My Nextbit Robin phone gave up the ghost this spring: as an orphaned product, it hadn’t received software updates for several years and, perhaps because of this, as well due its aging battery, it started to do some annoying things. Like spontaneously restarting when the battery was below 25%. And not allowing me to make telephone calls because the “Phone” app kept crashing.
I was reluctant to replace it because, for most other intents and purposes, it was a perfectly acceptable Android phone that worked well and was pleasant in the hand.
But when a phone stops being able to be a phone, then it’s time to look elsewhere.
I am, I have found, constitutionally unable to conscience the notion of having a “flagship” phone in my pocket. Phones from OnePlus, Samsung, Google and others cost $1000 or more, and the idea of being responsible for not losing such an expensive thing in my day to day life (to say nothing of affording it in the first place) is anathema.
So on my recent trip to New England I stopped in at Best Buy, a store that, in the USA at least, has a wide selection of phones in its “unlocked phones” section of the store. I sampled phones by Sony, Nokia, and some of the brands-nobody-has-ever-heard-of, and my eyes started to settle on the Moto G7 Play.
Oliver’s been using the larger Moto G7 for the past few months and it’s served him well. I liked the feel of the smaller “Play” variant in my hand, and testing it out in Best Buy showed it to be zippy and capable and matching my Robin almost feature-for-feature (the only thing it lacked was NFC support, which I almost never used anyway on the Robin).
So I bought one. For $199 US. That’s the kind of phone price I can handle, both financially and constitutionally.
My specific model, for posterity, is the XT1952-4.
I’ve been using the phone every day for almost a month, and I really, really like it.
- At 149 grams, it’s a gram lighter than my Nextbit Robin, and it’s about the same size. I like lightweight phones that fit easily in my hand.
- It’s battery life, at least compared to my aging Robin, is amazing. For the last year I was ending the day with the Robin dead or almost dead; I rarely find the G7 below 50% battery by day’s end.
- The fingerprint reader on the back is positioned in the right place for me, and is quick.
- The Android is essentially “stock,” with no additional cruft, spam, launcher, etc.
- For reasons I’m not sure whether to ascribe to the phone, to the Public Mobile (Telus) network I’m using it on, or a combination of the two, I’m getting more dropped calls and outbound calls that don’t complete. It’s not frequent or annoying enough to be a deal breaker, at least not yet.
- The back of the phone is unusually slippery, which has proved not so much a problem in my hand as for the phone’s propensity to slide off the chair, bed, table, ottoman that I place it on. I’ve “solved” this by keeping it in my pocket more.
- As a non-flagship phone with less horsepower, some of the UI animations aren’t as seamless as I’d like; for example rotating the phone from portrait to landscape can manifest some very obvious stuttering of the UI. This is more “not as smooth as butter” and not really into “so annoying as to be unusable” territory.
- The phone has a 2018-style wide camera notch at the top rather than a 2019-style cutout, and I initially thought I would find this infuriating. But I don’t. Except for the placement of the clock relative to the rounded corner on the toolbar, which is a perpetual source of visual stress to me for its clunky “kerning.”
I’ll report back more after I’ve some more months of experience with the phone but, for the time being if you’re looking for an inexpensive very usable Android phone, I recommend you consider the Moto G7 Play.