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A guide to Motorola's confusing 2017 lineup

Motorola has released a huge number of smartphones this year, so here's a guide to the company's growing smartphone portfolio.
By
August 3, 2017

Motorola has been busy this year, releasing more smartphones than you can count on one hand, or is that two? There is, of course, the company’s latest flagship Moto Z2 Force and Play, the G5 range and its new S revision, the Moto E4 and E4 Plus, and the new C series in India, at just a glance. To help sort this all out, here’s our guide to Motorola’s latest smartphone line-up.

The modular flagship tier

Motorola has two Z2 models on the market this year, the Force and Play, with the former being the newly announced top of the line model aimed at taking on the biggest names in the market. As the naming scheme suggests, these are the successors to last year’s Moto Z line-up, which introduced the modular concept. Even though it’s not the most expensive model, the Z2 Play still comes packing in many high-end features that you would expect from a premium product.

The Moto Z2 Force is clearly the more powerful flagship, but the Z2 Play is a lower cost model with access to Moto Mods.

There are some differences though, including a lower display resolution and a more limited processing package. While the Z2 Force is undoubtedly the company’s 2017 flagship with the faster Snapdragon 835 processor and QHD display, the Z2 Play is what some would call a super-mid tier product, offering up the bulk of the important specifications and making only a few acceptable sacrifices to save on price.

Moto Z2 ForceMoto Z2 Play
Display
Moto Z2 Force
5.5-inch 2560x1440 POLED
ShatterShield
Moto Z2 Play
5.5-inch 1920x1080 AMOLED
SoC
Moto Z2 Force
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Moto Z2 Play
Qualcomm Snapdragon 626
CPU
Moto Z2 Force
4x 2.35 GHz Kryo 280
4x 1.9 GHz Kryo 280
Moto Z2 Play
8x 2.2GHz Cortex-A53
GPU
Moto Z2 Force
Adreno 540
Moto Z2 Play
Adreno 506
RAM
Moto Z2 Force
4 / 6 GB
Moto Z2 Play
3 / 4 GB
Storage
Moto Z2 Force
64 GB (128 GB China)
Moto Z2 Play
32 / 64 GB
MicroSD?
Moto Z2 Force
Yes
Moto Z2 Play
Yes
Cameras
Moto Z2 Force
Dual 12 MP, f/2.0, 1.25um rear with PDAF
5MP, f/2.2, wide angle front
Moto Z2 Play
Dual 12MP, f/1.7, 1.4um rear with PDAF
5MP, f/2.2 wide angle front
Battery
Moto Z2 Force
2,730 mAh
Moto Z2 Play
3,000mAh
NFC
Moto Z2 Force
Yes
Moto Z2 Play
Yes
Fingerprint
Moto Z2 Force
Yes
Moto Z2 Play
Yes
3.5mm audio
Moto Z2 Force
No
Moto Z2 Play
Yes
Fast Charge
Moto Z2 Force
15W TurboPower
Moto Z2 Play
TurboPower
IP Rating
Moto Z2 Force
No, water-repellent
Moto Z2 Play
No, water-repellent
OS
Moto Z2 Force
Android 7.1.1
Moto Z2 Play
Android 7.1.1
Price
Moto Z2 Force
$720
Moto Z2 Play
$499

In terms of similarities, both the Z2 models feature dual 12 megapixel rear camera configurations with PDAF and laser autofocus. The front facing camera is also a wide angle, 5 megapixel affair on both models, suggesting that owners of either handset will have pretty much the same photo features and quality. Motorola’s range of modular accessories is also compatible with both models, so you can grab an extra battery pack or speaker accessory with either model.

The Z2 Plus also comes with a couple of its own perks. The handset boasts a slightly larger 3,000 mAh battery, up from the Force’s controversial 2,730 mAh cell. The phone also retains a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is absent from the more expensive Z2 Force that instead ships with a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adaptor instead. The rear camera specifications also suggest that the Z2 Play should have better low light performance, although we’ll have to test them both out before drawing any definitive conclusions.

Of course, the powerful Snapdragon 835 chipset makes the Z2 Force the obvious choice for gamers and heavy multitaskers. Even so, it’s a bit of a strange state of affairs when the cheaper flagship model looks more appealing in some regards.

Here are the best Moto Mods available
Features

The popular G series

The Moto G series propelled Motorola’s mid-tier to fame in previous generations, but this range does sit below the Z2 series in terms of performance and features. The latest G5 range has expanded to cater for a bi-yearly release cycle and those after a plus sized model. The original Moto G5 and G5 Plus made their appearance in February 2017, and these phone have just been followed up by the Moto G5S and G5S Plus in early August. So what are the differences?

Moto G5Moto G5 PlusMoto G5SMoto G5S Plus
Display
Moto G5
5-inch 1920x1080 LCD
Moto G5 Plus
5.2-inch 1920x1080 LCD
Moto G5S
5.2-inch 1920x1080 LCD
Moto G5S Plus
5.5-inch 1920x1080 LCD
SoC
Moto G5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
Moto G5 Plus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 626
Moto G5S
Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
Moto G5S Plus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
CPU
Moto G5
8x 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53
Moto G5 Plus
8x 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53
Moto G5S
8x 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53
Moto G5S Plus
8x 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53
GPU
Moto G5
Adreno 505
Moto G5 Plus
Adreno 506
Moto G5S
Adreno 505
Moto G5S Plus
Adreno 506
RAM
Moto G5
2 / 3 GB
Moto G5 Plus
2 / 3 / 4 GB
Moto G5S
3 GB
Moto G5S Plus
3 / 4 GB
Storage
Moto G5
16 / 32 GB
Moto G5 Plus
32 / 64 GB
Moto G5S
32 GB
Moto G5S Plus
32 / 64 GB
MicroSD?
Moto G5
Yes
Moto G5 Plus
Yes
Moto G5S
Yes
Moto G5S Plus
Yes
Cameras
Moto G5
13 MP, f/2.0, PDAF rear
5MP, f/2.2 front
Moto G5 Plus
12MP, f/1.7, PDAF, rear
5MP, f/2.2
Moto G5S
16MP, f/2.0, PDAF rear
5MP, f/2.0 front
Moto G5S Plus
Dual 13MP, f/2.0, PDAF rear
8MP, f/2.0 front
Battery
Moto G5
2,800 mAh
Moto G5 Plus
3,000 mAh
Moto G5S
3,000 mAh
Moto G5S Plus
3,000 mAh
NFC
Moto G5
No
Moto G5 Plus
Yes (some markets)
Moto G5S
No
Moto G5S Plus
Yes (some markets)
Fingerprint
Moto G5
Yes
Moto G5 Plus
Yes
Moto G5S
Yes
Moto G5S Plus
Yes
3.5mm audio
Moto G5
Yes
Moto G5 Plus
Yes
Moto G5S
Yes
Moto G5S Plus
Yes
Fast Charge
Moto G5
TurboPower
Moto G5 Plus
TurboPower
Moto G5S
TurboPower
Moto G5S Plus
TurboPower
IP Rating
Moto G5
No, water-repellent
Moto G5 Plus
No, water-repellent
Moto G5S
No, water-repellent
Moto G5S Plus
No, water-repellent
OS
Moto G5
Android 7.0
Moto G5 Plus
Android 7.0
Moto G5S
Android 7.1
Moto G5S Plus
Android 7.1
Price
Moto G5
Rs. 11,955 ($190)
Moto G5 Plus
$229 / $299
Moto G5S
€249 ($295)
Moto G5S Plus
€299 ($350)

The short answer is not a huge amount, for the most part. All of these phones target a very similar performance and price point, ranging from between $200 and $350. The Moto G5 and G5S feature a slightly less powerful Snapdragon 430 processor, rather than the Plus models’ Snapdragon 625 and 626, and cost a little less as a result. Weirdly enough, the Moto G5 Plus and new G5S are the same 5.2-inch size, however the Plus models are the only ones to support NFC in some regions (not the US), which is a must if you’re interested in making use of mobile payments.

The new Moto G5S Plus is very similar to the more expensive Moto Z2 Play. There's only a small difference to the dual camera setup, LCD rather than AMOLED, and the lack of Moto Mods.

Motorola has made some refinements with the introduction of its new G5S models though. The memory options have consolidated, dropping the 2GB of RAM that was found in some regional variations. There’s also an upgrade to Android 7.1 out of the box. Other than that though, there’s still the same display resolutions, fast charging capabilities, water repellent coating, and pretty much identical battery sizes across all of the models.

The new Moto G5S Plus is certainly the most interesting handset in the range though, as it’s specifications look very similar to the more expensive Moto Z2 Play. The hardware is virtually identical, with the exception of an LCD rather than AMOLED panel and the dual rear camera, which is a 13 megapixel f/2.0 configuration in the G5S Plus rather than a 12 megapixel f/1.7 setup in the Z2 Play. The G5S Plus doesn’t have Moto Mod support though, but if that doesn’t interest you then it’s certainly a cost effective alternative to the Z2 Play.

Moto E4 hands on: $70, really?
News

Budget conscious options

Motorola’s popularity in the budget markets has seen the company release another low cost smartphone range this year. In addition to a refresh of its Moto E line-up, there’s now the Moto C range to consider too.

Both line-ups consist of a regular and Plus model, as it now pretty much customary across Motorola’s 2017 portfolio. While the Moto E4 Plus boasts a larger 5.5-inch display, the Moto C Plus has the same 5-inch display as the regular model. Instead, it’s the display resolution that sees a boost from a budget 854×480 up to 1240×720 in the C Plus. Confusing naming scheme right?

Moto E4Moto E4 PlusMoto CMoto C Plus
Display
Moto E4
5-inch 1280x720 LCD
Moto E4 Plus
5.5-inch 1280x720 LCD
Moto C
5-inch 854x480 LCD
Moto C Plus
5-inch 1280x720 LCD
SoC
Moto E4
MediaTek MT6737 /
Snapdragon 425 (USA)
Moto E4 Plus
MediaTek MT6737 /
Snapdragon 425 (USA)
Moto C
Mediatek MT6737
Moto C Plus
Mediatek MT6737
CPU
Moto E4
4x 1.3 GHz Cortex-A53 /
4x 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53
Moto E4 Plus
4x 1.3 GHz Cortex-A53 /
4x 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53
Moto C
4x 1.1 GHz Cortex-A53
Moto C Plus
4x 1.1 GHz Cortex-A53
GPU
Moto E4
Mali-T720 /
Adreno 308
Moto E4 Plus
Mali-T720 /
Adreno 308
Moto C
Mali-T720
Moto C Plus
Mali-T720
RAM
Moto E4
2 GB
Moto E4 Plus
3 GB
Moto C
1 / 2 GB
Moto C Plus
1 / 2 GB
Storage
Moto E4
16 GB
Moto E4 Plus
32 GB
Moto C
8 / 16 GB
Moto C Plus
16GB
MicroSD?
Moto E4
Yes
Moto E4 Plus
Yes
Moto C
Yes
Moto C Plus
Yes
Cameras
Moto E4
8MP, f/2.2 rear
5MP f/2.2 front
Moto E4 Plus
13 MP, f/2.0 rear
5MP f/2.2 front
Moto C
5MP rear
2MP front
Moto C Plus
8MP, f/2.2 rear
2MP f/2.8 front
Battery
Moto E4
2,800 mAh
Moto E4 Plus
5,000 mAh
Moto C
2,350 mAh
Moto C Plus
4,000 mAh
NFC
Moto E4
Yes (some markets)
Moto E4 Plus
Yes (some markets)
Moto C
No
Moto C Plus
No
Fingerprint
Moto E4
Yes
Moto E4 Plus
Yes
Moto C
No
Moto C Plus
No
3.5mm audio
Moto E4
Yes
Moto E4 Plus
Yes
Moto C
Yes
Moto C Plus
Yes
Fast Charge
Moto E4
TurboPower
Moto E4 Plus
TurboPower
Moto C
No
Moto C Plus
No
IP Rating
Moto E4
No, water-repellent
Moto E4 Plus
No, water-repellent
Moto C
No
Moto C Plus
No
OS
Moto E4
Android 7.1.1
Moto E4 Plus
Android 7.1.1
Moto C
Android 7.0
Moto C Plus
Android 7.0
Price
Moto E4
$130 ($70 @ Verizon)
Moto E4 Plus
$180
Moto C
€89 / €99 / Rs.5,999 (~$100)
Moto C Plus
€119 / Rs.6,999 ($110)

As you can see from the table, both the Moto E and C ranges are targeted squarely at the low cost markets, with prices sticking below the $200 and in some cases hovering around the $100 mark. The Moto E series retains a number of core features found in other Motorola devices, including a fingerprint scanner, NFC in some markets, and TurboPower fast charging. Cost savings in this range are made on the 720p display resolution, less powerful MediaTek processing packages (or Snapdragon 425s in the US), and some sacrifices to the camera configurations. Even so, the Moto E range is designed to get basic users through the majority of common smartphones tasks.

The Moto E4 and E4 Plus are very cost effective at sub-$200, but the Moto C range is the lowest priced no-frills option for low cost markets.

The Moto C and C Plus are much more budget conscious options, and have prices to match. The cheapest Moto C model can be bought with just 3G connectivity, and so has been designed specifically with emerging markets in mind. You also won’t find any of Motorola’s familiar bells and whistles here though. There’s no fingerprint scanner, NFC, or fast charging here. The RAM, memory, and camera options are also much more basic. However, customers will still receive Android 7.0 out of the box, which is very welcome revelation in the budget category.

Complicating Motorola’s budget range is regional availability. There are differences in processing packages between US and global Moto E4 models, to accommodate the country’s CDMA networks. The Moto C range doesn’t appear to be going on sale in the US though, instead has been put on sale in India so far, but has also been price in Euros.

In summary

Although Motorola’s naming scheme can help identify roughly which price bracket each range fits into, the differences between devices within the same groups this year has made the company’s line-up more complicated than ever. Especially when phones like the Moto Z2 Play / G5S Plus and the Moto E4 / Moto C Plus blur the lines between the different ranges.

Hopefully this article has helped explain the differences between the various Moto handsets that have made their way to the market in 2017. If not, here’s a very quick bullet point guide of the ranges.

  • Moto Z2 – premium tier with mods
  • Moto G5 / G5S – mid-range
  • Moto E4 – budget market
  • Moto C – no frills smartphones / first time buyers

What do you think about Motorola’s expanding smartphone portfolio this year? Is the company’s making too many phones, or is the range of choice a good thing for consumers looking for their perfect handset?