At the start of this year, my last phone contract ran out. I’d just returned from overseas so I was running short on money. I decided I needed to buy a cheap phone and get on a pre-paid plan this year. My search to find an affordable smartphone was more difficult than I’d imagined. I found that most of the cheaper phones in the market were either made by brands I’d never heard of before, or were flagship phones made years ago which had become almost irrelevant in the current market and technology.
Fortunately, with a little luck I found out that Motorola was making a return. The company had been recently bought by Google and they were planning on releasing an affordable mid-range smartphone. The Moto G was released in December 2013 in the US and Europe, and it made its way into the Australian market in February 2014.
Hardware and Design
It’s very easy to mistake the Moto G for a Moto X, as they share lots of design elements such as softly rounded corners and elegant, curvy backs. Despite these similarities , it is still easy to spot the differences. The Moto G weighs 143 grams, which is 13 grams heavier than the X. The G’s back also curves a bit more than the X, which makes it look more bulky that it actually is. Other than that, I think Motorola has done a decent job putting together and designing a budget phone which at first glance could not be recognised as one.
The Moto G feels nice and steady in my hand. In saying that, I must admit that it has slipped out of my hands a couple of times, which caused dents on two corners of the phone. They are barely visible, but if you look close enough you can definitely see them. Comparing this to my iPhone 4S, which would dent every time it got dropped, I was very pleased to see that these scratches are hard, to see since I’ve never been a fan of using a protective case – and I don’t plan on getting one.
The Moto G sports a 1.20GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 1 GB RAM. It comes with 8 or 16 GB of space for all your apps, games, music and everything else. If you use Google’s cloud solution, Google Drive, you also get a free upgrade to 50 GB of space for two years upon purchasing the phone to give you more space to store your files and documents.
One of the biggest selling points of this phone is its gorgeous display. The phone screen is a 4.5 inch 720p LCD panel and I must admit, everything looks bright and crystal clear. All the colours are easy to see and distinguish. Photos and videos look beautiful and easy to navigate through. After using the phone for nearly a month I have never felt like the screen belongs to a budget smartphone. In fact, the display is on par with some of last years flagship phones, such as the HTC ONE X and the iPhone 5S.
I was very happy to find out that Motorola had decided to go with an almost pure Google experience when it came to the operating system. The Moto G comes with Android KitKat 4.4.2, with only a couple of unobtrusive Motorola apps. The only one that can affect your phone’s behaviour is the Assist app, which can put the phone on silent or DND (do not disturb) depending on the time of the day or if you are in a meeting.
Motorola has also included an app called Motorola Migrate which helps you transfer your contacts, messages, photos, videos, music and call logs from your previous iPhone or Android device. Other than these two features, the software experience on the Moto G is exactly the same as what you would expect from a Google Nexus phone. Motorola has also promised to keep updating the software as soon as they become available from Google, which is always a plus since other brands such as Samsung are still selling phones that use Jellybean or even Ice Cream Sandwich.
The software itself runs nice and smoothly on the phone. Apps such as Facebook and Twitter open up instantaneously. Most games run fine on the G, but when it came some of the bigger games such as Fifa 14, I noticed the phone took two or three seconds to startup the app. In terms of graphics, the phones performance took me by surprise again. While playing games such as Real Racing and Fifa 14, you can hardly tell the games are being run by a $250 device. The graphics look crisp and clear, and all the colours look absolutely gorgeous.
Perhaps the only downfall of the phone is its camera. The Moto G sports a 5 megapixel camera at the back. Two or three years ago nobody would have cared about this, but with smartphones hitting a new standard when it comes to their cameras, it’s a real shame to see a phone that can only do 5 megapixels.
The camera was the only concern I had when I was trying to decide if I should actually purchase this phone for myself. Every review I read and watched when the phone first came out gave the camera disappointing results. But I realised, I’m trying to purchase a phone which is not trying to compete with high end flagships such as the iPhone 5, or the latest Samsung phones at the time. This is a phone which works flawlessly, runs the latest Android operating system and will be receiving more updates from Google as soon as they become available. Motorola had to cut costs somewhere, and I guess they decided to do that with the camera, and I believe they’ve made the right choice. Having a 13 megapixel camera sure would be nice, but that would mean that they’d have to cut the cost in other departments such as the battery (which I’ll discuss in a second) or the processor. I believe cutting the cost in the camera department has the least amount in influence over the performance as the whole and is the choice that makes more sense when it comes to making a budget phone.
Now, while the G doesn’t sport a top end camera, it doesn’t mean the photos it produces are terrible at all. This camera gets the job done for general tasks such as your Instagram and Facebook needs. Snapchat works fine as well, except the app struggles when recording clips in low light. I’ve done some research and it looks like the developers are aware of the issue and are working on a fix.
The Moto G is powered with a massive 2070mAh non-removable battery. The battery perhaps is the biggest selling point of this phone. With normal use, which includes checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram once every hour, making and receiving phone calls and messages regularly and using Google Maps for nearly one hour, the phone easily lasts me a day, with sometimes 25% to 30% left at the end. If I’m listening to music or watching Youtube videos as well, I’ll get to %10 by the end of the day. The Moto G is the first phone that has given me the confidence that a full recharge overnight will actually last me a whole day.
At the time when I was purchasing my Moto G, JB HiFi was the only retailer selling the 8GB version for $248. At the time of writing this review, we still don’t have access to the 16GB version from retailers in Australia, but you can easily purchase one from Amazon. It would actually be cheaper to purchase this phone from Amazon (in my case, it cost me A$251 including postage to buy the 16GB version from Amazon and have it sent to Sydney). So, as with all electronics, we Australians still have to pay a premium.
I decided to get the Moto G because I didn’t want to lock myself into another contract for two years. I did that twice in the last four years and every time I was faced with disappointment one way or another. It was either the phone I had picked was too slow and sluggish, or my plan was not good enough and didn’t accommodate my cellular needs. So far the Moto G has been everything I’ve been looking for in a phone for the past four years. Sure, it’s not one of the high end phones of the year, but with Motorola’s mix of hardware and Android KitKat, I’ve been able to take control of how much I spend per month on calls and Internet usage which has been a very helpful in saving money.
So if you’re looking for an affordable phone this year, I highly suggest the Motorola G. It is a phone which looks, feels and almost performs like a flagship phone, only it won’t cost as much.
A phone which looks, feels and almost performs like a flagship phone, at a budget price.