Amazon has done something audacious. It's offered to shave $50 off the already well-priced (and well-liked) $200 Motorola Moto G4 for members of its Amazon Prime service. The catch? You'll see constant ads on the phone's lock screen. (If you're looking for options, Amazon also sells the ad-supported Blu R1 HD for $50, $100 less than the Mot G4.)
It's audacious both because Amazon thinks your attention is worth so little, and because it still manages to make the offer sound attractive. "Why, yes, Amazon, let me pay you to advertise to me. Thank you." Is it clear yet that the thought of having to endure a lifetime of Amazon ads kind of makes my skin crawl? It really did at first, until I actually used the G4 and noticed how little I noticed the ads.
If you have notifications already on your screen, the lock screen ads are the same size. Sometimes they appear as a banner ad with an image. Other times, they're heavier on the text. At any rate, ads pop up beneath your legitimate notifications, separated by a hairline. If you don't have any notifications waiting in the wings, you get a full-page ad. Since they open with a double-tap, you won't lose your mind and your temper by accidentally tap one.
If you do double-tap an ad, the Amazon app snaps open on the product page for you to read reviews or buy on the spot (or stream, if the ad is for, say, a video). The phone also loads a bunch of Amazon shopping apps right on the home screen, and places another ad widget on the second screen. You can easily remove all these. What you can't do is customize the lock screen much -- you can add security, remove app notifications and add a lock screen message ("Hey, good looking!), but that's about it. Those ads are there to stay.
So far, I've seen a lot of ads for Amazon Prime services, like music and video streaming, makeup and whey protein, and some tech products, like the Fitbit Alta. Amazon says it will personalize product recommendations based on "shopping activities and patterns," Amazon told me in an email, "Such as browse and purchase behaviors".
That's good news because it means the company's algorithms aren't going to surface potentially embarrassing items if others happened to peek at the lock screen. ("What, no, I don't need any fungus cream! Heh-heh. How did that get there?")
Although I don't love the idea of making myself even more of an ad target than I already am browsing online, agreeing to be part of Amazon's extended audience didn't actually make the phone any harder or more annoying to use. I could especially see a parent saving an extra $50 by buying the unlocked, Amazon version Moto G4 for a teen. The fact that you don't have to log in to your Amazon profile while setting up the phone means there's no risk that the kiddo will slyly buy a new Xbox using your account.
To see how the rest of the phone works, be sure to check out CNET's full Motorola Moto G4 review.