The Glorious Usefulness of the Mid-Range Phone


We’re big fans of cheap phones here at WIRED. If you can spare all the upgraded chips, six-pack cameras, and lidars of the $1,000 handsets, mid-range options get the job done for not a lot of money. Sometimes you even get more out of the cheaper phones, such as a real headphone jack.

This week, Motorola and OnePlus announced some new phones that fall into that group. Moto, owned by Lenovo, has two new options. The Moto G 5G is the most basic. It costs just $400, and where it cuts back on display technology (720p), it makes up for it with a more powerful processor (MediaTek Dimensity 700) and a 50-megapixel camera. For another $100, the Moto G Stylus 5G comes with — you guessed it — a built-in stylus. It also has a higher resolution 1080p display. Oh, and it’s different from the recently announced Moto G Stylus 2022 with NFC, so you can tap and pay via Google Pay and 5G support. The Moto G 5G includes the latter, but unfortunately lacks NFC. The Stylus 5G will go on sale on April 28 and the Moto G 5G will launch on May 19.

The OnePlus N20 5G costs even less: for just $282 you get a 6.43-inch AMOLED display, 128GB of storage and a 64MP camera. It will also be available on April 28. For now, it’s a T-Mobile exclusive, but an unlocked version should come out sometime this summer. (Stay tuned for the full WIRED review.) Unlike the Moto phones, the OnePlus N20 comes with Android 11. That means you’re missing out on some features of Android 12, at least until OnePlus releases an update for it. the more recent operating system.

Here’s other recent news in consumer technology land:

Zoom Put you in a bad mood? Now Zoom knows.

Video conferencing company Zoom updated its software this week and added gesture recognition. The change allows you to trigger a reaction emoji by raising your hand or throwing a thumbs up at the camera. This isn’t an entirely new feature — Zoom introduced the feature to iOS mobile devices last year — but it’s now available on the desktop client.

The update, which is a bit more controversial, is limited to users of the Zoom for Sales service, at least for now. Zoom’s software now uses artificial intelligence to analyze how people interact during conversations. This is just one step in the company’s broader ambitions to develop “conversation intelligence software” that can sneak into your Zoom conversations to determine people’s “emotional states,” as reported by Protocol last week. That last part hasn’t quite come to fruition yet, though Zoom’s new update will allow users to track calls to rank someone’s talk time, filler usage, and “patience.”

Still, the nonprofit privacy advocacy group Fight for the Future released an open letter to Zoom denouncing the practice of emotion tracking as manipulative, discriminatory, and just a little creepy. So we definitely know what they think, even without Zoom tracking.

Garmin has got the band back together

This week, Garmin unveiled the first of its Vivosmart fitness trackers in four years. The updates are…not as monumental as you’d expect for a device that’s been a long time in the making. But it could still appeal to consumers who want to track health fitness but just don’t want to wear a smartwatch.

The new Vivosmart 5 tracks activity, monitors sleep and reads blood oxygen levels with a built-in pulse oximeter. Unlike the previous version, this model has GPS tracking (although you still need a connection to your smartphone). Garmin claims the Vivosmart 5 will get seven days of battery life in “smartwatch mode,” which seems to mean without using the sleep or pulse oximeter. Garmin says it also offers stress monitoring with breathing exercises, and there’s menstrual cycle tracking in the compatible mobile app. The Vivosmart 5 is available now and costs $200. Check out WIRED’s review of the latest model and check out our pick of the best smartwatches.

Repost? Instagram wants to slow down your role

On Wednesday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri posted a video on Twitter (the irony!) in which he described a few changes coming to the photo-sharing platform. In addition to improved tagging settings, Mosseri also said Instagram is tweaking its ranking algorithm to prioritize “original content.” The details of how it will work aren’t exactly clear, but the goal is to put original posts higher in the feed than reposts or shared content. Users across the platform can now tag products and change their own tag settings to make it easier to identify the source of a post.

Instagram has tinkered with the reshare settings before. Last year, the company tested a feature that made it harder to break out messages by adding a reshare sticker to anything that is, well, reshared. But that experiment ended and Instagram still seems to be full of screenshots and unoriginal posts. Obviously, Instagram hopes this new solution is the one that works.

Time to talk about Twitter

As you may have heard, Elon Musk wanted to buy Twitter last week. He had already acquired 9 percent of the company’s shares and turned down a board seat. Then he decided he wanted the whole damn thing. It sparked several reactions, including a confrontational rebuttal from Twitter itself. Now Musk says he’s got the money lined up — $46.5 billion to be exact.

This week, WIRED’S Gadget Lab podcast features a rousing conversation with Casey Newton, a prominent journalist and the creator of Platformer on Substack, about the latest Musk vs. Twitter drama (and the controversial edit button.)

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