Moto G review: Finally a budget Android phone to get excited about

Moto_G_Main_TA

Motorola isn’t the most successful Android manufacturer, but they sure made some noise in 2013. They proved that the user experience is the most important ingredient in making a great phone, not the specs. They also were the first company to offer a customizable phone that’s assembled in the U.S. The Moto X might not be setting the world on fire, but in a year or two, we might look back at it as a game changer for Android. The Moto X wasn’t the only trick up Motorola’s sleeve though. Similarly to the Moto X, the Moto G didn’t wow anyone with specs, but the price sure did. Priced at $179 for 8GB ($99 at Verizon Wireless) or $199 for 16GB off contract, is the Moto G a worthy phone or just another cheap device? Hit the break to find out.

Design

Motorola has been making fantastic hardware for a number of years now, and the Moto G is no exception. It actually looks very much like the Moto X, only a little smaller. The other main difference is that there is no customizable option through Moto Maker, but that might not be a bad thing. The Moto G has a removable back allowing owners to change the back color as often as they like using different “Shells.” Right now they offer 7 colors at $14.99 for each shell (or Flip Shells for $29.99 each). Generally, removable back covers are flimsy, but not with the Moto G. They are made of plastic, but pretty solid. It can be a little difficult to remove, but that is because it fits so well. In fact, a lot of people might not even know it’s removable because you won’t find a slot for your finger. You just need to press the center of the back with one finger and pry off the bottom first. Once you get it out, it’s easy to snap back into place. I don’t think I have ever experienced a back cover that fits so nicely and tight, and the credit has to go to Motorola and their design team. I actually wish they implemented this on the Moto X.

Moto_G_Back_Cover_Removed_TA

Staying on the back plate, it sports the same curved or pyramid style found on the Moto X. I like to call it a Hershey bar style, but either way, it fits beautifully in your hand. The black cover that comes with the phone is, of course plastic, but it has a soft back giving you a nice grip. There are too many phones that are just too damn slippery, but not the Moto G. Now you won’t find the woven pattern found on the Moto X, but I like it. The colored “Shells” don’t feel as soft, but they still provide a much better grip than the Moto X custom colored backplates.

The buttons and ports are pretty much identical to the Moto X. You will find the microphone jack at the top center. Along the right side, you will find the power button towards the top and the volume button below it. The bottom has the microUSB port and the left side is naked. The front of the device has a speaker at the top middle along with the front-facing camera at the top left. You won’t find any hardware buttons because they are onscreen like the Moto X and Nexus devices. The back has the main camera towards the top center, and below that, you will find the LED flash and dimpled Motorola logo. You will also find the main speaker to the left of the camera lens. Last but not least, the micro SIM slot can be found under the back cover.

The Moto G isn’t the slimmest phone in the world, but the pyramid style masks it well. It’s actually 11.6mm at it’s thickest part.

Moto_G_Back_TA

Moto_G_Right_Side_TA

Moto_G_Left_Side_TA

Moto_G_Top_TA

Moto_G_Bottom_TA

The Moto G is simple in terms of design, but it’s as solid as it gets and feels more like a premium phone.

Hardware

The Moto G has a 4.5-inch 720p (1280 x 720) LCD display (329 ppi), a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8 or 16GB of internal storage, 5MP rear camera (720p video recording), 1.3MP front-facing camera, 2,070mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.0, and WiFi 802.11b/g/n.

Radios: GSM (850/900/1800/1900), UMTS (850/900/1700/1900/2100), 21 Mbps HSPA+, CDMA 850/1900, EVDO Rev. A

Performance

The Moto G sports the Snapdragon 400, so it’s not going to wow benchmark fans. However, its nearly stock Android interface is pretty spiffy. At $179 you would expect a dual-core or even a single core, but the Snapdragon 400 is a quad-core. This phone might not be targeted at the power user, but at the same time, the phone can handle just about any app or game you can throw at it. Everything just runs really smooth. As to benchmarks, I did the obligatory AnTuTu and it came in at 16,707, which is pretty good. The bottomline is this phone performs very well with Android 4.3, and it will only get better with the just released Android 4.4 update.

The 720p display is LCD as opposed to AMOLED, which is on the Moto X. The Moto X appears to be a tad more vibrant, but I had nothing to complain about with this offering. Blacks are deep, and again, it feels more than what you would expect based on the price of the device.

Battery

The non-removable battery is a little smaller than the Moto X (2,070 vs 2200), but the fact that there isn’t an LTE radio in the Moto G should give you similar performance. I was able to get 7 hours and 37 minutes in my battery rundown test. In this test, I loop video until the battery runs dead. The display is set to  2/3’s brightness, and WiFi (not connected), Bluetooth (no connected) and GPS are turned on. Unfortunately this result isn’t as good as I was expecting. The Moto X was able to get 10 hours and 30 minutes on LTE. The good news is that under normal usage, you should have no problem going from the time you wake up until bedtime thanks to the fact that the Moto G doesn’t drain all that much during idle times.

Software

Just like the Moto X, the Moto G sports a stock Android experience. In fact, even more so than the Moto X since you won’t get a lot of the extras like Active Display and Touchless Control. You will, however, get Motorola Assist, Motorola Migrate, Trusted Devices, and an FM radio. Motorola Assist allows you to set up certain parameters when your driving, sleeping, or in meetings. Motorola Migrate helps you transfer information from your old Android phone to your new Moto G, and Trusted Devices allows you to bypass your security lock screen when connected to certain Bluetooth devices. If you want to learn more about each item, I have provided links below….

Motorola Assist and Trusted Devices
Motorola Migrate

The rest of the user interface is about as stock Android 4.3 as it gets. The amazing news is that Android 4.4 KitKat is already rolling, one month earlier than anticipated. I can’t think of another budget phone that received an update to the latest and greatest version of Android this close to release.

Camera

Moto_G_Back_Camera_TA

The Moto G sports a 5MP camera, but it doesn’t sport Clear Pixel technology. Unfortunately the quality is very similar to past Motorola phones in that it’s not going to wow you. The good news is that it sports the same interface found on the Moto X, which makes for a great user experience. You can swipe to the right to get the menu, swipe to the left to get to the gallery, or swipe up or down for zooming in and out. Taking a photo is super easy, just tap anywhere on the screen or hold for burst shots. New with the Moto G is a slider giving you the ability to control focus and exposure by sliding a bracket around the screen.

Images are 5MP, but only in 4:3 mode. If you want 16:9, you will only get 3.8MP. The problem with the camera isn’t the megapixels though, it appears to be a combination of the lens and post processing software. If you’re taking still images, it will get the job done, but any movement, forget it. On the plus side, low light performance wasn’t too bad. Video tops out at 720p, but even that was subpar, especially the slow motion mode.. Here are some example photos….

Moto_G_Example_Photo_Outdoors_Good_Light_01

Moto_G_Example_Photo_Outdoors_Good_Light_02

Low Light

Moto_G_Example_Photo_Indoors_Low_Light_01

Moto_G_Example_Photo_Indoors_Low_Light_02

Extreme Low Light – No Flash

Moto_G_Example_Photo_Indoors_Extreme_Low_Light_01

Closing

I always find it difficult to review budget phones. They are obviously not going to be perfect, but what imperfections are acceptable? The Moto G has only two negatives: the lack of LTE and the camera. When you consider the demographic for this phone, neither of those should be a dealbreaker. In looking at the plusses, it has a great design, fantastic speed, a more than adequate display, and pretty good battery life. At only $179 (8GB) unlocked and off contract ($99 at Verizon Wireless or $129 at Boost Mobile), it’s a close to perfect as one could ask for. It’s finally the perfect phone for developing areas and for those that aren’t tech savvy, but want a smartphone without breaking the bank. The Moto G is exactly what everyone thought the iPhone 5C was going to be, and then some.

 


About the Author: Robert Nazarian

Robert lives in upstate New York where he was born and raised. Technology was always his passion. His first computer was a Radio Shack TRS80 Color that used a cassette tape to save programs, and his first laptop was a Toshiba T1200FB that sported a CGA greyscale screen and two 720kb floppy drives (no hardrive). From the early 90’s through late 2011, he only owned Motorola phones starting with the MircroTAC all the way through to the Droid X. He broke that streak when he bought the Galaxy Nexus. Now he's sporting a Galaxy Note 4, and absolutely loves it. He has a wonderful wife and a 6 year old son. In his free time he enjoys sports, movies, TV, working out, and trying to keep up with the rapid fast world of technology.


  • Guest

    Regardless of price, no LTE…no thank you.

    • osamah

      So what you have another option with same price ?

  • Wezi427

    That’s a lot of snow

  • Pankaj Rawat

    Eagerly waiting to be released in India, it it’s dual-sim avatar!

    • go

      any idea when it’ll be released her in india???

      • Pankaj Rawat

        It was to be released in early Jan’14, which has now been pushed to end of Jan’14 :-(

        • Osamah

          If you want a dual sim version you might buy a chines version it’s dual sim and it’s available in ebay for about 249 US $ with free world-wide shipping

  • Willy

    No SD card. No purchase.

  • lionheart

    We only carry with us 1 phone. It should be complete. And the Moto X is not. 5GB of the memory shall be taken away by the Operating system. That leaves a very little for the *GB. Even 16 GB is not sufficient for Music, Photos etc. Plus some key features are lacking as well.

    • rick

      Stop talking like a nimrod … Android doesn’t take 5 GB of space by itself

  • Truffol

    The Nexus 5, Moto X, and Moto G creates a fantastic trio of Android phones covering high to mid tier, yet costs mid to low-range at most. Hopefully the three of them can sell volumes and steal more market share from iOS devices… Google seems determined to be an even bigger player to say the least, even at paper-thin margins.

  • Chiranjeevi

    Can i buy moto g…… Or htc desire 501… Please give me a suggestion

    • bswag

      Moto G …thats no brainer, htc is good tho.