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As technology develops, software evolves to take advantage of new features and capabilities, and older devices become obsolete and slow – or maybe simply won’t work at all.
My HTC One M9 is now nearly five years old, but still quite quick and, crucially, still has enough headroom in its 32gb of storage for what I want to put on it (I use an SD card for music and photos). However, the battery has become unreliable and going out for a day without an external power pack is not a good idea. Time for an upgrade.
Given that 32gb, an octa-core processor and 3gb of RAM do me just fine, did I need an equivalent flagship costing the wrong side of £600? Looking at present-day specs, I thought not. I’ve been looking at alternatives for some time and eventually landed on the Moto G range, which has always had a good reputation. Just as I was preparing to get the credit card out, along came the Moto G8 Plus. It has 64gb of storage, a similar octa-core processor and 4gb of RAM – so, even though a step backwards in terms of range, it would still be an upgrade on the HTC and, at £239.99, not a bank-breaker.
It’s early days yet, but I’m impressed. It’s definitely at least a sprightly as the HTC, and probably a little more so. Would it keep up with your one-grand monster? Probably not. Would it stumble of games? No idea – I only play FreeCell. Is the camera top-flight? Not according to the reviews I’ve read and I haven’t used it in anger yet, but since I use an SLR for serious stuff, I’d be surprised if it isn’t perfectly satisfactory. The front and back are plastic – there’s no glass or metal, but I keep my phones in a wallet case, so I think it’ll survive.
What does impress is the light touch to the Moto-isation. It’s almost pure Android – you don’t get a branded media player or gallery, for instance, but the payback is a heck of a lot of your 64gb real estate left. I’m rattling around in it. There is, though, a Moto app that allows a lot of personalisation of layouts and gestures and this makes it possible to set quite a few things the way you like them. No–one seems to offer the swipe-to-unlock of the HTC*, but with a fingerprint reader (very quick to react), this is perhaps obsolete anyway. You can also choose between one and three-button navigation – I’m sticking to three, but have a feeling I may switch to one eventually. You can also choose between a link to the app drawer in the dock at the bottom of the screen or a fifth app pinned there. As I’m used to swiping up on the HTC to get at the app drawer, I’ve gone for the extra icon.
Included items are a reasonably powerful charger (it’s plug-in only – don’t expect a wireless option for this price!) and a gel case/cover. There are no headphones, but you’ve got a drawerful of those already, haven’t you? Oh, and it comes with Android 9 (Pie) out of the box.
The device is very new and not a lot of shops have stock yet, so you may need to go online to buy one. Also, don’t expect any discounts or incentives this early in the model life.
If you’re looking for a practical phone that won’t be subject to industrial-scale app usage, but also won’t break the bank, it’s looking good so far.
* Turns out the G8 does have a form of that after all.
Sounds like the phone ticks your wants and needs boxes @hrym
It would be nice to hear how the battery is holding up once you've had a while to use it !
I agree there is more and more phones coming to the marketplace that have flagship specs but without the flagship price and some surpass the flagship models in some respects too.
The price on some phones is getting too high imo but you got to pay to play I submit.
Current Phone > Samsung Note 10+ 5G _256Gb > Model: SM-N976B.
Samsung One Ui 2.1 / Android 10.
Samsung Gear s3 Frontier Watch.
Samsung Galaxy Buds.
I’ve been using this for a couple of weeks now, so here are a few more observations. Some of them may seem obvious and be more down to advances in technology than characteristics of this particular device.
It seems very power-efficient. The battery in my old HTC was getting a bit tired, but this is on a different level. Using it fairly hard, I managed to get it down to 50%, then charged it in the car for about an hour and a half, getting it up to 90%. A bit of browsing over coffee and playing music (through Bluetooth in the car) for another three or four hours dropped it back to 80%. It’s a 4000 mAH battery and has fast charging – there’s a 14 watt charger in the box, which you don’t always get at this price point. A full day of usage should be easily possible.
Pairing it with the car revealed that Bluetooth isn’t discoverable. This may be a new Android feature, but my previous phones have either been discoverable or it’s been switchable. In the past, I’ve initiated pairing from the car. This time, it was from the phone.
The camera didn’t use my SD card for storage by default. All other devices I’ve set up recently have done so. The option is available, but has to be set manually.
The screen is bright and has good colour saturation. There’s a choice of profiles, but I’ve been happy with the default so far. Attentive display (stays on while you’re looking at it) is an option and works well, allowing a fairly short display-off time to be set.
Picking the phone up turns the lockscreen on, meaning quick time checks are easy. You can also see notifications if you’ve allowed them on the lockscreen. There’s no notification light (and, as far as I can see, no charge light either).
Stereo speakers are built in and there’s a Dolby sound profile. For general listening, the sound seems full and well-rounded.
@BandOfBrothers is right, you do get what you pay for (as I said before, there’s no metal or glass here), but you get a lot from this package and it’s certainly a big step up from the five year old HTC, despite having a very similar spec on paper. It’s snappier than the Sony L3 I’ve also written about and has a few more tricks up its sleeve. You can definitely see what the extra £70 gets you.
Thanks for the review @hrym - I must admit, having a decent battery life is great. A lot of newer phones seemed to struggle with this up until recently 👍
Three things swung it for me, @TJ :
The larger battery
Moto's light touch on Android, along with the Moto app, which makes it do a lot of the things I've liked on thre HTC
I also mentioned that I waas going to try one-button navigation. I have, and haven't gone back to three.