A couple of months ago, my Nexus 6 disappeared, and I ended up having to pick up an inexpensive used Nexus 6P to replace it. I was happy with the device overall, but after only a couple of months of service, the phone has died. Apparently thanks to faulty soldering by the manufacturer, the phone has gone into a “boot loop” from which I can’t extract it. It will not boot into recovery mode, and the local phone repair shop has told me there is no hope for it. I ended up having to put the phone on eBay for parts and hope I can get back even 25% of what I paid for it.
As I use Google’s Project Fi, I’m limited in terms of what new phones I can pick up to use with it. But happily, in the last couple of months, Google has added a new, mid-range phone to its lineup: the $400 Motorola Moto X4. Given my experiences with an earlier Moto X, I know it’s a good brand. But as I’ve been in the process of considering picking up a version of this phone, I’ve found myself in a quandary: just which version do I get?
There are actually three versions of the Moto X4: the basic or “pure” version, from Motorola itself; the “Android One” version offered by Project Fi; and a discounted Amazon version, available only to Amazon Prime subscribers, that slashes $70 from the price in return for cramming it full of Amazon applications and showing advertisements on the lockscreen (like the low-budget Amazon phones I mentioned here, or the more pricey ones Nate Hoffelder looked at on The Digital Reader). And it seems fairly hard to compare those versions directly, given that the pages on the Motorola web site each focus on different things.
As nearly as I can make out, the “pure” X4 and the Amazon version both offer access to Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, while the Android One version does not. The Amazon version will not only include pay-to-disable lockscreen ads, but will also come bundled with all manner of Amazon software just like the Fire tablets. Meanwhile, the Android One version is a stripped-down plain-vanilla Google-apps version that will be the fastest to receive operating system updates, as Google effectively treats it like one of its own devices.
One other thing I noticed is that there seems to be a great deal of confusion around just which of these X4 phones is compatible with Google’s Project Fi. Will only the Android One version work with it, or will any Moto X4 be Fi-compatible? This is a fairly important question to those of us who use Project Fi and are on a budget. Amazon’s lockscreen ads might be annoying, but saving $70 over the standard retail price is not something that can be lightly ignored.
The thing is that a lot of people don’t seem to know the answer. On the Amazon listing, some reviewers complain that the Amazon Prime version of the phone isn’t Android One, and so won’t work with Project Fi. However, users on the Google Project Fi support forum hold that any of the three versions of the Moto X4 should be perfectly compatible, and the only difference is in where the support for your hardware comes from. Likewise, the support pages on Motorola linked above list Project Fi as a compatible carrier for the Amazon Prime model.
On a Reddit thread I started to ask about the differences, one user claimed that non-Android One models wouldn’t support some of Project Fi’s more important features, such as network-switching—but then an app developer with contacts in Google’s Project Fi team insisted that they actually would support those features, and even offered to have any Google support person corrected if they said otherwise.
All this disagreement doesn’t exactly leave me reassured when it comes to choosing which version of Moto X4 to get. The fact that neither Motorola’s Moto X4 pages nor Google’s Project Fi pages is especially clear on the matter, and the only elucidation comes from disagreeing users, doesn’t exactly help matters.
Assuming that the Amazon variant does work with Project Fi, device support won’t exactly be an issue. Amazon’s device support is frankly pretty amazing, and I would be happy to have them at my back should a problem crop up with the phone. And a $70 discount on a $400 device wouldn’t be too bad. Lockscreen ads would be annoying, but I could put up with them for a few months until I could afford to pay a little more to have them removed. Given where my finances are currently at, every little bit of savings would help.
Fortunately, it’s not a decision I have to make right away. In the last few days, I’ve discovered I can actually get by reasonably well without a smartphone. I hardly answer the phone anymore anyway, and I can use the Internet or read ebooks just as well on my Fire HD 8 that I keep in my backpack as I could on my phone. I do keep running into situations where I see something neat and want to pull out my phone to take a picture, but that’s more of an annoyance than a handicap.
That said, I do want a smartphone, and the Moto X4 is looking like just the right phone for me. It’s just a question of when to buy it. With Black Friday on the horizon, it seems likely that some version of the X4 might just go on an even deeper discount sale—meaning that I could be amply rewarded for waiting just a few more weeks. In bygone days, when Amazon would price-match for up to thirty days should the price change post-purchase, I might have been willing to take a chance sooner—but now Amazon will only price-match for 7 days, so it seems wisest to wait.
In any case, I would be interested to hear what my readers have to say about my options, and which phone I should go for. Bear in mind that I’m not leaving Project Fi, so I’m limited to just those phone options Google supports. I can’t afford much over $400, my credit’s not good enough to buy on an installment plan, and I’ve just been introduced to the hazards of buying a used device sans warranty, even if it’s supposed to be a reputable brand .
I also wouldn’t exactly object if anyone wanted to help me on my way to my new phone with a few bucks at the contribution link below. Just saying…
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