On Moto G5 Criticisms: Western Reviewers Should Note the Moto G5 is Not Made for Them
The launch of the Lenovo Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus is an important event for Lenovo. These products are an integral part of Lenovo’s portfolio under the Motorola brand forming a part of their budget segment.
But after their launch, the product line has been facing a lot of flak from readers and some reviewers for disappointing specification, design, UX, or all at once. Many expect even better specifications at its price point, often expecting nothing but the best in that price range.
But within this criticism, the primary point of these devices is lost on the spec sheet – these devices are simply not meant for the (power) users complaining about them!
The Moto G5 Plus and the First World
The Moto G5 and the Moto G5 Plus are part of the G-lineup of Motorola, dating from back before their acquisition by Lenovo. The original Moto G and its immediate successors were responsible for revolutionizing the budget smartphone market by featuring fairly decent performance at an affordable price. The Moto G provided value in a budget smartphone that no other low-end device was providing at the time. No longer would users have to suffer from horribly underpowered devices thanks to the immense competitive pressure that the Moto G brought.
What the Moto G offered was a clean, smooth, and stable experience in a market segment that was saturated with shady products that provided questionable user experiences. Even (or perhaps especially) other large OEMs such as Samsung or LG were often guilty of cramming hundreds of clones into developing markets in an attempt to ride the coattails of their flagship lineups.
Scrutinizing the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus on its specification sheet alone stems from the increased competition brought on by Chinese OEMs. Manufacturers such as Xiaomi have spoiled the specification-educated buyers into expecting the absolute best hardware at unbelievably low prices, so much so that even Xiaomi themselves have been unable to keep up with consumer expectations each year! Even if Xiaomi products are otherwise unavailable to first-world markets, the value their products offer leave buyers with higher expectations on competitors.
And as we found out with the Snapdragon 625 on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, specifications by themselves do not do justice to the complete and cohesive experience that the smartphone in question provides. The differences between the practical experiences on the Snapdragon 625 against the Snapdragon 650 are difficult to notice for the average user (and even for advanced users) unless you line both products up side-by-side and try really hard to find such differences.
Specifications alone do not do justice to the cohesive smartphone experience
Recommended Read: Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 XDA Performance and Battery Life Review
The primary target audience for both the Moto G5 and the Moto G5 Plus are not specification hungry tinkerers (a spec-loaded and open device are pipe dreams in this price range anyways). Instead, they are the average users: the students looking for their first smartphone, the housewives in developing countries looking for a phone to browse Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube, the working class who rely on their phone for calls, text, and the occasional indulgence in multimedia content, and a whole bunch of other demographics that care more about future-proofing the metal exterior rather than the silicon interior. People in these categories will not differentiate between the different SoCs (Snapdragon 430 vs Snapdragon 625 vs Snapdragon 650) as long as the phones fulfill their basic needs. With the new Moto G5 family, the spec sheet indicates that they will do that at the very least – and that’s all that matters.
The pricing of the devices is also an important factor to look at. The Moto G5 will cost €199 (for better comparison, ~₹14,000/$211) for its base variant. The Moto G5 Plus will cost $229 (~₹15,000/€217) for its base variant, while the higher-end 3GB/32GB variant will cost €279 (~₹19,500/$296). The different pricing models relate to where the device will be available, with the U.S. market only getting the base model Moto G5 Plus for now.
For its pricing, the Moto G5 and the Moto G5 Plus will be accomplishing all that its target audience will want, and more. The aluminium body gives the device the premium look that regular users would find cosmetically appealing. The smaller size form factor makes them pocket-friendly, literally as well as figuratively, which is becoming harder to find in the midst of 5.5”+ smartphones that saturates the market at every price range. The focus of the phones on photography, especially on the Moto G5 Plus, makes them an ideal candidate for social-media obsessed users.
These features do resonate with their target audiences: people with limited spending capacity or without the need for an advanced (and more expensive) smartphone. These phones are affordable as standalone devices sold independent of contracts or carrier locks. They make ideal candidates for customers who cannot afford to drop a large investment on a smartphone or do not wish to be tied to an installment plan.
If Xiaomi can, why can’t Moto?
A common argument that comes up is how these products have an ‘inflated’ price when compared to offerings from Chinese OEMs like Xiaomi. In such cases, one needs to keep in mind that product pricing includes the cost of distribution, marketing, and advertising. Since the Moto G lineup is targeted towards more conventional consumers who do not actively seek out the best specifications, Lenovo has to accommodate budgets for advertising and distribution networks (which the Moto G did initially, building up word-of-mouth publicity and reputation for its current generation to reap). OEMs like Xiaomi have lower marketing and distribution budgets as they utilize online sales models, and hence, target the more Internet-savvy. Also as a downside, Xiaomi products are very difficult to purchase for the end user too (something we will touch upon in our complete Redmi Note 4 review).
There are still more complaints that surround the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus. The usage of a micro-USB port on a 2017 device is a controversial decision, but there is justification behind it. The primary argument is the pricing of the product. Since these are targeted towards users with low budgets, it is unlikely that such users would have a store of USB Type-C cables available for their use. The usage of micro-USB makes it easier on the wallet to hunt for alternatives when the cable included in the box stops working or when you need an extra cable. Micro-USB cables are available for cheap, and will remain cheap as manufacturers try and clear out their inventory later on.
The popularity of micro-USB will eventually taper off in this price segment, but Lenovo’s decision to stick with an aging technology in 2017 is partially justified by their target demographics. Furthermore, the usage of USB Type-C has been restrictive towards higher end flagships. Developing markets simply have not seen such widespread adoption of the new standard as flagships form only a small percentage of sales in these markets. We do hope the change comes along soon in the budget segment in developing markets, but the customers who buy these products are in no rush to get there just yet.
More Work to be Done
Some of the complaints on the device are justified though. The Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus have different availability for their variants, a decision which just seems odd and out-of-place. The Moto G5 Plus model which will be sold in the U.S.A will not have NFC but models sold in other markets will have the technology, eliminating the use of this phone for Android Pay in the U.S.
The back cover on the Moto G5 Plus is also not removable, but it is on the lower end Moto G5 (and the battery is replaceable to boot).
The phones also launch with Android 7.0 Nougat instead of Android 7.1, and Lenovo is known to using such tactics to worm its way out of updating its phones beyond a certain point. Phones are said to be supported for one major Android update, but by launching them on an earlier platform, the OEM weasels out of bringing the phone up to the latest software version in the future when it wants to launch a newer product. It is acceptable in our eyes to launch a budget device with Android 7.0 instead of Android 7.1 because the change-log between the two versions is not too significant and will largely go unnoticed by budget users. However, counting the subsequent update as a “major” update and not providing for other future updates intentionally hampers how long the product will stay relevant in the market.
Lenovo’s customers may not care about these shortcomings at the time of purchase, but these will affect their usage later on as the product ages.
To conclude, we would like to point out the importance of the intended audience when reviewing products. One can find several shortcomings with products like the Moto G5 and the Moto G5 Plus, but once you consider their target demographics, i.e. people in developing nations, people with limited budgets/needs, or both, the criticisms come off as exaggerated, nitpicky, or unjustified. Judging devices like these with the same criteria as products meant for the developed world, with its higher average income and the purchasing habits that stem from it, does disservice to the value the smartphone provides for its intended customer who may very well be expecting a fair assessment by these outlets.
So while the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus may not be perfect smartphones, there is little doubt that they will continue to remain an important part of Lenovo’s product portfolio.
What are your thoughts on the flaws of the Moto G5 and the Moto G5 Plus? Which of the product’s shortcomings are justified in your opinion, and which are not? Let us know in the comments below!