I was pondering how I would get an Android phone for testing some software development work that was looming on my horizon, when my wife had a little “oops” - she dropped her phone into a toilet.
Attempts to dry it out didn’t work (she continued using it after cleaning it off until it fully gave out). We decided to give her my old phone and I would get a replacement. She got the Blackberry - but soon replaced it with an iPhone 7 I was able to get for free - another story.
However, that left me in search of a phone. A friend showed me an ad for a Moto G7 Play for a mere \$170 CDN. This looked like a really good deal, and I liked the idea of a (nearly) pure Android experience. Checking the specs gave me slight pause - it was listed as a CDMA device - my provider is of course GSM for fall-back from LTE. It also listed some GSM bands - so there was a bit of uncertainty. However, I also found the G7 Power for $218 - which is a more powerful phone than the Play, and with a bigger battery (but slightly lower res screen), and it showed as GSM in the specs. Since I like the idea of a bigger battery, and the rest of the specs were more than decent, I clicked on the old order button and after the weekend, my phone arrived.
- Big battery - up to 3 days battery life.
- Clean Android experience - no manufacturer glurge.
- Great price \$218 in Canada.
- Fast and easy fingerprint recognition (don’t know how secure).
- Dual SIM + SD Card slot.
- Headphone jack.
- USB C + fast charge.
- Case provided.
- Built in FM radio.
- Not waterproof (it’s splash resistant - whatever that means).
- A little longer than I would like (has a chin at the bottom).
- AmoLED would be slightly brighter than the IPS screen.
- Lower resolution (720 x 1520) than its sibling the G7 (but I don’t care).
- Camera is not as good as some mid/low price rivals (Pixel).
- Single speaker, a little light-weight in the direct audio department.
- No NFC.
- No provided headphones (but I didn’t miss them either).
Initial setup was dead easy - Android just gets better at this with each release - all my settings, even previously downloaded apps came back once I had signed on. The only hassle was getting a new device recognized using Authenticator for the half dozen sites I use 2FA on - but the old device was still to hand, so with a minimum of swapping I was able to get it done (and most Authenticator - app capable sites support text message as a fall-back).
The phone came in a neat brightly coloured carboard box which contained the phone, a clear plastic case (which I am gladly using), the charge adapter and USB C cable and the little pin-thingy for changing the SIM. It did not include any headphones - OK for me, since I have a few, but some people might miss them. One nice surprise was that it accomodates 2 SIMs, as well as a Micro SD card. Good for travelling. I programmed the phone with a few of the “Moto gestures” (quick start flashlight, launch camera app), and set it up for fingerprint recognition from either hand. I also trained the Assistant (said OK Google and Hey Google a couple of times). I noticed that my wife had to train Siri with each of about 7 phrases. I did not use face unlock, from what I read it seems somewhat insecure. I also notice it has voice unlock. Again - I am not sure if I am the kind of person who talks to his phone.
The phone supports regular 3.5 mm headphone jack, and has a 12 MB rear camera, and an 8 MB front camera. The controls fall easily to my (samsung trained) hands, with a volume rocker and the on-off switch to the right and the finger-print sensor on the back just below the camera. I can also stroke the fingerprint sensor to display notifications which is kinda neat.
The 6.2 in display is plenty large and bright, and these old eyes can’t tell that it “only” has 1512 x 720 pixels (same as the “Play” - the regular G7 is 2270 x 1080). There is a wide notch at the top which I find less distracting than the small notch on the Essential phone (the first phone to have a notch - note to the Apple Fanbois out there). It somehow seems more a part of the design when the notch is one third of the display width.
The Snapdragon 632 Octo-core (big-little) CPU has enough oomph to fly through tasks without keeping me waiting. The built in speaker is loud and crisp enough. There is even a built in FM radio, which works well (but requires headphones to be plugged in to act as an antenna). However, by far the best feature that sets it out from the crowd is the battery. A 5000 mAh beast that runs it for 3 days of my typical usage. I presume the 15W fast charger is quick - but I have never had to “top up” the phone so far.
I have been using it for a week now, and I have no complaints. My biggest concern is that it isn’t IP rated - just “splash resistant”. Perhaps one niggle - but this is more about google - is that I no longer receive any google perks like free Drive space or Google Pay money. Sigh.
I mucked around and loaded a community build of the famous Pixel 3 camera software so I could try some night shots.
Not too bad - but the resulting image is downsampled to 480 pixels. I guess you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear after all.
I am enjoying the Google Assistant morning routine - after my alarm, it reads my schedule, tells me the weather conditions, assesses my morning commute, and reads the news from CBC, CTV, Bloomberg UK, MSNBC Teach News and Deutsche Welle English services. The Assistant voice recognition is much improved over my previous (3 years ago) attempts - I no longer have to fake an American accent to be understood! That said, I am not used to speaking to machines, so I default to touch. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a convert. I have also set up the evening “wind down” routine - although I tend not to use my phone in bed - I used to use the alarm to disable notifications for some years now.
Overall, the Android experience is clean and straight-up. There is no provider glurge, and the few Moto specific touches (gestures) are optional and mostly useful. I find it hard not to recommend this phone to anyone on a budget, especially at the black Friday price of \$218.