It might not be considered as path-breaking or iconic as the legendary RAZR, but the Moto G has a special place in mobile phone history. It sparked the third coming of Moto and also showed the world that one could get a great smartphone experience without blowing a hole in one’s pocket or bank account. In many ways, it could be said to have put a new spin on the mid-segment of the smartphone market, bringing it a step closer to the high end, whereas in the past it had just been a step above the lowest tier. In many ways, it paved the way for the likes of Xiaomi, showing that an affordable price did not always comes with a compromise on performance.
So when Motorola unveiled the Moto G6 and G6 Play in India, expectation was high. Not just because it was a new Moto G, but also because the likes of Xiaomi, Realme, Asus and Nokia had been releasing devices in what was traditionally Moto G territory. How would the new Moto G6 measure up? Its specs and design were known from its international launch. The real interest in India was about its price.
And well, a few hours after the launch, I must confess to being a little confused at where Moto exactly is heading with the new G phones. In case you have missed it, the new Moto G6 comes with a 5.7 inch full HD+ display with 18:9 aspect ratio, Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor, 3 GB/ 32GB and 4 GB/ 64 GB memory variants, dual SIMs with dedicated microSD card slots, a 13 + 5 megapixel rear cameras and a 8.0-megapixel selfie camera, and the usual array of connectivity options. What really stood out, however, was its almost all-glass design with a circular camera unit on the back, that was very reminiscent of the Moto X4 that was launched last year. This is easily the best looking Moto G of the series.
What it also is, is perhaps the most oddly priced. The Moto G6 starts at Rs 13,999 for the 3GB/ 32 GB edition and Rs 15,999 for the 4 GB/ 64 GB edition. Considering that the new Moto G runs on the Snapdragon 450, those prices seem to be on the higher side. After all, you can get a Snapdragon 625 (which is perceived as being superior even though it is an older chip) device for under Rs 10,000. And if you want the latest mid-segment Snapdragon, well, the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with a Snapdragon 636 processor, a massive 5000 mAh battery, a larger display and a 3 GB/ 32 GB configuration for Rs 10,999. Indeed, the current market darling, the Redmi Note 5 Pro offers a larger display than the Moto G6, a newer Snapdragon 636 processor, comparable cameras and a 4 GB/ 64 GB memory configuration for Rs 14,999. In fact, you can even get the Redmi Note 5 with a large battery and a Snapdragon 625 chip for less than Rs 10,000. And for all the talk of the Snapdragon 450 being a good processor, the fact is that it is seen in the lower end devices of both Xiaomi and Honor (the Redmi 5 and Honor 7C respectively).
And that is just the competition. If you were look closely at Motorola’s own offerings, then the Moto G5s Plus itself is available for Rs 13,999. Yes, its display is smaller and has a 16:9 aspect ratio display, but it comes with a Snapdragon 625 processor, dual 13.0-megapixel cameras, metallic body and a 4 GB/ 64 GB configuration. Talk about fighting it out in the family.
Motorola’s contention is that the Moto G has always been about the “experience” and not the specifications. Well, that might have rung true a few years ago, when the mid-segment had relatively few players. But it is a much more crowded place now, and even Motorola’s traditional strength of stock Android no longer exists – Xiaomi, Asus and Nokia have devices that have uncluttered Android. What’s more, Motorola’s spotty record in providing updates to Android has hurt its reputation as being the “affordable Pixel/Nexus alternative,” which it enjoyed initially. In fact, even the Moto G6 launches with Android 8.0, rather than 8.1, which is being seen on a number of its competitors. Yes, the Moto gestures are cool as is the ability to navigate by swiping on the fingerprint sensor, but those alone cannot sustain it against such tough competition. Truth be told, even though the new Moto G6 is gorgeous, it is by no means the only good looker in its price segment – just check out the Honor 9 Lite with its mirror-finished back or the edgy patterned back of the Realme 1 or for that matter, the block metal solid Nokia 6 (2018). Incidentally, those devices too offer hardware that on paper is more than a match for anything that the Moto G6 offers. And no matter how much you holler “experience,” the fact is that hardware does play a role in the user experience, and it is there that the Moto G6 finds itself on perilous ground.
Which actually makes me wonder what exactly is it that the G6 is fighting on. Hardware is not, and was never, its strongest suite. It no longer has a price edge. Stock Android is not the rarity it once was. And while good design is always a plus, the Moto G itself was always known for being smart rather than handsome. There were references to “premium mid-segment,” a term that I frankly found too confusing and contradictory, but unless that configuration yields an extraordinary performance (and there is only so much it can do, to be brutally honest), I really do not see a compelling reason for anyone to go for the Moto G6 at its present price point. Unless one is a Moto loyalist. There are plenty of other devices that offer as much or even more at comparable (and sometimes lower) prices.
It is a device and a brand for which I have a great deal of affection (not least because Motorola was one of my clients in my first job), but I honesty do not see where the Moto G is headed, and at whom it is targeted. Good luck to it, that said. It will need it.