I had the original Moto G as a secondary travel phone and loved it. So I was delighted when Motorola sent me a review unit for the 2014 version, which I’ve been using for the last week.
It’s fantastic. It’s the best example of how technology has advanced so much that, even for heavy users, it’s easy to see a future where it’ll no longer be necessary to buy flagship phones to get a great experience.
The Moto G is close but doesn’t quite get there. I can strongly recommend it to light users and to heavy users as a second phone; but for everyone else, it may not always make the best choice.
That said, pound-for-pound, there may be no better phone than the Moto G. It’s the best phone you can buy for $180.
Motorola made some great decisions with the Moto G. While its $180 price may be the headliner, it is the core user experience that differentiates this phone from its competition. Motorola got all the basics right.
It’s the kind of thing that may not be apparent on a spec sheet, but which becomes undeniable once you use it.
+ Holds Great
Let’s start with its form factor. It’s not the thinnest or the sexiest phone, but it feels great in the hand thanks to its curved back. The smooth plastic back isn’t metal and attracts too much grease, but it’s nice to touch and better than the typical Samsung phone.
Bottom line, this is a phone you’ll actually like using as a phone.
+ Fantastic Display
Motorola upgraded the 2014 version of the Moto G from 4.5-inches to 5, and this makes a huge difference. Everyone has preferences, but in my opinion, 5-inches should be the minimum size for a phone you want to use often for browsing content.
The display is 720P, which doesn’t sound impressive but is in the same ballpark as the iPhone 6 at 750P. Best of all, colors are vibrant on the Moto G and content just seems to pop from the screen.
It’s a gorgeous display that I’m betting is best-in-class for a phone of this price.
+ Smooth Performance
The internals of the Moto G are nothing special. In fact, its the same exact chipset as the Moto G last year. This might seem like a negative, and the geek in me does wish that Motorola used a newer chipset, but the phone’s performance remains just fine.
Navigating the OS and scrolling through lists is largely lag free — more so than even a Samsung Galaxy S5 for instance. How is that possible? Motorola left the Android operating system largely untouched while others added cruft in the name of branding. The result is the Moto G does more with less.
I often forgot the Moto G was a budget phone as I used it; that’s how good of a job it does. For someone weaned on flagship phones, that is amazing. Even games like Asphalt 8 played smoothly.
I wouldn’t say it’s the equivalent of a flagship. You’re reminded every now and then of the phone’s limitations, primarily in app loading times and the speed at which you can switch apps. That’s more of a nitpick though.
+ Competent Camera
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the original Moto G had a bad camera. Horrible even. It didn’t cross the threshold of a camera you’d want to use to record your life.
Thankfully, the camera gets a big upgrade this year, which I’d describe as “competent.”
No one will mistake the Moto G’s camera for the one in the iPhone 6 Plus, but it’s just about good enough to be your daily camera. It’s basically the same one used in the Nexus 5, plus or minus a few features.
The Moto G’s camera struggles in low light, but that’s a weakness common to most phone cameras.
+ Surprising Speakers
I was pleasantly surprised with the Moto G’s front facing speakers. I typically set phones to vibrate and carry wireless headphones, so it’s not a huge deal for me, but it was much appreciated for watching videos and playing games at home.
I especially like how the speakers came at little cost in terms of bezel; unlike, say, those in the HTC One (M8).
The speakers won’t blow you away but they are vastly better than the ones typically found on the bottom or sides of other phones.
Motorola focused on the core experience with the Moto G and it shows. The phone excels in the things that truly matter: form factor, display and navigation. The camera crosses the competence threshold and the speakers are a nice surprise.
However, there were a few sacrifices made that prevent this phone from being an unqualified recommendation.
– Not All Day Battery
Motorola chose to keep the battery size at 2070 mAh, the same as last year despite a larger form factor this year. This is probably the most disappointing decision.
For light users, the Moto G will probably get you through the day.
For heavy users like myself however, the Moto G needed a recharge by early evening. Once the Moto G’s software gets upgraded to Android 5.0, battery life can improve by as much as 36%, but as is, the battery life is disappointing.
This is one of two reasons why the Moto G isn’t an unqualified recommendation. It’s great as a secondary phone, but if you’re reading this blog you’re not going to be satisfied with the Moto G’s battery if it was your only phone.
The average person may not either, especially as there are other budget phones with bigger batteries like the similarly priced Lenovo S860. But then you’d have to trade off the Moto G’s superior experience for one that will feel subpar.
– Paltry Storage
The second reason why the Moto G isn’t an unqualified recommendation is 8 GB of storage, of which about 5 GB is usable. That’s just not enough if you plan to download games and take videos.
You can slot in an SD card which alleviates the storage crunch somewhat, but I find this an unsatisfying solution. Not all apps can be installed to an SD card and generally it’s an annoyance to manage media across two different places.
It’s also something I suspect the average person won’t know how to use.
– No LTE
The lack of LTE on the Moto G may be an issue for heavy users, but for many in Asia, 3G might be good enough since many cities don’t yet offer good LTE coverage. Sticking with 3G maximizes battery life too.
Overall, the Moto G is the best phone you can buy for $180. It’s a no-brainer for the light user who simply wants a good phone at a good price, thanks to Motorola’s focus on the essentials.
While the Moto G isn’t quite good enough to be a heavy user’s only phone, it will make a great secondary phone.
For everyone in between, it will come down to whether you can live with the battery life and limited storage. In exchange, you get an amazing core experience: nice form factor, fantastic display, smooth performance, as well as a competent camera and nice speakers. All for an attractive price.
For many, I bet the answer is yes.