The formula for a good $400 phone is hard to solve, and Motorola didn’t quite get it right with the Moto G 5G.
For $300, you’re prepared for some major compromises – performance may not be top notch, but hey, you only paid $300. For $500 you’ll spend quite a bit more, but you’ll find some worthwhile upgrades and even some nice stuff. But for $400, phones seem to get the worst of both worlds: a no-nonsense experience at a significantly higher price than that $300 budget phone.
That more or less summarizes the problem of the Moto G 5G from 2022. It performs well, especially the model I tested with 6 GB of RAM. It has a battery that lasts really long and I struggled to drain much less than 50 percent a day. But I’m not convinced it’s worth $100 more than the OnePlus Nord N20 or the Samsung Galaxy A32. Likewise, the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G includes features like a 120Hz OLED display and IP67 weather resistance, making it well worth the extra $50 over the Moto G 5G.
Let’s start with the good: battery and overall performance. The Moto G 5G uses a MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor and 6GB of RAM – good on paper, and it also translates into good real-world performance. Apps load quickly and stay open in the background for a reasonable amount of time. Overall, the phone just holds up well when I jump between tasks and go about my day. This unlocked variant comes with a very healthy 256GB of storage, and you can add even more thanks to a microSD card slot.
The Moto G 5G’s 5,000 mAh battery is about as big as they come in and lives up to Motorola’s claim of lasting up to two days on a single charge. After a day of moderate use, including four hours of screen-on time with some video streaming, a Zoom call, and lots of social media scrolling — all with the highest screen refresh rate enabled — I’m at 56 percent. It has some of the best battery staying power I’ve seen from a phone released this year.
Here too, Motorola’s software deserves an honorable mention. It’s a light treatment of Android 12 that’s really easy to use. It includes some smart features that I like to use when testing a Motorola phone, such as the sunrise alarm option in the bedtime mode settings and the minimally distracting peek notifications on the lock screen. The Moto G 5G promises one OS platform upgrade and three years of security updates. That’s fine for a budget phone, but for a little more money you get loads of better lifespan of iPhone SE or Samsung A53 5G.
There’s also 5G support here, of course – only sub-6GHz and not the very fast but hard-to-find mmWave, which isn’t much of a loss anyway. At launch, the unlocked version of the phone will work on T-Mobile and Verizon’s sub-6GHz 5G networks; Motorola spokesperson Stephanie Stiltz tells us that other carriers “will be available in the coming months.”
But nice software, a great battery and even fast performance are not everything. The Moto G 5G’s screen isn’t particularly inspiring: it has a paltry 720p resolution for its bulky 6.5-inch display. Details just don’t look as nice on this screen as they do on a higher resolution screen. It’s also an LCD screen, which doesn’t offer quite as rich a viewing experience as an OLED panel, although the 90Hz refresh rate does soften the movement a bit.
The biggest problem I had with the screen was using it to type out messages, something each of us does about a million times a day. It registers a lot of erroneous double taps when I use the standard Gboard keyboard, so much so that while composing a single text I have to go back several times to remove extra letters and unwanted dots.
I’ve tried turning off the haptic typing vibrations in case that somehow interfered, but that didn’t change anything. Using another keyboard app doesn’t help either. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience, which has me typing and retyping logins and texts and searches many times a day, and it’s not something I could live with for very long before throwing my phone into the sea in frustration.
And then on a number of other occasions the phone just stopped receiving text messages without any indication that there was a problem. I was home with wifi and only noticed it because I kept asking for a two factor authentication code that didn’t arrive. Turning the wireless off and on solid stuff, but not before I missed a handful of text messages and a slew of authentication codes.
The camera performance is not a bright spot or a blemish on the Moto G 5G’s report. The main rear camera uses a 50-megapixel sensor that combines pixels to produce 12-megapixel images. There’s also a 2-megapixel macro camera and a depth sensor on the back, neither of which are very useful. On the front is a 16 megapixel camera. The selfie face-smoothing beauty filter is enabled by default, but you can easily reduce the effect or disable it altogether.
Photos in bright outdoor light are beautiful, and Motorola doesn’t go overboard with HDR effects. Dim lighting is a challenge, as it is for most budget phones. If your subject is in motion and the light is low, you will be challenged to get a sharp shot. There’s a night mode for low-light situations and 1080p video recording. It’s a basic set of imaging features and not the best you can get for the money, but it’s not the worst either.
The Motorola Moto G 5G is in a tough spot. There’s not enough to warrant a recommendation over cheaper budget phones, and paying a little more will get you a much better phone. Performance is good for the budget class, especially the 6GB/256GB version that will be sold unlocked. (Certain carriers sell a version with 4 GB RAM, which I haven’t been able to test.) Battery endurance is excellent, and Motorola’s software is carefully designed.
The quirks I’ve encountered with the phone’s touch sensitivity when typing and a few hiccups in the data connection are worrisome. But on top of that, the Moto G 5G just doesn’t offer much value for its price. The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G includes some very valuable extras, such as a better screen, water resistance and five years of security updates for $450. The Google Pixel 6A is also coming later this summer, which also promises five years of security updates and will include the same very good camera that used the Pixel 5A. There’s also the 2022 iPhone SE, if iOS is an option. It offers excellent performance if you can live with a very small 4.7 inch screen.
If you happen to be on T-Mobile or Metro, the OnePlus N20 is a great alternative for a lower price. It comes with a nicer OLED display – albeit with a less smooth 60Hz native refresh rate – and fast charging with the included charger. The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is another good $300 option if you can find it. It’s a year old at the moment, but with a more versatile camera system and three more years of promised security support, it’s still a solid alternative.
Many people will probably come across the Moto G 5G as an option from their prepaid wireless carrier – probably the 64GB version with less RAM and a lower price. Is That version worth the money? My answer is a resounding “maybe”. Performance with 4GB of RAM is probably good enough to handle all your daily tasks well, plus you get that big battery and good Motorola software. The typing experience makes me very reluctant to recommend it, even at a lower price, so the best course of action would be to try it out in a store if you can. Otherwise, the safest bet would be to look at one of the very good alternatives from Samsung, Google or OnePlus.
Photography by Allison Johnson / Media Today Chronicle