For several years now, Motorola has managed to produce budget-friendly Android phones that look and feel comparable to the more expensive handsets of its competitors.
The company’s new line of phones—announced today, but leaked last month—is the latest crop of Motorola hardware to demonstrate that feat. And this year, the Moto G line isn’t just reasonably priced. It includes one model with that killer feature that’s often absent in the land of $1,000-plus phones: ridiculously long battery life.
Meet the Motos
Lenovo-owned Motorola unveiled four new Moto G phones today: the flagship Moto G7 and G7 Plus, the more affordable Moto G7 Play, and the one with the three-day battery, the Moto G7 Power. As the model names suggest, these are the successors to last year’s Moto G6 phones, which ranged in price from $130 to $200 and which earned high marks from reviewers, including WIRED. The new G7 line of phones will range in price from $199 to $299 when they ship over the next couple months. They’ll also ship with Android 9 Pie on board.
The differences between the new phones are slight but noteworthy. The $299 Moto G7 and Moto G7 Plus are the main event. The Moto G7 has a 6.2-inch, 1080p display, compared with a 720p display on the cheaper models, and is coated in Gorilla Glass. Motorola says the G7 is 50 percent faster than last year’s G6, thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 system on a chip. Also, its 12-megapixel camera has been given AI-powered features like Google Lens and the ability to automatically capture photos when it detects a smiling person in the frame.
The G7 Plus is an incrementally more powerful version of the same phone, with a better camera sensor. The most notable difference between these two is where they’ll be available; both will ship in Latin America and countries in Europe, but the G7 will ship in North America and Asia Pacific countries, while the G7 Plus won’t.
The Moto G7 Play is the most affordable of the bunch, selling for $199. It’s also smaller, with a 5.7-inch HD display and a taller-than-usual 19:9 aspect ratio. It has half the RAM and internal storage of the Moto G7 and G7 Plus. But it should still have a respectable battery life and a decent set of 13-megapixel and 8-megapixel cameras, even if it can’t claim all of the photo features of the G7. The Play is available this month in Europe, and later this year in North America and Latin America.
But the G7 Power smartphone might just steal the Moto show. If there’s a blanket statement to be made about the new Moto G phones, especially against the backdrop of this year’s weird smartphones, it’s that they’re decidedly unsexy but still wholly capable. And the G7 Power is emblematic of that: It’s supposed to get up to 72 hours of battery life on a single charge, depending on what region of the world it’s being used in. (Wireless network performance plays a part in how long a battery lasts.)
There are a few factors that contribute to this. One is simple: The Moto G7 Power has a huge battery, boasting a 5,000-mAh cell compared with 3,000 mAh on the other G7 models. (It’s thicker and heavier than the other phones too, with a tiny chin at the bottom.) It also has a lower-resolution 720p display, which means it has fewer pixels for the battery to keep alight.
But the thing that lets Motorola squeeze this much battery life out of a modern-day smartphone is the overall “evolution of technology, the chipset, and an operating system that optimizes all of the settings,” says Thomas Milner, who heads up the company’s global marketing efforts. Last year’s Moto E Plus had a 5,000-mAh battery too, Milner points out, but the chipset in that phone wasn’t nearly as economical. The E Plus got about a day and a half of life per charge.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re getting more-efficient chipsets at the midrange, which improves things tremendously, even from just last year,” Milner says.
Beyond the technological leaps that make 72-hour battery life possible on a smartphone with an (almost) edge-to-edge display, the Moto G7 Power is Motorola’s bigger bet that consumers will happily sacrifice fancy specs for something that alleviates everyday battery anxiety.
Motorola, of course, is not alone in this wager. Last year Apple reintroduced a larger iPhone with a less brilliant LCD display and battery life that easily bested the battery life on its top-of-the-line models. The iPhone XR isn’t exactly budget-friendly like Motorola’s phones are, and it remains unclear whether the XR has really resonated with buyers. But it was a bet by Apple on a more practical smartphone, nonetheless.
At the very high end of the smartphone market, battery life varies, anywhere from a 4,000-mAh battery on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, which should last longer than a day (maybe less if you’re playing a lot of Fortnite), to the iPhone XS, which has a relatively small battery. Some consumers are more than willing to sacrifice super-long battery life in exchange for OLED displays, brawny processors, or even stylus support. Motorola, it seems, is content to stick with the basics.
“We can’t speak to what other OEMs do, but when it comes to us, battery life is always a priority,” Milner says. “We do a ton of consumer research, and there’s a certain set of customers who really don’t want to deal with their phone dying. For the majority, it’s about being able to stay connected and take good photos, and I think it’s a smaller subset of people who are worried about the high-end features.”