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Lenovo Refreshes Their Moto G Midrange Phones, and Big Changes Are in Store

The G5 Plus now has an all-metal design, and they’ve done something clever with the fingerprint sensor.

Lenovo just announced its midrange smartphone plans for Motorola at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and if you’re a fan of their Moto G series, take note — Lenovo is switching things up. Like last year, there will be both G and G Plus models, but the difference is much more stark between the two this time.

There were relatively few differences between the G4 and the G4 Plus last year — specifically, a better camera and a fingerprint sensor. Those were accompanied by the G4 Play, a lower-power version of the G4. This year, it looks like the Play model is being scrapped, with the base G5 sliding down a tier to fill that role. That also means that the G5 won’t be available in the United States — just the G5 Plus.

That’s a big deal, because the differences between the two are much more stark this year. In addition the difference in processing power — the G5 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC, while the G5 Plus gets a higher-tier 625 — the phones are physically different. The G5 is a 5.0″ phone with a metal frame and a removable plastic back, while the G5 Plus is an all-aluminum 5.2″ with a sealed back. On the back, you’ll see the same round, protruding camera array that was introduced in the Moto Z line last year.

The G5 will have a removable 2,800 mAh battery, while the Plus will have a sealed-in 3,000 mAh — considering the respective chipsets in use, both batteries should make it at least a full day on a single charge. Lenovo says the G5 Plus also has TurboCharging, which should give you six hours of use with 15 minutes of charging. The 1080p displays on both models are fairly standard, and shouldn’t cause undue battery draw, either.

It sounds like there will be memory options (they can probably be set on Moto Maker, Motorola’s customization tool), but this will vary by region. In the United States, the Moto G5 Plus will start at 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. You’ll be able to get as much as 4 GB of RAM, which is good news — 2 GB is probably a bit too low in 2017. Internationally, the G5 will start at 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage.

Like last year, there will be a difference in the cameras. The G5 Plus will get the superior 12 MP camera — fewer megapixels than last year, but this one is more advanced. Lenovo has used Dual Autofocus Pixels, using more pixels as focus points — that will improve focus time and should result in clearer pictures. They’ve also used an f/1.7 wide-aperture lens for better low-light performance. But, it looks like Lenovo has decided not to go the dual-camera route like a lot of its competitors, so no fancy depth-of-field features. The G5 camera once again has a 13 MP sensor and an f/2.0 lens, but now features phase detect autofocus. Both the G5 and the G5 Plus will have 5 MP front cameras.

One really neat change is in response to one of our biggest gripes about the G4 Plus. Last year, the G4 Plus had a front-side fingerprint sensor, but it couldn’t be used as a home button, because the phone relied on the stock Android navigation buttons. Lenovo has figured out a pretty cool way around that problem — the fingerprint sensor can now be made to replace the navigation buttons altogether. If this setting is used, a left swipe on the sensor will replace the back button, while a right swipe will bring up running apps (a tap will act as the home button). If that’s used, the stock navigation buttons will disappear, so there won’t be any wasted space. This time around, both the G5 and the G5 Plus have the fingerprint sensor.

Unfortunately, another big gripe from last year is still true this year — there’s no support for NFC in the United States version of the Moto G5 Plus, which means the phone can’t be used with Android Pay.

In the United States, the Moto G5 Plus will be available at the beginning of March, starting at $230 for the 2 GB RAM/32 GB storage model. That’s still a terrific deal, although it’ll probably be worth the extra money for more RAM. Then again, some will likely be miffed by the lack of a replaceable battery on the G5 Plus, and those who preferred the cheaper G version will be disappointed by the lack of options.