I’ve just returned from a very wet trip to the English Lake District.
I head that way once a year for lots of hiking and an equally plentiful amount of real ale. As most of the guys on the trip usually point out, it’s essentially the longest, hardest walk to the pub.
This year, I decided to take an Android phone with me. Just for kicks (and, also, because Motorola kindly sent me the Moto G200 for review).
It’s been a fascinating experience.
What is the Moto G200 5G?
The Motorola Moto G200 is one of those smartphones that can easily pass you by.
It’s pretty easy to dismiss, to be honest; a budget(ish) Android phone with a big screen and equally sizeable claims of 1.5 days’ battery life. There are lots of silly numbers attached to its camera system, too – but it’s easy to assume that they’re nothing more than marketing hyperbole.
Despite this, I’m quite a big fan of Motorola’s ‘G’ series, having briefly flirted with one of the first versions many years ago.
Back then, the second-generation Moto G was a pleasingly performant phone given the price but, ultimately, didn’t offer enough of a premium experience to tear me away from the iPhone long-term.
We’re clearly living in a different era now.
Bang for buck
You can pick up the Moto G200 from anywhere between £350 – £400 which places it comfortably within iPhone SE territory. However – and although we’re eagerly awaiting the next iteration of the budget iPhone – the G200 is quite a different animal.
Sitting at its heart is the Snapdragon 888 + 5G platform. I have zero idea what this chip is capable of, and, as usual, cannot be bothered to dive into the benchmarks. I’m far more interested to see how this thing feels.
My typically un-techy surmise after a weekend’s use is that this £400 smartphone feels super-fast. Impressively fast, in fact.
It boots up just as quickly as my iPhone 13 mini, flies through menus, and opens apps in the blink of an eye. There’s no slow-down, waiting, or sluggishness at all.
There’s another reason for this snappiness, which I’ll get onto later, but trust me – this feels like a very quick phone for the price.
A quick note on the camera system
I didn’t test the G200’s camera on those Cumbrian mountains. Sorry. This was because we were battered by icy rain, a windchill factor of -13 degrees Celsius, and… well, I couldn’t feel my gloved-up hands, let alone reach for the shutter button.
I will put it through its paces over the next few weeks and report back, but the G200 has quite a camera attached to it, on paper, and initial tests by far more adventurous reviewers suggest that it lives up to many of those claims.
Behind the three rear lenses sits a 108MP sensor featuring large 2.1µm pixels and the ability to shoot 8K video. The latter is needless, I’m afraid, but I’m looking forward to pitching the G200 against the brilliant iPhone 13 camera system.
From tiny to huge: dealing with a VERY big screen
This is a huge phone. Comically so.
The G200 feels well put together and offers a marginally premium look and feel thanks to the metallic finish on the back. But it is so long.
Being an avid fan of the iPhone 13 mini, this was quite a step up in screen size, and, equally, a bit of a handful when dealing with it one-handed.
In fact, it’s virtually impossible to use this phone single-handedly if you value the money you’ve spent on it. Like most smartphones, it’s a slippery beast, and that becomes screen-shatteringly terrifying whenever you try and reach for anything that’s placed within the upper half of the screen.
The 6.8” HDR10 screen is plenty bright enough, though, and there are benefits to the masses of space it affords. Websites and the ’swipe right for the Google News feed’ thing on the home screen are a joy to use on that massive screen.
But the biggest revelation for me has been the inclusion of a 144Hz refresh rate. This is what sits at the heart of the G200’s snappiness, and it is immediately apparent.
It’s adaptive, too, and uses AI to show the optimum refresh rate, depending on what you’re doing and in an effort to preserve battery life.
That’s right – this budget phone has the Android equivalent of ProMotion, which is a feature Apple only delivers if you opt for the £949 iPhone 13 Pro or £1,049 iPhone 13 Pro Max (both of which ‘only’ offer a 120Hz maximum refresh rate).
I’d previously written off the presence of ProMotion on the new iPhones, but having used a high refresh rate screen for the last few days on the G200, my iPhone 13 mini suddenly looks and feels somewhat sluggish by comparison.
The Moto G200 rates its battery at 1.5 days.
They’ve got that spot on.
As much as I’ve been impressed by the iPhone 13 mini’s battery performance, the ability to take a phone hiking and not worry about the battery at all was a rather lovely thing.
It charges fast, too, which meant I only needed to give it a fifteen-minute juice-up during three days away from conveniently-located power outlets.
The Moto G200 is a brilliant smartphone. It’s fast, has a super screen, offers amazing battery life, and Motorola hasn’t crippled Android with its own bunch of needless features and apps.
There are a few issues, though. The Moto G200 offers both facial recognition and a fingerprint sensor for biometric security. They both work pretty well but do fail far more often than Apple’s brilliant Face ID.
There’s no Android 12 update available yet, either. This is a shame, but a perennial problem with the platform and its many adopters. Having used the latest version of Android on my Pixel 4a, I’d love to see that beautiful new UI on such a massive screen, alas it looks like Motorola owners are going to have to wait.
But the biggest issue for me with the G200 is the lack of tap-to-wake. As is so often the case, it’s the seemingly innocuous features that either make or break a device, and the inability to quickly tap the phone to check notifications or the current time is more of a downer than you might think. It’s also a curious omission, given how much screen tech Motorola has poured into this £400 smartphone.
These aren’t deal-breakers, though. The G200 is an acquired taste, simply because it is so damn long. But for anyone who wants a huge screen, enviable performance, and a near-stock Android experience, it’s hard to beat.
If this is what the Android experience is like nowadays, I can’t wait to try more of it this year.