous it would be to have a projector in my pocket for one of Circumspecte’s trainings. I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of never having to “upgrade”, but simply “extending” my smartphone for unlimited possibilities very appealing. If you’re all about hacking your life, the Moto Z is your quintessential lifestyle phone.
The Moto Z comes in black, silver, and gold and is currently available for purchase from MTN Ghana shops starting at GHS 2,500 (approximately US $570, mods not included). Think you’re a Moto Z kinda gal or guy? Remember to ask about the free six-month 2.5GB MTN data bundle you might be eligible for. Local app developer? Keep Motorola on your radar – there may be opportunities to develop and pitch mods to Lenovo/Motorola soon.
The Moto G5 (GHs 780)
When it comes to smartphones, I look out for performance, design, and value for money. Design-wise, I gravitate towards the simple and clean. And that goes for both body – the feel and fit – and the actual software interface. I love spanky new feel that comes with updating my phone’s system. Performance because what’s the point if you can’t actually get things done with your phone? I’m all about productivity. As a writer, blogger and consultant, my smartphone is my mini-office; an easily accessible platform for staying informed and on top of things; communicating; connecting; and creating. In this respect, I pay attention to a smartphone’s memory, camera capacity, applications, and battery life. Ultimately, my smartphone has to suit my lifestyle as a content creator and digital consultant who is usually on the go. To be honest, I was more excited about the Moto Z than I was about the Moto G5. Who wouldn’t be? It’s innovative! After two weeks of using the Moto G5 though, I can report that it’s not half-bad, especially if you’re looking to buy a budget smartphone with the essentials at GHS 780 (approximately US $180).
My Two-Week Moto G5 Experience
In the interest of full disclosure, I am an iPhone gal – 5s to be specific – and have been since 2014. I love how intuitive my iPhone feels, the creative vibe that comes with it, and the fact that I don’t have to worry too much about malware and other security breaches. That said, it is pretty much at the end of the average three-year iPhone lifespan. Poor battery life, app shutdowns, the dreaded white screen, the insufficiency of my 16GB memory (don’t ask) – not to mention teasing from some friends and family members – had me exploring the possibility of change. Call it coincidence, the Moto G5 came at the right time.
Going Android – Apps & Performance
I’m not entirely new to Motorola or Android. My first color-screen mobile phone was the Motorola Razr, which I got as part of a T-Mobile plan as a college student. My first smartphone was an android-based Samsung mini galaxy phone which I bought at Circle for under 500 GHS. So, trying out the Moto G5 was like getting back on a bicycle after a few years away. It was both familiar and novel and I was reacquainted with the Android platform in little under a day. That said, I was a bit disappointed to learn I would have to buy all the apps I’d bought for my iPhone again – there’s no easy transfer between iOs and Android so that’s something to keep in mind. What’s more, one or two Apps did go black or down unexpectedly.
Battery Life & Memory
As a heavy smartphone user, battery life is extremely important to me. I carry a power bank with me pretty much every where I go and especially when doing covering live events for clients. I was particularly excited about the purported “all-day battery life” on the Moto G5, so that was the first thing I paid attention to. True to its specifications, the battery lasted about 13 hours on the first day, and again, two weeks later – of course this depends on individual use. All I did was charge it up in the morning and I was good to go. Use the accompanying 10W rapid charger and your phone will have hours of battery life in mere minutes of charging!
Next up, the memory. After having to delete photos, videos and apps on my 16GB iPhone, I knew I wouldn’t make the same same mistake again memory-wise. The Moto G5 may have 16 GB of storage (less if you count the system apps), but it also has room for an optional micro-SD card up to 128 GB! All this not taking into considering Google’s cloud storage for photos and the like. It wasn’t until I’d taken a substantial number of photos and downloaded about 70 apps before I got warnings about my memory capacity. Imagine the possibilities with that micro-SD card! While we’re on the topic of cards, the Moto G5 also has Dual SIM capacity and can be used on 4G LTE networks. It is also smart enough to learn your calling habits and suggest the best SIM for outgoing calls, which is great for taking advantage of intra-network call discounts.
Head-turning? Check. The Moto G5’s design might look familiar, but is distinct enough to warrant a double-take. I did get a few questions about the fine gold smartphone which also comes in lunar gray. Like the Moto Z, the Moto G5 is apparently both water repellant and splash proof. I say apparently because I didn’t test it. That said, Motorola might be on to something with the high-grade, diamond aluminum finish – I’m yet to get any protective covering for the Moto G5 and there’s not a scratch in sight. All in all, I enjoy the simple, clean, sleek look of the Moto G5.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I have a thing for photography. So, camera capability ranks very highly on what I look for in a smartphone. On this front, you could say my experience with the Moto G5 was like a bout of mood swings.
The Moto G5 features a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. The first photo I took was a selfie with the front camera – it looked great. The 5 MP wide-angle lens also makes it great for group selfies, or groupies as I like to call them. However I was a bit disappointed with the rear camera – the photo wasn’t crisp enough. Thinking it was the room lighting, I tried again the next day, outside. Better, but still not up to expectation. I concluded that the Moto G5 was a “selfie phone” at best – which might not be a bad thing depending on who are.
The trick here is to give yourself time to explore what the Moto G5 has to offer with its cameras – and have fun!
Thankfully, I’d allocated up to two weeks to test drive the phone. A friend, an Android user, suggested checking if the camera specifications could be customized, and thank God she did. The rear camera had been set at 6MP! After adjusting to the full 13MP, the photos came out much better (this is why you really should read the manual or follow the quick start tutorial for your device). There are five camera modes in total: the regular camera mode; a professional mode with more customization and functionality; a slow motion mode; panorama and video. The Moto G5 also offers auto HDR, best shot, burst mode, and up to 8x digital zoom for photos, not to mention the filters and photo editing. The trick here is to give yourself time to explore what the Moto G5 has to offer with its cameras – and have fun!
Video & Audio
As I mention in my article on how social media is changing the news sphere, video is an essential especially if you work in the digital media space. The first video I took at home left me smiling, so I had high expectations for capturing picturesque landscapes. The Moto 5G didn’t disappoint. In addition to video stabilization, you can shoot up to 1080p HD video. As with photos, the camera specifications for video are also customizable. Sound-wise, the Moto G5 has two microphones which make for pretty clear sound. Beyond shooting videos, many of us love to watch them. On this front the Moto G5’s 5.0″ 1080 p full HD display was a revelation! I’d never understood the trend towards larger screens on smartphones, but now I get it. The lush color on my screen made me wonder why I hadn’t yet made the jump! Basically, you’ll be happy with the video quality whether you’re creating videos, watching them or playing video games.
The Moto G5 might not have Moto Mods like the Moto Z, but that doesn’t mean experiences don’t count. With its ‘Moto actions” the Moto G5 has small, but meaningful features which can help enhance your smartphone experience. My favorites are turning on the flashlight with a simple twist of my wrist and silencing my phone by placing it facedown on a flat surface. I found most of the other Moto Experiences to be quite standard, and honestly, a bit disappointing because I really expected something uniquely “Moto”. For instance, the fingerprint reader which allows for quick access to your device, and the ability to choose how updates and notifications are displayed on your screen. There are also Android-specific features like the Google Assistant and Google Photos which could add a little extra to your smartphone experience.
The Verdict on the Moto G5
All in all, I’d say that the Moto G5 is solid, especially if you’re looking to buy a smartphone on a budget. It has some powerful features that you might have to dish out quite a bit for on some of the more popular premium phones and doesn’t compromise on performance. The battery life, dual Sim, memory capacity, sleek and sturdy design and video are all hits for me. The fact that it’s powered by Android also adds a layer of flexibility to customize your phone a bit. That said, I think the photos could be better given the Moto G5 specifications. On the down side, the Moto Experiences are quite underwhelming (in comparison to say, the Moto Z) and the phone interface could be a bit more intuitive. All in all, I give the Moto G5 a 7 out of 10. Want to see for yourself? Click below for a quick video of me unboxing the Moto G5.
Have a Moto G5 or Moto Z smartphone? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.