All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

I get that a lot of you like thick plastic brick phones like last year’s Moto G. As long as they’re cheap and decently fast, you can forgive their girth and painfully inexpensive finishings. Good for you. But I am not one of you. I firmly believe that cheap does not have to mean chunky monkey aesthetics. Cheap can be slim, too. Which means I want to believe in the Moto G4.

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And yes, this thing is slim. And it’s big. The new Moto G4 is sort of like someone took the 2015 model and squished it in a hydraulic press. The old 5-inch 720p display is now a grip-widening 5.5-inch 1080p display. It’s gained almost a half-inch in length and a quarter inch in width to accommodate that screen. Yet it’s also .07 inches thinner—putting the Moto G4 in line with more expensive skinny minis like the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S7.

The G4 is a cheap phone pressed into the mold of far more expensive ones. There’s luxury in how thin it is and faux luxury in the metallic sheen added to parts of the all plastic case, including a rim of faux chrome around the back camera and flash. It could—should—feel like a cheap knock off as a consequence. Plastic always feels cheap when set next to an all metal and glass handset. But then you look at the price tag again, and see it’s a $200 phone almost as thin and comfortable as a $700 phone.

Instead of feeling cheap it starts feeling... sensible. In fact it’s the sensible sedan to the Samsung S7's luxury sedan (the Moto Z, meanwhile, would probably be that weird ass Jeep you only drive on the weekend for camping).

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A major criticism the Moto G4 has faced is in the speed department. And yeah, it’s not going to win any races. If you’re my mother, who refuses to use Facebook because of some nebulous “them” and limits her phone time to texting, talking, and the occasional stroll through Instagram, then the Moto G4 is all the phone you need.

If you are like me and spend your phone time texting, Tumblring, and trying to catch a goddamn Jigglypuff, then you may find the Moto G a little lacking. It could handle the ghastly Tumblr up just fine—loading images as fast as an iPhone 6, when I tried them out side-by-side on the Verizon network. Pokémon Go, on the other hand, turned the top back half of the Moto G4 into a white hot point of heat after fifteen minutes and slowed the phone to a crawl. Even when just running the game in the background, I noticed a distinct sluggishness with every press of my finger, and that sluggishness was juuuust enough to inspire the irritation normally reserved for bad internet and buggy apps.

This is where I would then go into detail on how slow the Moto G4 is, backing things up with hard numbers recorded in Gamebench. Unfortunately, the app crashed every time I tried to record it while running Pokémon Go. (Other phones can handle both tasks concurrently just fine.) I switched to Geekbench, which is purely theoretical, but the score was still half of what the Samsung Galaxy S7 scored.

So, by all accounts, the Moto G4 is slow.

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Personally that wouldn’t be so egregious for me—as the budget phone is often the preferred phone of people who don’t care about speed. But the Moto G4 is $20 more than last year’s iteration. It is $200, and the Moto G4 Plus, which includes a thumb print reader and slightly better camera, is $250. You can also ignore all my complaints about price and pick it up for $150 via Amazon, though you’ll also have to deal with Amazon ads as your lockscreen for the rest of the phone’s life. If you go up $50 from the non-Amazon variant you can get the still fantastic but aging One Plus 2, or you can stick with the $200 price tag and get an excellent iPhone ripoff, the Huawei Honor 5X. Both will be zippier than the pokey Moto G4.

It’s a damn shame that it’s so slow. The Moto G4 could have been this year’s Best Cheap Phone. Instead it’s the Best Phone For Folks Who Hate Phones. It’s got a great body, a gorgeous display, and I’ve had to charge it exactly once in the last five days. But the Moto G4 also so slow that you if you love phones, you will hate yourself while using it. Speed doesn’t always matter, but when you run this slow, you gotta cut your price to match.

README

  • Fantastic body. A++. Would hold again.
  • Great looking display.
  • The perfect phone for folks who don’t phone often.
  • A less than perfect phone for folks who phone often.
  • Just slow enough to make the $200 price tag sting. There’s a $150 variant from Amazon loaded with ads if you really want to save money.