Battle of the mid-range phones: why Nokia is the new Motorola
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Battle of the mid-range phones: why Nokia is the new Motorola

A few years ago, it was easy to answer the question "what budget smartphone should I buy". For years, the answer was always Motorola’s G series. The Moto G has long been the Toyota Corolla of smartphones; inexpensive, well built, reliable. But after testing ever phone under $500 I could get my hands on, I think there is a new winner in the category.

Motorola still make fantastic mid- to-low end phones, but it's facing stiff competition. For the last few years, it's been out marketed by flashier iPhone-inspired Chinese handsets from Oppo and Huawei, which offer better looking hardware and often superior cameras.

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This new breed of midrange phones aren't for everyone. Huawei of course, faces some pretty tough scrutiny these days, warranted or not. Oppo's hardware always feels better designed than its price suggests, but I can never get past the blatant rip off of iOS software; it just makes the handsets confused and confusing to use.

Motorola can lean on brand recognition and their reliability; the hardware never fails, and unlike many Android based phones Motorola continues to push out software and security updates to their handsets. But even here, Motorola might be in trouble.

The company's biggest threat comes from the latest Nokia smartphones. Since re-entering the smartphone market, Nokia received an avalanche of press for its reimagined 3310, but it is the midrange smartphones that are the quiet achievers.

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The best comparison between the two companies comes from the Moto G6, and the Nokia 6. Both handsets retail for $399 outright, and both are about the same size. The Moto G6 has a slightly bigger 5.7-inch screen, compared to Nokia’s 5.5-inch. but the Nokia has a slimmer body and smaller chin and forehead, making for a better looking phone in the hand. At a glance, the Nokia 6's smooth, rounded edges could make it mistaken for hardware twice the price.

The 2018 Nokia 6, and the Moto G6.

The 2018 Nokia 6, and the Moto G6.

Photo: Supplied

Both handsets run a clean version of Android without any of the frustrating and often ugly interface skins that so many manufacturers seem to impose on their users. Because of this, both handsets receive timely software updates, but again Nokia has the edge. Nokia has joined Google’s Android One program, so the updates come directly from Google, the day they’re released. This ensures the Nokia 6 will continue to get updates long into the future.

But the main feature that makes the Nokia 6 the new king of mid range phones is the camera. Cameras in the Moto G family have always felt a few generations behind the market leaders and the Moto G6 is no different. The Nokia 6 takes far better photos, with a more realistic colour reproduction, much sharper images and faster image capture, so you won't miss shots. To be fair, the Moto G6 has a portrait mode, but I prefer the simplicity of Nokia’s shooter.

All in all, the Nokia 6 is the new mid range smartphone to recommend.

Peter Wells works at Swinburne University and is a technology commentator in his spare time. He is an award-winning journalist who currently appears on the Daily Tech News Show.