Motorola Moto G (LTE) Review

Motorola’s second generation Moto G drops dual-SIM support in favour of LTE and microSD card support at a budget price point.
Motorola’s in an interesting position right now. It’s just been formally acquired by Lenovo, making the Chinese firm one of the world’s largest phone suppliers even outside its native China, and it’s also been named as the OEM for the upcoming Google Nexus 6 smartphone. The Nexus 6 will be large, quite powerful, but curiously for a Nexus smartphone, not actually all that inexpensive, something that’s been a hallmark of Nexus devices since their inception. Google hasn’t announced local pricing for the Nexus 6, but in the US it’ll cost $649 pre-tax, which means a price point north of $700 is almost inevitable. I’m going to peg $799 personally.
That puts the Motorola Moto G into an interesting position, because as a virtually cleanskin Android device at a budget price point but without many of the compromises of budget handsets, it’s almost the “cheap” Nexus by default. And cheap it is; while it’s been on sale through various importers and local Australian outlets for a couple of months now, it’s commonly available for around $250.
So what does $250 buy you in Moto G terms? Unlike its immediate dual-SIM 3G-only predecessor, the updated Moto G is a 4G capable phone, but with only one microSIM slot on board behind its plastic rear case. The Moto G only has 8GB of onboard storage, but unlike its predecessor it is upgradeable via microSD. That’s not an entirely even matter, given that Android won’t install apps to microSD, but it’s still better than relying on potentially costly cloud services over mobile.

With only 8GB onboard, you're really going to need to budget for a microSD card.
With only 8GB onboard, you’re really going to need to budget for a microSD card.

It certainly looks the part of a budget handset, with a no-frills design that accentuates rounded corners and a soft and slightly grippy removable rear shell. That being said, it’s not something that I’d quantify as feeling “cheap”, which is often a downfall of budget Android devices.
Underneath its five inch 720p display lurks a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM, which is about typical for a budget Android device these days. Don’t expect high-end performance out of the Moto G in other words — for the curious-about-benchmarks-crowd, it scored 812 in Geekbench 3’s multi-core benchmark — but the fact that it’s running essentially plain Android 4.4 (“KitKat”) means that in real world use it does a better job of keeping up than its plain specifications might suggest.
A little bit nicer than its specifications might suggest.
A little bit nicer than its specifications might suggest.

The Moto G’s battery is technically accessible because its back cover comes off, but it’s a non-removable type, which is always slightly annoying. With a capacity of 2070mAh it was never going to be stunning in real world performance — even Motorola only rates it for 24 hours of battery life. Then again, it’s only running a moderate sized screen by 2014 standards, and that was reflected in my testing, where it made it through a day’s moderate use with relatively little problem. You’re never going to see multiple days out of the Moto G, but a single day’s usage is entirely feasible.
You can see the battery -- but don't touch!
You can see the battery — but don’t touch!

If there’s a genuine weak point in the Moto G’s offering, it’s the five megapixel rear camera and 2MP front camera. Motorola’s supplied camera app is actually quite a neat bit of software, but the quality of the optics within the Moto G just can’t live up to the promise of the app. Pictures struggle to maintain focus, pick up plenty of noise and frequently appear washed out. While the rest of the Moto G package offers quite solid value for its asking price, the camera is a definite low point.
Overall, it’s hard to find too much fault with the Moto G for its asking price. The low end of the smartphone bracket has a lot of choice open to it and only so far you can go down the price scale before things start getting genuinely woeful. The Moto G doesn’t fit that woeful bracket in any real way, and is a solid choice for those on a constrained budget.

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