The Motorola Moto G is a super-affordable phone that doesn’t sacrifice too much in the way of hardware and user experience. Within its price category it’s way ahead of the competition in power and specs. Best of all, it runs the vanilla Android UI, meaning that you'll gets Android updates faster than just about anything else.
When you're shopping for an affordable device you aren't necessarily looking for looks, but that doesn't mean you have to ignore style all together. The Moto G won't be winning any beauty pageants, but it doesn't look cheap either.
It combines a mild-mannered front with a matte-finished rear panel, neatly side-stepping the crummy glossy look of the quintessential budget smartphone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t boast the added grip of soft-touch and is actually quite slippery in the hand. It’s comfortable to hold, but you don’t want to cling on too lightly.
Unlike with its big brother the Moto X, there’s no Moto Maker customisation options for the Moto G. There are, however, coloured ‘shells’ (read: cases) that you can grab from Motorola. These shells all look pretty stylish, and you can even buy yourself a Moto G-specific pair of SOL REPUBLIC JAX headphones to match or compliment your chosen case.
Under the hood
The real appeal of the Moto G is its value for money. Despite its low-end price, its specs adhere to the mid-range genre. The 4.5 inch display has a 720p (720x1280) resolution, giving it 329 pixels per inch (ppi). That’s better than most mid-range handsets and sports the same ppi as an iPhone Retina Display.
The quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 CPU is backed up by 1GB of RAM. Compare that to the Galaxy S4 Mini – a much more-expensive mid-range device that has a dual-core 1.7GHz CPU, 1.5GB of RAM and a lesser resolution of 540x960.
There’s 8GB or 16GB of storage on the Moto G, but the 16GB version is harder to find and more expensive. Unfortunately there is no MicroSD slot. In another device this would caused concern, but for what Moto is asking we can hardly fault it. The camera is either 5MP or 3.8MP, depending on what aspect ratio you’re shooting in.
The Moto G comes running Android 4.3 out of the box, but you should be prompted to update to 4.4 KitKat the instant you finish setup. If you aren't, jump in to the settings menu, hit About Phone and look in System Updates. Make sure you’re connected to a WiFi and have plenty of battery for the update. It’s well worth it and will help your Moto G operate faster and more efficiently.
This might be a budget smartphone, but it operates like a solid mid-range device. It’s relatively devoid of lag, handles most games without a struggle, has a smooth user interface and has no problem with multitasking.
Unfortunately, the 720p screen lacks a little lustre. Colours aren’t particularly vibrant nor are whites overly pure. This isn’t really an issue for a phone like this, but don’t go thinking that this 720p screen will out-perform a Retina display or something found on a high-end device. It’s good, but it’s not that good.
The only real trouble we had was when viewing the screen in direct sunlight. The panel isn’t very bright. Set to maximum it was comparable to other devices on around 70% brightness. It was usable, but stood out as the low-point of the whole experience.
A lack of 4G isn't surprising in a low-priced smartphone, but it seems out of place with the Moto G. The rest of the user experience is so atypically hassle-free that the lack of fast broadband is jarring to say the least. It's the only element of the Moto G rig that drags it back to the lower-end.
If you’re deciding between a mid-ranger and the Moto G then you need to take this in to consideration. Most mid-range smartphones have 4G and, honestly, once you've gone 4G you won't want to go back. If you’re just comparing phones of a similar price then you’ll have to decide between the general user experience of the Moto G and faster internet on another, probably less-practical device.
The camera takes 5MP shots in 4:3 but defaults to 3.8MP. Despite this low megapixel count the 16:9 shots turn out pretty well. They’re certainly not going to be winning you any photography competitions, but as a point-and-click shooter it’s adequate. Just make sure you turn on the drag & drop manual focus in the camera settings, which for some reason is off by default.
Low-light shots are predictably pretty meagre. Shots are quite grainy and tend to be weirdly colourised. Images captured with the flash also suffer from noise, but at least they avoid the white-washed look of many smartphone flashes.
The Moto G isn’t perfect, but it’s the best phone we’ve used in its price range. It’s smooth, faster than the competition, takes decent photos and even looks pretty nice. Even if you don’t like the look you can grab any one of a bunch of Moto Shells, which is a bonus. Most budget smartphones only have one or two cases available, which can definitely cramp your style.
We can definitely recommend the Moto G if you’re in the market for a cheaper phone. Even if you’re looking for something more up-market it’s well worth considering, just so long as you remember that it lacks 4G internet.