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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Long Term Review: Moto G Plus (Amazon Edition)

I bought the Moto G5 Plus for several reasons:

  1. The ability to use RidewithGPS on Firefox for route planning. 
  2. Long battery life: in order to do LiveTracking, navigation, and potential Google Maps voice directions while cycling in a foreign country. 
  3. A replacement camera, since I didn’t expect to have the time to frame and properly compose photos while cycling on a tandem, so didn’t feel like spending the $600 a large sensor travel camera would cost. Needless to say, under the constraints of the above, bringing the M3 wasn’t in consideration either. 
To my surprise, #1 was a bust. Despite my extensive testing on the phone before leaving the USA, once on the ground I discovered that Firefox running RidewithGPS was balky and slow. The one time I needed to use it, it was easier to ask my AirBnB host to borrow her large screen computer instead. I resorted to either manual routing (i.e., just ignoring the GPS and reading road signs instead), or using short term Google Maps routing instead.

#2 was a complete success. The Moto G5+ doesn’t have the insane battery life my wife’s Moto Z Play has, but it cost quite a bit less, and as long as I started the day with a full charge, I never ended the cycling day with less than 50% battery life, despite using LiveTrack. My worst days of battery life were the zero day when we rented a car and I was using Google Maps full time for driving navigation, and the day in London, when we would spend lots of time underground in subways or indoors without cell coverage, and the strain on the battery of the phone trying to find a signal would quickly drain the battery. The driving day was surprisingly bad, because without a QC charger in the car, the USB port in the Fiesta 500’s driver compartment simply couldn’t keep up with the battery drain. Nevertheless, on both days I ended with about 10% battery life, and not stranded. This is a phone that will last your typical day and then some.

#3 was a surprise for me. When I first tested the phone on the first few days of the trip, I was shocked and surprised by how badly the phone’s camera app behaved. I would “twist to start the camera” and then be disappointed by the message “your camera app has crashed. Please restart it.” Fortunately, a reboot midway through the trip fixed the crashing problem and it was solid for the entirety of the cycling trip, which was when I was using the phone as my only camera.

The photos aren’t great, but I’d argue they’re no worse than a typical phone’s pictures --- all phones have tiny camera sensors, and you just can’t overcome the physics involved. What is great is that the Moto G5+ has support for a micro-SD card. I actually filled the card with photos during the trip, but the software automatically switched to the on-board storage. Since I was carrying around a 64GB SD card, there’s no doubt in my mind that just the 64GB of onboard storage on the phone would have been insufficient for my use case. I have no idea how people who have 32GB Pixel or iPhones survive, though my guess is those people don’t do multi-day bicycle tours.

All through the trip, the phone’s been fast enough, and good enough that I never wanted another phone. I still dislike that the phone’s not waterproof, but it did survive that one rainy evening at Stonehenge, so even that’s less of a concern than it was. And you can’t beat the Amazon subsidized price.

Highly recommended. Yes, there are better phones, but they cost way more. This is the one to get in the mean time.

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