Motorola’s Moto G is the ultimate rebellion to the bigger, better, best marketing campaigns from the established names in the smartphone business. The Moto G doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, a pedometer, the screen resolution of a living room TV or the ability to take photos underwater, and in a way, its existence questions why we are paying for these things at all.
At $269 RRP (and probably cheaper in a store near you) the Moto G is a phone packed with features you’ll actually use, and not much else.
On the outside
Despite the rainbow of flouro colours you’ll see in advertisements for the Moto G, chances are your local phone store will carry the handset in either blackest black or pearly white. Our test unit is the former, with a glossy plastic trim around the phone’s 5-inch screen and soft-touch plastic, with a matte finish, on the back.
The design is both nondescript and classic, at once. It takes a close look to see the charm in this design, like the ergonomic curve across the battery cover, and the lip in the design just above the 8-megapixel camera lens.
The 5-inch 720p screen is the real surprise in this package. Cheaper phones always come with smaller, lower-resolution displays, and while you might argue this is true for the Moto G next to, say, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4; there is nothing small or cheap-seeming about this screen. Motorola choose an IPS LCD panel for the Moto G — not a cheap component — so you get a colourful, sharp screen with good viewing angles. The touchscreen is responsive, too, again giving us the impression that the G is punching above its weight.
The size of the screen may inspire extended sessions on YouTube, so it’s a good thing Motorola also includes stereo speakers above and below the screen. These little amps do a great job, both when playing video and on phone calls, so much so that we’ve been looking at our Galaxy S5 and wondering why it isn’t as loud.
If you pull the battery cover off the back of the Moto G, you’ll find micro SIM and SD card slots. Our review unit is Dual-SIM, but you’ll need to check this in store as Moto also sells units with only a single SIM slot, as well. We’d also make use of the micro SD slot, as our test unit has only 8GB storage in total, and only 5GB available to the user for music, photos, et al.
A quick word on the Dual-SIM capabilities. While you can use two SIM cards simultaneously, you are limited to one 3G service. This means your can only use data from one account, and the other account is locked to calls and messages only. This is a common limitation on dual-SIM devices, but one to be aware of all the same.
The 8-megapixel camera in the new Moto G is good, without being surprising in any way. Using the default, automatic settings delivers decent photos, and the auto-focus is fast enough for most situations.
Low light photos are not great, and the LED flash does its best, but achieves only a golden halo of light on close subjects. To be fair, this is the same way we'd describe the flash on nine-out-of-ten smartphones.
To get the best out of the camera on the Moto G, we've found the HDR (high dynamic range) setting to be particularly good. HDR works by combining several images taken at varying exposure settings to create a single image with good, even exposure.
In the example below, the HDR effect is subtle, but you will notice the brightest points in the photos have more detail in the HDR shot, and that the darkest parts, the shadows, are not as dark -- again capturing more information.
Under the hood
If we thought the Moto G was punching above its weight while assessing the exterior, we were in for a surprise once we turned the power on. The Moto G is powered by a quad core Snapdragon 400 processor with an Adreno 305 graphic unit and 1GB RAM, and delivers really pleasing performance across all everyday tasks. Motorola doesn’t pack its phones with software modifications and bloatware, it hasn’t since Google bought the company back in 2012, so this combination of computer power is more than enough.
In fact, the performance of the Moto G easily surpasses the everyday performance of much more expensive phones, especially though coming out of South Korea. We’ve had far less problems running apps on the Moto G then we tend to on phones which you’ll pay 3 or 4 times as much money for. Some might find the user experience a bit bland, but you are free to supplement the core services with any number of apps you’ll find on the Play Store (so long as you have enough storage left to install them).
Battery life is the only downside for us. Not that it is bad, per se, but it is definitely average only. With mixed moderate use, the Moto G last for about a day. Depending on the charge remaining when you go to bed, you might be able to get through the next morning, but a nightly charge is recommended here.
The Moto G is our go-to phone recommendation in this price category. With its excellent screen and smooth performance, the Moto G looks and feels like a phone that you'd expect to pay twice as much for, if not three-times as much.
There's no 4G and only average battery life, so it may not suit someone who plans on punishing their phone, but it is an excellent choice for the vast majority of us. The Dual-SIM feature will be useful for some, but not all.
If you do manage to save $20 or $30 dollars on the RRP, we recommend you consider spending this on a micro SD card. the 5GB available storage is enough to get the phone set up, but we think many users will find they have run out of storage for photos and music pretty quickly.