Why are Lenovo and Motorola splitting the Moto G smartphone range?

The idea is to have multiple phones at different price points, in the face of competition from the Chinese smartphone brands. But it could lead to clutter


Lenovo is launching the Moto G4 Plus in India this week, while the Moto G4 will be arriving in June.
Lenovo is launching the Moto G4 Plus in India this week, while the Moto G4 will be arriving in June.

Lenovo, which now owns Motorola’s smartphone business, is giving the latter’s portfolio a bit of a shake-up. And the focus this time is on the Moto G series of smartphones, which are entering its fourth generation. So far, we had the name “Moto G,” with clear references to the generation of the device, such as Moto G 2015 or Moto G 3rd Generation. Now, in fact, the entire line-up is being broken down further. In India, Lenovo is launching the Moto G4 Plus this week, while the Moto G4 will be arriving in June. All this while the Moto G 3rd Generation continues to sell in India, as we speak. Globally, there is a third phone in the line-up, which is the Moto G4 Play, and while there is no word yet on when it’ll be launched in India, it will actually be sooner rather than later. But what is the reason behind dividing the line-up?

Let us just run you through the three devices first, before we get to the complexities of this decision.

Moto G4 Plus

The Moto G4 Plus arrives in India in two variants—Rs.13,499 for the version with 16GB internal storage and 2GB RAM, and Rs.14,999 for 32GB internal storage and 3GB RAM. The processor remains the same across both variants, which is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octa-core chip. The screen size is 5.5 inches, and boasts of resolution increase to 1920x1080 pixels (Full HD) as well as the Gorilla Glass 3 layer. The Moto G smartphones so far have traditionally had a 1280x720 resolution. Around the back is a 16-megapixel camera with both laser and phase detection auto-focus. Each model comes with a MicroSD card slot that can add an additional 128GB of extra storage, so the extra internal memory may not be a big concern. Below the screen is a fingerprint sensor, with a rather unusual square-shape design. Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow is the operating system running on the device which, in line with Motorola’s promise, is the most current version available. There is a 3,000mAh battery.

At this price, the Moto G4 Plus’s more expensive variant is competing against the OnePlus X (Onyx; Rs.14,999), which runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core chip, 3GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, 13-megapixxel camera, 2525mAh battery and runs OnePlus’s own Oxygen OS based on Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop). The question still is, what happens with the Moto G Turbo (Rs.12,499) which runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage and a 5-inch 720p screen?

Moto G4

The Moto G4 shares a lot of specs with the G4 Plus, including the 5.5-inch screen with 1080p resolution, a Snapdragon 617 processor, and a fast-charging 3,000mAh battery. The Android version remains the same, as well as the microSD card slot.

But what has been omitted is the fingerprint sensor, has a lower spec 13-megapixel camera in comparison to the G4 Plus and only one variant with 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage.

The Moto G4 is priced at around $245 in certain countries, which translates to approximately Rs.16,000. However, it is unlikely that the G4 will sell for that much in India, because of the current pricing of the Moto G4 Plus as well as the fact that the specs essentially compete against the likes of Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Rs.11,999) which runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 hexa core processor, 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage.

Moto G4 Play

The Moto G4 Play is perhaps the eventual successor to the Moto G 3rd Generation, going by the spec sheet—Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, 5-inch 720p display, 8-megapixel camera and a 2800mAh battery. This means, the expected pricing for this phone should be closer to the Rs.10,000 price point. That is unless Lenovo wants to phase out the Moto E completely, which means the G4 Play will become the entry-level phone for the range.

Clutter and confusion?

What all this reshuffling essentially means is that the entire Moto G range now seems a bit more complex, at least till the time we know the pricing of the Moto G4 and the Moto G4 Play. It is clear that Lenovo wants to carry on using the Motorola brand name, with all the legacy and recall value attached to it. But it is following a strategy of flooding the market with many phones at largely similar pricing (if we include the Lenovo Vibe smartphone range as well) in the hope that potential consumers will end up finding one that matches their preference most closely. That is a strategy carmakers have used to great effect in India, and it gives Lenovo a much stronger chance against the Chinese smartphone rivals.

But we think that this could in turn spiral into something as complex as the Asus Zenfone 2 range, which ended up with as many as 13 versions with the same name—and that made it incredibly complex for customers to actually buy one which best suited their requirement.

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