LG has just rewritten the smartphone rulebook. When we talk about the handsets that give you the best value for money, Google’s Nexus generally takes pole position – and the Nexus 5 is a case in point. No, I didn’t like everything about the Nexus 5, but yes, I did think it was excellent value for money and we gave it a Best Buy award.
Motorola’s Moto G is not fighting in the same sector of the market as the Nexus 5. The Nexus is battling top-end handsets, while Motorola wants the Moto G to be the handset of choice for anyone on a budget – and it achieves that ambition. Seriously, if you have in the region of £150 to spend on a sim-free handset, there really is nowhere else to look.
This is important for Motorola. It’s the first phone to appear in the UK since Google bought the company, and of course, there’s a link between Google’s ownership and the desire to take on budget handsets in the same way the Nexus takes on the high-end market…
In this price bracket, it’s inevitable that compromises have to be made in a smartphone’s specifications and construction. However, Motorola has played a careful game in this respect, and that’s why it has come up with a winner in the Moto G.
Let’s look at the build quality first. The handset is a bit on the thick side at 11.6mm and it does seem a bit fat in the hand. It weighs a fairly generous 143 grams, and the chassis is plastic but it is not cheap. I found it difficult to flex the phone in my hands and it feels quite solid. Side buttons are nicely located with both the power switch and volume rocker on the right side. The microUSB slot is on the bottom edge, headset connector on top. It’s neat and tidy with some positives to balance out the unfortunate thickness.
I found it quite hard to get the backplate off, and you are going to need to do that as your microSIM sits underneath it in an edge-mounted slot. None of the construction budget was spent on designing and fabricating a caddy.
Personalisation is a key selling point for the Moto G, and there are several options available, including an £18.99 flip shell. You can remove the backplate and replace it with a new one that incorporates a flip cover. I was sent a black one – see the image below – although this is rather boring really as the handset itself is black and there are plenty of colours available. If you take this option, the rubberised backplate finish is replaced with a sort of canvas feeling back and front finish. When you flip the cover back the screen turns on.
If you’d rather use a different screen protection solution and yet still personalise your phone, then you want the grip shell. This is a replacement backplate that wraps itself round the edges of the handset, giving you a colour burst on the sides and front as well as on the back. It’s all quite cool for such a low cost phone.
Motorola has taken another step that’s unusual for a budget handset maker, and that is to include some water resistance. There’s not enough protection to secure the Moto G an IP rating, and it’s likely that the handset might not survive if you drop it in the bath, but it should be okay if it falls into a puddle. A consequence of this is that you can’t remove the battery which is sealed in place to help protect the phone’s electronics. The 2,070mAh battery, incidentally, does quite well and many users are likely to find it gets them through a day without needing to be recharged.
I’m one of those people who complains when a handset doesn’t have microSD card support, so here comes a little whinge about that. It’s annoying for me as I like to use my handset as a music player and I like hot-swapping cards. There are two versions of the Moto G available, one with 8GB of internal storage and one with 16GB. I was sent the 8GB version for review, and this had 5GB of free storage. That isn’t ideal in my book, and is probably the biggest drawback of this handset.
Still, moving back to a plus point, the screen is really impressive. The Moto G has a 4.5in screen with a resolution of 1,280 x 720, and I had no problems reading text on the display. The handset’s size also meant I could work with it one-handed while lurching about on a bus.
Motorola has implemented another clever trick given the price of this handset, as the company has managed to use Gorilla Glass 3 for the screen. It’s not on every phone and it’s nice to see here from a screen protection point of view. The IPS screen has good viewing angles too. Motorola isn’t quite being fair in claiming an edge-to-edge display though – there’s clear screen bezel all round. If you want to see what edge-to-edge really looks like, then dip into my LG G2 review.
The Moto G runs Android 4.3 with the promise of an upgrade to 4.4 Kitkat. That’s nice, as 4.4 is only currently available on the Nexus 5, and it’s good to see some future-proofing on offer. Meanwhile, Android hasn’t been tweaked much at all here. There’s an FM radio which you will need to buy headphones to take advantage of, as none are provided with the phone. There’s also QuickOffice for creating and editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
Motorola adds an app called Assist which can silence the handset automatically when you are sleeping, and can check your Google Calendar and silence the phone when you are busy, sending a text to callers. For peace of mind you can set it to let favourite callers and anyone who calls twice within five minutes through the block. Motorola also adds an app called Migrate which helps you copy data over from an older Android handset.
The decision to not skin Android offers a number of advantages. Handset cost is kept down as there’s no developer time to pay for. OS updates can be delivered quickly as Android doesn’t have to be dovetailed with a skin. Also, the use of integrated storage is kept to a minimum in terms of the OS – and things should run fast and smooth. With a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor on board running at 1.2GHz and 1GB of RAM in support, I didn’t notice any problems on the performance front.
What’s not here? There’s no 4G LTE support, NFC, or microSD slot and headphones as I’ve already mentioned. And you might find the 5-megapixel main camera a bit below par. Sound is not the best quality either – it’s rather treble rich, although the level of volume is impressive.
Motorola has potentially changed the entry-level smartphone game with the Moto G. This is a well-built handset with a good screen and a capable processor, and it has a no-frills approach to Android along with some nice shells. This budget phone has “winner” written all over it, and is a deserving recipient of our Best Buy award.
Image Credit: PCMag.com
Manufacturer and Model
Motorola Moto G
GSM multiband; HSPA multiband
1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
8GB / 16GB
4.5in, 1,280 x 720 pixels
65.9 x 11.6 x 129.9mm (WxDxH)