Just as the Moto G has recently been crowned most popular, value-for-money smartphone in the most competitive price segment (sub Rs 15,000 or US$250) in India, here comes a challenger that has seemingly, almost unbelievably, snatched its crown almost overnight. Or at least stands a good chance of doing so.
If someone needs more proof of how hotly contested this market—and this segment—is in India, well, here it is.
All of Motorola's products have been a smash hit in the country, something I wrote about here a few days ago. The company sold an astonishing 1 million smartphones in just 5 months beginning this year and every phone that it introduced—from the Moto G, to the Moto X to the sensational budget Moto E—redefined the category it was in. So much so, that it seemed impossible for any phone to compete with these smooth and fast processors, crisp photography, sturdy ergonomics and user interfaces. For the first time in India (and the world), you had a premium product for a bargain price (we're talking about the Moto G here but honestly, it applies to both the Moto X and the Moto E as well) and it floored critics and buyers alike.
Unfortunately, the days of its unrivaled supremacy may be a thing of the recent past. The low-key Taiwanese company, Asus, has introduced the 'Zenfone' that has wowed critics instantly and impressed enough to sell 40,000 phones in 3 days. It has garnered gushing reviews in almost every department by all of the country’s major newspapers and product review sites.
So what makes the Asus Zenfone such a serious rival to the Moto G? For one thing its build quality, apparently. While made mostly of plastic, it is extremely sturdy, has a premium feel to it, sports the tough Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and is sleeker than the Moto G. The screens are evenly matched at 1280 x 720 resolution but the Zenfone sports a 5 inch display compared to the 4.5 inch Moto G.
The Moto G was especially loved for including a 5 MP camera that took some pretty good shots as well as video but apparently the Zenfone outdoes it with its 8 MP rear shooter and its versatility in both well-lit and low-light conditions. It also allows you to do some nifty time-lapse recording. The Economic Times says that the Zenfone trumps the Moto G in terms of image quality.
The processor is what makes or breaks the basic value proposition of a smartphone and critics think that the Zenfone’s 1.6GHz, Dual-core Intel Atom chip does the unit proud. It also comes with 2 GB RAM and firstpost's tech section thinks that the combo offers better value than the MediaTek MT6582 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 400 one that most other phones in this class field, the Moto G included (which, it should be noted, also comes with only 1 GB RAM in comparison).
The Hindu Businessline newspaper reviewer however says that the differing phones run neck-and-neck, with the ZenFone clocking 8,750 points, marginally behind the Moto G's 8,900 points on the Quadrant Benchmark test.
The big advantage that the Zenfone has over the MotoG is in its expandable memory slot which can house cards upto 64 GB. The MotoG doesn't have this option and this could be a huge deal breaker when deciding between the two phones. Another one: the price, which is, for the value conscious Indian consumer, sacrosanct. The Zenfone 5's 8 GB variant sells for a mere Rs 9,999 (US$166) versus the Moto G's 8 GB nonexpendable unit at Rs 12,499 (US$ 208). Moto G's 16 GB version lists for Rs 13,999 or US$231. Case closed.
Of course, it's wise to remember that these are early days. In order to match the Moto G’s success, the Zenfone will have to go the distance in terms of reliability and customer support—both areas that Moto G has excelled in. Slipping up here could be the product’s death knell.
But for now, Moto G has some serious competition to worry about.