Tech Guide

Lenovo's flashy and affordable new Android smartphone has a tough fight

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus Featured
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Lenovo acquired Motorola Mobility for one key purpose: to use Motorola's brand name to help Lenovo spread its smartphone wings in the U.S., particularly through carrier partnerships.

It's also using the Moto brand to continue to launch low-cost, high-value smartphones, such as the popular Moto G series of devices. As of today, the fifth such device, known as the Moto G5 Plus in the U.S., is now available for sale, and the high-end model only costs $239. Here's what you get.

The Moto G5 Plus offers a relatively pure version of Android, with only a few extra trimmings that help customize the experience for users.

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus software
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It’s the first Moto G smartphone that’s made out of metal. Check out the chamfered edges and premium design. Not bad for a phone that costs under $300 without a contract.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

The display isn’t too big, which is good for folks who don’t want a smartphone that’s too bulky in pockets or heavy to hold. The 5.2-inch screen is nice and bright, but not as sharp as more expensive smartphones.

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus display
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The phone uses an older micro USB charging port. That might not seem like a big deal, but the entire industry, including Motorola, is moving to USB-C. An odd decision for sure.

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus microUSB
Todd Haselton | CNBC

There’s a headphone jack so you don’t need to rely on special headphones. There aren’t any included in the box, though. Guess Motorola had to save money somewhere.

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus headphone
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The phone is capable of handling new games like Super Mario Run, even though it doesn’t have the fastest processor on the market. Again, this is where corners needed to be cut to get the price down.

CNCB: Moto G5 Plus Mario
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The camera is so-so. Motorola saved its better camera equipment for the Moto Z smartphones, which are more expensive and provide more top-of-the-line features. You’ll still get some good shots from the 12MP module, just don’t expect the sharpest images on the market. The “Rapid Focus” feature allows it to zoom in on subjects really quickly.

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus camera sample
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The front-facing selfie camera is decent ... as long as you have a good subject.

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus Selfie
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Motorola is typically known for great battery life, and this phone’s no exception, thanks to a relatively big (3,000 mAh) battery for a smartphone of this size. You should expect to get at least a day of use from the Moto G5 Plus, maybe more if you’re using the phone casually.

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus battery drain
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Conclusion: a fine phone if you're on a budget

CNBC: Moto G5 Plus Final
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The Motorola G5 Plus certainly has the looks of a smartphone that might cost nearly twice as much. That's important, especially as smartphones tend to become flashy status symbols. It's compelling enough, but the ship may already have sailed for Lenovo now that other companies, such as Huawei's sub-brand Honor, and other Chinese competitors such as LeEco, are battling for the teeny fraction of market share Apple and Samsung don't already own.

The Moto G5 Plus is a solid phone if you're on a budget. It's for folks who don't want to spend more than $300 on a new smartphone, and who don't want to get tied into long-term carrier contracts. Customers who also want a familiar brand like Moto, as opposed to ZTE or OnePlus or Honor, might also find the Moto G5 Plus appealing. Is it going to vastly increase Lenovo's market share in the U.S.? No, but it won't hurt the company's reputation either.