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Moto G4 – Affordable Nexus

Moto G4 PlusRecently I got to play around with my nephew’s Moto G4 Plus, and somebody who is looking for a phone in the 15K INR budget this should be a great choice. Even though the previous Moto G was 5 inchers this one has a 5.5 inch Full HD screen (not a single hand or pocket friendly phone) but it seems big screen phones are the rage right now. As I touched on my previous article on Moto E3 power, Lenovo has taken a different design approach to Moto phones and this one is a solidly built ‘ok’ looking phone with a plastic finish.

Powering this Moo G4 plus is a Octa-core Snapdragon 617  processor with 3 GB RAM and with a internal memory of 32 GB ( 2GB & 16GB variant is also available in India). This coupled with a vanilla version of Android 6.0 (Mashmallow) makes the phone a breeze to use for normal activities like talking, texting, browsing and multimedia. He showed me some not so graphic intensive games which played smoothly. With the “Nexus” line now dead, anyone who want to experience a pure android smartphone in this price range will love this phone.

The 16 MP back camera  with Phase detection autofocus produced some great stills in various lighting conditions (not flagship smartphone camera worthy) but at this price this seems a excellent shooter and along with the 5 MP front camera for Selfies, Moto G4 has got the camera department pretty right in this phone. I didn’t get the chance to record or see any recorded videos but it supports Full HD video recording.

The connectivity option has the usual suspects like 4G/3G/2G, Wifi, Bluetooth, USB OTG support. There is a fingerprint sensor at the front and is pretty fast but it doesn’t couple as a home key which is slightly disappointing.The  phone has a non-removable 3000 mAh battery which seems to last a single day of usage for him (he uses it pretty extensively) so for a medium user it should come around  1.5-2 days.

At the price range there are lots of options like Redmi Note 3, Lenovo K4 Note, Samsung On8 to mention a few, but with a nice combination of hardware power and pure android (with Android 7 Nougat update coming) the Moto G4 plus is a worthy smartphone to consider.

Moto with ‘Power’

Moto E3 PowerI’ve seen and used two generations of Moto E and they have been good value for money entry level smartphones. And so when I was asked to recommend a smartphone in the price range of 7-8K INR I was able to point a few with the top contenders being Redmi 3S, Lenovo Vibe K5 and Moto E3 power. Even though specs wise the Redmi 3S and Vibe K5, the almost vanilla android flavor of Moto E3 got my vote.

After getting on my hands on the Lenovo made Moto E3, the design language is different from Moto E2 and with a screen size of 5″ (720p resolution) its a ‘ok’ looking smartphone. Measuring 143.8 x 71.6 x 9.6 mm and weighing 153 grams it’s not very signle hand friendly but its solid. The phone is powered by a 64 bit quad core mediatek processor (MT6735p) and 2 GB RAM with 16 GB internal storage and a option to expand memory via microSD card. The screen is nice and bright and the phone running Android 6.0 is quite smooth in day to day operations but with some extra multi tasking tends to slightly lag. But for calling / texting / casual browsing, gaming it should do just fine.

The “Power” monicker comes because of its 3500 mAh battery (removable) with Quick charge function (Quick charge adapter was in the box). With just 2G data enabled the phone ran a amazing 4 days before it ran out of juice. But with 4G data enabled (phone is eligible for Reliance Jio welcome offer) it came around 2 days with slight usage.

Some of the disappointments of this phone was the very useful Moto app (with actions / gestures) is not available and no Android 7.0 update has been announced even though it has been released just recently.

Android ‘Mi’

MIUI8In a continuation to my previous post on “Various flavors of android” , I got a chance to play with my niece’s Mi 4i running the latest version of MIUI  called MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0. For those who have used more traditional Android launchers from Samsung, Sony, HTC, Motorola this is going to be a tough initiation as the User Interface is a drastic shift from what a traditional android launcher looks or behaves. The MIUI looks and behaves more like IOS with the iconography, typography resembling those from Apple’s iPhone.

But when I fiddled with it for a while I got the hang of it. Basically there is no app drawer with all app icons on home page (which can be split into multiple screens) with folder support to group apps but there are support for the traditional android widgets too. The notification bar is at the top with quick toggles and other useful information. The usual set of apps that comes customized along with the launcher like Dialler, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery, Music player, Notes, Calculator all follow the same look and feel with nice and useful functions built into them.

The Quick ball with  a virtual button floating on the screen providing useful shortcuts and the Dual space to keep a separate section of apps / files are some excellent utilities baked into the MIUI. But the problem with such a revamped look and feel is that even with 2 GB RAM and a Snapdragon 615 processor of Mi 4i the free RAM was only 600 – 700 MB with 2-3 apps opened and some presses and clicks did take some time to respond.

The MIUI is like a OS onto itself inside Android with lots of features built into it. I will try to cover more of it if possible  in the future.

Various flavors of Android

Android flavorsFor most of smartphone users who use Android get to enjoy them in various different flavors like Samsung’s Touchwiz UI, HTC’s Sense, Sony xPeria Launcher, Asus Zen UI etc.But most of these make some visual changes and add some default apps for phone dialer, contacts, message, mail, calendar, gallery. And for those who prefer the ‘vanilla’ or ‘pure’ android flavor get to use them in Nexus (now replaced by Pixel) branded phones, Moto and Android One based phones.

But nowadays the lower and middle segment smartphone market is saturated with Chinese manufacturers who have a complete different flavor of Android for you to experience preferring them to name it as a OS like Color OS, Fun Touch OS etc mimicking the User interface of Apple’s IOS with app drawer being removed and the colors / iconography resembling more of IOS than Android’s material UI. So I thought I would list some of them here with their official url’s so you can see and decide for yourself – is this the flavor of Android you like ??

  • MIUI – Developed by Xiaomi and has support for other phones too. Currently based on Android Marshmallow (6.0)
  • Color OS – Developed by OPPO.
  • EMUI – Developed by Huawei for their range of smartphones including Honor branded phones.
  • FunTouch OS – Developed by Vivo for their range of smartphones (The link leads to the chinese version of the page. You can use google translate to translate to your language)
  • Amigo OS – Developed by Gionee for their range of smartphones (The link leads to the chinese version of the page. You can use google translate to translate to your language)

I’ve tried to cover the various brands available here in India. I would like to hear if there are other flavors of Android you like, please post in the comments section here.

“Cool”Phablet aka Note 3

Coolpad Note 3When I bought my Samsung Note 3 Neo and  I wrote how it was a phablet light on the wallet and good on performance…Now it’s not even a year old 5.5 inch smartphones with octa-core processors and 3GB RAM and 13 MP camera can be found for under 10K. My nephew has been using a Coolpad Note 3 for 3 months now and I have played around with it a few times and have been receiving continuous commentary on it…So before I comment on it’s pros and cons, here is a quick run down on the specs ..

  • 5.5″ IPS display with 1280 x 720 resolution (Scratch resistant)
  • Size : 151 x 77 x 9.3 mm
  • Mediatek MT6753 1.3Ghz CortexTM-A53 Octa-core Processor / 3 GB RAM / 1G Internal Memory
  • Coolpad UI 6.0 (based on Android 5.1)
  • 13 MP Back camera with Flash / 5 MP front camera
  • 2G/3G/4G support with dual sim
  • Bluetooth / Wifi / Fingerprint Sensor
  • 3000 mAh Battery / MicroSD card slot

Pros :

  • Even though its a 720p display the screen clarity and brightness is good
  • Even though it’s plastic the construction is solid and is slim enough to hold properly.
  • The phone’s performance is fast for all the normal tasks and even graphic heavy games plays ok
  • The Cool UI has still a app drawer (I prefer the app drawer) but has still got great customization with themes, timed on/off, memory manager etc.
  • The fingerprint sensor works well and can be used along with gestures to unlock & open specific apps
  • The 13 MP camera performs good in well lit conditions
  • The battery comes for 2 days in medium usage
  • A major update solved the heating problems and some minor bugs

Cons

  • Sometimes caller can’t hear the speaker’s voice which can be solved by restarting the phone
  • Wifi connectivity is not stable sometimes.

So at a price of 8,999/- INR (135 USD) it’s a great deal. But there are other phablet’s and smartphones in this range making it a tough competition… Lenovo K3 Note, Redmi Note 3, Asus Zenfone 2 to name a few….