The first Moto G launched in 2013, and has become something of a ‘people’s champion’ among the flurry of smartphones on the market. It has successfully stood on the shoulders of other mobile phone giants, largely because it fills a popular niche that exists between low-to-mid-end devices, striking a perfect balance between cost and features. At a launch price of £135 off contract, it was below that magic £150 point, and well into impulse buy territory.
Motorola have demonstrated that having cheaper devices doesn’t necessarily mean that features should have to be chopped, or that devices should run poorer than a person would expect, so they blew everyone away with a near-stock fluid experience on their first Moto G, which had the ability to allow users to be as productive as others devices that cost 2 – 3 times the amount.
Of course, being largely more affordable than many of its rivals, there have been a few compromises that have kept the Moto G from being one to fully contend against the best of the best, and in my own experiences this has stemmed mainly from its 1GB Ram, which has restricted it from running either intensive, or multiple apps without it faltering at some point, or the rear camera, which has been at 5MP and 8MP in 2013 and 2014 respectively, and while serviceable, hasn’t been as good as many others out there for quality shots. So how does the 2015 version fair? Read on to find out more!
Big changes on the inside
After nearly 2 years, and several iterations later, we come to the latest version – The Moto G (2015 edition). When you see the phone, you will immediately recognise its most distinguishing aspects, such as the slightly boxy front with the silver top and bottom trim (akin to the 2014 range), and that contoured back, which includes the dimpled M logo with a ‘finger-resting’ point; something that has existed in all Moto ranges since the X.
In the slim cardboard box packaging, all you’ll find inside is the phone, a MicroUSB cable, as well as a couple of leaflets showing safety and QuickStart information. The phone has generally the same wireless features you from all the previous generations, including WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. The type of SIM card supported is still micro SIM.
The most significant looking cosmetic change on this new model is a small metal accent on the rear which houses the camera with dual-LED flash, and offsets the tone on the rest of the phone. This is largely used as a style piece, and allows customisation using Motorola’s Moto Maker website to give the phone a distinctive style based on personal taste.
Between the 2013 and 2014 Moto G ranges, there were pretty much no changes in processor, memory or battery, with the main significance in the latter being a slightly bigger screen, 8MP rear camera and expandable microSD storage as standard. The general experience between both was virtually identical, however the changes in this years model are a lot more significant and very welcome.
This time around there have been a few internal upgrades including a souped up 64 bit quad core 1.4GHz Snapdragon 410 processor (up from 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400), an Adreno 306 chip handline graphics, and a much improved rear 13MP camera, with dual-LED flash, and 5MP selfie camera along the front. It comes in two variants*, which are 8GB storage and 1GB RAM or 16GB storage and 2 GB RAM. As standard, both versions now have the inclusion of MicroSD expansion up to 32GB, 4G LTE connectivity, and IPX7, meaning that it can officially withstand being submerged in up to 1M water for 30 minutes. Good for unfortunate accidents, being in the rain, or if you’re the kind of weirdo that likes to shower with your phone. This generation also includes an extra 400 mAh of battery now totalling 2470 mAh, which should ensure the phone lasts throughout the day. On top of these internal improvements, as mentioned above, you can customise the back, and metal accent along with the variant of device you want using Moto Maker. The difference in price between variants is about £30.
Software and performance
The Moto G comes ready with Lollipop 5.1, and a skin that is close to stock Android and free of any bloat. Google Now occupies the left of the home screen, and you can say ‘OK Google’ on any active home screen to initiate a voice search. There are a couple of Moto standard apps installed to enhance your experience, which include the following:
Moto Assist: This aims to make your smartphone a little smarter by predicting your usage patterns and adjusting how your phone works based on your situation, like silencing the phone when you are likely to be asleep, or in meetings.
Moto Display: Much like the Moto X range of phones, this will momentarily switch on the display to highlight your notifications in a battery friendly black and white manner. You can then press on the corresponding icon to see a glimpse of the notification, and swipe straight into it to reply or read more.
Moto Actions: Another function inherited from Moto X phones, which is gesture based functionality. In this instance, there are two gestures available; double twist the device in hand to activate the camera or double ‘chop’ to switch the torch on or off (one of my favourites and very handy!)
In terms of general performance, I’ve yet to see the phone baulk or crash with any apps, and it nips along pretty swiftly. Like the rest of the G range, this phone won’t match high end devices for 3D performance, but it does pretty well for all the apps I’ve tried. I’ve tested a few of my favourite games, which include Kingdom Rush Origins, and Duck Tales: Remastered, and both run really well without any hiccups. Surprisingly it runs things that would make some high end devices I’ve owned from last year heat up and slow down considerably. Thankfully even under stress, there is no overheating here, although it will get a touch warm around the metal accent on the back.
In terms of battery, with casual use, I managed to get nearly 2 days out of it. With some heavy usage using the camera, streaming video, gaming and browsing over LTE, I managed to kill the battery in about 11 hours, which is pretty good.
The screen is still the same 5” as before which is nice and clear however it is still at 720p resolution. I think with the improvements in the rest of the internals they might have been able to stretch it to 1080p, however for the price of entry, it isn’t so bad. I’ve tested streaming videos through YouTube, and at this size and resolution, you’d have to be really picky on details to criticise the screen clarity which is bright and uniform all around.
One of the biggest improvements with the Moto G are both the front and rear camera. The rear camera in particular has been upped to 13MP from 8MP in the previous generation, and is said to not only contain the same Sony Exmor camera as the Nexus 6, but it’s f/2.0 sensor is said to focus and capture pictures quicker and better than an iPhone 6. Having had a good play with the camera, I can attest to its capabilities, and concur that it is a massive improvement over the previous generation, and takes clear, sharp pictures in good light.
Indoor pictures are as good as an iPhone 6 however thanks to the dual-LED flash and auto HDR, photos taken in dark indoor environments appear a lot more clear and natural than you’ll find on an iPhone. Speaking of that flash, it is extremely bright, so it also functions brilliantly as a torch. Videos taken on the phone max out to 1080p at 30fps, and are clear and have good motion. If anything was missing from this camera, it would be OIS, which would make this a snapshot camera to be reckoned with at this price range.
The front camera has been upped to 5MP from 2MP in the previous generation, and is much clearer and sharper than before. This means that there will be less softness applied to selfies (which might not be a good thing for some!) but will ensure improvements to video conferencing through programs like Skype or Hangouts.
The new Moto G has improved in the areas that make it relevant in the market, and a fantastic all rounder for the price. It improves on nearly all aspects of the previous generation, especially with regards to the camera, which is on par with flagships that are 2-3 times the price! Nice touches include the options via Moto Maker to style it the way you want, options to increase the RAM and storage, having both MicroSD expansion and LTE as standard, as well as officially getting IPX7 certification, which makes it one of the best protected budget devices available.
If I had to make a criticism, it is that it only contains one mono loud speaker on the front (which can get obnoxiously loud!), where it would have really benefited from stereo loud speakers for viewing media on the screen. Also, the camera is missing Optical Image Stablisation which would have been the cherry on top for it. Again, for the price, it really is difficult to complain.
If you are in need of an all round phone that works reliably, will last the whole day, will take excellent snapshot photos when you need them, will work fine with your apps, allows customisation, and can take a good bit of splashing, then you can’t do better than the newest Moto G. For the price, you’ll get one of the most dependable phones on the market with a solid build, a guaranteed upgrade to the next Android version (M), and innovative additions that had only been privy to the Moto X range until now.
It is incredible to think that you can pick this up for as cheap as £130 in the right places. Whether this is considered as a main, replacement or secondary phone, it will fill the role well and do its job admirably. The new Moto G is still the ‘people’s champion’ of phones. Recommended!
* 16GB / 2GB RAM model tested