Moto G Power (2022) review: Don’t call it an upgrade

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Motorola has been around longer than everyone reading this. It’s gone through some changes in the decades—spin-offs, acquisitions, mergers, and almost everything else that can happen to a company. Today, Motorola’s mobile incarnation is on the rise. In the wake of LG’s withdrawal from the smartphone world, Moto has been picking up market share to become the third-largest OEM in the US. It got there not with flashy flagship phones, but with cheap, competent devices that carriers love to stock in their stores.


That’s an apt description of the company’s newest phone, the Moto G Power. Yes, Motorola released a G Power less than a year ago, but this one is the 2022 model. It will begin appearing in some carrier lineups early next year, but it should be available in virtually every sales channel within a few months. When the phone arrives, you’ll be able to get one starting at $200, a bit cheaper than the previous version. Moto has bumped the camera to a 50MP sensor and switched from Qualcomm to MediaTek on the inside. At the end of the day, it’s just what you’d expect from a $200 Motorola phone, for better or worse.

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The new Moto G Power steps down to a MediaTek chip with spotty performance, and neither the 90Hz screen nor 50MP camera make up for it.

Specifications

  • Brand: Motorola
  • Storage: 64GB
  • CPU: MediaTek Helio G37
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Operating System: Android 11
  • Battery: 5000mAh, 15W charging
  • Ports: USB-C, headphone jack
  • Display (Size, Resolution): 6.5-inch 720 x 1600 LCD @ 90Hz
  • Camera (Front): 8MP
  • Cameras (Rear): 50MP primary, 2MP depth, 2MP macro
  • Price: $199.99
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, BT 5.0
  • Dimensions: 167.2 x 76.5 x 9.4 mm, 203g
Pros

  • Extreme battery life
  • Clean version of Android
  • Still has a headphone jack
  • The $200 price will probably come way down with carrier promotions
Cons

  • Underpowered hardware
  • Display is low-resolution, dim, and uneven
  • Comes with old software and only gets one major OS update

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

Motorola made a number of design changes for the latest G Power, but none of them are real game-changers. Moto hasn’t so much evolved its budget phones as it just combines different features and hardware elements seemingly at random. Some Moto phones have fingerprint sensors in the power button, but this one uses a rear-facing fingerprint reader. It gets the job done with sufficient speed and accuracy, plus the small divot for the sensor is nice to have as it gives you a place to rest your finger and stabilize the phone. The camera module is in the upper left corner of the back, and it doesn’t stick out far. The middle lens is the new 50MP camera. Identical glass covers enclose the macro and depth sensors on either side. The back is matte textured plastic with a sort of swirling wave. It doesn’t look expensive, but neither does the shiny plastic masquerading as glass that Moto has used on other G-series phones. At least this way, it’s not a fingerprint magnet. The plastic is on the thin side—you can feel it flex a bit if you press hard enough, something the 2021 model didn’t have. There’s not much else to the exterior. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom, a headphone jack on top, and the power/volume keys are on the right edge.Front and center is the new 6.5-inch 720p LCD. It’s ever so slightly smaller than the previous Power, but the refresh rate has been bumped up to 90Hz. That’s a positive change… in theory, but the phone’s MediaTek innards work against it here. The resolution isn’t great, either. A 720p screen at this size looks noticeably muddly compared to 1080p panels, and the middling brightness drops precipitously when you look at it even slightly off-axis. The washed-out LCD colors certainly don’t help, nor does the backlight bleed around the edges and camera punch hole. The glass also seems to lack an oleophobic coating, or the one it has is just very bad. In either case, I find myself wiping the phone quite often to try and minimize smudges.g power 2022-3

Budget phones like the new G Power come with one thing that flagships don’t: a charger. You get a 10W plug and a short USB A-to-C cable with the phone. That’s all you’ll find in the box aside from the usual manuals and warranty notices, but it’s still nice to get a charger with your phone.


Software, performance, and battery

If you’ve used any Motorola phones in the past three or four years, you’ll know what to expect from the G Power’s version of Android 11. It has all the basic Motorola gimmicks like gestures to trigger the camera and flashlight, as well as Peek Display for monitoring notifications (see below). Some of Moto’s high-end phones come with additional features, some of which are even new. This phone, however, sticks with the basic Moto feature set. That’s not the say the software is bad—Motorola’s “My UX” is one of the less offensive Android skins visually, and I love features like the chop-chop to toggle the flashlight. The unlocked phone I’m testing doesn’t come with any bloatware, but you can bet that carriers will stick a few of their apps on this phone.


g power 2022-6

Motorola still doesn’t try to compete on update support, even on more expensive phones. However, the update guarantee here is very much what I’d expect for a budget phone. It ships with Android 11, and it’ll get an update to Android 12 at some point (don’t hold your breath). As for security updates, Moto will support the phone with bi-monthly patches for two years.

Luckily, there isn’t a lot of clutter in the software because the MediaTek Helio G37 struggles to keep up with many of my daily smartphone tasks. A 90Hz refresh rate is only worthwhile if the phone can maintain high enough frame rates to take advantage. The Helio G37 chip is sadly not up to the job. The phone maintains high frame rates on the home screen and in the settings, but most apps (even those from Moto itself) lag enough that you’ll rarely get to enjoy smooth animations. There’s also some outright lag when opening apps or using the home gesture. I’m not surprised—the G37 is a step down from the Snapdragon 662 in the last G Power. That chip had a 4+4 CPU arrangement with A73 and A53 cores. The G37 just has eight low-power A53s, and it’s on an older 12nm process. Gaming performance is a little better than I expected, though. As long as you’re not trying to play Genshin Impact, the G Power should do alright.


One of this phone’s primary selling points, like its predecessor, is the battery life. It pairs a 5000mAh cell with modest hardware, and the results are impressive. Motorola says this phone will run for about three days per charge, and I’ve found that to be pretty accurate. There have been times when I wondered if maybe something was wrong with the battery gauge because it takes so darn long to change. I wish the phone charged faster than 10W, but it’s rare to see anything much faster in budget phones.

Cameras

Moto is making a reasonably big deal about the 50MP camera sensor in this phone, but it’s not a significant upgrade in resolution. The 2021 G Power had a 48MP primary, but this is beside the point—megapixels don’t matter. Some of the best smartphone cameras available are much lower resolution, but they are physically larger, with bigger pixels and wider apertures. The 50MP sensor in the G Power won’t change the game.


g power 2022-5

If you’ve got enough light, the camera can deliver acceptable detail with binned 12.5MP files. However, the dynamic range and colors are disappointing. None of the photos I took with this phone looked like keepers, but if you just want to snap some sharable photos, that’s doable in daylight. At night, not so much. The images are muddy, the exposure time shoots up quickly, and there’s no optical stabilization. That means you’ll get a lot of blurry photos.

Image Gallery (11 Images)

There are two more things on the back that look like cameras, so what about those? Maybe they’ll be the G Power’s saving grace? Alas, no. It’s another camera punt featuring macro and depth sensors. The 2MP macro camera doesn’t take good photos (none of them do). The depth sensor might help with portrait mode, but plenty of phones get by without one. Regardless, it’s back there. I think it’s partially a cosmetic consideration at this point, the goal being to have three things that look like cameras even if only one of them is useful.


Should you buy it?

If you are at all picky about your mobile experience, no, you shouldn’t buy the 2022 Moto G Power. This phone has certain priorities in mind, and they’re not mine. I have no doubt the G Power will sell in significant numbers thanks to its presence in basically every carrier sales channel. But as an unlocked phone? There are better options from Samsung and OnePlus in this price range. The G Power has a substandard display even with the 90Hz refresh, and the performance is just so-so. Even at 50MP, the camera isn’t very good, either. And of course, there’s no 5G, which is increasingly common in budget phones from OnePlus and Samsung.

g power 2022-7
Left: G Power 2022, Right: G Power 2021

The good news for Motorola is that the kind of person who buys sub-$200 phones from a carrier is, generally, not the kind of person who cares about those things. The 2022 Moto G Power is reliable, sturdy, and lasts ages on a charge. This is all some people want from a phone, and the G Power has it. If you just need to buy a cheap phone from your carrier, there are worse options than the Moto G Power.


Buy it if…

  • You’re on a budget and prefer to buy from your carrier.
  • You hate charging your phone.

Don’t buy it if…

  • You take a lot of photos, and you want them to be good.
  • You need a phone that stays fast even when stressed.

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